Thursday, September 04, 2014

Church: To double-dip or not to?

Is going to another church part-time OK, short of the sacraments? It depends.

In many of your missals’ guide to examining your conscience before going to confession, it asks regarding the first commandment, against idolatry including false religion, if you have gone to non-Catholic services. In 1985, stuck at a Modernist, low-church Novus Ordo college with a friendly, conservative high-Episcopal (Anglo-Catholic) parish within walking distance, this caused my teenage nerd soul angst that rivaled the kind about girls.

It’s commonly said that before Vatican II (this is where mainstream Catholics are cued to boo), the stupid old church was so narrow-minded it said it was a mortal sin to do that.

Throughout the church’s history there have been noble exceptions and here I’m a modern but not Modernist moderate.

There were the Greek islands ruled by Venice in the 1600s-1700s, and the Russian Catholics in tsarist times, where the only available church was Orthodox, and there’s Syria today, where the Catholic and Orthodox laity are one church, case closed. The only division in Syria is the clergy don’t concelebrate, but they are very friendly with each other. It’s all about intent and context, I guess. Everybody knows the double-dipping families aren’t leaving the church. That’s not what it means.

My Italian-American high-school history teacher grew up in Paterson, NJ, home of Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello. (He was really Lou Cristillo, not one of the Irish Costellos.) Italian immigrant parents or grandparents. An aunt was an Episcopalian at St. Anthony’s in Hackensack (schism all because they wanted a neighborhood church). Anyway, his family double-dipped the way I imagine many Hispanics do now. Catholic to the bone, with folk rituals for healing that mimicked the sacraments, and favorite saints, and maybe Mass on important days or even Sundays if you were really devout (the ladies were; the men unofficially weren’t expected to attend), but also the Wednesday-night service at the Pentecostal church: same miracles and enthusiasm as the folk Catholicism; a good fit. Unlike other things, it all depends on your intent. (Some Italians did become Protestant; many double-dippers didn’t. South Philly has an Assemblies of God church that at least used to have a service in Italian. The pastor was a good-hearted fellow whose parents or grandparents left the church.)

Catholic but stuck in a liberal wasteland? Friendly, genuine Christian community with conservative high church over at the Anglicans? Great! Go! Do everything other than Sunday and holy-day Mass and the sacraments there. Go to their holy-day Mass second if you can. That was how I went to St. Clement’s, Philadelphia in the ’00s, with my then-Orthodox priest’s blessing. Reminds me of the story of the Anglican priest in Toronto who’d welcome upset Catholics as a refuge but would tell them to eventually return to their home church.

Likewise if you are interested in Orthodoxy. Especially if you are Greek Catholic but there is no Catholic parish of that kind in reach of you. Do Saturday and holy-day Vespers with the local Orthodox! I once did that at an OCA schism from a Greek Catholic parish, and the Greek Catholic priest and I stood at the kliros and sang the service for the (nice, easygoing, ethnic) officiating Orthodox priest. All according to the rules, the right kind of ecumenism (so Vatican II’s right after all), and in a little way working to heal a schism that never should have happened in this country.

It depends on the context, the intent, and the person. Case by case. A friend told me he loves going to ethnic Orthodox churches (but he said it’s clear that, doctrine notwithstanding, they are worshipping the tribe) but wouldn’t take anybody there who’d be tempted to leave the church by it. That’s the spirit.

15 comments:

  1. I'm intending to become a Catholic, but I still go to my Protestant church on Sundays. I can't just abandon all the friendships I have with the congregation there. I don't have the same social connections in my Catholic parish. I expect after I'm received into the Catholic Church I will still go to my old church sometimes.

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  2. I did that on Labor Day weekend 2003 in L.A.; went to early (RC) Mass at Saint Maximilian Kolbe parish near Thousand Oaks, suffered through fat lady singing, priest preaching homily mostly on obsessive-compulsive disorder, everyone else standing for the consecration and thereafter, Blessed Sacrament locked in what appeared to be an armoire in a "chapel" the size of a coat closet (one prie dieu) near the side door. Then went to Saint Mary of the Angels Anglican Church in Hollywood for (Anglican) High Mass, all the bells and smells, priest preaching on Saint Thomas Aquinas, etc. While I did not sacramentally communicate there, of course, I felt that I was mentally and spiritually in a lot better frame of mind. I have had it forcefully expounded to me that the ritual is secondary to the Sacrifice, and so long as there is a valid consecration, the Mass is good, the grace imparted, etc., etc., blah, blah, but that kind of thinking, which I can only assume is Jesuitical, just does not square with my own experience, and I dare say, that of many others, including Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP. Grace can be resisted, and I think that is what is quite likely to happen when one "fully and actively" participates in a Protestantized ritual such as I wnet through at Saint Max's. What an insult to a great martyr saint and inspiration to so many holy people, including, yes, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, God help them.

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  3. I see no reason why a Catholic living in New York City or in England could not regularly attend Choral Evensong. (I recall one English Catholic describing his attendance at Westminster Abbey as "checking up on stolen property.") Here a few of my Catholic friends, who are by no means modernists, attend my Evensongs at my Episcopal church from time to time. One of the great things about Evensong is that it doesn't ask the congregation to do much besides listen, and with no Communion makes no distinction between those who can and can't receive. From a Catholic point of view, unlike our Eucharists it doesn't claim to be anything that it isn't.

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    1. Exactly! As far as the Anglicans, liberal high church, move away from the church, we'll always have Evensong as a place to meet.

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    2. Orthodox Vespers or Anglican evensong? Just do it. It's not the Eucharist.

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    3. Precisely. Like in my story of singing Vespers at the Orthodox parish, it's perfect because it's not receiving Communion and the Orthodox priest can officiate. He doesn't necessarily recognize us but we recognize him.

      Reminds me of stories from England pre-ordinariate, in the '90s and '00s, when the Catholic and Forward in Faith C of E parishes would do things together: start off with a service or devotion (the rosary, etc.) at the Anglican parish, then have a procession to the Catholic parish for Benediction.

      You don't need a priest for Evensong so the Anglican priest's orders aren't an issue. We don't recognize him but he recognizes us.

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    4. "Checking up on stolen property": the oldest church I've worshipped in is St. Mary's, Norton, nearly 1,000 years old.

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  4. Now there is another option developing -- the Ordinariate for Anglo-Catholics established by Pope Benedict XVI. These groups are small, but as more Episcopalians who cannot in good conscience remain Episcopalian, and Episcopalians who have become Cathollic, discover the Ordinariate, both communities will grow and others will be founded.

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    1. Yes, but still, few Anglo-Catholic alumni in the U.S. have one of these they can go to, as you remember. And don't forget the Tridentine Anglo-Papalists who are now Tridentine Catholics, such as at "St. Clement's Jr.," Holy Trinity in Philadelphia. As well as those who are happy being conservative Novus Ordo.

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    2. Yes, but the Ordinariate is growing, not shrinking.

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  5. Also, as Evelyn Waugh mentions in his biography of St. Edmund Campion, there was a kind of Catholic in England right after the "Reformation" who of course wanted to stay out of trouble, so, since Morning and Evening Prayer obviously aren't heretical, and those were the parish church's services most of the time, Communion being only quarterly (because the still very Catholic laity thought it was irreverent to receive every week), outward conformity most of the time wasn't a problem to him. Some would receive Communion from the Anglicans, then confess it (but without a firm purpose of amendment, confession and absolution don't help). I'm not sure if "Church Papists" describes both situations. I have no problem with the first version. It was a thing then, recusancy being an option only for the rich, who could pay the fines for non-attendance ("non-conformity"), pay off the cops, to be left in peace in their manors, etc., or for the quickly martyred.

    The story of crypto-Catholicism in England in the 1500s is moving and sad. The things ordinary priests and people would do: going to hidden Masses, or the parish priest turned Anglican but secretly celebrating Mass, then slipping the real sacrament to his parishioners at the Anglican Communion service. According to Christopher Haigh, that lasted through the 1580s.

    I've been told that both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, both ex-Catholics, knew Anglicanism was bogus, Henry being repentant at the end and begging for Masses to be said for him to keep him out of purgatory, and Elizabeth kicking the Anglican priests out of her room as she was dying, because she knew better. May God have mercy on them. Cranmer was sneaky and cowardly but really did believe in a kind of Protestantism; I've got to respect his courage at the very end, putting his recanting hand into the fire.

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  6. "I've been told that both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, both ex-Catholics, knew Anglicanism was bogus, Henry being repentant at the end and begging for Masses to be said for him to keep him out of purgatory, and Elizabeth kicking the Anglican priests out of her room as she was dying, because she knew better."

    I doubt this. As to Henry, his "Anglicanism" was simply schismatic Catholicism, with a few of Henry's eccentric opinions thrown in (e.gg., his banning of burning candles before images, and venerating them - but insisting on veneration of the reserved sacrament; and his denial of the existence of Purgatory, but insisting on the efficacy of prayers for the dead [in his last year he was getting ready to dissolve all chantries, institutions whose purpose was to offer Masses for the dead, but in his will endowing a huge number of Masses to be said for him]).

    As to Elizabeth, there are all sorts of strange stories about her conduct (and mental state) during her last illness in the last month of her life. The one you report has as its source one of her ladies-in-waiting who subsequently married a Catholic, and became one herself. What is known for sure is that on the last day of her life her archbishop of Canterbury, Whitgift, came to visit her and knelt by her bedside to offer prayers on her behalf, and when he attempted to rise after some considerable time praying, she insisted that the decrepit old man continue to kneel and pray for a couple of hours longer, before he was allowed to rise and stagger out.

    The term "Church Papists" has been used to characterize both of the stances which you mention. The most recent historian of the phenomenon of "Church Papists," Alexandra Walsham, who wrote a fine short book on the subject nearly 20 years ago, insisted then the phenomenon lasted well into the 17th Century (as, indeed, something like it did in Lutheran Norway and Iceland for a century after the "official" Reformation, but without any Catholic clergy, after the first generation, available to foster it - although a good deal more "Catholic looking" ceremonies and church paraphernalia survived in these Lutheran realms than in "Anglican" England).

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    1. Unconfirmed stories:

      "When Elizabeth I was on her deathbed, she realized that the Anglican clergy were fake: she drove them from her death-room and then collapsed weeping that she was going to die without the consolation of true religion."

      And: "Henry ... on his deathbed begged for priests to pray for his soul in purgatory, and for Masses to be offered for his soul to free him from purgatory. His fake functionary priest hold him, 'But, sire, you abolished purgatory.'"

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    2. Se non sono veri, sono forse ben trovati - but they're not true. (Henry, on his deathbed, kept putting off calling for the administration of the last rites, replying that he would "take some sleep" first; and then he fell into a coma from which he never awakened. Cranmer arrived to "minister to" Henry after he fell into the coma, although a pious tale was put about saying that when Cranmer took the hand of the comatose king and asked him if he "trusted in Christ to be saved," Henry squeezed Cranmer's hand in response. I may have been devised, or at least circulated, to show that Henry embraced "sola fide" on his deathbed. The story about Elizabeth "smells" to me like pure invention.)

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