Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Captains of the Outlands

The best opinion piece so far on the Pope's audacious invitation to the believing Catholic remnant in the Anglican Church has come from The Belmont Club.
Andrew Brown of the Guardian called the Roman Catholic Church’s offer to admit disaffected Anglicans “the end of the Anglican Communion”, describing the 1/7th of the clergy which its believes will jump ship as a death blow. If so, it is the coup de grace. The Anglican Communion has long been hemorrhaging members, fleeing from a church which many of its members believe has abandoned its traditional beliefs. Most of those who were expected to take up the Catholic Church’s offer to convert are described as social conservatives who think their community has gone too far toward embracing openly gay bishops and women priests. The Daily Mail put the indictment against the Archbishop of Canterbury plainly: he’s no longer a divine, but a politician and those are dime a dozen. “If our Archbishop spent less time fretting about climate change, he might notice the pope is about to mug him”.
Many are echoing Andrew Brown's speculation that this will turn out to be a sort of Trojan Horse manoeuvre, and that by bringing in Anglicans, Benedict will (unwittingly?) import the virus that will destroy priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church. I think this too-clever-by-half conspiracy theory will come to nothing. First of all, I don't think the Holy Father does ANYTHING 'unwittingly'. His enemies perpetually use any excuse to drag out their pepier-mache puppet Pope and try to get people to throw rocks at it, chanting accusations of "clumsy" "out of touch" "undiplomatic" "gaffe" and anything else that will get people excited. He's none of those things. We're just repeatedly surprised to find that his priorities are not the world's priorities, and he won't cower and hide when they are in conflict.

If the Pope really thought that clerical celibacy should go, he wouldn't have to stage this rigmarole to do it. The anti-celibacy propagandists remind me of the Scots in an old Goon Show called 'The MacReekie Rising of '74':
Tonight we march north to England!

But England's south!

Aye, we're going to march right roond the waarld and sneak up on them from behind!
They seem to think that married priests will behave like Tribbles: just get one on board, and before you know it, they'll be tumbling out of overhead chasuble cupboards and purring in the choir stalls. It's not going to happen. Nor will the Church be somehow tricked or trapped into "logically" having to extend the married priesthood beyond the narrow confines of the Anglican Colony. They will always have the last word on who gets to be a priest, and I don't think that it should even be assumed that every Anglican priest who wants to cross over will automatically be handed a comp ticket - married priest couples, for example, where the husband wants to convert but the wife doesn't, would be a scandal to the faithful. In fact, I would think that any married priest whose wife doesn't also convert would probably not be allowed to be a priest in the Catholic Church. I've no evidence for that, just my own gut feeling, coupled with the logic of how Catholic marriage has to work.

Everyone says that "the Catholic Church thinks in centuries" but they don't have to bother when dealing with the Anglican Church. There will be no "precedent", because in another generation, there won't be any more Anglicans to convert. The Catholic Church can read the demographic tables as well as anyone else. There won't be a steady stream of Anglican priests coming to Rome; this generation is it. If Rome decides that future ordinands must be unmarried, then when this generation of priests dies, the brief anomaly of married Catholic priests will die with it.

The thing that seems to be missing most from the commentary about this Anglican Outreach is the question of whom Benedict is really reaching out to. Everyone fusses about the priests and the bishops, and how soft a landing they can make when they parachute out, carrying all their luggage. I don't think the Pope is doing to this to make life easier for Anglican priests. I think he cares about the little nobodies in their little pews, trying to live Catholic Christian lives. THOSE are his flock. For such an intellectual, Benedict XVI has a deep love and reverence for the simple faith of the common man. I think that they were also the reason for his demarche towards the SSPX. While the press were shrieking with outrage about the solitary "shiten shepherd", Benedict was looking at the "clene shepe" - the thousands of lay Catholics who follow these clergy in search of spiritual food. Should THEY remain forever stranded on a flooded knoll, when they could be brought to safety?

TThe principal attraction of the Roman Catholic Church, at least to conservative Anglicans, lies precisely in that it hasn’t been eaten out by socialist/communist faith to the degree that the Anglicans have been. It’s not that they love Rome, they’re simply seeking shelter within its walls.

That’s not to say that Roman walls are safe from the same relentless attack of secularism which did Canterbury in. Given enough time, Rome too will go under; and Benedict knows it is only a matter of time until some ecclesiastical Barack Obama mounts the pulpit to warn in a honeyed baritone against Climate Change and extol the virtues of Islam. For that reason Benedict is picking up stragglers, having judged the Anglicans already shattered. But its real foe, upon which Rome’s eyes are fixed, are the socialist/communists. Osgiliath is driven in and the orcs are hard behind. Roman Catholic Archbishop Nichols, the primate of England, put it bluntly.

He claimed the Pope had made the decision because he wants worshippers to unite in the face of increasing secularism rather than form numerous smaller churchers. … Quoting the Pontiff, he said: “As he has written: ‘In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.’ “
One part of 'The Return of the King' not shown in the movie was the arrival of the Captains of the Outlands, marching up the south road to Minas Tirith, to join in its defence. The little principalities down the river and along the coast, taking their part in the battle of Gondor against the Enemy. But Gondor was not just the biggest policeman on the block; it was also their mother, the civilization that planted them and made them thrive.
And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, men of the Outlands marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour; but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked. The men of Ringlo Vale behind the son of their lord, Dervorin striding on foot: three hundreds. From the uplands of Morthond, the great Blackroot Vale, tall Duinhir with his sons, Duilin and Derufin, and five hundred bowmen. From the Anfalas, the Langstrand far away, a long line of men of many sorts, hunters and herdsmen and men of little villages scantily equipped save for the household of Golasgil their lord. From Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain. Fisher-folk of the Ethir, some hundred or more spared from the ships. Hirluin the Fair of the Green Hills from Pinnath Gelin with three hundreds of gallant green-clad men. And last and proudest, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, kinsman of the Lord, with gilded banners bearing his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan, and company of knights in full harness riding grey horses; and behind them seven hundreds of men at arms, tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired, singing as they came.

And that was all, less than three thousands full told. No more would come. Their cries and tramp of their feet passed into the City and died away.


Anonymous Sibyl said...

I dunno, Dr. M. A more accurate diagnosis of the times and the church may be gotten elsewhere. Here:

"The Roman Catholic Church is living through an extraordinary historical moment. It is facing two religious competitors. From one side, there is the religion which pretends to be a political movement — socialism/communism. From the other flank there is the political movement which pretends to be a religion — Islam. Both religions have massive amounts of money, heavy weaponry and great cultural power. Pope Benedict has probably looked at the ancient but fragile ramparts of Rome and realized that unless something turns up, they may not hold. Indeed, any normal assessment of forces would conclude that Benedict’s Church is doomed. The future looks like a face-off between socialist secularism and unbending Islam."

11:54 am  
Anonymous Robbo said...

Oh, I just love that image! The entry of the Captains of the Outlands is one of my very favorite passages in LOTR.

And to extend the allusion, if the Gates of Minas Tirith are thrown down and this time the Captain of the Nazgul does enter, then yes, we will disburse and hide in the hills and carry on as best we can until we are all hunted down. So be it, but I would rather die under the Cross than live in subjugation.

But I disagree that the ramparts are crumbling. In my opinion, Rome was in her greatest danger in the 70's after Vatican II when there were signals that she might go down the same road as, well, the Anglican Communion in order to remain "relevant". While there has been some of that, in the main she resisted the temptation. And between them, JP-II and B-XVI have been furiously strengthening the defenses.

11:47 am  

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