Monday, October 26, 2009
The Camel's Nose is under the tent, Benny
I have been pondering what the action by the Vatican with regards to setting up an Anglican rite within Roman Catholicism. As one who “swam the Thames” I know that the Roman Catholic Church is really where many of the ultra-conservative Anglo-Catholics belong. They have been praying for the reunification of the Church and believe it to be the one true church. I wish those who go to Rome well. I have never understood why they wanted to “Romanize” the Anglican Communion.
Now, I can enjoy a good high church liturgy with the best of them, but I have often found the Anglo-Catholic proclivities of some mere aping of Rome and not of much substance liturgically or theologically. But that’s me. I loved the Roman Catholic Church when I was a part of it. It taught me a love for signs and sacraments, tradition and solidarity. It taught me about community and Christ’s predilection for the poor. But Vatican II also taught me how to find signs and sacraments in the more mundane existence of life for which I will be eternally grateful.
What finally drew me to Anglicanism was a growing respect for the place of the Incarnation in my life, awareness that God calls women and lgbt persons to the ordained ministry, and an understanding that God’s church can be governed by all the faithful, not just misogynistic clerics.
Since the 16th century there have been those who have wandered back and forth across the divide that separates Rome and Canterbury. When it is a person of note such as a Henry Newman or a Matthew Fox or Fr. Cutie, one side or the other touts a triumphalism that is not worthy of either side. To swim the Tiber or the Thames is merely the walk of Christians trying to live out their faith within a context of community that speaks most clearly the faith they have come to know.
I felt that the cabal (both lay and ordained) that ran the Diocese of Ft. Worth should have gone to Rome 35 years ago. But I always felt that there was an underlying classism that permeated that group and it was unwilling to submit to the Roman leadership in that area which was so serious about its commitment to the poor Hispanic community that it served. I will be surprised to find the Ikerites submitting to Roman authority in the US. In Europe or even San Joachim, perhaps, but not in Texas.
But I think this action by Pope Benedict will have ramifications that the Roman Catholic Church is not prepared to face: First and foremost is that Anglicans’ understanding of obedience is quite different from Romanism. Obedience is the primary virtue of Roman Catholicism. It is deeply embedded in the Catholic soul. To question authority in the Roman Church is just not tolerated. And no matter how much Iker and his followers say they believe in clerical authority, the mere fact that they have become schismatic is a sign that they cannot tolerate the kind of obedience that Rome not only expects, but cradle Catholics have sucked in with mother’s milk. This kind of obedience goes way past the conservative/liberal issues of present day. When there is a liberal turn once again, how will this Anglican bunch deal with a liberal authority in Rome? This Anglican uniate won’t have any say in electing a new pope, you can bet on that.
Secondly, I don’t think that the pope has realized what kind of a camel nose will be under the tent when married clergy are permitted in Western churches. I remember back in my Roman days the discussion on married clergy. This was the time when the permanent deaconate was being proposed. Most of the opinion was that married clergy would bankrupt the Church. I thought at the time that that was a pretty poor reason to deny ordination to married men, but we were hoping that it would develop into the ordination of celibate women. But then the misogyny of Roman authority raised its ugly head in the encyclical on women in 1979 and it was clear that would not happen.
Will this new Anglican rite mean that married men in the future be accepted as candidates for holy orders in the Roman church? Will celibacy be seen still as a “holier” way to live? Certainly the image of monastic life no longer prevails within the Roman church so the witness of faithful married priests may upset the whole apple cart for the Roman Catholicism. And the married clergy are going to be unprepared to be dominated by the deeply closeted gay clergy that are so prevalent among Roman clergy.
This sop to discontented Anglicans is a move by the conservatives now in power in Rome. But a married clergy in the midst of Roman clergy who have not chose celibacy but have had it forced upon them will continue to cause a riff among the ordained. This camel will be in the tent in no time and will cause more internal strife within the Roman Church that Benedict intends. Knowing how Rome deals with conflict, this Anglican uniate church may have another “swim” in its future.