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Guess I better answer this one

The Plight of Anglo-Catholics

I'm not sure how many readers of this blog are interested, but here is an interesting piece on the situation of Anglo-Catholics since the establishment of the Ordinariate. One word summary: untenable. The author is addressing the Church of England, but what he says is broadly applicable to American Episcopalians of Catholic inclination as well. 

I thought the Anglo-Catholic position was untenable thirty or more years ago, when I was wrestling with the idea of turning to Rome. You can't reasonably or in any substantial way consider yourself to be Catholic without being part of a body which as a whole believes itself to be Catholic, because it is a pretty clear and fundamental aspect of historical Christianity, both Western and Eastern, that the Church is a visible body. The Roman Catholic Church and various Orthodox communions may disagree about what constitutes that body and who is or is not part of it, but they agree that it is something more than mere like-mindedness cutting across boundaries which are held to be insignificant in comparison.

I'm not sure that Anglo-Catholicism ever was tenable, because I think Anglicanism was always fundamentally Protestant. But if it was tenable, it was to the degree that corporate reunion with Rome was something for which it could reasonably hope. That time is past. The absolute best that a Catholic party in either the Church of England or the Episcopal Church can hope for is to be tolerated, and not required to formally affirm teachings which it cannot accept.

So it seems to me that a self-styled Catholic who chooses to remain in one of those churches, not for some overriding and extenuating personal reason, but for theological reasons, declares himself thereby to be Protestant, albeit with Catholic sympathies. Or else is in the position of trying to assert that his faction within a larger and non-Catholic body is actually the Catholic Church.



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So it seems to me that a self-styled Catholic who chooses to remain in one of those churches, not for some overriding and extenuating personal reason, but for theological reasons, declares himself thereby to be Protestant, albeit with Catholic sympathies. Or else is in the position of trying to assert that his faction within a larger and non-Catholic body is actually the Catholic Church.

Or just cannot be bothered to make sense. Really very common in Anglican congregations. And Catholic parishes, while we are at it. 'Tis the Age of Whatever.

This is going to send more negative than I intend it, but it would not be too far over the top to say that a lack of concern for making sense is characteristic not just of Anglican congregations but of Anglicanism at a theological level--if by "making sense" we mean the kind of logical cohesion that Catholic theology has tended to strive for. I think it was sort of necessary as a way of coping with its dodgy founding. At its best it can be a healthy broad-mindedness but at least as embodied in the CofE and the Episcopal Church it sort of passed that stage a while back.

Someone at The Guardian says the Anglican Communion is dead, and he seems to be glad of it. He's probably right.

That Guardian piece gives me an uneasy sense of unconcious racism.

Rightly, I think. Well, I suppose one needn't assume it's race, but without a doubt there's a tone of contempt toward the third-world Anglicans.

That Guardian piece gives me an uneasy sense of unconcious racism.

Not really. I would wager they have an even worse opinion of us pale-face bitter clingers.

Well, I have come to the conclusion that a comfortable majority of those who enter the clergy wish to 'do ministry' (in the words of Leon Podles, to be salaried den mothers) but are not particular about the contents and find them a nuisance because the contents are 'negative' or 'hurtful'. They are exponents of the religion of Nice.

And I will wager those not exponents of the religion of Nice get weeded out in the discernment process. S.M. Hutchens account of his experience of seeking to enter the Anglican priesthood is salient here, and we've all read the stories in New Oxford Review of aspirant seminarians and failed seminarians. Fr. Robert Johansen has been more circumspect about it, but has said his initial efforts to enter discernment programs ca. 1985 were rebuffed in ways familiar to those who have read the accounts in the New Oxford Review.

If you like word play, there are crossword puzzles, there is imaginative literature, and there is literary criticism. I have a strong suspicion that seminary faculty are made up of people for whom this is their raison du travail.

Then you have the Church-o-cracy across all denominations ("bored out of their minds careerists" in the words of Amy Welborn).

Then you have the Church intelligentsia - people like Garry Wills and Michael Sean Winters. Andrew Greeley of all people once described the editorial staff of Commonweal as 'elitist poseurs'.

I suspect all these groups are held together with an attitude that the orthodox are nuisances and rubes.


Many years ago I was a member of a small discussion circle of 'young adults' at an Anglican parish. Would you believe that two of our number were eventually ordained as Anglican clergy. Do not ask me why, and I knew both of these characters well at a certain time in their life.

They have had very different careers. One has been the rector of (one or two, I do not remember) parishes in the New York City suburbs for a decade and a half or more while the other moves from place to place every couple of years and has (I believe) been fired from more than one locus. (As she is a sanguine and agreeable woman, I find that odd). Neither have ever married and they are really too old for that now.

They both have a history of blogging. Reading their blogs, I still cannot figure out what they are on about. I think the primary interest of one is to make the world congenial to homosexual men. I know not why that would be her project, but that appears to be it more than anything else. The other had a blog shot through with commentary on intra-church matters (he is fond of the current 'presiding bishop' of the Episcopal Church and despises the Institute on Religion and Democracy) and the sort of politics you might have found in The Nation ca 1985.

They have both wasted many years in this enterprise. And they are a mystery.

Surely not a "comfortable majority"?! I hope you're wrong about that.

But no one could doubt that the sort of person you describe is very common, at any rate. I believe it was James Hitchcock who many years ago pointed out the wrongness of counting the clergy among "the helping professions." It is quite wrong, but I think there are many clergy who do see it that way. Your two acquaintances sound like instances. They might as easily have been social workers or therapists, or found some sort of home in liberal politics. I'll give them credit for good intentions, at least.

Being dismissive of the views of Africans simply because they are Africans? It doesn't much matter what his views of the pale-skinned might be, that's racism right there.

Paul, I will wager you they are dismissive of the views of anyone outside certain subcultures, unless those views validate their worldview. Call it 'subcultural chauvinism". Personally, I do not think it much less ugly than contemporary racial animus (1948 in Mississippi racial animus is another matter) and likely much more consequential.

It may be, in fact I think there probably is a bit of that, but I don't think it necessarily is. The question is whether the attitude would be any different if it were not Africans holding those views, and I doubt it would be. The contempt strikes me as being for primitive unenlightened foreigners in general, not particularly Africans.

My reply was to Paul, if that's not clear.

'Tis the Age of Whatever.

Sad but true. And mildly amusing.

They might as easily have been social workers or therapists, or found some sort of home in liberal politics.

I can see the chap in Westchester in those occupations or others (he had a brief tour as a teacher after his ordination). The woman out in California, no. Sales. (Which is something she has never done).

I don't think I've ever known a clergyperson who struck me as being suitable for sales.

Well, she has quirky aspects to her that I imagine would be out of the ordinary in and amongst people who hawk pharmaceuticals and real estate for a living. She used to be a big fan of the Archie McPhee catalog. She's a sanguine type and quite amiable, but does not as a matter of course have exchanges with people which would give you the impression that you are doing anything more than skating along the surface of a question with her. Which is fine, if the subject is real estate.

It is curious that she never married and got little attention from men between the ages of 22 and 27. She was handsome enough and agreeable company. About a dozen people floated in and out of that circle during the years in question. Noodling around, I cannot verify that any one of us has led a life that was not truncated in some important respect, though I cannot locate everyone. I would wager something was esoterically wrong with all of us. Was it something common to all?

Or was it just life? Since you haven't scoped out everybody, it's possible that the proportion of mishaps is not much greater than usual for any group. I can't make any observation about a group I know that might be comparable--people receiving instruction prior to entering the Episcopal Church, most associated one way or another with the university in the town where we lived. I've lost touch with almost all of them. One of these also became an Episcopal priest, of the very progressive type. He suffered a pretty severe personal loss but it was nothing to do with his personality or situation.

Those of us who have been in the sort of neo-orthodox Catholic world that sprang up ca. 1980 can tell of many disasters.

No, disasters, just failures alienation from the ordinary life cycle.

For example, I recall six young women in that circle. One had a name so common she would be difficult to identify with internet searches even if she still carried it. I am sure one has never married and am fairly sure another has never married. A third was married at the age of 31 and it lasted about 3 months; she has a trade; you can see on Linkedin that her career has had some interesting vicissitues. A fourth married late in life (at 41) and she and her husband have no children; she was and I imagine remains the primary earner in her household. One is married with children. You can find pictures of her and her husband on the 'net. The children came along about a decade after they were married and more than a decade and a half after they were appended to each other as a couple. He owns his own business now and pictures of the family can be found. They look great and have hardly aged in 20 years. The thing is, they were manifestly capable people at the time, already married and already vocationally established.

Six women, two husbands, one set of kids. Not the lives of most people.

Again, none of these women had manifest personality problems and five of the six were attractive (the sixth was the dame I cannot locate). None of them were difficult to be around.

I am vaguer about what happened to the men (leaving myself aside). One lives in England, self-employed as a part of a crew of consultants who share some facilities. His Linkedin profile is curious. There is a twelve year gap in his work history (which includes the years I knew him). I do recall that the resumes he was sending out neglected his current employment. I never knew why. Another was a bachelor engineer; there is someone by that name in suburban Los Angeles and the right age. Cannot say it is him; if it is, he has a wife who sells real estate. A third is this rector in Westchester. It goes downhill from there, for the most part.

"Six women, two husbands, one set of kids."

Not being anonymous, I'm not going to be very specific, but I have noticed similar patterns. More typically in what I see is multiple childless or one-child marriages, but the result is similar: a nearly absent generation of children. I notice this particularly among WASP families and am wondering if the people you describe are in that category.

I think one of these six women came from an unChurched Irish Catholic background and she and her siblings were certainly a great deal less fecund than their parents. One was black, but from an old patrician family. The other four were non-ethnic and had a mix of English and German surnames.

As for the men, the rector and the engineer had somewhat exotic backgrounds, but the rest replicated the women. I had forgotten 'til this moment that the one black man we had in our number was very peripheral (and quite clearly in problematic circumstances. I've no clue where he worked; he lived in a boarding house of which no more exist in that town and was unmarried at age 37).

The woman with the kids was a rector's daughter. I believe she and her husband now belong to a Unitarian congregation.

The fertility rate of the men has also been low, to the extent that I can verify it.

You surmised correctly on another point. One of the men and the husband of one of the women came from families that were once prominent in that town but had seen considerable regression toward the mean.

I suppose it's reasonable to assume that the people with the English and German surnames were white and Protestant, if not specifically Anglo-Saxon. When I said WASP I didn't mean to emphasize the prominent, because where I grew up almost everybody who wasn't black was WASP, or at least WP. There were a few Catholic and Jewish families, but offhand I can't remember any schoolmate with a Latin surname. There were some French ones but I suspect they came by way of the Norman conquest of England.

Anyway, it's a melancholy picture. There was a prominent family in the town where I grew up where there were two children of my generation. The son became a veterinarian but was involved in drugs and spent time in prison for using a color copier to make counterfeit money. I've heard vague allusions to serious difficulties in her life. I don't think either of them ever married or had children, and both are now dead.

Many of the prominent have remained that way, but overall have produced children at less than the replacement rate.

Same deal. IIRC, both of these men came from moderately fecund families (four or five children) from parents born ca. 1925, I believe. Both had at least one catastrophic sibling (schizophrenia in one case, a jumble of alcoholism and street drugs and nymphomania in the other). One is a shirt-tail relation of the chairman of the old family business (IIRC he was a music teacher or worked for a radio station, I forget); in the other case, the family business has long since been swallowed up by other companies and no one had had anything to do with it for decades prior to that.

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