Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It seems to me I've heard that song before

Yesterday, Vatican officials issued an Apostolic Constitution (meaning a big, bureaucratic policy paper) setting out conditions and a process for Anglicans who want to be united to the Roman Catholic Church while "preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony." To my knowledge, the Apostolic Constitution itself is not currently available online, but the Vatican's news release is here. The best aggregations of links can be found at Thinking Anglicans and at Episcopal Cafe's The Lead.

Naturally, the secular media are all over this story. And naturally, most of their coverage makes it clear they haven't the foggiest notion what they're talking about.

This is hardly the first time that Benedict XVI has chosen to meddle in the affairs of the Anglican Communion. As Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, he was given to issuing (semi-disparaging) statements about Anglicans to coincide with major Anglican Communion events. When dissident Episcopalians met in Plano, Texas in 2005, he wrote them a letter (purportedly on behalf of John Paul II) to encourage the schismatics as they strategized to destroy the Episcopal Church.

However, if Benedict's intent is to open the doors to a flood of converts from Anglican Churches to Rome, I suspect he'll be disappointed. Every few years, someone hatches a new scheme which will open the floodgates only to find the flood is a trickle.

The process outlined in the Apostolic Constitution is consistent with Rome's Pastoral Provision for "Anglican Use" parishes in the United States. When the Episcopal Church started ordaining women, Rome thought they'd see, if not a flood at least a steady stream, of Episcopal converts. To ease the path, they established a process for groups of Anglicans to act corporately (sort of synchronized swimming the Tiber) and to use an adapted version of the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer. At the end of the day, there was no flood nor even a steady stream. There was a brief trickle, and all told there are only about seven Anglican Use parishes in the entire US.

Again, this was nothing new. Rome's skewed analysis of Anglican sensibilities dates back much farther. One of the clearest examples was the lead up to Leo XIII's 1896 bull Apostolicae Curae which declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void." Both the theological reasoning and the ecclesiastical politics behind the document are multilayered. One of the factors in Pope Leo's finding was the pressure from the Roman heirarchy in England who were convinced a negative finding would result in a mass of conversions from the high church party of the Church of England. Disappointment reigned.

Anglicanism's relationship with Rome is complex - almost as complex as Anglicanism's relationship with itself. My old dogmatics professor, Eugene Rathbone Fairweather (aka ERF) was a member of the first Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission. ERF once told us that there were many loud debates that occured during his time on the commission, but that there had never been a single occasion where all of the Anglicans were on one side and all of the Roman Catholics on the other.

In the catholic heart of every Anglican there beats a desire for the unity that Christ willed for His Church. Though I was never so afflicted myself, "Roman Fever" (a flirtation with converting) has been known to infect more than the occasional Anglo-Catholic. On the other hand, the odd Roman Catholic has been known to find their way to Anglicanism - including the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the most recent Bishop of Rochester (UK).

In the meantime, I off you this, with apologies to both Simon and Garfunkel.

It’s an Apostolic Constitution,
the perfect made-in-Rome solution,
mmm
where ritual will not be bland
and women priests would all be canned
and independent thought is banned
by Benny – it’s a one man band

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me

A personal ordinariate
Tridentine mass, imagine that
mmm
and Cardinal Newman’s Oratory
the incense and the rosary
the pious pomp of liturgy
reminds me that I long to be

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
Ill play the game and pretend
mmm
But all my words come back to me
In shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony
I need someone to comfort me

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me
Silently for me
Silently for me



3 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Malcolm, I rectified my earlier neglect with a post of your lyrics and a link to your post. How's that?

Aidan said...

I believe you owe me 50 cents for the unauthorized use of the word "Rome" in leu of "home" a common phrase. I cite my Facebook status circa late-May 2009: "Aidan Thomas Andrew is Rome-sick and wants to go back to Italy" that said, if you are concerned about my Anglican faith warning signs would probably include Libations to Pluto and praying to Janus, as well as curse tablets that say "let the riders in green slay the lions that are set forth upon them and may the chariots of the red stampeders be smashed and all their drivers maimed"

Malcolm+ said...

You know, son, you really need to get your head out of your textbooks and get your sorry backside to church.

But wasn't that a marvellous interception by James Patrick (or St. Patrick) to ensure the Lions lost out?