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There are still many people (mostly Anglicans) who preach the Catholic faith but who aren’t yet Catholics. We need to respect their beliefs

Anglo-Catholics have one important pastoral opportunity that Roman Catholics don’t

By on Monday, 14 November 2011

Ordinariate clergy being ordained earlier this year. Don't despise those who choose to stay behind CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops' Conference of England and Wales)

Ordinariate clergy being ordained earlier this year. Don't despise those who choose to stay behind CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops' Conference of England and Wales)

From time to time, one blog leads on to another. Here’s one which leads on from two of my recent efforts. Firstly, from my recent post pointing out that the secular press, in their obituaries of Sir Jimmy Savile, totally ignored what he himself would have said was one of the most important features of his life, his Catholic faith. I mentioned in some sorrow among these a paper I first came across some 50 years ago, the Irish Independent. Back in those days, it was a very definitely Catholic paper, and would certainly have mentioned Jimmy Savile’s regular attendance at Mass during the week. “Truly”, I commented, “since the long-ago days when the Irish Independent published a series of booklets on the Catholic faith for children (my favourite — one of which I remember vividly since I much later based a children’s sermon on it in my days as a clergyman, to the fury of a very Protestant churchwarden—was entitled “Tales of the Blessed Sacrament”) there has been a great falling away from that faith, which makes me very sad indeed.”

I have been asked about that story by a correspondent: do I still remember it? What was it about? And why was the Protestant churchwarden so annoyed? Well, yes, I do remember it, very well as a matter of fact; I was reminded of its details once more quite vividly when I wrote my last blog, the one about the Pope’s bees; for this was a story featuring precisely the behaviour of a hive of bees, very Catholic bees, as you will see: if the Pope gets bees like these at Castelgandolfo, they should do very well.

An old woman was in desperate straits: her only livelihood, the honey from a single hive of bees, the one thing she owned, had dried up: the bees had for some reason just stopped producing honey. At the end of her wits, she resolved to do the one thing that she thought might make a difference, something she would never normally have dreamed of doing. At mass, instead of consuming the host, she hid it in her bag, took it home, and in great trepidation placed it in the hive. Within a few hours, there had been a miraculous effect on the bees, who immediately started producing honey in such quantities that it began to ooze from the hive: the old woman could scarcely bottle it fast enough.

After a time, she became frightened: she went to her priest and confessed what she had done. With an altar party, the priest went to the old woman’s home to retrieve the Blessed Sacrament she had abstracted. As he drew near to the hive, he saw to his astonishment that from its entrance light was emanating. Looking inside, he saw that the bees had constructed, in wax, an altar on which was a wax monstrance containing the host the old woman had placed in the hive. In front of the altar, bees were flying up and down in adoration. The priest gingerly retrieved the host, and placed it in his own monstrance; it was then taken back to church in procession, with lights and incense. Around the montrance flew the entire swarm of bees, who accompanied it as far as the church door. The old woman was shriven; and, though she had done something of which she was always ashamed, her faith nevertheless had its reward; the bees never again failed to produce enough honey to give her a modest livelihood.

Well, that, in my own words, was, as far as I remember it the gist of the Irish Independent story. Today’s children are not told such stories, of course, and I do see that it was hardly in the Spirit of Vatican II (which had not happened when it was written).

But what was I doing, as an Anglican clergyman, telling such a story from the pulpit to a congregation of children? Well, the children concerned were preparing for their Confirmation, which in the Church of England meant also first Holy Communion. As one of those Anglicans who firmly believed in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament (naturally I also believed that we had valid sacraments) I was anxious that they should understand that in the Eucharist something real and not merely symbolic actually happened, that there was at the words of institution a real change in the elements, that Christ wonderfully became present in bread and wine.

It was probably a forlorn hope. That’s the kind of thing a child needs to hear consistently, not just in a single sermon. And of course, afterwards there was trouble. For, though the parish in which I was a curate had the reputation of being rather “High”, not everyone who attended it was: it was very far from being a hardline Anglo-Catholic parish. And that emphatically included one of the two “churchwardens”, a very definite protestant evangelical (an Anglican churchwarden is by way of being something of a big cheese among the laity; if a parish clergymen is unlucky, the churchwarden can cause him a great deal of grief). He was waiting at the church door. “That”, he said in fury “was transubstantiation! You were preaching transubstantiation from an Anglican pulpit!”

“Well”, I replied, “it wouldn’t have been the first time that has happened. And in any case, I wasn’t”. “Yes you were!” he almost shouted. “All right, then”, I replied, “define it. Define the word transubstantiation”. Of course he couldn’t, so I was able icily to extricate myself.

In the end, of course, I came to see that believing what I did, there was only one course of action open to me. I became a Catholic. But I have never forgotten those who gave me my beliefs, many of whom didn’t become Catholics (though many are now doing so, through the Ordinariate). The point about the Anglo-Catholic clergy is precisely that unlike Roman Catholic priests, they have the chance to preach the Catholic faith in a cold climate, to congregations many of whom have never heard it. And many of those who hear such preaching do come to realise that what they are hearing is true. That’s one reason why in this country so many lay Anglicans “cross the Tiber”: because of what they have heard from their clergy.

So never despise the Anglo-Catholic clergy. Maybe it’s true that, as a very stiff and very splendid old Catholic lady said to me when I tried to explain to her what I believed: “You can believe in the real presence until you are blue in the face. You don’t have priests and you don’t have the Mass.” All the same, I do believe that these men had and still have their place in God’s economy of salvation. My prayer for them is always that they will know when it is time for them to come safely home.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry about the previous misunderstanding Poppy [didn't realise it was your real name]

    Damian’s a bloody hero – he hyperbolises of course – but our hierarchy have abrogated most of their duties and responsibilities to an elitist quangocracy of associated like-minded professional clergy and laity [the so-called Magic Circle] who have a more accommodating, leftist [new labour rather than old], secularising agenda which seeks to professionalise/specialise the laity and eradicate all the old-school exigents like the burdens of Catholic parishes/communities with their parish priest and a Catholic school to universalise the religious ethos and praxis. They much prefer an elitist, more middle-class ‘involved’ chattering laity of the like-minded – together with an agenda for Futurechurch – the dismantling of a parish system [and all its tiresome burdens for the 'undeserving mere participants'] and the formation of superchurch hubs.

    Catholic catechesis and religious education has been systemically massacred – watered down to the point of obsolescence and irrelevance – ditto Catholic traditions and cultural identity.

    The establishment is actually filled with many elderly ‘trendy-hippies’ stuck in a cultural zeitgeist of 60s/70s ‘anything goes’ and ‘rebel against rome for the sake of it’ where the liturgy is abandoned to a chipped mug and plate on an orange-box altar during a ‘spiritually awakening and self-discovering’ meal-cum-group hug where everyone does their part and is a minister of this, that and the other – totaly narcissistic and self-indulgent and the sharing of self replaces the sacrifical redemptive action of Christ.

    So out goes the doctrine, Church history and tradition can be dismissed, out goes official scriptural exegesis to be replaced with personal relationship with the text, morality is feel-good and ‘love can never be wrong – no matter what I do’…the general stuff you can read in the Tablet.

    Ecclesial and Canonical regulations and restrictions are repudiated at whim in a plea towards self-unfolding in the evolution of the spirit – ergo women priests, gay priests, married priests and any indulgent expression of one’s sexual identity is permissible [providing no-one important [i.e. myself] gets hurt] and sex is about personal fulfilment therefore humanae vitae is the first document to bite the dust. Contraception and abortion become moral imperatives for female emancipation from the archaic oppressive patriarchal hegemony.

    Children are not to be oppressed by inculcating Catholic cultural traditions and praxes – rather they are to be made self-aware and be freely drawn to where the spirit leads them. Let the children come to Him – not through oppressive indoctrinations which stunts their self-expression and journey of self-discovery.

    But you see the problem here is most Catholics who remain within the Church – and the millions who have walked away – are despondent at the annihilation of everything Catholicism once stod for and wish to reclaim their Catholic identity and inheritance.

    Especially among the young – who have been so neglected and abandoned by the Church that they have had to learn most of the stuff for themselves – and realise that the Church in this country has lied, neglected, perverted, distorted, misrepresented and laid waste the Church across the land through greed, narcissistic self-indulgence and petty internecine power-politics. Wasting millions on failed initiatives which made a few of them very rich [think the Mayhew/inwood bunch when it comes to the destruction of authentic Church music and hymns - or the 'academics' and 'educationalists' who made fortunes wreaking havoc in religious educations by forcing textbooks on schools where Jesus was a nice hippy , the sacraments were like psychological enhancement tools - and the kids spent most of their time in RE classes drawing Zacchaeus up that bloody tree]

    So the young, and the too-long-disenfranchised newly-empowered ‘people who stayed’ who now have a voice through lay-movements , papal inspiration and regulations and the blogs – are now on the march – and they’d like their Church back please!!!

    Of course the progressive liberal old-guard can’t abide this ‘benedictine revolution’ as it’s upsetting their bureaucratic administrative applecart and jeopardising their quangocratic leviathan’s power over the faithful…and interfering with their long-standing status quo Vichyist relationship with other faiths and the political establishment

    So they denounce the new bloggers as Ultras, Taliban Catholics, Jansenists, the Unkindly ones, the counter-productive cruel bigots, people who claim to be ‘more Catholic than the Pope’, the Tridentinista…

    …and a whole barrage of lies about their political, moral and doctrinal positions are spewed to frighten people away from them.

    [e.g. they'll be accused of being hate-filled, misogynists, homophobic, self-hating, guilt-ridden, latin obsessed, sexually-repressed fascist no-lifes...]

    Meanwhile – in an abject panic the old-guard – terrified at these threats to their complacent tenure-  have decided a dual-policy:
    a] Shutting up shop – removing themselves from involvement with the world and instead getting on with their shenanigans behind closed doors – a strategic withdrawal to the power-houses where they can continue with thie paper-shuffiling committees and pretend everything’s still ok…
    b] The Saul Alinsky paradigm – instead of being a religious spiritual moral power for the benefit of people’s souls and daily lives – the new paradigm is one of ‘The New Humanism’ – where a two-pronged attack is actuated towards a new agenda…one part is political activism towards social justice – another is religious collectivism towards tha same social justice initiative. – religion and politics becoming mirror images of advocacy for ‘social justice’ – to such an extent that the adherents and participants on either side ultimately become interchangeable – you won’t be able to tell the difference between a priest and a community-activist politician.

    Now in order to begin this ‘b’ saul alinsky scenario – you have to control the communications agenda and the budgets – and become both medi-savvy and have ‘reputable’ social justice credentials via issues-campaigning and community activism – in both local government and diocesan bureaucracies… beginning new initiatives and programmes where your message is the only one being heard and your campaigns are the only ones being given any funding – meanwhile all the rest of the voices and the real work for social justice is pushed further out towards obscurity in the periphery.

    Now it doesn’t matter one iota what the messages are – nor does it matter one jot what the community programmes are – they don’t have to be effective or helpful or beneficial in any way – they’re a smokescreen – an obfuscation of the organisers and leaders on their road to achieving power , influence and authority and seats in high places… it doesn’t matter whether they are from the political arena or the religious one – the aim is towards progression into the upper eschelons of power – to become the great movers and shakers – the autocratic grandees who have a seat on the committees – who have the ear of those in real control – and have ultimately networked with ‘anyone who is anyone’ until they have the whole set up sealed…

    Meanwhile the real political establishment who wish to make a difference and the real religious establishment who wish to live out and preach a real difference in people’s lives – are pushed out!

    The Bishops suddeny turn round and realise they’re powerless against a bureaucracy – the Political leaders suddenly turn round and realise they’ve been hijacked by all the networks of big-business and professional lobbyists – and the religious and political buraucracies are virtually identical – which is hardly surprising considering they’ll be the same people on the same committees wielding the same influence over both spheres…

    The future is all sides forming a coalition of mutual indulgence and self-interest where they’ll divvy up all the power between themselves…ideological antagonisms will be whitewashed – the ‘battles’ over issues will be phoney and mutually assured – friends will be faux- arguing and holding sham debates against each other on issues upon which they’ve both agreed are irrelevant in regars to their ultimate aims.

    The ideal will be an homogenised  ‘new secularised humanism’ where political persuasion and religious affiliation will be so meaningless as to mean nothing..because everyone will be expected to officially conform to a multiculturalised amalgam of conducive ‘acceptance’…conscience rights will be abolished only to be replaced with an utterly innocuous ‘right to religious worship’ – morality wil be a personal issue – not a public one. One will have the freedom to choose what is offered – otherwise one will not be tolerated.

    Within the Church this ‘Alinsky method’ is already being promoted via such phenomena as Caritas and the Catholic Voices initiatives; hailing it as the heralding of a new dawn for social justice and involvement with the media. Whereas the ongoing message is a watering down of Catholic principles and socio-cultural identity into this homogenous ‘new humanist’ which will be tolerated by a secularised society as being toothless and innocuous – and people with whom business can be done.

    The threats to these bodies are within authentic groundbased traditional Catholicism as upheld in the orthodox families, parishes, the blogs, the pro-Life groups, the newly forming religious societies and support groups – the networking across the blogosphere and the spreading of information via social networking and online journals.

    Where previously a Church bureaucracy or the power-wielding quangocrats could merely impose their will without resistance…they now have a problem!

    if a Bishop suddenly proposes to close down a series of parishes and kick out some traditionalist priests – every Catholic networker, blogger and activist can find out about it in seconds and assist in a campaign to rescue the Church from the mess…

    if a Catholic cleric, commentator or journalist appears on the media – within seconds this message is widespread throughout the blogosphere and social netwrosk – and promoted wholeheartedly if authentically Catholic – or vociferously opposed or condemned if it contravenes Catholic doctrine, morals or praxis.

    If some diocesan bureaucrats decide to bully a school or a charity or attempt a hostile takeover – instead of it being the unopposed cakewalk where it used to be – they now faced a revolutionary force of empowered, informed and involved devout, orthodox Catholics to deal with who will not brook such intimidation, injustice or abuse of power…and are willing to shout about it and fight against it…

    So do you now see where the battle-lines are drawn?

    The Catholic hierarchy now going into hiding and giving all their power away to the professional and clerical lay-administrators – or franchising out most of its executive responsibilities – e.g. to CAFOD, Caritas, Catholic Voices etc- and if the rumours are true – they’ll be abolishing the CESEW and leasing it out to some other unaccountable quasi-autonomous consultative/advisory commission….

    These people in the buraucracies are yearning towards an accommodating ‘integration’ of a new secularism – a new humanism where authentic Catholic identity and principles will be abolished – for the benefit of the ‘Big Society for the sake of the common good’…

    …but one thing stands in their way…the ordinary devout, orthodox Catholics  with twitter accounts and blogs and FB profiles and newly networked friends and associates…and they dwell in an information world where everything they need to know is just a few mouseclicks away.

    The Catholic Church is beginning to roar – and the administration which was used to nothing but a subservient silence…is beginning to quake.

  • Poppy Tupper

    Gosh! So I was right then.

  • Alban

    And I suppose with all your Christian charity you are gloating about it???

  • Sky_Dancer0306

    Lovely story about the bee’s and their benediction! Its this sense of fun that I find delightful!

  • Brian

    Parliament did not establish the CofE – Henry VIII did. In ‘The Ten Articles’ (1536) Henry VIII said in the Most Blessed Sacrament THE BODY OF CHRIST is REAL & OBJECTIVE. In ‘The Six Articles’ (1539) Henry VIII stated anyone who denied TRANSUBSTANTIATION was to be executed by burning for heresy. Any claim the CofE has denied TRANSUBSTANTIATION is null & void. The Thirty Nine Articles was never a part of the Prayer Book, which, first dates to 1549 and has prayers & a Mass for the dead (see also:  ‘The Ten Articles’ (1536)); the reality of Purgatory & honouring & invoking the intercession of Our Lady & the Saints  (see also:  ‘The Ten Articles’ (1536)). Confession (Penance) is included in ‘The Ten Articles’ (1536); ‘The Six Articles’ (1539); the Prayer Book (1549); the Ordinal of Edward VI & the Canons of Eliabeth I (1604) have auricular Confession & absolution. You know nothing about what Anglicans believed & believe. Henry died believing he was a Catholic not a Protestant. The Masons who seized power of the Government in the 1700s tried to make out the CofE was the Protestant Reformed religion. Henry believed the CofE was a reformed Catholic Church. Until the 1700s there was no prohibition on members of the Royal Family believing in Transubstantiation.

  • Brian

    Read ‘The Ten Articles’ (1536) & ‘The Six Articles’ (1539).

  • Brian

    The only reason Henry left Rome was to marry Anne Boelyn, because, he believed she would give him a male heir who lived longer than a few days. Once Anne did not she was on her way to the block.
    The CofE was not founded by the Protestant Fathers, who, were rebels.

  • Brian

    Birth control & abortion are condemned at VCII.

  • Brian

    There is no proof Bugnini was a Mason – only a misguided humanist, which, is bad enough.

  • Brian

    I have actually heard on a programme about the Most Blessed Sacrament that a dog, a rescue or emergency services dog in the USA, was observed standing still and gazing upon the Most Blessed Sacrament like they are trained to do, when, they discover people who cannot be seen but need to be rescued. This was given as an example of Our divine Saviour’s objective REAL PRESENCE in  the Most Blessed Sacrament.
    As far as I know it was a N.O. church.

  • Brian

    The Pope is not God. Only God changes bread and wine into the BODY & BLOOD of JESUS and contrary to what you claim Orthodox priests are recognized as valid by the Pope & the Orthodox Church recognizes the male Anglican priesthood.