The Crisis in Anglo-Catholicism

Oxford—I was away from England at the time of the crucial Low Week meeting of the bishops of England and Wales (19-22 April), at which time a formal response was agreed to by the disenchanted High Anglicans wishing to be reconciled with Rome after their own Synod had passed a resolution in favor of women’s ordination (last November). I returned to find a mood of relief, even of joy, but mingled with a certain amount of puzzlement over what exactly had been proposed. What did not happen was an adoption of the clearest American precedent: the Pastoral Provision approved by the Pope in 1980, which allowed convert parishes to retain certain elements of their own liturgical language. What did happen was a firm clarification of the status of Anglican Orders, which will have long-term effects both for Anglicans considering the “Roman option,” and also for the debate about women’s ordination within the Catholic Church.

There were two main lobbies or pressure groups to which Cardinal Basil Hume and his fellow bishops were listening before the meeting. One set of voices were saying, essentially: We don’t want a load of misogynistic snobs from the conservative end of the C. of E. interfering with our post-Vatican II renewal. The other group—led by a former Anglican Bishop of London, Dr. Graham Leonard, and the convert priest and journalist Dr. William Oddie—argued (1) that misogyny had nothing to do with it; that ultimately it was a question not of whether woman could be ordained, but of who had the authority to make this decision; and (2) Anglo-Catholicism represented something tremendously valuable for the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps even some kind of “key” to the English soul.

Before the meeting, Cardinal Hume obviously had been listening hard to the Anglo-Catholics. Being himself archetypally English (a monk and abbot of Ampleforth), and indeed, a friend of Dr. Leonard, he could not but feel the strength of their appeal. Apparently, it was he who brought up the “Malines conversations” of Paul VI, which had talked of Anglicanism being “united not absorbed.” And in a widely reported unguarded remark he even spoke of a new possibility for “the conversion of England.”

As a result, some on the Anglo-Catholic side fully expected the bishops to follow the American precedent and come up with a provision for “Anglican Use” (although, in fact, many of the clergy in question had been using Roman missals illegally for years). There was talk of “conditional ordination” for convert clergy to get around Apostolice Cure (the papal bull of 1896 that declared Anglican Orders to be absolutely null and utterly void). Up to 1,000 priests, many of them married—and of course, considerable greater numbers of laity—were said to be considering the Roman option. Carried away by a wave of enthusiasm, the Catholic historian Paul Johnson wrote in the Spectator that Dr. Leonard should instantly be offered a Cardinal’s hat.

In the event, none of this has happened. Cardinal Hume had obviously been listening to other voices as well. The process of reception into the Catholic Church, it was stressed, had to be individual. There was to be no “conditional ordination,” and no “Anglican Use,” although no objection would be raised to the continuation of Matins and Evensong. If whole congregations did want to convert (sorry, “be received”), they could do so as a group of individuals under the supervision of a Catholic bishop. It seemed that a Catholic priest would have to celebrate the Eucharist with them, while their own “priest in waiting” could wait up to two years for his case for ordination to be considered, whilst ministering to them pastorally in non-sacramental ways.

The bishop’s official statement left a great deal still open, especially on the practical side, and of course it will be some time before the legislation permitting female ordination (if it clears Parliament) comes into effect. The “temporary pastoral arrangements” to help Anglicans become “fully integrated into the local Catholic community” have yet to be defined.

Nevertheless, a watershed has been passed. The hundreds of clergy and thousands of laity expected to take the road to Rome over the next few years may have a greater effect on history than their relatively small numbers would suggest. Many are speaking of the end of the Elizabethan Settlement. Now, the further decline of Anglicanism into a collection of Protestant sects, and the disestablishment of the Church of England, would seem to follow—creating a real “Catholic moment” for England, precisely at a time when public concern for the decline of morality is reaching its height. Meanwhile, the fact that there will be no special Anglican rite may end up increasing pressure on the Bishops to dump ICEL translations of the Missal. The stage is set for a rediscovery of religion, and of the importance of a sense of the sacred in liturgical language.

Significantly, during the press conference at which the results of the bishops’ meeting were presented, Cardinal Hume made a point of reaffirming Apostolice Cure. Some feminists, not known for their enthusiastic endorsement of papal authority, had been quoting this particular document with glee in order to discourage the converts. But the sword proved to have two edges. The Cardinal acknowledged the value of Anglican ministry in a way that Leo XIII could never have done, as a ministry of grace that bears fruit in the salvation of souls. But, he added, Catholic Orders are something different, something more than this. No Anglican priest would be required to believe that his years of ministry had been wasted, but he should see Catholic ordination as the “culmination” of that ministry. For many, this put Apostolice Curce in a completely different light; you might say, a “Vatican II” light. But it also had serious implications for the movement to ordain women. If Anglican Orders are different from Catholic, the victory of the feminist movement in the Anglican Church means nothing. All it has done is proved that Anglican Orders are something a woman can receive.

The debate now turns on the question of how we define the Catholic difference. The Church must develop her theology of the sacraments. What we need besides is something even more challenging; a theology of gender.

Stratford Caldecott

Fighting To Win

Is the culture war over, as some claim, a victory for the liberal elite? This May, Patrick Buchanan’s foundation The American Cause answered a resounding “No” in a conference entitled “Winning the Culture War.” The conference brought together men of ideas—Joseph Sobran, Samuel Francis, William Kristol, and others—as well as men of action like Colorado Amendment Two’s Will Perkins and Ezola Foster of Black Americans for Family Values. What emerged was a trenchant analysis of why traditionalists have been losing the culture war, where they have made inroads, and what steps will be necessary to turn the tide.

Held in Washington D.C., the conference examined the myriad fronts of the culture war, including the media, schools and universities, the arts, the family, abortion, and homosexual rights. From the various panels and speakers several themes emerged. Most significant was a general agreement that today’s cultural quarrels are symptoms of a much deeper philosophical confrontation. On one side of this dispute are those who defend the truth and spiritual wealth of Western civilization—born in Jerusalem and Athens—and those who seek to remind all Americans of a common heritage. Opposing this view are those who reject Western civilization and the very notion of tradition, opting instead for nihilism and relativism, and their concomitant doctrine of separatism.

A panel entitled “Art and the Culture War” focused on this theme, explaining that the low estate of modern art stems from a pernicious underlying philosophy. The “free verse” endemic to contemporary poetry and the abominations that pass as modern sculpture are not simply aesthetic failures, but the direct result of a metaphysical skepticism that abandons objective standards of beauty and a nihilistic worldview that denies a representable reality. Sculptor Frederick Hart said that the arts not only represent a society’s regnant philosophy but also serve to shape and perpetuate that philosophy. “The wildings of inner-city gangs,” he argued, “are a direct response to the wilding in our culture.” Thomas Fleming criticized the conservative tendency to ignore this fact by treating the arts as peripheral to society.

Conservatives tend to shy away from the cultural realm, several other presenters noted, and prefer instead to foster reform through political or economic action. Many speakers cited this tendency as the main reason for liberal dominance in the culture war, pointing out that conservatives cannot win a battle they refuse to fight. Patrick Buchanan cautioned against acting as “conscientious objectors” in the culture war, and others stressed the need to create an “alternative culture” to the one dominated by the elite. Elaborating on this point, James Cooper of American Arts Quarterly urged his audience not simply to thumb their noses at art that offends their sensibilities, but rather to encourage works of art that affirm their conceptions of beauty and goodness.

The conference’s general tone was optimistic. William Kristol, former Chief of Staff to Dan Quayle, pointed out that the liberal elite, which now seems formidable in its domination of the major cultural institutions, does not in fact represent the majority of Americans. Joseph Sobran warned against the elite’s “monopoly of public opinion” (“what everyone thinks everyone else thinks”), and encouraged conservatives to have faith in their ideas and beliefs, which ultimately will prevail if they are vigorously brought to bear in the culture war.

A number of speakers emphasized the need to engage the battle at the local level. Will Perkins recounted how Colorado for Family Values, with no corporate or government backing, successfully blocked a bill to give special rights to homosexuals and is now working with groups in over 33 states who hope to establish similar grassroots organizations.

In all of this a special role emerged for Jews and Christians, who have been heavily attacked in the culture war precisely because of their vital tradition. Judaism and Christianity lie at the heart of Western civilization and thus at the heart of the cultural disputes. Rabbi Yehuda Levin of Jews for Morality argued that believers must be closely involved in the culture war, not only through active engagement, but by setting an example in their daily lives; for without such examples, the very principles being fought for will be lost.


Sowing Sead

About 100 American Episcopalians seeking to speak for “the silent center of the Episcopal Church” attended the fourth—and largest—annual conference of Scholarly Engagement with Anglican Doctrine (BEAD) at the Virginia Theological Seminary in mid-April. Speakers included Os Guinness, author of the new The American Hour; Paul Avis, of the Anglican diocese of Exeter, England, whose theme was “The Viability of Tradition”; and Ellen Davis, professor of Old Testament at Yale University, whose subject was “Holy Preaching.” SEAD founders David Scott and Christopher Hancock, both professors at the Virginia seminary, said they seek a “Quest for Dynamic Orthodoxy” among Anglicans worldwide, but especially in the United States. In their view, “thoughtful Anglicanism” is “an endangered species in the Episcopal Church,” so they hope to provide “a studiedly non-political voice” distinct both from “the ideologists on the left and the traditionalists on the right.”

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