Fr. Ed Tomlinson, SSC, parish priest of St. Barnabas, Royal Tunbridge Wells, has written to commend the following piece on the necessity of coming to terms with the understandable — but inevitable — anxieties caused by the advent of the anticipated personal ordinariate in England and Wales, and the imperative of placing the demands of Catholic faith above relative (temporal) security and comfort. A few days ago, our own Bishop Barnes wrote about the cold feet being experienced by some notable Anglo-Catholic clerics (and again today); perhaps Fr. Tomlinson's article will help further the debate between Bishop Edwin and Fr. Jones.
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Cardinal Newman is a beacon of hope to those, myself included, hoping to avail themselves of the Ordinariate. I recently returned to his autobiography – 'Apologia pro vita sua' – and found it useful for one contemplating the exciting journey. Furthermore I feel Newman’s prayers are close to Anglo-Catholics at this historic moment and that he is willing us on from heaven. May he lead us to safe pasture where Catholic truth is embraced and not treated with contempt and suspicion.
Whilst on holiday my mind kept returning to something bugging me at present — namely the lack of enthusiasm amongst many Anglo-Catholics! I speak of those who, despite praying for reunion for years, are now acting as if the very possibility of being in communion with Peter is the end to all we hold dear. How warped but revealing this is!
I do not speak of those asking questions or probing the agenda to advance its cause but of those who know in their hearts that they are going nowhere. Why do they look for problems with a louder voice than they give public thanks? Why pour cold water on the Ordinariate despite it being the ONLY show in town? Why continue to look to an unloving synod when the Holy Father himself is now calling us to safety? They remind me of the people in Jesus’ parable who had dead to bury and fields to plow — the finding of good excuses to mask a refusal to follow where He calls.
I suspect such people are not scared of an Ordinariate so much as terrified of risk and change. Fear grips and they want to bury heads in the sand. Or else they have grown far too content moaning on the fringes of an increasingly liberal establishment to risk or sacrifice comfort in pursuit of God’s truth! Does the dreadful state of modern Anglicanism not bother them? Do they not think the rejection of marriage and acceptance of serial monogamy (gay or straight) are serious salvation issues? Nor think the silence on abortion is an affront to our Lord? The acceptance of priests who do not believe? The desire to please the world that trumps an ability to stand up for the Gospel?
Little wonder such people are angry! The offer of an Ordinariate not only calls their bluff but wrecks the entire party! Where is the integrity in defending a tiny Catholic tradition once you refuse to be part of the Catholic faith? Any claim of Catholicity from those opting to stay — that is opting for communion with Schori, Gene Robinson et al instead of the Pope — will sound as funny to many as it sounds disingenous.
Perhaps Newman can help. For he reminds us that fear is not a motive and nor is refusal to change. However much we might desire that God suspends time — to keep us comfortable in our cosy ghettos — it ain't gonna happen. So listen to Newman again: ‘to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.’ Change is at the heart of the Gospel and change is what needs embracing once again.
Life does not stand still. And however much we yearn to exist in ‘comfort zones’ these are never the places where we grow and develop. I can not think of a single biblical hero who pleased God by considering salaries, housing or buildings — but I can think of dozens who learnt the meaning of faith through sacrifice, change and obedience. We go into the Ordinariate not because we know it will work but because it is the only way we can stand up for our understanding of the faith with integrity. If we really DO uphold Catholic doctrine then how can we possibly opt for Canterbury over Rome given the current state of both churches?
The call to join the Ordinariate is challenging then but cannot — and must not — be avoided. We must embrace uncomfortable/risky change to stand up for our Catholic convictions. Only this will demonstrate to others that we are Gospel people, a people desiring of truth. To remain where we are will now smack of compromise given the statements we have made.
That is to say we can no longer pretend that the Anglican church offers a genuine ‘Catholic’ home, is part of the Church Universal, after the numerous heretical decisions of recent years. To do that would be deeply dishonest and I think every Anglo-Catholic knows this in their heart. Nor can we imagine that we have the ability to return it to a place of true orthodoxy when almost ALL theological colleges, Cathedrals and seats of power are now in the grip of liberal theologians. To believe this is bordering on being delusional and the report of the Revision Committee reveals as much. The very most we can hope for is to be left alone to slowly die out languishing in the margins whilst preaching a faith that does not resonate in any other part of the Church we belong to. What a dreary prospect that is!
This is why logic dictates that the Anglo-Catholic Movement can only be leading to a place of upheaval and change. The experiment born in the 19th Century is now over and this reality HAS to be faced. I think that any impartial person with half a brain could tell us that much! So we can either remain where we are and sink into history without trace within one generation or rejoice in the truly wonderful fact that the experiment ended in glory — the glory of communion with Rome.
Thus we have no option at present but to be brave and accept thing. What is the Ordinariate if not the solution from God? What is the point of being Anglo-Catholic if we opt to remain within a Church that stands for everything BUT the Catholic faith?! Especially when we have the invitation to stand with true Catholics!
Again Newman can inspire us. He too battled internally as he made momentous decisions. He too embraced change in order to enter communion with Peter and live out the faith with integrity. And having done so he found peace: “From the day I became a Catholic to this day, now close upon thirty years, I have never had a moment’s misgiving that the communion of Rome is that Church which the Apostles set up at Pentecost.”
The time for bravery is here and it is now. Let us get our people ready. Let us pray with joy in our hearts. Let us stand up for what we truly believe! And let us stamp out the negativity at this most vital and thrilling moment of our lifetime.
The Catholic Movement was always meant to be that — a MOVEMENT. Why did we join it if we only wanted to stand still? Why do we still pray for the Pope at Mass if we have no intention of joining him? And why teach the Catholic faith at all if our real desire is to serve a protestant body that is so clearly now leading to a liberal conclusion? Those seeking integrity in debate must answer these questions if they wish to make a case for remaining. I cannot for the life of me see how they will do it.
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