Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Appeal Of Catholicism vs Anglo-Catholicism

Regarding yesterday's post, a visitor comments
I think it is worth musing on whether all individuals and groups who have entered the Ordinariate are (or were) Anglo-Catholics in either the traditional or affirming categories. There is a broad church appeal to Catholicism that engages those whose liturgical or ecclesiological sensibilities don't run to the lace and incense.
Along that line, my regular correspondent notes,
OCSP clergy who led or gathered a group into the Church have had the opportunity to start from scratch in a way that is rarely offered to a clergyman in any denomination. With virtually no experience of a Catholic parish, and little interaction with the local hierarchy they are free to realise their fantasy, whether it is St Mary's Bourne St circa 1920, or some idealised 1950s-style community hub where families with ten children come for First Friday Benediction and Movie Night, with all the females wearing chapel veils. Whatever it is, the OCSP allows them to act it out with relatively little reference to the realities of contemporary Catholicism.

For many this is at one with their previous mode of operation in a tiny denomination which purported to "continue" what the parent denomination had decided to discontinue. "I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord" is the mentality. . . . Of course "We're the only ones who've got it right" is attractive to some, and one could argue that it is a core Catholic value. But without requisite humility it becomes profoundly unattractive to many more, not to mention deeply self-deceptive. The realities of typical parish and diocesan life generally preclude smug self-congratulation of this sort, but OCSP clergy, if they choose, can "live the dream."

We're back to the question of "what's the market?" For me, a closer question is what's the good to the Church of having St Mary of the Angels, a small worship space, just a few blocks from a Catholic parish that isn't filling its own worship space. The answer here isn't simple.

My wife and I go to Bible study Wednesday nights at our diocesan parish. We've had several chances to explain ourselves as recovering Episcopalians to our fellow parishioners. Last night, one asked, "I've never been to an Anglican service, but I hear it's a lot like a Catholic mass. Is that so?"

I answered that for high church parishes, it was maybe closer to being more Catholic than the Pope, with incense and taperers every Sunday. That's one side of the appeal. For St Mary of the Angels, another side is that since it's regained its property, it's become a very community-oriented place. It's in the middle of an upscale condo-apartment-commercial area with a lot of foot traffic, and local people do in fact drop in -- this appears to be a good part of the newly developing membership.

The Catholic parish a few blocks away is a cold place, with doors mostly closed and locked. It's really oriented more to the parking lot than the sidewalk. On this basis, our current diocesan parish is again much more of a community church like St Mary of the Angels is becoming, with activity from early in the morning to 9 PM when the parking lot is closed. So a lot depends on the individual parish.

But this in turn suggests the recipe for success is not simply trying to appeal to former or currently disgruntled Anglicans. Even at OLA, it appears that something like 40% of its membership was outside those categories. Diocesan parishes can be just as successful with a community-oriented formula, it seems to me. So, unless Bp Lopes can sell the Church at large, especially his fellow bishops, on how a particular approach leads to success, I'm not sure what the point of a personal prelature is.