Monday, March 20, 2017

What Do They Bring To The Party?

A visitor has very cogently reminded me of a point I need to make before I say anything else about syncretism:
When you take up what the movement brings to the Church other than alternative lifestyles for the clergy, I do hope that you will consider the numbers of both lay and ordained former Anglicans now laboring diligently and quietly in the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church.
There are many former Anglican Catholics among my correspondents, and they're surely among the group to which my visitor refers. There are also many who've come in via the Pastoral Provision or Anglicanorum coetibus -- I would point to David Moyer as one who seems to have been called to subordinate strong personal preferences to a much larger purpose, but he's by no means the only one, and I certainly don't mean to imply that all OCSP clergy are in the Phillips mold, or the mold of those who seek to emulate him. But some are. The numbers of former Anglicans who do labor diligently, I'm sure, far outnumber those in the OCSP of any persuasion no matter what. Many thanks to my visitor for urging me to point this out.

I didn't realize this at the time, of course, but this blog got its start about 1980 when, late in the evening at an Episcopalian confirmation class, I suddenly thought to ask the priest about something I'd been seeing on the local news: another Episcopalian parish nearby, St Mary of the Angels, had been making a big point that it was "Anglo-Catholic". What, I asked, did "Anglo-Catholic" mean?

His answer: "These are people who want the prestige of calling themselves Catholic without paying the dues you have to pay actually to be Catholic."

It's occurred to me all along that the whole Anglo-Catholic project represents a series of exceptions -- or, expressed differently, exemption from dues, or, expressed differently, substitution of private judgment, or, expressed differently, resistance to authority. Since I've been writing about OLA and Fr Phillips, my traffic has roughly quadrupled. Not everyone is pleased with what I've reported here, I think because Fr Phillips is thought of as the major figure in the Anglican ecumenism movement. But Fr Phillips himself is a bundle of exceptions. He's a married priest with a family. He owns a house next to the parish property. He doesn't bother to attend diocesan conferences and retreats. A visitor points out that, appointed pastor of OLA prior to the last revision of canon law, he is probably there permanently, but, as he himself expressed it, as a practical matter, he can't be relocated no matter what.

My regular correspondent notes,

I would imagine that virtually none of the former "continuing" Anglican parishes which make up the majority of OCSP groups were able to provide their priest with a rectory. I would imagine that most of the clergy who came into the Church by this route own a house. In the absence of a pension plan this would have seemed a prudent option.
But this underscores the huge exception that has to be carved out for all these former Anglicans -- the OCSP is unable to support the vast majority in any case, house or not. What are the unpaid priests assuming they can get in exchange for no money? But as children can be mere facts on the ground for women who use them to manipulate men, domestic circumstances make it impossible to relocate any of these married priests. Irrespective of canon law, they're de facto all in permanent appointments.

The liturgy is a big exception. Ugly and unsatisfying, the puzzling thing about it is that the uniate mass was never authorized by any body, Anglican or Catholic, before 1983. It is simply not Anglican patrimony. It was used in some Anglo-Catholic parishes without any sanction in the 20th century -- but in that, it represented resistance to authority! Some patrimony.

The idea of parishes voting themselves into or out of their diocese or the OCSP is congregationalism, and it's on display in the OLA case. It's significant that my regular correspondent cited "continuing" parishes as a justification for Fr Phillips's situation -- and if the CDF rules in favor of OLA, it will simply be acknowledging the enormous exception involved in Anglicanorum coetibus. In effect, the Church looked the other way when the "continuing" parishes voted themselves out of their former jurisdictions, but it welcomed them into the Church once this was done. But OLA shows that if one of these broadly speaking "continuing" parishes "wants" to change jurisdictions, the principle is still there.

I've made no secret that I think Cardinals Manning and Mahony were correct in refusing to accept St Mary of the Angels as an Anglican Use parish. Cardinal Mahony's point was on target: if the parish couldn't accept TEC's authority, what made them think they'd accept Rome? OLA's history strongly suggests the parish and Fr Phillips have been a headache for the successive Archbishops of San Antonio. I'm not sure why Bp Lopes wants this headache.

The only good thing about the "continuing" movement in the Church is its small size, its limited appeal, and its likely short life span. But as my visitor points out, the vast majority of former Anglicans haven't come to the Church with a "continuing" mentality.