Saturday, February 6, 2010

Marginal Catholics

At the monastery I finished reading MARGINAL CATHOLICS by Ivan Clutterbuck. Published in Britain in 1993, Father Clutterbuck states in his introduction that his book was written in response to W.S.F. Pickering's book ANGLO-CATHOLICISM: A STUDY IN RELIGIOUS AMBIGUITY, which has previously been reviewed on this blog.

Even though I personally was only a member of the Episcopal Church for about five years, I have soft spot in my heart for all things Anglican and especially the High Church Party in the Church of England. Father Clutterbuck does not begin his history of the Anglo-Catholic movement with the 19th century Oxford movement, but begins it with the Reformation, which is deemed to have mostly been a big mistake. Throughout the book, Clutterbuck takes swipes at the opponents of Catholic worship in the Church of England. The Puritans, the Methodists and the Evangelicals all get hammered to varying degrees by Father Clutterbuck's pen.

When it reaches the Oxford movement, the book really takes off. We are treated to stories of the Victorian Anglo-Catholic priests who ministered in some of the worst slums in the cities of England and then were subjected to riots organized by Protestant Anglicans to disrupt masses. Since the Church of England is an established Church, the prayer book rubrics have the force of law. Protestant Anglicans organized and had criminal charges brought against High Church priests for violating the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. In some cases, priests were jailed for offenses such as putting candles on the altar, wearing Eucharistic vestments, and burning incense.

The autobiographical parts of the book are particularly fun. Father Clutterbuck was raised in a High Anglican parish in the 1920s. He calls his book "Marginal Catholics" because he says that when he went off to university and theological college he found out that the Anglo-Catholics were really on the margins of the Church of England. He then proceeds to tell anecdotes about how Protestant Anglican bishops sought to marginalize the Anglo-Catholics. Clutterbuck's bishop sent him off to the army chaplain corps at the beginning of World War II to "teach him some manners." The book explains how the chaplain corps in the British Army was run by the Evangelicals while the Navy chaplain corps was dominated by the Anglo-Catholics. After serving as an army chaplain during the war, Father Clutterbuck went to sea as a navy chaplain and has many entertaining stories about his experiences all over the world.

The final chapter involves the decision of the Church of England to ordain women to the priesthood and the effect that this decision will have on Anglo-Catholics. Although Father Clutterbuck rejects the obvious solution, to reunite with the Church of Rome, he does state that it will be impossible for Anglo-Catholics to remain within a church which has departed from orthodox belief and practice. I found it very interesting that Father Clutterbuck comments that women's ordination carries in its wake an entire program of liberal theology which challenges traditional belief.

The Bad Catholic's general response is that maybe its time to move from the margins and cross the Tiber!

No comments:

Post a Comment