Monday, 26 October 2009

Anglican Mystified by Catholic Bishops Fear of the TLM

I've been engaging in some somewhat belligerent ecumenism on an Anglican's blog. In a good post, Tim Collard, a 'strong Anglican' (remember, Tim, Cardinal Newman was a 'strong Anglican' before he became a strong Catholic then a 'strong contender for Sainthood and soon to a canonized Saint) cannot understand why many Catholic Bishops are opposed to the Latin Mass. Tim, neither can many of us...He writes:

From what one hears, the Church of England should be shaking in its warm woolly socks by now. The Pope’s latest initiative, allowing ultra-traditionalist Anglicans to go over to Rome en masse while being allowed to preserve their traditional liturgy, is being portrayed as a devious Papist attempt to split and undermine our national Church.

As a strong Anglican, I don’t buy into any of this (Deo Gratias!). Many people may not think that there’s much difference between the churches, but that’s not how they see it in Glasgow, and that’s not how the Pope sees it either. These things are important. But still, for me anything Pope Benedict does to break down the barriers is a Good Thing (Like it! Capital letters for what the Holy Father has done! Remember, only holy things deserve capitals!). If some Anglicans (Why capitals!?) choose to go over to Rome as a result of this initiative, I’m not going to throw anything at them. Some of my best friends, etc.
But there’s a strange backstory here. As my colleague Damian Thompson chronicles in his blog, there are internecine disputes between British Catholics too. The Pope – and let me say at this point that I admire intellectual rigour even when I disagree with the man who wields it – wishes to reintroduce the old-style Latin Mass, not as compulsory, but as an option. Much of the British Catholic hierarchy, according to Damian, do not like this at all. They seem to fear that the Latin Mass is a) so 1950s, and b) only one step away from the thumbscrew and the stake.
Now, the sort of traditional Anglicans the Pope is trying to attract are the sort who wouldn’t mind the Latin Mass in the slightest (If I were a traddie Anglican, I wouldn't be up for guitar masses either!). I like it myself. When travelling abroad – most recently in Budapest and Copenhagen – I have attended Mass on a Sunday. While prepared for a completely unintelligible service, I was on both occasions gratified to sit in on a service which I understood (a lifetime of choral singing has left me well acquainted with the Latin Mass). This was the Catholic Church doing what it says on the tin (Oh boy! This guy is there! He understands the benefits of the TLM and for once I am not being a sarcastic git!).

What I wonder is why the British Catholic Bishops are so frightened of a resurgence of the Latin Mass. It seems odd that Catholic liberals are so wedded to modernism in liturgy and music, whereas the hardcore traddies prefer Tridentine rites, Gregorian chant, etc. On the Anglican side it is the hardline evangelicals who are keenest on modern “choruses”, tambourines, clapping etc, while the liturgical traditionalists, who cherish the great tradition of English church music, are closer to the liberals.
So, will the Pope’s initiative lead to a large exodus of traditional Anglicans? I don’t think so somehow. Anyone who is at all susceptible to the ecclesiological arguments of Rome has surely gone over already (Hold your horses, Tim, the Holy Spirit is still working on England!). We’ll carry on making our sublime church music. (The Sistine Chapel Choir is terrible.) We’ll live alongside you as we always have (Always have?! Well, in the spirit of ecumenism, sometimes it is worth whitewashing history, I suppose!), and will listen to anything sensible you have to say, especially to HH the Pope, who is a great Christian theologian. And, while we’ll always accept in a brotherly spirit anyone who is honestly convinced to go over to Rome, we’ll also rejoice over any of yours who can’t cope with the intellectual tergiversations any more and come over to us.

I like this post. It has something of the 'I'm not bitter' about it but at the same time is magnanimous in spirit towards those Anglicans, lay and priests, who will come over and accept the Holy Father's generous offer. I don't think Anglicans fear dead puppies through the letterbox when they convert, though, apparently Ann Widdecombe got vile letters when she did. I think its the sense of rejection by a community who feel they have rejected them, if that makes sense.

Who knows, perhaps Tim might one day cross the Tiber. We leave such things to the Lord after we have savaged the roots of the Anglican Church on that persons blog. However, I do always get a bit annoyed by Anglicans or anyone who admire sthe Holy Father's intellect so much, at the expense of the Office he holds. It has to be said, that if the Pope was a total ignoramous (which someone called me on Tim's blog), he would still be the Pope, he would still be the Sucessor of St Peter, he would still be the Prince of the Apostles and he would still have the Authority given by Christ to St Peter to teach all nations, baptising in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If the Pope had never read a single word of St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, St Teresa of Avila, St Anselm or Pope St Gregory the Great, if I met him, I'd still kiss his hands and his feet, because...its the bloody Pope!!!!!!

Which is exactly the spirit in which Bishops should receive both the Holy Father's invitation to the Anglicans and Summorum Pontificum. In fact some of our Bishops are like Anglicans who say, "The Holy Father has a formidable intellect. He is a capable and profoundly wise theologian. His grasp of matters theological and his exegesis of even the current economic situation and the negative consequences of sin upon the human family are breathtaking." Then, five minutes later someone goes up to the Bishop and says, 'Your Lordship! The Holy See, at the behest of His Holiness himself has liberated the Traditional Latin Mass. He's written you a personal letter to invite you to follow this new liturgical renewal of the Church! What do you think?!"

The Bishop says, "Nah, that sounds silly. I'll carry on doing my own thing."

Just thought I'd mention that.

1 comment:

Natasa said...

I keep wondering if there is a way for the Pope to put serious pressure on bishops. Is there? Seeing all that he has achieved in just a few years I somehow expect him to do something about them as well.

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