Monday, October 27, 2014

Blaming ex-Catholics for the demise of the old Episcopalianism

Dale wrote under this post:
John, the demise of Nashotah House is perhaps systematic of what happened throughout the whole of the old Episcopal Church. Often not mentioned is that often those who plotted the liturgical and theological implosion of the Episcopal Church were converts from Roman Catholicism; both James Pike as well as Ms Katharine Jefferts Schori were former Catholics. Unfortunately, the older, more tolerant Episcopal Church and its members had no defense against such individuals, and there were many of them. Anglicans of a former time had always embraced toleration, but within limits that accepted boundaries; former Catholics did not understand these boundaries, and felt that since there was neither Pope or Magisterium, the sky was the limit; and behaved accordingly.
Interesting theory. I disagree.

Some family history: my late dad was one of those ex-Catholics but, God love him, not at all radical (he and my mom resisted the Sixties culturally and politically; he was a civilian Cold Warrior in aerospace; they were for Goldwater). Growing up, he had his personality clashes with priests and nuns; he married a nice WASP and wanted to assimilate. He came back to the church in the end. Unlike me, he liked Vatican II. Meanwhile, my mother was from a parish where Bishop Pike was rector before becoming a bishop, before he was famous, and she said he was off his nut. There were two Episcopal parishes in her home town; her family belonged to the "regular" low-church one were Mr. Pike was. The Anglo-Catholic one is now in the Continuum and has kept its building.

But Pike got started in Episcopalianism at the very Catholic-like St. Mary of the Angels in Hollywood (in the Continuum, still only a wafer's thickness away from the church as far as I know) and, given the more conservative, more orthodox mainstream culture (the golden era, the Fifties), he got started in his media career (the "Dean Pike" TV show in New York) teaching orthodox stuff (rather like the late Fr. Louis Tarsitano, one of the few ex-Catholic Anglicans I respect), of course anti-Catholic but not at all screwball.

(Once somebody asked a late, sound Anglo-Catholic rector here what Pike might have experienced dying in the Judean desert, and he said he hoped to ask him that.)

Episcopalians have long tried to snag American Catholics, and with the same bait ("we're open-minded; we're for thinking men; you don't have to check your brain in at the door; Rome's tyrannical and unreasonable — spiritual bullying; become American"). They managed to get a few improbable Italian converts (St. Rocco's and St. Anthony's) and the Polish National Catholics as their junior varsity for a long while, as they do "Hispanic outreach" today. But then and now, ex-Catholics among them are relatively very few! (As is the case with American Orthodox.) Of those, lots of divorced and remarried (actually recent in Episcopalianism) with a few marriage-convert priests, a few convert women priests, and a few gays.

I've said for some time that, except for the Hispanic false-flag operation, we really don't compete. Their real rivals are other Calvinist-bred English Protestants or apostates: the United Church of Christ (the Pilgrims today) and the Unitarians. If you're a WASP, an anglophile, and think credal orthodoxy, history, and liturgical high culture, including the trappings of traditional Catholicism, are fun, then Episcopalianism's for you.

If I thought I could invent a church that both pleased me and I thought would please the most people (and if I didn't know that male feminism actually turns off most women), the Episcopal Church would come pretty close.

These days they seem to try to market themselves as "Catholics with a difference" (conservative in a cool, cultured way but also "open-minded" and "relevant"), rather than as Protestants (associating that term with evangelicals and fundamentalists, whom of course they oppose), all without trying to alienate the few really low churchmen they still have, but with most ex-Catholics and mainstream society, no deal.

As the famous lapsed-Catholic quotation says, "I left the true church; why should I bother with yours?" Deep down, our people have known there's only one church as they were taught. They are more likely to drop out than buy Episcopalianism.

Also why historically, ex-Catholics almost never became Anglo-Catholic or similarly high-church (the big exception being the false-flag operation for the Italian converts: the Foreign Rites Canon). Knowing the real thing, they thought homegrown A-Cs were laboring under a delusion. After Vatican II, when Catholic parishes turned low-church mainline while congregationalist A-Cs remained conservative, even Tridentine (a phenomenon that produced me, essentially), that seemed murky. Also, mainstream Episcopal parishes have high-churched since the Sixties, continuing a fashion that started in the '30s, because of ecumenism (we were considered cool for a bit, before Humanae Vitae and Roe v. Wade) and "diversity"/exoticism.

So I don't think ex-Catholics were a big factor in the old Episcopalianism's demise. Rather, its internal contradictions, its own nature, and the Sixties did that.

Bishop Schori isn't a conscious ex-Catholic as you know; her parents left the church when she was a little girl. So it's not fair to lump her in with Pike and the others. Yet Mrs. Ryan remained religiously conservative, opposing women's ordination and becoming Orthodox, and being dissed in death by her daughter.

By the way, I think you know what I'm referring to regarding American Orthodox jurisdictions' experiments with konvertzy. The Metropolia did it in the '20s, roughly around the time it got a few zealous ex-Episcopal priest converts (Bishop Ignatius Nichols, for example); it set up Archbishop Aftimios as the head of his own jurisdiction but lost interest in it and him, mired in its own problems after the Russian Revolution. So he got married and skedaddled. Similarly, I've read some vagante group or two claim online (largely Internet churches) that they're descended from a similar affiliate experiment started (then dropped, quietly?) by ROCOR in the early '50s (such as that New Age convert they made a bishop, then fired).

Thinking about it today, konvertzy outliers would have gone to vagante-land back then but are more likely to just jurisdiction-shop and hop now: ROCOR (such as the cult of Fr. Seraphim Rose) and the Old Calendarist Greeks as destinations for people craving order in Orthodoxy's chaos. (Rod Dreher joined ROCOR simply for a practical reason: it has lower requirements to set up a mission church than his entry jurisdiction, the OCA.)


  1. I am not convinced. In the Episcopal diocese where I live the three main, super liberal clergy that I have had the unfortunate misfortune to met, two of them women, are all ex-Roman Catholics; and the one priest in this diocese arrested as a pedophile is also an ex-Roman Catholic. I think that very few lay Catholics become Episcopalians, but quite a few of the clergy seem to be of that ilk.

    1. Not having any business with the Episcopalians face to face anymore, I wouldn't know. From this it sounds like the konvertzy: there are more now, and more so among the clergy, but still a drop in the bucket.

  2. I think Saint Mary of the Angels, unfortunately, is not likely to come over to us in the Ordinariate. I gather that those who were ready to swim joined Fr. Bartus and did so, the others were opposed, suh, unalterably opposed. Of course, the late shenanigans in Rome do not help matters, either.

    1. Yes, I am wondering how many have swum the Tiber and are now wondering if they have jump from one sinking ship to another?

      I really, really miss Pope Benedict!

  3. As a rule RC converts to the old PECUSA were noisy, and rather liberal, but not all that influential. The old church imploded from within. The old WASP liberalism went very bad indeed when it had it consciousness raised in the 1960s and we became the self hating Jews of the Christian world.


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