As an Anglican I spent years doing that which, in hindsight, seems daft. Having discovered the beauty of Catholic truth within the Anglican Church, I then tried to become a true Catholic within it.
It wasn’t easy and involved pretending to myself, and to any who would listen, that the Church of England was authentically catholic *really* and if she could only be made/forced to realise the fact then all would be well.
I wasn’t alone – there was a group of us! People who sincerely imagined the church should conform to our agenda instead of our conforming ourselves to its true agenda or leaving it in good conscience.
We were Traditional Anglo-Catholics. And we expended much energy, some still do, on the futile task of fighting all that was and is liberal and deeply uncatholic within the C of E. (Except, inexplicably, our own membership of that body!)
It was a crusade that left us increasingly frustrated and exhausted. And ultimately we inevitably failed in the task. For year by year the reality of our situation became harder to ignore. Though we had performed extraordinary doctrinal gymnastics for years, to avoid what was plainly before us, with the innovation of women priests and (soon) bishops the ecclesial reality could not be avoided…
The Church of England wasn’t Catholic at all- far from it! It never was and never will be. It was created to allow dissent from Catholic teaching and has ever continued to do this to lesser or greater degree. Which is a shame because it retains many customs of the pre-reformation English Church and has many fine things about it to commend.
In truth though it is a liberal Protestant compromise, an arm of the State whose purpose is the will of the State. And whilst any particular parish may pick and choose liturgy and doctrine at whim, from Roman Missal to DIY prayers of consecration, the official acceptance of catholic doctrine and practice is never, ever going to happen.
I said at the start that my struggle was daft. Why? Firstly because the church i hoped for was an impossibility secondly because the very church I hoped to create already existed. It was the true Catholic Church. So why didn’t I simply just join?
The sticking point was that my cultural identity and personal beliefs were in conflict. It is not easy detaching from an institution you were raised and formed in and which you love aspects about.
Fortunately, at a time when I had already opened dialogue with Catholic bishops, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, erected the Ordinariate. It was perfect timing because it allowed me, not only to join a church I could embrace with integrity, but – what a bonus- I could now do so without sacrifice of my cultural identity. I could come with Anglican patrimony in tact. Perfect- and it remains the best decision of my life.
I post this for two reasons. First to call to those like me but who haven’t yet made the move into the Ordinariate. Brothers and sisters come on over! This is where you truly belong. Yes warts and all!
And also because, from time to time, I meet the polar opposite of me. People who, though Catholic tribally, hold beliefs that dissent from Catholic doctrine and are in vogue with liberal Protestantism! I don’t mean a little personal struggle or doubt here or there, or a questioning min, but those with a clear political agenda. Oh irony of ironies!
These, whose voice is so often heard in the Tablet, are people who feel terribly frustrated with the church because they want (delete as applicable) women priests/lay presidency/so called “gay marriage”/ acceptance of sex outside marriage/open communion etc etc
Perhaps the Church of England should reach in the way Pope Benedict reached out to us? Would a Protestant Ordinariate help? I ask because the sort of church these people demand already clearly exists. It is the ‘anything goes’ (except orthodoxy) Anglican Church. It makes sense then that these people would be happy with the move. And instead of offering a voice of dissent and causing trouble they could offer a voice of support. How liberating!
This is the blessing of being in a church you believe in. No longer are you defined in the negative (I must say no to this, this and this) but in the positive (I love my church and all she stands for) and it is truly good for the soul.
Let us organise a hostage swap then- meeting half way accross the Tiber!! Those who yearn for Catholic truth can come and join the Ordinariate and those who hate Catholic doctrine can be freed in the opposite direction. Each would be true to themselves and to God. And the fruit of each way will then blossom as The Lord dictates.
But living a negative life, trying to make your church something it can never be, is seriously bad for your spiritual health. I know. I have been there. It leads only to anger, fear, resentment, bitterness and exhaustion. Whereas joining the church you truly belong to sets you free. Is it time you were more honest with yourself?
Are you a Catholic? Then join the Catholic Church? Are you a liberal Protestant? The Church of England is for you…