Saturday, September 26, 2009
Ango-Catholicism: A Study in Religious Ambiguity
Our Lady of Walsingham
Yours Truly, the Anglo-Catholic, assisting Father Charles Bennett at St. Thomas Episcopal Church a number of years ago.
Lately, as my light escapist reading, I have been reading Anglo-Catholicism: A Study in Religious Ambiguity by W.S.F. Pickering which was published in 1989.
As one who as a member of the Episcopal Church delighted in being a self-described "Anglo-Catholic," I find this subject to be incredibly fascinating. For some unexplained reason it is just downright fun to be a member of a Protestant Church and pretend to be Catholic by putting on fancy vestments, doing a lot of bowing and genuflecting, throwing a lot of incense into the air, and generally putting on a big liturgical show.
Now let me tell you, the Anglicans/Episcopalians know how to put on a good show. In some respects, they may be more High Church than the Vatican. The only problem is that it is all form and no substance. They have all the outward forms of the true Catholic faith, but there are very few Orthodox Christians left in its ranks that hold the substance.
I finally decided that all the things which I liked best about the Episcopal Church were all the things that were Catholic and the things I liked the least were the things that were the most Protestant. I had already decided to "swim the Tiber" before the melt down of my Episcopal parish. A large number of the membership left and formed a new "Anglican" Church. However, the new "Anglican" Church is definitely part of the Evangelical, or "Low Church" tradition within Anglicanism, if it is really "Anglican" at all. With all due respect, if I had to put myself within the jurisdiction of a foreign bishop, I would rather choose the Bishop of Rome than the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda.
When I became a real Catholic I no longer had to hide that I prayed the rosary, and prayed to Our Lady and the Saints. (Nothing makes Protestants more nervous than devotion to Our Lady and the Saints.)
Here's a good quote from Pickering that kind of sums it all up:
The problem par excellence for Anglo-Catholics is their claim to be Catholic within an institution which for several centuries has generally been reckoned to stand in the Protestant camp, certainly not in the Roman Catholic camp. Some Protestants in the past, and still some today, have gone so far as to see in the Church of Rome the Antichrist. How can one be an Anglo-Catholic in a church in which only a proportion of the members openly claim they are Catholic and the rest say they are Protestant, or at least non-Catholic? Here is the ambiguity of using the self-designation Anglo-Catholic, or more simply, Catholic.
Keep in mind the fact that Pickering is an Anglican writer. In another place he says this:
In practice the Catholic church, if it is to be found anywhere, is the Roman Catholic Church, for on grounds of geographical universality, there can be no other contender. Roman Catholic theologians assert categorically that there is no Catholicism outside their Church. When Anglo-Catholics claim to be Catholic they are hardly adopting a universalist position but one which is essentially sectarian.
Bottom line: Anglo-Catholics are Protestants who are pretending to be Catholic.
Sacred Heart of Jesus: Have Mercy on Us!
Our Lady of Walsingham: Pray for Us!