Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Let's Rethink Anglican Outreach

I've been operating all along from the assumption that Catholic Anglican outreach -- both the Pastoral Provision and Anglicanorum coetibus, but we could go as far as to include ARCIC -- has fallen well short of expectations. Some people will argue that Rome thinks in terms of centuries in evaluating success, but Bp Flaherty has a much shorter time frame in mind when he closes and merges parishes. Frankly, I'm expecting some sort of indication from Houston within the fairly near future that things just can't go on this way.

Let's rethink and recalibrate here. Take my own example. I was raised Presbyterian by parents who weren't especially observant and in fact often set a poor example. In other words, I was poorly catechized and an easy target for secular influences in the 1950s and 60s. (Just when Ven Fulton Sheen might have begun to reach me via media, he was forced off TV.) By the late 1970s, I'd come to a tolle, lege moment, but the Catholic Church at the time had no particular message for me. I went to TEC confirmation class.

This was my second confirmation class. The Presbyterian confirmation class that I took at about age 12 contained a great deal of anti-Catholic material and portrayed Luther, Calvin, Knox, Hus, and the like as heroes. The TEC class basically triangulated, portraying Anglicanism as an ideal compromise. It always disturbed me deep down that compromise basically meant nothing. I still remember a TEC tract in the narthex on what Episcopalians believe, and it made the important point that Episcopalians feed their pets. Do not even Gentiles do the same?

A well-directed Catholic message might well have reached me then, no need for the Episcopalian detour. My basic problem was that I hadn't been well catechized and didn't have good examples in parents, clergy, and schools. Anglicanism had nothing to do with it, and Anglicanism wasn't going to fix it.

I wandered into St Mary of the Angels in 2011, finally fed up with our TEC parish priest's second trip into rehab and looking for an alternate, at least until the TEC parish got itself straightened out. My basic uncertainty about Anglicanism was probably part of this dissatisfaction. The St Mary's parish had decided to respond to Anglicanorum coetibus, which with the examples of then-Bp Moyer and Fr Kelley finally showed that Catholicism could be a living option.

But the level of bungling in the OCSP made it plain that for St Mary of the Angels ever to go in as a parish was (and still is) a very uncertain proposition. The problem is that even if Anglicanorum coetibus and the influence of certain Anglicans made Catholicism a living option, the message of Lumen Gentium makes it clear that it was my responsibility to answer that call, whether or not some parish convenient to me would come into the Church at some indefinite future time.

So let's look at the biggest issue here: although there are 30-40 groups of one sort or another in OCSP, most are tiny, only a handful offer anything like a real parish life, and geographically, the OCSP is simply not an option for the vast majority of Anglicans. But the point of Lumen Gentium is that Anglicans and all others who hear the call are obligated to enter the full life of the Church, which means something other than registering for some vague thing on the web. The existence of the OCSP can in fact be construed as something misleading if it suggests that Anglicans can be separate and not just unique.

If Anglicans become Catholic and do not enter the full life of a diocesan Catholic parish if an OCSP parish is unavailable, Bp Lopes isn't doing his job. This would include making a full financial contribution to the available diocesan parish, attending mass, confession, and other activities. So I don't understand the point of the OCSP for Anglicans for whom a local parish or group is unavailable -- but beyond that, going to some DW mass with eight or a dozen in some chapel is hardly a parish life even if it's possible.

My current understanding of the process that led to Anglicanorum coetibus is that there was a liturgical wing that paralleled the "continuing Anglican" wing. But there's a difference between Catholic and Anglican approaches to liturgy. Notwithstanding the priests and deacons dress the same, the reverence in Catholic liturgy celebrates and surrounds the Real Presence. Anglicanism takes no particular position on the Real Presence, which basically makes Anglican liturgy something of purely aesthetic, or perhaps sentimental, appeal -- or simply camp. If Anglo-Catholics see liturgy as that, they've got all they need just where they are, no need to go to Rome.

The "continuing Anglican" wing of Anglican outreach assumed widespread dissatisfaction with the liberalizing trend in Anglicanism would lead to Anglicans seeing the Church as an alternative. Didn't happen in the 1970s and 80s, and the next wave of disgruntlement in the 2000s led to a re-Protestantizing of Anglicanism in the form of the ACNA, not any significant move to the Church.

I think the Church needs to revisit the example of Ven Fulton Sheen with a broad-based and rational evangelical message that offers a serious and intellectually respectable critique of contemporary culture. I would commend again the example of Dr David Campbell in connection with what might be done. Anglicanism is simply a false lead.