Saturday, May 15, 2010

Protestants in petticoats

A common trope from the "right" of the Anglo-Catholic movement is that those Anglo-Catholics identified as "affirming" are not really Catholic at all, but merely latitudinarians who find inspiration in the devotional aesthetics of Anglo-Catholic ritual. This allegation is perhaps more common in the UK, where "Forward in Faith" and "Affirming Catholicism" are to a greater extent actual organizational entities, rather than the conceptual tendencies they denote in Canadian and American Anglicanism. (Most major Canadian cities have one and only one Anglo-Catholic parish, often resulting in a Margaret Street-style truce).

There are, I think, several problems with this analysis. It is clear that those Anglo-Catholics of a conservative persuasion regard new theologies of gender as an unjustifiable departure from Catholic Tradition. Moreover, they tend to be convinced of the "package deal" nature of Catholicism. However, while the Catholic Faith is certainly not an à la carte affair, it is difficult to see that "liberal" Anglo-Catholics are markedly less consistent in their approach than their "FiF" brethren, much less their Roman Catholic counterparts. (At first glance, it is vexing that Anglicans are vetted individually for catholicity while Roman Catholics are more or less given carte blance by virtue of their submission to Rome. However, the relationship between FiF and Rome is somewhat more nuanced. Despite recent enthusiasm for reunion, many who have gone before have been disappointed to find a church just as troubled as our own, and not a kitsch-free lace and incense paradise).

First, consider what "affirming" Catholics actually believe. The beliefs of these Anglicans about the Eucharist, and about the ministry and sacraments in general, is unrecognizable to Protestants, yet highly similar to that of Forward in Faith! In the Diocese of Toronto, where only one parish offers regular Evensong & Benediction, those who seek the Lord in his Eucharistic presence gather for devotion to express a common faith, whatever their disagreements on the qualifications for Eucharistic presidency. I may disagree with some Anglo-Catholics about whether a woman can be celebrate Mass, but my understanding of what happens when she does so comes straight from the Council of Trent.

Second, consider the nature of ritual aesthetics. Anglo-Catholics have always been clear that it points to a theological truth. Thus the idea of aesthetics being separable from theology is an artificial one to begin with. A "Forward in Faith" Anglo-Catholic may disagree with an "affirming" Anglo-Catholic priest's views on orders or marriage, but when he (or she) dons a chasuble, he is saying something about our faith in the Eucharist - something that our hypothetical FiF observer should find quite familiar - and not merely making a fashion statement. Even female priests, who obviously dissent from FiF's position that they are Teflon-coated for sacramental insulation, should not be assumed to have a Eucharistic theology that is indebted in any substantial way to the Reformation. (One English correspondent whose opposition to WO was not of the "impossibilist" variety complained to me that he had never heard a woman priest chant the Preface. Perhaps this is a pond difference, but my first Anglican parish - on the high end of MOTR by Canadian standards, but what most in the CoE would call "high" - had a female incumbent who unfailingly chanted the preface unless on the verge of laryngitis).

Third, consider the ecclesiology of Forward in Faith. If as is undoubtedly the case the Catholic Faith consists not only in aesthetics but also in the deeper truths they represent, surely one of those truths is that of the nature of the church. Yet in England, with the adoption of provincial episcopi vagantes, "traditional" (read, biological-determinist) Anglo-Catholic parishes, in order to preserve their gin-and-lace ghetto and Y-chromosomal understanding of the priesthood, have sacrificed almost entire the corpus of Catholic teaching on the episcopate. The "Bishop" of Fulham, for example, is not a bishop in any recognizable catholic sense, with no see and no presbyterium of his own. (A makeshift presbyterium is nonetheless often corralled, with faux Chrism Masses drawing crowds of Anglo-Catholics dissatisfied with the real one, and the PEV concelebrating with those under his pastoral care as if a diocese).

Despite our differences then on the question of who may receive the sacraments of vocation, we have broad areas of convergence, and both groups (or tendencies) have made concessions in order to carry on our life of prayer and faith as best we can under present circumstances. Forward in Faith, however, has sought friendly relations with groups such as Reform (most of whom likely to don't even know what a sacrament of vocation is, much less believe in their status as such), describing catholics and evangelicals as two sides of one "orthodox" coin. Thus, while AffCaths (who apart from women and gays are indistinguishable from FiF) are written off as "Protestants in fancy dress," actual Protestants are welcomed with open arms as comrades in the orthodox and apostolic faith!


aaronorear said...

The catholic faith is orthodoxy and, as we know, when divisions emerge then orthodoxy is my doxy, and heterodoxy is someone else's doxy. The break happens along whether one thinks that gender identity or sacramental piety is the ultimate standard of faith. Or, to put it bluntly, does two guys kissing freak you out more than the most precious blood of Our Lord being poured back into the bottle for next month's Lord's Board? If so, open your arms to Reform.

I think the issue around aesthetics is confused by the fact that the Anglo-catholic sensibility has, in many ways, won the day. We're the victim of our own success. Even at my self-identified low parish (which is a lot higher now that I'm incumbent) there's no great hew and cry over candles on the altar, stained glass or weekly Eucharist. (Call it Mass and they have issues, but celebrate it every Sunday and they're fine.) Even my uber-Evangelical predecessor wore a chasuble, though he wore the stole on the outside. (He even wore a cope for feast days, on which he consecrated two chalices to save time. Sigh.) I know dozens of priests who have no more sense of sacramental piety than my cat, but who wear a chasuble every Sunday. Why? I don't know nor, I suspect, do they.

So while I agree that AffCath folks are, in general, truly catholic in piety and practice, the externals are no longer a true gauge.

Michael said...

The "Bishop" of Fulham, for example, is not a bishop in any recognizable catholic sense, with no see and no presbyterium of his own. (A makeshift presbyterium is nonetheless often corralled, with faux Chrism Masses drawing crowds of Anglo-Catholics dissatisfied with the real one, and the PEV concelebrating with those under his pastoral care as if a diocese).

Hmmm. I'm not so sure about this. I approach what you say from an Orthodox perspective, where the canonical norms on the exercise of the episcopate are just that: norms. They are not absolute rules outside of which the episcopate is somehoe pretend. On my own blog, I recently reported the repose of Bishop Daniel of Erie. He was not a ruling bishop of his own diocese. The see of Erie was created for him and he had pastotal care for communities of the Old Rite, wherever they happened to be. Metropolitan Hilarion of New York, while he is the ruling bishop of the Eastern American diocese, is also responsible for Western Rite communities within ROCOR, wherever they may be. Similarly to the Anglican situation, he may only oversee a community if the ruling bishop of the diocese in which it falls gives his consent.

These arrangements are come to for pastoral reasons and I'm not sure that it threatens a Catholic understanding of the episcopate.

In addition to those, Orthodoxy churches have long had stavropegial communities, (usually monastic, but nt exclusively so), which fall directly under either the primate or the synod of bishops, and not the ruling bishop of the local diocese. There can be various reasons for this sort of arrangement. The canons about the territory of bishops are in place to eliminate the viewing as legitimate situations where there are contested sees and rival bishops in any one territory, for that is the stuff of schism. Where that is not the case, it has not been unusual for it to be quite acceptable to entertain different arrangements within and alongside the general structure of a single bishop ruling his diocese.

Geoff said...

Michael, as usual, I appreciate your remedying my woeful knowledge of the Orthodox Church. I suspect that the context is very different in Orthodoxy, as although the array of jurisdictions can be somewhat baffling (and even humorous), it assumes a particularly high of unity of faith over and above the institutional structures. In this case, the situation of Orthodox communities outside of patriarchal territories is perhaps more like the situation on the continent, where Anglicans cooperate with Old Catholics and Lutherans in patching together oversight for those in their respective care.

I don't think the PEV situation is like this, as it was set up not as a accommodation for the special pastoral needs of a particular group, as Old Rite Orthodox churches or Anglican ordinariates, but to shuffle around the fallout from a doctrinal division. I would also imagine that all Orthodox bishops have a see: even the local rector of Greek seminary is bishop of some village in Asia Minor that existed before the Crusades. But, pace some usages, the notion of the "See of Ebbsfleet" is entirely fanciful. It is essentially a means of providing an episcopal sacrament-machine to dissident congregations.

Finally, while there is some precedent in the Tradition for outside oversight on an emergency basis, it would seem to me that for those who believe the CoE to be in outright heresy, the more honourable course is egress therefrom, and the generous provisions in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have made this option far more accessible to a wider range of prospective converts than ever before.

Derek the Ænglican said...

I think the first comment by aaronorear gets to the heart of it... Authentic liturgy occurs when the liturgy is a kinetic expression of the gathered community's theology. If a priest is wearing a chazzie because it looks nice and using incense because it smells nice then they are, in fact, being protestants in petticoats.

That having been said, the Scholasticism is not the only way to be catholic. The Anglican reformers took a great deal of interest in the pre-scholastic formulations of England's Benedictine Revival (10th through mid 11th centuries) which reflected a solid theological and liturgical system before the advent of Scholasticism and its hair-splitting distinctions of what was fit matter for ordination.

Geoff said...

Exactly. Of course I don't deny that clergy can and do wear the chasuble for other than sincere reasons. But I resent the contention that if one departs from the "traditional" line on WO and SSM then it follows that one's catholicism is hollowly aesthetic, as if there were nothing else left in the deposit of faith!

In Toronto, where I have been involved in the Society of Mary, members of both "integrities" get together on Saturdays in May for Rosary & Benediction. I should find very strange the suggestion that those on the "conservative" side of the hot button issues do so out of authentic catholic devotion while the rest of us are just there because it's pretty. If I didn't really believe in what was going on in Benediction, I should be guilty of idolatry!

ex_fide said...

I was enjoying this post until you started laying into traditionalists and patronising them. It's a shame you have to do that.

Geoff said...

I'm sorry that that's what you got out of my comments. First, I'm speaking about particular trends within the church, that are not applicable to all people. I find your own posts delightful (and I certainly hope to visit S. Magnus when next in London), but those writers who inspired this post (many of whom I nonetheless also respect as individuals) are less charitable, and it should be understood in its context as a response to their particular arguments.

My intent wasn't to patronize, though even in real life I can give that impression without meaning to in arguments. Part of what you "hear" through the text might be my pure bemusement at FiF, since (as I've tried to explain here) I find their own aims wildly inconsistent, and the phenomenon as it exists in England has no correlate here (though individual FiF members and sympathizers are among our numbers).

I have no problem with traditionalism, but if one's conception of traditionalism binds one in conscience to a male priesthood, presided over by a bishop who has only ordained male priests, and celebrating of the Roman Rite, then one's path if one has integrity is fairly obvious, and it is not to form a fifth column in a church that recognizes none of these conditions as normative. And I gather there are plenty of parishes in the CoE that are Resolution A & B but remain in traditional diocesan structures.

In the Anglican Church of Canada, those who believe that only a man can be priested are a minority, but are fully integrated into the wider church. Some parishes may be known unofficially as "safe" but the notion of opting out of one's male diocesan's oversight because he has laid hands on female ordinands elsewhere is unheard of.

I hope you will visit here again. I kept checking to see if we would be treated to photos from the Easter Vigil but I see that the combox on the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified has taken on a life of its own!

JCF said...

Thus the idea of aesthetics being separable from theology is an artificial one to begin with.

Spot on, Geoff.

Lex orandi ---HOW we pray/praise---is lex credendi . . . or else we have to inquire (inquisit!) into people's souls (those "windows" Good Queen Bess wisely dispensed---please don't think I'm defending everything about Elizabeth I, but she was certainly no worse than any "Catholic" monarch!).

And if not an inquisition, THEN you're left w/ "whose succession" is more lawful than That Other Guy's (talk about a fool's errand, when NO ONE's succession has the provenance to be historically proven!). Don't go there.

Nope, a (self-identified) Anglo-Catholic IS, as an Anglo-Catholic DOES . . . the results of which, "I but do partake", w/ thanksgiving. (With exceeding thankfulness for yesterday's episcopal consecrations in Los Angeles: God is Good! Alleluia! :-D)

Andy Wilkes said...

Geoff, thank you for a splendid post. In my experience everything you've written is a fair appreciation of the current dichotomy in Anglo-catholism.

I have moved from the FiF position towards the AffCath one because of my own experience of women's ministry. But, and this is your point, my ecclesiology, theology and my understanding of the sacraments is still the same.

Unfortunately, here in England one's stand on women's ministry is all that certain 'traditionalists' care about.

Paul Goings said...


I think you make some very good points here, and I'm generally in favor of as much Anglo-Catholic cooperation as can be managed, given the two (or more) integrities which exist in our various parishes. However, I disagree with your take on the English situation. I think that the creation of the P.E.V.'s was a sincere attempt to make the best of a bad ecclesiological situation. Too, there is the added complication of establishment to deal with. It is by no means ideal, and I imagine that most English Anglo-Catholics would agree. That said, I rather object to your comments about a lack of integrity and a fifth column. One could just as easily say that we want to take the church back from the proponents of lady priests and gay marriage, and that while such things might be "normative" in some sense at the present moment, it is in fact the virtuous thing to unmake that normalcy, if God so wills.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

I think you miss the point... the fact that a woman is purporting to be acting "in persona Christi" means she positively cannot believe what the Catholic Faith has taught and always believed about the Eucharist and the nature of the Mass. She may think she is confecting the Sacrament, in actuality she is pretending to. If Christ had been a woman, that might have been different... I don't understand why AffCath et al don't put female corpuses on crosses and dress boys up as the Virgin Mary in their Nativity plays?! Is it because that wouldn't be "Catholic"?!

Geoff said...

"If Christ had been a woman, that might have been different..."

On the contrary, what was not assumed was not redeemed. Either Christ's gender is relevant or not. It won't do say that in baptism there is neither male nor female but in orders genitalia suddenly become a defining feature. A female priest can affirm transubstantiation and the sacrificial nature of the Mass to the jot and tittle without subscribing to heterodox theological anthropology of the sort entailed by FiF's position.

Paul Goings said...


I think that it was human nature that was redeemed, which obviously includes males and females. As you know, however, the tradition of the Church for some nineteen hundred years was that only males could validly receive Holy Orders; that tradition was supported in part by the fact that the incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity was as a male. It is then one thing to call the tradition into question; it is quite another to suggest that it is based purely on an "heterodox theological anthropology."

By the way, I agree that it is ludicrous for soi-disant Anglo-Catholics (e.g. FiF/NA) to make common cause with protestants (e.g. ACNA), simply because they agree on a single controversial point of moral theology.

Andy Wilkes said...

It seems to me that 'tradition' was also used to legitimize slavery and racial discrimination, so we must be careful with that one. Newman showed us that the Church's doctrine can develop over time, and develop it must continue to do.

One thing that is rarely discussed is the efficacy of ordination from God's point of view. If it is God who calls and ordains through the ministry of the bishops then a woman priest doesn't just 'purport' to be presiding in persona Christi, she actually is. A person's hormonal balance surely doesn't come into it!

God chooses whom he chooses and the Church merely affirms that.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

If what you say is true - why don't you put a female corpus on a cross and venerate it?

Geoff said...

Because it would be historically inaccurate, I suppose. Fortunately, the Mass is not a dramatic re-enactment, and the celebrant does not need to resemble the "historical Jesus" any more than the sacramental wine needs to look like blood. To suggest otherwise smacks, if anything, of memorialism and not Catholicism.

BillyD said...

Well said, all around, Geoff. Except I don't think that "kitsch-free" and "lace" belong in the same sentence.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Ah... so why use unleavened bread and wine then? Because of matter and form as well as intention? Why not change the matter and form of all the Sacraments then? Because that wouldn't be "Catholic" I suppose...?

BillyD said...

You claim that women are incapable of being ordained, and then try to buttress the claim with an observation about unleavened bread? Odd, since using leavened bread doesn't invalidate the Sacrament.

Geoff said...

Evidence for the claim that women are in any meaningful way different "matter" from men is outstanding.

Andy Wilkes said...

'If what you say is true - why don't you put a female corpus on a cross and venerate it?'

Fr, I wouldn't put a woman on the cross anymore than I'd put any other man on the cross! Jesus Christ, the Son and Second Person of the Trinity, was the only one who could die for our sins on that cross.

It is not the man or woman who stands in Jesus' place at the altar, rather it is Jesus who stands in the place of the priest.

At the Eucharist Jesus breaks the bread again and shares the cup again despite the fallen humanity of the priest, man or woman.

And all this only so that the church can continue to be the royal priesthood of believers.

JCF said...

Best quit while you're behind, Canon Lloyd. [Unleavened bread? Tell that to the Eastern Orthodox!]

Have you never seen a blond-haired blue-eyed "Jesus"? How 'bout the monstrousity---IMHO---in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in DC? No less biologically wrong than a female corpus, but I don't hear you calling the RCC heterodox!

I'm more than willing affirm that all Priests of Christ should try to conform to His Sacred Heart . . . but there's no theological need to mandate conformity to any other of His Organs! ;-/

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

I'm sorry, I had no idea that such confirmed Anglo-Catholics would consider using anything other than wafer's for hosts...

Biologically women are different from men... Why don't you campaign for male adaptive surgery to give birth and thus have full equality irrespective of gender? Then you might "complete" the Creator's creation for Him and continue to dictate to Him how His Salvation was supposed to work instead of how He intended.

Geoff said...

When did biology become a sacramental criterion? Must priests also be ethnically Near Eastern or Jewish?

Anonymous said...

Canon Lloyd must have a peculiar view or Catholic sacramental orthodoxy. No Angl-Catholic or any other knd of Catholic would assume that wafer bread was the only acceptable form of the sacramental Body of Christ. As someone else said, the Orthodox might have an opinion on that. No Catholic could deny the Real Presence if wafer bread is not used! The distinction between wafer bread and "real" bread has nothing to do theologically with the difference between male and female-it is a red herring and nonsense.

Geoff said...

"No Anglo-Catholic or any other knd of Catholic would assume that wafer bread was the only acceptable form of the sacramental Body of Christ."

But isn't that the point? Conservative Anglo-Catholics often use white wine at the altar to avoid any suggestion that it is a mere symbol that must "look" like blood to be effective as such. Yet they suddenly become memorialist when it comes to the celebrant, who must "look" like Jesus or the Twelve (in one arbitrarily selected way, if not in any of scores of possible others).