Sunday, January 28, 2018

Thinking About The Pontifex Maximus

Last night I was watching a Science Channel show on building a suspension bridge across a fjord in Narvik, Norway. Several things struck me. This was a very carefully planned, highly organized endeavor. Then it struck me that this was in the best tradition of Roman civil engineering. Then it struck me that the Roman pontiff's title derives from pontifex maximus, a Roman office associated with the emperor in later years, but dating from the republic, where it is normally described as "chief priest". However, this ignores the etymology of pontifex, which comes from pons, bridge, and the suffix -ficium, making. There is a strong engineering context to the word before we get to the priesthood.

One lesson I'm taking from this journey through "continuing" Anglicanism, Anglo-Catholicism, and Anglicanorum coetibus is the lack of any seriousness like what I saw in the project to build the Norwegian suspension bridge -- no careful calculation, no detailed planning, no precise scheduling, no attention to contingencies. The pontifex as a Roman engineer has somehow not been involved here. It occurred to me that the episode I mentioned a few days ago of the cradle Catholic who discovered the TEC Book of Common Prayer and used its daily offices in his private devotions turns out to be an example of this lack of seriousness.

I basically assumed something in my discussion that I shouldn't have -- I thought Divine Worship -- The Missal had daily offices. In fact, it doesn't. My regular correspondent pointed out:

Even if money were no object, the person of whom you spoke could not purchase an Ordinariate version of the Daily Office, since one has yet to be produced. DW is strictly a missal. There is also a volume with approved versions of the baptismal and marriage rites. But the daily office book, completed a year ago, is still awaiting approval from the Vatican and subsequent publication. There is an office book, The Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, published in the UK in 2012 but it is not an official text.

Many Ordinariate groups do Evensong, regularly or on special occasions, and some, like BJHN, Victoria, and SJE, Calgary offer daily Morning Prayer. Saying Evensong together seems to be the standard activity for groups-in-formation without an ordained leader. Since there is no official Daily Office book I assume they use the local BCP, maybe with the official collects from DW, although groups-in-formation might not have access to a copy.

There seems from the start of the Anglicanorum coetibus project to have been an assumption that things would be present that in fact never were -- approved versions of the daily offices being just one small example. The lack of any serious legal or financial strategy for bringing in existing Anglican parishes in any consistent way would be another. The lack of any serious understanding of the important differences between high-church Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, and the need to address these issues in catechesis, would be even larger. In fact, I have the impression that everyone assumed that important TEC parishes in major metropolitan areas would simply vote themselves Catholic, and poof! it would all fall into place.

This never happened. It doesn't seem as though anyone gave any thought to the contingency that this might not happen, which is something that a real pontifex in the capacity of head engineer would not tolerate. Instead, we have a scramble to set up Potemkin villages to make it look as if somehow something is happening.