Monday, December 22, 2014

"The cure of all souls"?

"We wyll haue the Masse."

"It's the Mass that matters."

No longer true of the Anglicans, and a Catholic opportunity, even in hostile England. On an Anglican copout, but also a discussion of what the British ordinariate needs. From here:
Two years before his appointment to Whitby, Philip North had made rather a name for himself when in a speech at Pusey House in Oxford he publicly refused Pope Benedict’s offer to join the ordinariate in Britain. He had pointed at the specific advantage that the C of E enjoys as a result of Establishment, namely that the vicar of a Church of England parish has the cure of the souls of all the residents of the parish, something which Fr. North highly cherishes.
Surely that "cure of all the souls" is a fiction. A matter of law, yes, but not a matter of reality. I can imagine what some of my Irish Catholic friends who've lived in England would say when told the Anglican vicar has the cure of their soul. A legal fiction not much on which to hang a defense of remaining in the C of E.

Not just law, I’m afraid. I find as a Catholic parish priest that I am treated somewhat differently than I was as an Anglican vicar. As a Catholic I am assumed by many to be there just for Catholics. As an Anglican I was assumed to be there not of course by everyone but by a good number of people. It was to an Anglican vicar that the Hindu priest sent a British woman enquiring about Hinduism. She became an Anglican and somewhat later married a Catholic priest, but that’s another story. Most of the funerals I did as an Anglican — though few enough — were of people who were not practising anything. Most of the funerals I do as a Catholic are for families where there is some practice going on.

Yes, but... the evangelising capabilities which the theoretical cure of souls gives are dwindling exponentially, and, as the decline of the C of E since its high point in the 1950s (numerically, not as a proportion of population) only goes to show, it was being hugely romanticised by North. I said so at the time. In any case, North's emphasis on evangelisation was no reason for rejecting the Ordinariate. Just think of the opportunities in England among lapsed Catholics! The vocation of the ordinariates should be to reach those parts which other Catholic ministries do not reach. Hence the need to make over more parishes to the care of the ordinariate.

I entirely agree with this but with two caveats. One is that we mustn't collude with total loss. Michael Nazir-Ali has spoken about the need, as the Christendom
Titanic sinks, to hang on to as much of the furniture as possible, as well as the passengers. So we are in a rapidly deteriorating situation and not in one of total catastrophe. The other is that there is Big City and elsewhere too. Communities and ghettoes and civic belonging are complex and where a ministry based on whomever, wherever, provided that they are domiciled within a particular area, has long been absurd. Elsewhere, however, old patterns remain. It is important for me to be at the War Memorial, alongside the Anglican minister, on Remembrance Sunday. I am asked to participate in a religious programme, and have sometimes obliged, on the village radio station, run by a couple of pagans and a Muslim. Tomorrow (Sunday) we have a Nativity Procession, dreamed up by non-churchgoers, with mulled wine and snow machines and I was asked to be the narrator of the story. (Others will co-ordinate the animals, child actors &c.) This is in a village where most people either work at the local corporation or go on the train to the city every day. So (in spite of my own earlier point) the rural pattern remains and it is there to be cashed in on. A former colleague — Anglican vicar in a rural village near Milton Keynes — has had scores of adult baptisms and family baptisms by working the village as it always should have been worked. (He gets more than the rest of the deanery put together). In short, some of the collapse of the cure-of-souls model is because clergy have stopped doing it.

As for the Ordinariate, I agree: Where the local coetus runs a church, it is successful. Where the local coetus borrows a church for an hour or two a week for a gathered group from here and there, it is not. In short, we need the parishes.
Interesting conversation; thank you. The cure-of-all-souls argument reminds me of two Catholic things. First, the old view in England of "the church" vs. "the chapel," because of the Establishment; easy for an outsider (such as this foreigner, but I lived in the mother country so I have a clue) to mistake for Catholicism's true-church claim, and indeed Anglo-Catholics traditionally treat it as such vs. dissenting Protestants, a.k.a. Free Church ("no bishop, no ministry"). Second, the notion of the priest serving the lapsed for funerals, etc., is something like Italy and Latin America; again, an echo of one nation, one true church. One church is just presumed; in England Anglican, in Latin countries Catholic. Even if next to nobody really practices.

A pond difference is England had no mass immigration from Catholic countries to change the culture, even from Ireland; in America, even now that the church is downsizing, Italian and other kinds of Catholicism became part of the culture (even though we didn't become a Catholic country; arguably in the Northeast we almost did) so a Catholic priest taking part in civic events is accepted and even expected (especially police and fire-brigade chaplains, part of our Irish heritage). In England, Catholics are fewer numerically and proportionally; almost as small as the Orthodox churches there? The anti-popery's still strong; immigration ended it in the American North. (The South's conservative Protestant as you know.) It's both Ground Zero to restart evangelism and yet haunted by Catholicism. (The English were driven, literally violently, from the church.) What struck me living in England was there are reminders of the Catholic Church everywhere, left over from the Middle Ages, yet society now hates the church.

As for Fr. North, besides Apostolicae Curae, women's ordination puts paid to his "Catholic," romanticized notion of the C of E. Regarding remaining Anglo-Catholics, I feel for sound priests sticking it out to collect their pensions (maybe becoming Catholic after retiring, an honorable option many have done); I don't judge them as that's a matter of survival for them and their wives. As for the rest, I don't think much about them or of them; I assume they're gay or bought off. All of the English "shrine" parishes, from Bourne Street to Kentish Town to Oxford to Brighton, have stayed put. I'm not angry at the Anglicans/Episcopalians anymore (they are what they are, and their liberals still have belief in the creeds and high church in common with us trads, which our liberals don't), but if you said no to the Catholic Church, we're done.
When I lived in the UK circa 1980, we lived in Manchester. I found NW England was notably more Catholic than the rest of the UK. Liverpool was notably Catholic. I once read that the immigrants from Ireland went one third went to north America, one third to England and one third died en route. There was a large construction company based there called Wimpey which was said to be short for "we import more Paddies each year." Obviously this reflects the prejudice of the past.
I understand in the 20 years since I was last in England, the Irish don't practice anymore so the church has become immigrant Polish.
The two parts of England in which on-the-ground Catholicism survived to some extent (other than the "seigneurial" Catholicism of some nobles and some gentry families) were Monmouthshire and, more considerably, rural Lancashire (Manchester, however, was a Puritan "stronghold" in the late 16th/17th centuries, and later a dissenting one). Mass could be said semi-publicly (in barns, for instance) in rural Lancs. (except in times of "crackdowns" on recusants) at least down to the 1640s, and maybe later.
Most of the English didn't want to leave the church. Through the 1580s crypto-Catholicism survived in people's homes and even parish churches (the vicar would secretly celebrate Mass for the people's intentions, publicly do the Anglican services, and at the Communion sneak people the Sacrament he had consecrated at Mass). By around 1600, Shakespeare's time, most had accepted the new church, treating it reverently but not fanatically as literally a substitute for the old. (Source: Christopher Haigh, English Reformations.)

You can always find high church in England if you're looking for it, and the church there has always benefited from Anglo-Catholic alumni.

Great Catholic things and places I've seen in England:
  • The Brompton Oratory, still doing baroque high church after Vatican II, "reform of the reform" before it was cool.
  • Westminster Cathedral, including the tomb of St. John Southworth, and the Catholic Truth Society bookshop across the way (where I got my "working Bible," the CTS Catholic RSV, to this day).
  • Blackfriars, Oxford: the right kind of noble simplicity, pre-Vatican II Dominican building, not wreckovated.
  • The Ronald Knox Society at Oxford, doing high church at Blackfriars and otherwise anticipating Pope Benedict the Great by about 25 years.
  • St. Aloysius, Oxford, before it was the Oratory.
  • Littlemore, where Barberi received Newman into the church.
  • Grandpont House, the Oxford base of Opus Dei, like something out of Brideshead Revisited. You can imagine Evelyn Waugh taking refuge there.
  • St. Margaret Clitherow's house in "The Shambles" neighborhood, York, a site for illegal Masses and now a Catholic shrine.


  1. Where could I find a repro of this Banner of the Five Wounds?


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