Saturday, February 17, 2007

'In our end is our beginning'

I do not mean to be uncharitable. And I do not mean to say anything about the perseverance or holiness of individual Anglicans, many of whom are quite obviously committed to the Lord, but the edifice of Anglicanism, from the very beginning with Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer, was incapable of lasting through the ages. How could it be otherwise? "In our end is our beginning."

That was posted by Little Gidding on the post below, and I was going to just post an affirmative after it, except that I thought of more stuff I wanted to add, including a lengthy quote from G.K. Chesterton, so I decided it would be better to just add a separate post here.

I do think that the Current Troubles were inevitable, and that Anglicanism carried the seeds of its own destruction from the moment it was created. It wasn't obvious from the first, because it carried on using the energy from the Catholic Church from which it originated. But eventually it ran down, and had no source from which to draw more. Anglicanism lasted 500 years, and now we see what it has been reduced to. I don't even know if the African and Asian branches will be able to hold out; the collapse of their leaders at Tanzania makes me think that their strength, while impressive numerically, may not be as deep as we once believed. Perhaps they're just a few generations behind the Western churches, having been established later, and still having some reserves of the missionary energy that founded them to carry on.

G.K. Chesterton, after his conversion, wrote something I think is very brilliant and insightful about Anglicanism and its origin in 'The Well and the Shallows'. I quoted it at length in an earlier post a few months ago. He said that at the moment Anglicanism broke away from Catholicism, it began to change, even though for a long time it LOOKED the same. But it wasn't; it wasn't Catholic anymore, and what's happened to day is the inevitable result of a church changing its essence, even though it wasn't obvious to anyone at the time that this would be the eventually outcome. A later bit, which I didn't quote last time, repeats the same point:
The same sort of progressives are always telling us to have a trust in the Future. As a fact, the one thing that a progressive cannot possibly have is a trust in the Future. He cannot have a trust in his own Future; let alone in his own Futurism. If he sets no limit to change, it may change all his own progressive views as much as his conservative views. It was so with the Church first founded by Henry VIII; who was, in almost everything commonly cursed as Popery, rather more Popish than the Pope. He thought he might trust it to go on being orthodox; to go on being sacramentalist; to go on being sacerdotalist; to go on being ritualist, and the rest. There was only one little weakness. It could not trust itself to go on being itself. Nothing else, except the Faith, can trust itself to go on being itself.
Now, this leads me to my own case, because I was an Anglican for a long time. Did I know all these things then? Well, no, I didn't really know them; I believed that in my little Anglo-Catholic parish, we were genuinely Catholic. My priests all said so, and we all believed it. The only thing that should have warned me was the fact that I couldn't entirely reason out all the questions about my church, and I tended to shy away from trying. That sort of evasiveness is not really characteristic for me, and I should have taken it as a warning that there were problems here that I wasn't sure I could handle without causing myself a great deal of trouble. I found it especially embarrassing to try to explain to Roman Catholics how I could be a Catholic too.

I somehow had to find a way to ignore the fact that I didn't believe at all in women priests, but the Anglican parish next door did, and we were somehow both "real" Anglicans. We couldn't both be right, but somehow neither of us was wrong. Sure, *I* didn't have to go a woman priest, but if we were all one church, I couldn't pretend that what was happening in another part of it could just be walled off and had nothing to do with me. We were told pretty continuously that to be Catholic was to be "one body"; the best I could do was just not look too hard at anything outside my own parish, but this wasn't very satisfactory.

Somehow, we were told, it all depended on Apostolic Succession, and THAT was what made us Catholics, not this or that doctrine. Here my basic skepticism would give me trouble. It wasn't that I didn't *believe* in Apostolic Succession, it just didn't seem to me that it could have the powers that our priest assured us it did. It seemed as if it all came down to the fact that Cranmer got the magic pat on the head, so he was in, and no matter what he or his successors did, as long as they passed along the magic using the old ritual, we'd caught Catholicism in a bottle, and nothing could ever remove it. It didn't seem likely to me that God or his blessing could be "captured" so easily. There had to be SOME way to forfeit one's Catholicism; it couldn't just be a matter of catching hold of the tail of the magic daisy-chain that started with Peter.

In the end, I had to realize that I was trying not to understand the problems. I suppose Women's Ordination really was the facet along which the crystal broke for me. I knew I was in a church that ordained women, and I didn't believe they were really priests; part of me kept saying that as long as I was safe from them, it didn't matter, but a bigger part of me was saying, "Then why are you in this church?" I wasn't honest for a long time, because I didn't want to admit that I was wrong, and lying to myself. Part of it was an almost joking sort of lie, as our tiny community of Anglo-Catholics would somehow pretend that we were the REAL Anglicans, the ones who had it right. I even was conceited enough to think that maybe having us in the church was providing enough grace to save the others from their error. But it all became too much of a charade to maintain any longer, and I had to admit that the church had ALWAYS been this way, and I was wrong in thinking that mutually exclusive claims could co-exist, even by pretending that they couldn't see each other. In the end, I went where I didn't have to play tricks to maintain my beliefs - the Catholic Church.

7 Comments:

Blogger anglican-rite said...

Sorry Doc, but all the Churches but for the Eastern Orthodox have succumbed to the wave of secularizing reform that swept throughout the world in the wake of the '60s and Vatican II. And Vatican II was indeed a product of peculiar social developments during the '60s. I don't know how to account for the '60s except for the convergence of birth control, an unpoopular war, the assasination of a excessively charismatic US President, a new drug technology (LSD), and the great demographic hump of the baby boom. Vatican II was not an authentic religious development. The changes in all the denominations that followed Vatican II were an inauthentic imitation of Vatican II's silly innovations.

There's nothing to do with the unfolding of contrdictions in the policy of Henry VIII, whose real goal in establishing an English Church was to escape the Pope's exercise of temporal authority in defiance of Henry's sovereign rights. It's a commonplace now for us to defend national sovereignty. It's not unduly anachronistic to understand Henry's right in establishing a Church that would eliminate the Pope's intrusion in the exercise of his legitimate sovereignty.

The English Church grew up in the great period of the English Renaissance. This Church is (or was) a part of something as significant and consequential for our civilization and culture as Periclean Athens. If you have regard for Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon, Elizabeth I, then you must respect this Church as a great Church, a Church that should have survived. But even the Athens were defeated not long after the era of its greatness.

There's a double irony that the English Church was destroyed by a mission church established in a former colony, that mission church now acting under inspiration from the Vatican (the Church's ancient enemy) following the 2nd 'Ecumenical Council'. It's like Shakespeare being crushed by Harry Potter.

8:46 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I can't agree with that. The Catholic Church is not the same as the Anglican Church. I know they're tromping through the same filthy landscape, and they're crusted with a lot of the same mud. But while the Anglicans are running wild, rolling in every fragrant cowpie and plunging into every interesting sewer, the Catholics at least have someone holding the leash who yanks them back onto the path from time to time. Divorce and remarriage is STILL not allowed; abortion is still anathema - Anglicanism has practically written celebratory rites for them. Chesterton's point wasn't that the Roman Catholic Church never goes wrong; it often does, disastrously. But it can go right again, because it's alive. Only a living body can heal itself; all the medical skill in the world can't heal a cut on a corpse. After the weakness of Paul VI, your logic should have produced a capable manager, who'd firm up and finalize the revolution. Instead we got John Paul the Great, and now Benedict XVI; there's no parallel in Anglicanism.

I have every respect for Shakespeare, Marlowe, et al. But this isn't that church anymore, and Chesterton's point was that it always was doomed, even though in its heyday nobody knew it. And seriously, would Henry VIII and Elizabeth I ever in a million years have believed a soothsayer who described today's church as the legacy of all their efforts? They can't be blamed for not seeing the future. Islam started off with a lot of energy, too, and had its cultural flowering - but if a thing isn't connected to an energy source - if a church isn't properly connected to God - it eventually will run down. This is what we're seeing.

10:08 pm  
Blogger anglican-rite said...

An amusing characterization of Anglicanism's present day predicament. Still, I think all of this 'rolling in every fragrant cowpie' is a recent development and it is a development precipated by a sense of license felt by all the Churches in the aftermath of Vatican II. And I'm not sure that Rome's been immune to it. I wasn't around before VII to assess what the RCC was then as compared to what it is now. I have read some comment to the effect that VII has not led to an improvement. In fact, although the RCC has held the line on divorce, which is admirable, it seems so obsessed with abortion that one hardly knows what else it stands for. Opposition to abortion seems the unifying principle, the Creed itself of this post-VII Church.

Even if there were someone to rein us in, this ABC would hardly be the man to do it. And one way or the other, the reining in must be done by a human being. I'm not someone who finds it credible that the RCC is that Church we speak of as the one Holy, Katholick and Apostolick Church of the Nicene Creed.

I don't know whether a 2nd North American Province will be created. If it is, there's some chance the existing US and Canadian Provinces will feel the heat as their communicants, parishes and dioceses are attracted away by a province that's visibly more in touch with God. That's a modern free market approach to reining in the Anglican frolic. And I'll rest my hopes in that until other disappointing news is announced on Monday.

11:15 pm  
Blogger The Common Anglican said...

Yes, the sweeping under the rug of their own problems and revealing ours. Typical tactic of disenchanted former Anglo-Catholics. They say, "As long as the Magesterium is teaching orthodoxy, it doesn't prove anything that bad things happen," things like this are growing movements and go unpunished, and often aided by bishops.

"Don't blame V2, as it was infallible," they say, "but it was simply wrongly interpreted." In other words, "Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain." I read this ridiculousness on Pontifications every day.

Anglo-Catholics who leave for Rome because of Roman ecclesiological reasons were hardly Anglo-Catholics to begin with; they were Roman Catholics who happened to be Anglican first.

It is a fact, that V1 with it's new interpretation of "you are Peter" is breaking and re-interpreting Holy Tradition regarding the Holy Father; Newman even recongnized this in his "Essay on the Development of Doctrine", but attempted to rationalize it.

The Catholic Church, as St. Ignatius tells us, is not (like Unam Sanctum says) those in submission to and in communion with the bishop of Rome, but rather where there is a bishop, the sacraments, and where the Catholic faith is taught. That is where the Church is, not strictly within the juridical boundaries of the Roman pontiff.

12:19 am  
Blogger TM Lutas said...

As an eastern Catholic, I know the Orthodox, respect them, and know where they too have strayed. If a church wedding for divorcees gets a bee under your bonnet, Orthodoxy is not as perfect as you might have thought. They are our twins and we Catholics may partake of their sacraments and they have a good 40%+ of the arguments over the Great Schism right but still, they too have their problems. They're starving monks on Mt. Athos as I write this and there have been battles.

That the problems are radically different do not make them quaint or preferable to the current crop circulating in the West.

9:30 am  
Blogger Kasia said...

Incidentally, it was women priests that broke me out of my last delusions of Episcopalianism as well. I hadn't been inside an Episcopal church in years, but having been christened and confirmed Episcopal, when The Canuck and I were trying to compromise on churches, I figured that (or maybe Lutheranism) would work.

Then he and I visited St. Paul's (Anglican) Cathedral in London (Ontario), and I was ok until the female priest started consecrating the Eucharist. Despite never having had a particular opinion about female priests, I had this visceral "no, there is something NOT RIGHT about this!" reaction, and I walked us out of the church. We tried to be discreet, but unfortunately that meant going up a side aisle while people were going up for Communion, and we had to walk right past the woman in question, who (for some reason that's beyond me) was helping with the ushers' job of releasing rows of pews. She didn't look too chuffed at our walking AWAY from the altar rather than towards it, and we had to practically force our way past her, but we did it.

The funniest part was, when we got out of the building and were walking towards the car, the first words out of my mouth were "Don't tell my sister - she'll never let me live it down!" (She's been telling me for years that I'm a closet conservative.)

But that did it - I realized that since the Anglican and Episcopal churches permit women's ordination, they were not the right churches for me. The Episcopal parish I belonged to for several years had only a male priest, and was very traditional (we kneeled at the rail to receive Communion, etc.), and I could have sought out a parish like that now. But like you, I said "Even if my parish and I are a good fit, how can I be part of that larger body that I think is wrong?" Which is what amazes me about the Call To Action type of response: rather than saying "I don't fit into this larger body; I should go somewhere where I do fit" they seem to be saying "This larger body does not fit me, but I should not have to change; the larger body should change to fit me." I don't get it.

10:33 am  
Blogger The Big Seester said...

The Clam said: The funniest part was, when we got out of the building and were walking towards the car, the first words out of my mouth were "Don't tell my sister - she'll never let me live it down!" (She's been telling me for years that I'm a closet conservative.)

AND I WAS RIGHT!!!!

But I'm not saying, "I told you so."

I'm only saying, "That's exactly what I said in the first place."

TBS

1:54 pm  

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