Monday 3 January 2011

Words, words, words

'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me'; except that they do, sometimes they hurt more than physical wounds. Religious words are constantly taken over and given negative meanings in the secular world. We don't like being told off; so we say we don't want to be preached at; or we find an argument too hard to follow, and we call it theological - the media are especially good at this, when the word they want is theoretical.

There is one word which seems to be used by everyone when writing about the Bishops who are leaving the Anglican Communion. That word is 'defecting'. Now you might expect those who dislike the Catholic Church - the BBC, much of the Press - to delight in such a pejorative term. It is a little surprising, though, to see it in more friendly reporting - the Telegraph uses it, and so does "America; the National Catholic Weekly" and other Catholic journals.

The meaning of the word itself is bad enough; "to fail, fall short, become deficient or wanting, to fall off from (a standard &c)". So the Oxford English Dictionary. The associations of the word, though (like theological and thoretical) are worse. They connect with 'defective' (maybe mentally or morally defective) or having a defect, being faulty.

It may be this is what some people think of those who, for reasons of conscience, can no longer stay in the Church of England, and who are persuaded that the Catholic Church is the home which they seek. It surely is not the way our friends think of us, though? If they need a word to describe our action, I would suggest one which is at least neutral. A good word might be CONVERT. It is neutral, inasmuch as it is used to describe, for instance, changing from one sort of electrical supply to another - from Alternating to Direct Current, maybe, or from 240 to 110 volt supply, or from FM to DAB radio.

It has, too, happier subconscious connections; Conviction , Constant, Conscientious.

In feeling compelled to leave the Church in which I have served for more than fifty years, I am doing so not out of pique. It is with great sadness that I perceive that once-great church to have fallen away from its standards of belief and of morality, and to be taking ever easier options. For instance, once it was not possible for those remarried after divorce to be ordained. Now, that has been changed; and soon (perhaps already, I am not up to speed with the legislation) it will be possible for such people to become bishops in the Church of England.

So I am converting, moving from a church which has to my mind abandoned its catholic principles into one which stands firm. I hope that this action might yet persuade the Church of England to look once more at its foundation documents, and decide that, for example, St Paul's first letter to Timothy, Chapter 3, gives better moral advice to its clergy than decisions of a General Synod. If there has been a "falling off from a standard", that may apply more to the Church of England than to those who, with great sadness, are leaving it.


  1. I am far from convinced that the Church has abandoned it's catholic principles.

    The Church of England is fast becoming an evangelical Church and as such is returning to it's principles which I think you will find expressed in the book of common prayer.

    Far from liberalising, the Church of England is consecrating conservative evangelical Bishop after conservative evangelical thus it returns to it's roots. You ignore this because it does not allow you to paint yourself as the victim.

    "Hounded out of a liberalising Church desperate to change the historic faith" rather than the truth "Increasingly marginalised in a Conservative Evangelical Church because you are a vanishing minority and they have all the money, Churches and ordinands"

  2. +Edwin,

    While I agree with what you say, I do remember in the early days of the Anglo-Catholic blog, this particular subject did come up and a large number, in fact almost all, of the Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity on that blog distanced themselves, some quite vehemently, from the word 'convert'. If I remember correctly, they said they were already Christian and Catholic, and felt that rather than converting, they were coming into communion with the See of Peter.
    It was almost as though the word 'convert' implied something derogatory. I guess people have different ideas for words.
    For me as a cradle Catholic, and for other Catholics that I know, we don't really care what word the press or our enemies use. All we care about is that all you good and holy people are coming home, and to enrich us by sharing your treasures with us. Welcome home! Deo gratias!

  3. '"Hounded out of a liberalising Church desperate to change the historic faith" rather than the truth "Increasingly marginalised in a Conservative Evangelical Church because you are a vanishing minority and they have all the money, Churches and ordinands"'


    To a "participant observer" - as they used to say in clinical theological circles - and being somewhat elderly now although still strangely enough Church of England, it certainly looked to me that there was a considerable amount of "hounding" going on.

    Politically active and politically correct personages in General Synod certainly were heavily into "getting rid" of the opposition ... hardly an inclusive church one might say despite waht they claimed to be.

    One of my early mentors, the late Archdeacon George Fox, used to say sometimes as he spooned heaps of incense onto the coals "You've got to be evangelical before you become a catholic!"

    Perhaps so still today!

  4. I don't recall that when we welcomed Communist defectors during the Cold War, that word carried any hint of opprobrium, though in this context it does not seem to be meant kindly. Also remember that John Broadhurst for one is a revert, not a convert, and none the worse for that. I know it's no good as a piece of snappy soundbite journalism, but I do like the imagery of returning to the rock from which we were hewn.

  5. I believe the CofE is getting worse. The ordination of women bishops takes the biscuit.

    Whatever next?

    Within a few years time, all Anglican churches will either be middle of the road or evangelical.

    The Catholic wing has been suffocated and it's about time other Anglo-Catholics woke up!

  6. It is high time everyone woke up to what is happening.

    However the Catholic roots of the CofE are remarkably strong and may well produce new and fruitful growth to the benefit of all.

    The wake up call has to be sounded, and sounded soon, without rancour and with love and care for everyone.

    So "Thank You" Editor for that!

  7. I don't believe the Caholic roots are strong. Only a minority of Anglican parishes can truly be described as Catholic.

    When female Bishops start trotting up the aisle, it will be the death of true Catholicism in the Cof E.

    Certainly some churches may continue to call themselves Catholic in the Church Times because they use incense and bells but the core principles of Catholicism will be stripped away.

    Sorry Fr Ted

  8. A hundred thousand welcomes to all who want to stand by Peter, currently Pope Benedict XVI!

    So great to hear the word "Portsmouth" being mentioned as I live between Lymington and Southampton. Will you be saying Mass in the Lymington vicinity?

  9. I sincerely hope so: my wife and I have been attending Mass at Lymington Catholic Church, where everyone has been very welcoming, especially Fr McAvoy and Mgr Ryan.

  10. My Brother in Christ: I will pray for you and yours, and for all the Anglicans who are coming into communion with the Catholic Church--i know this has to be very, very difficult!

    I have referred to this post in a blog post of my own, on modernism. I thought i should tell you that, as well as telling you that I'm happy for the Anglican Ordinariate. (I'm happy for the odrinariate not just because it brings you all into the Church, but because we need your example to encourage those of us who are already Catholic!)

  11. "Yellow" is obviously living on another planet when (s)he says "The Church of England is fast becoming an evangelical Church and as such is returning to it's( sic ) principles which I think you will find expressed in the book of common prayer."
    I don't recall any reference to women "priests" or women "bishops" in the BCP.
    Cramner, born a Catholic,must be amazed and bemused that while the Church of England is abandoning its historic principles,his own prayer book will very soon be part of liturgy of the Church in England and Wales.

  12. No Locus I suspect that the problem here is that I am living on this planet, as indeed we all do.

    My argument is simple that when former Anglicans say the Church has abandoned it Catholic Heart and gone all liberal, I am pointing out, two things, one that actually the Church of England today is far more conservative than it was when I joined it in the mid 90s. Secondly the Church of England was formed for a variety of reason but mostly by the happy marriage of political expediency with a desire to create a protestant reformation. This led to the creation of what was broadly (the evidence seems to point to) a protestant Church. Which is what it is becoming today.

    I suspect what Edwin really means is, the Church into which I was ordained (the 1950s when Anglo-Catholicism was very much the majority) no longer exists. I think he is right, and I feel sorry for him because of that. I pray he will be happy in his new home. However 1950s High Church was not the religion of Cramner and it is my opinion that he would recognise, doctrinally at least more of his own vision in the predominately Evangelical contemporary Church of England.

    The ordination of women has nothing to do with that, however since you raise it I will now turn to it. In the ordination of women the Church of England has innovated, but actually so has the Roman Catholic Church. The medieval, and until modern times, argument against women priests was simply that they were inferior to men. To argue, as the Catholic Church now does, that women are equal but different (ironically an argument informed by feminism) is to innovate. To state that there has never been innovation within the Catholic Church, as some ordinariate bound Anglicans now seem to is risible. It is not something sensible Catholics do. The argument then becomes one of asking who has the authority to innovate. With, on one side, those who say only the Pope does, and on the other, those of us who simply do not accept that because we do not accept his authority.

    The BCP does not mention women priests because Cranmer did not believe in them. Times have changed and both churches have responded to that albeit differently.

    Finally on a personal note thank you for correcting my grammar. It is always something I have struggled with, and I need people who can take the time to pour over my words busily looking for the slightest error to bring to my attention to aide me with this mammoth task. Also thank you for noticing that I may not be male. You clearly think that a woman has something to contribute to this debate and I find that refreshing.

  13. The Church of England has never been what Cranmer intended - thank heavens! - because despite his great contribution to its reformation in the 16th Century, there have always - from Bishop Gardiner to the Caroline Divines and the Oxford Fathers - been leaders in the Church of England who have fought to retain its catholic elements; so that we might say we were 'catholic and reformed', and believed in the Catholic Church - unlike the Lutherans we did NOT change that word in the Creed. Protestant is not a Prayer Book word, and only crept in (to the Royal Oath, not into the Prayer Book or the Ordinal) when the folly of James II met the equal and opposite folly of the Orange revolution.
    As for innovation, read the Preface to BCP: it did not intend to innovate, and even the Ordination of Women was meant to be an experiment. If it proved acceptable to the entire Church, Eastern and Western, then the period of reception would be over. Meanwhile no one in the Church of England is obliged to accept that women are or can be priests, and no matter what Synod decides, it cannot change that.
    But how good to be leaving all this disputation behind to find authoritative teaching in the Ordinariate, part of a Church which does not innovate (pace 'Yellow') but discerns right developments in doctrine.