Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Last Anglican

A visitor sent me an e-mail with the subject "The Last Anglican" noting, as I sometimes have here, the disappearance of "Anglican Catholic" blogs in the wake of the 2012 implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus. He asked me for my thoughts on why this happened.

As I thought about this, the image of an altarpiece came to mind at what Mr Chadwick believes is St Agatha's Portsmouth, UK, that he posted on his blog last month. (Click on image for a larger version.) In the lower right, it depicts Abp Hepworth standing next to Pope Benedict XVI in heaven. Clearly this was done in the context of the 2007 Portsmouth Petition from the TAC bishops and the 2009 promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus. But rather clearly it couldn't have been done after Hepworth's 2012 expulsion from the TAC College of Bishops. Indeed, Mr Chadwick himself attended the 2007 Portsmouth meeting as an enthusiastic supporter of Hepworth, but he has since renounced him. This is an indication of how quickly the climate changed; the altarpiece is also an insight into the eccentricity of "Anglican Catholics", from whom Mr Chadwick himself now seems to want to separate -- well, at least from Abp Hepworth and his ilk.

Think about it -- a parish seems to have decided to spend a significant amount of its limited budget on a new altarpiece, however tasteless, that would go out of fashion in a brief matter of years and is now nothing more than a curious artifact. There are, of course, theological difficulties in its portrayal of heaven, with Abp Laud and Charles I ranged above Benedict and Hepworth, all surrounded by cherubs and dogs in the fluffy clouds. I assume that pre-2012, Mr Chadwick and many others would have endorsed the sentiments enthusiastically. Here are the factors that changed so quickly:

  • Abp Chaput's denial of votum for ordination to David Moyer, followed by Moyer's de facto expulsion from the ACA. I think observers saw this as sausage-making political maneuvering taking place with unseemly haste in the wake of Anglicanorum coetibus.
  • By the same token, the ACA's immediate dissolution of the Patrimony of the Primate was a final indication of the cynicism with which Bps Marsh and Strawn tolerated "Anglican Catholicism" within the ACA for only as long as they could get away with it.
  • The subsequent "trial" and expulsion of Hepworth from the TAC was a transparently cynical and opportunistic action from a group whose own founding in 1991 could be seen as an attempt to evade canonical action against Abp Falk.
  • The total of these events irreparably damaged the ACA's and TAC's reputations even before the legal actions it undertook against St Mary of the Angels in May 2012. Bloggers who had previously associated themselves with the TAC, including Chadwick, Campbell, and Smuts, saw their credibility decline.
  • The legal action by the ACA and a dissident faction of parishioners against St Mary of the Angels led to the start of this blog, which further exposed malice in the ACA and at best cliquishness, poor judgment, and arbitrary decision-making in the OCSP. This also damaged the credibility of "Anglican Catholic" blogs that refused to recognize these issues.
  • The decision by Fr Phillips in early 2012 to keep Our Lady of the Atonement out of the OCSP was originally seen as a black mark against Msgr Steenson, since in the runup to Anglicanorum coetibus, Phillips was by far the most prestigious of its US promoters. This damaged the optimistic outlook for the ordinariate, although Steenson's designation as ordinary put a colorless and uninspiring figure at its head as well.
  • However, subsequent developments regarding Our Lady of the Atonement, Fr Phillips, and Dcn Orr brought to light long-standing conflicts with the Archdiocese of San Antonio that at best called Phillips's judgment into question, leading to further deterioration in the prestige of the "Anglican Catholic" movement.
  • The continuing failure of the original Anglicanorum coetibus model to attract existing "Anglican Catholic" parishes -- especially prosperous and successful TEC ones -- into the OCSP has effectively destroyed any initial optimism about the project. This is reflected in the disappearance of "Anglican Catholic" blogs that had been optimistic about the project.