Friday, September 26, 2008

Long Time No Blog

Those of you who check my blog on any sort of regular basis may have noticed that I have been AWOL for some time now. (A couple of you have kindly sent e-mails asking whether I was ill. Thank you for asking.) I have not been under the weather, just lazy. Anyway, I'm back now, and I will try not to fade out again like that without some advance notice. I apologize for the unscheduled hiatus.

One of the reasons I have neglected my blogging duties is that I have been busy with several projects, some of which will be the subject of upcoming blog entries. Stay tuned.

One project that has kept me and my husband busy lately is teaching an adult class at our parish--the second installment of "Catholic Christianity: Re-Introduction to the Faith." The text we are using is Peter Kreeft's Catholic Christianity (pictured at right), and the class this fall is devoted to the second section on "Catholic Morality." The materials are very good, and we are enjoying the class. Last Sunday's focus was natural law. What is even more intriguing is the process of trying to create a culture of adult faith formation at a Catholic parish. As evangelicals we took adult "Sunday school" for granted; we have found this not to be the case in the Catholic Church, in general. Catholic Mom has written a good deal about her experience (here, for instance) of trying to teach CCD students whose parents are ill-equipped to reinforce what she teaches. Fortunately for us she teaches at my parish and has broken some ground in this area. In addition to teaching CCD again this year, she is currently teaching an adult class on the Theology of the Body.

I was recruited a couple of weeks ago to help promote the local "40 Days for Life" campaign, a national effort to encourage prayer & fasting for 40 days to end abortion in America. The focus of my efforts is the prayer vigil at a site in Alexandria, one of four sites in Northern Virginia. To be precise, I was asked to recruit Protestant churches to join in. I have done the best I can on short notice, and most churches I have contacted have been receptive and willing to publicize the campaign however they can. It's not entirely clear to me why this was left to the last minute, but I try not to think about it too much. At the very least maybe my efforts can lay the ground work so that next year's campaign will be more "ecumenical."

To find out more about the 40 Days campaign in your area, visit their website at

And speaking of the issue of human dignity (a.k.a., the sanctity of life): With the "silly season" of election year politics upon us, I have found it fascinating to see this issue take center stage. First there was Nancy Pelosi's inept pontifications about when life begins and what the early Church Fathers (Augustine in particular) allegedly had to say about it. Then to see the Catholic bishops, especially some of the real stand outs among them, respond forcefully to Speaker Pelosi's comments with a lesson on what the Church actually teaches. Then the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican VP nominee--a woman whose life in many ways embodies the pro-life movement. And then to see the priests in my own parish preach equally forcefully and unequivocally about the duty of Catholic voters to consider this issue as paramount.... All of this has been, to borrow a phrase I have borrowed before from Proverbs, “like cold water to a thirsty soul.” Not that I have not heard equally strong pro-life preaching from Protestant pulpits, and even from some brave Episcopal bishops. But now I have the added assurance that the bishops are supported from the top. To be sure, in some cases they are being prodded from the top, but the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians is being exposed, and no one can be in any doubt about what the Church teaches on the subject.

Enough for now. More later. The dog is lobbying hard for a walk at the moment, and she is hard to ignore.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Roma Loquitur...

... And the news is good. The Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship (CDF) has granted formal approval of proposed changes to the English translation of the central prayers of the mass. The CDF officially informed the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a letter of July 23 of it's official recognitio of these changes, which have been in the works for some time now. See the item in yesterday's Catholic World News (CWN) - excerpted below.

The complete new translation of the
Roman Missal is still a ways off. The entire process is expected to take until 2010, so these changes will not be implemented immediately, but the Vatican has directed the bishops to begin "pastoral preparation" for the changes in the meantime. From the CWN story, here's a summary of the changes:

At the Consecration, the priest will refer to Christ's blood which is "poured out for you and for many"-- an accurate translation of pro multis-- rather than "for all" in the current translation.

In the Nicene Creed the opening word, Credo, will be correctly translated as "I believe" rather than "we believe."

When the priest says, "The Lord be with you," the faithful respond, "And with your spirit," rather than simply, "And also with you."

In the Eucharistic prayer, references to the Church will use the pronouns "she" and "her" rather than "it."

In the Agnus Dei, the text cites the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world," rather than using the singular word "sin."

In the preferred form of the penitential rite, the faithful will acknowledge that they have sinned "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

There should be a great deal of discussion of this in the coming days and weeks. There has already in the run up to this announcement. For those of us who were hoping for a truer translation of the Latin, rather than the more "interpretive" current version, this is encouraging. I look forward to further developments.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI's encyclical written in 1968 to reiterate the Catholic Church's teaching on sexual morality in light of the growing social acceptance of artificial contraception, even among Catholics. The title in English is On Human Life, and the subtitle is often rendered, On the Regulation of Birth. The subtitle in Latin is a bit more to the point: de propagatione humanae prolis recte ordinanda. That is, "on the correct regulation of human birth."

Given the timing of it's publication, especially in the era of greater and greater availability of "the Pill," not to mention a host of other monumental social shifts, it is no exaggeration to say, as does Janet E. Smith, that "it went off like a bomb." Especially among dissenting Catholics, it was met with howls of derision; yet subsequent events have shown it to be positively prophetic. I am very grateful to Pope Paul VI for this encyclical that his successor, Pope Benedict, has called "a significant show of courage." Perhaps more than any other single thing, the consistency of the Catholic Church's teaching on this issue persuaded me that perhaps, after all, the Church was right about a lot of other things. As I said in my conversion story,

Long before I became a Catholic I was persuaded that the Catholic Church has been right all along about the relationship between artificial contraception and abortion—that divorcing sex from procreation would devalue both marriage and the fruits of marriage. The consequences are there for all the world to see. Once life is devalued on one end of the continuum it becomes expendable on the other end—or at any point. And now we have the Brave New World of designer babies and sex-selection abortion and all the rest of it. Not to mention the weakening of the institution of marriage.

In the process of mulling over what to say on this occasion, I ran across an article by Elizabeth Foss, entitled "I Get to Have a Baby." She recounts a chance encounter with a girlfriend at a party. Having admitted to the friend that she is tired, in part because she is 42 and expecting another baby, she finds herself bombarded by suggestions from her friend that she either take the Pill or, if she won't do that, tell her husband to stay away from her. Too shocked to respond at the time, she considers later what she should have said: I will not do any of those things, because they are against the Church's teachings, and besides, "I get to have a baby." She goes on to list all the other joys in store for her. Among them:

- I get to plot and plan and dream up the perfect way to tell my husband.

- I get to tell my children they are expecting a sibling and watch the ensuing happy dances and hear the shouts of glee.

- I get to see my belly swell and not be bothered by “weight gain.” I’m gaining a baby.

- I get to hear my children bless this baby every day and pray for her safe arrival.

- I get to lie in a darkened room, my husband nearby, and get a glimpse of our baby on a screen. I get to watch him fall in love with the baby of the grainy image. I get to see a tenderness reserved especially for moments like these.

What have we come to, I thought, when the prospect of a woman expecting a baby would elicit such abject scorn? We have come to just the sort of situation envisioned by Pope Paul VI in 1968, in which one of God's greatest gifts – the privilege of being co-creators with him in the transmission of human life – is considered something we must guard ourselves against, with only the occasional exception.

Mrs. Foss concludes her article with this: "Isn’t God good and aren’t I blessed to know a Church that has led me to this precious time in my life?"

Indeed it is a blessing.

I consider it evidence of God’s grace in my life that, even as a child I winced at the occasional unguarded remarks of adults to the effect that some couple had “too many children.” I knew it didn’t quite square with the notion that children are a gift from God, and it always disturbed me. Not that my own thinking on this subject was always consistent. It took me much longer than it should have to fully appreciate the wisdom of the Church’s teaching. For a long time I saw nothing wrong with artificial contraception, as long as it wasn’t abortifacient and it was restricted to married couples. I began to see the problem with this position once I saw the damage done to marriage by the “contraceptive mentality.”

Here’s an excerpt from Paragraph 17 of Humanae vitae:

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Is it any wonder that divorce rates remain stubbornly high, despite a growing body of social science evidence that it is at the root of so many other social ills? For an excellent summary of the many ways in which the truths of Humanae vitae have been demonstrated, see Mary Eberstadt's essay in the Aug./Sept. issue of First Things magazine, "The Vindication of Humanae Vitae."

My purpose is not to point fingers at anyone. It took me many years to reach the conclusion that this is the missing piece of the puzzle of family breakdown, a puzzle I have been attempting to piece together for many years, including much of my career (see here and here, for example). My purpose is to draw attention to something that should be a matter of concern to all Christians who desire to be unstintingly "pro-life." In fact, many of my evangelical Protestant brethren have been rethinking this issue in recent years, and they are also seeing the wisdom of this teaching. (See Mary Eberstadt’s essay for examples.) This is encouraging, and I hope to see even more discussion of this issue. Certainly I intend to write more on the subject. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More on Anglican Use Conference

Now that I am rested up and have access to the computer, I will offer some further observations on the recent AU Conference in San Antonio. For the most thorough treatment--and some wonderful photos and videos--visit Fr. Phillips' blog, Atonement Online. His most recent posting includes video clips of Thursday's (July 10) requiem mass offered for Pastoral Provision (PP) departed clergy. This was my first ever requiem mass of any sort, and it will be a tough act for the Novus Ordo to follow.

I. Worship

Those of you who have experienced an Anglican Use mass know what I mean when I say, as I did in an earlier post on the conference, that it is a little foretaste of heaven.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to participate in such a mass, try this: Imagine the best of "high church" worship--"smells and bells," if you will. Add in the assurance of orthodoxy from the pulpit with respect to both scripture and sacred tradition. Season generously with Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony and a large portion of traditional Anglican hymnody.

The former protestants among you who , like me, are part of a regular Roman Rite congregation, will appreciate this: Most of the congregation sang--and sang
every verse of every hymn. There was no mad dash out the door behind the crucifer, either. (Mind you, the congregation of my parish are doing better in this regard, thanks to the leadership of our pastor and music director.)

Among the things that struck me as particularly noteworthy (My apologies in advance for descriptive gaffes. I don't know enough to be an official liturgy geek, but I do know what I like. Corrections are welcome.):

1. We chanted the traditional English translation of the Lord's Prayer in the same chant mode as the traditional Pater noster (click here for a Quick Time audio version; the Pater noster follows after a brief introduction). In addition, the AU liturgy adds the closing sentences ("For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen"). A version of this is included in the Roman Rite liturgy after the prayer, as a response. I still occasionally slip up and continue with this right after "and deliver us from evil." It's a good way to play Spot the Adult Convert.

2. Those of us who sing in our parish choirs were offered a generous invitation to participate with the Our Lady of the Atonement (OLoA) adult choir for several of the services during the weekend. I was honored to add my voice to the alto section for the Solemn Pontifical Mass on Friday, July 11, and I particularly enjoyed singing the Maurice
Duruflé arrangement of Ubi Caritas. I have sung it before in an Episcopal church choir, and I am eager to do so again in my current Catholic parish.

3. My husband and I stayed until Sunday, when we attended the 11:00 mass. I had read on Fr. Phillips' blog but had forgotten that Sunday (July 13) was the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Atonement. That is, it was the Sunday nearest to the feast day of the patroness of the parish, so we were privileged once again to participate in a very beautiful high mass, complete with the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament (when the priest holds up the monstrance and blesses the congregation). During the Benediction we sang an English translation of "O SalutarisHostia," to the usual tune, and an English translation of "Tantum Ergo," to the tune of "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" (Westminster Abbey).

II. Atonement Academy

The school connected to the parish, Atonement Academy (see their website here) was most
Since that's where the conference activities, other than worship, took place, we got to see many of the common rooms, including the beautiful library, pictured on the right (a photo from the school website). The circulation desk--to the right in the photo--became a makeshift bar on Thursday and Friday nights. Established on August 15, 1994, 11 years to the day after the parish was founded, with 66 children in Grades K-3, now has some 500 students, Grades K-12. Their very excellent Upper School Honors Choir were in Rome last September at the same time as the Anglican Use Pilgrimage, and they led us in worship at several of the services. Fr. Phillips noted that the school has been a means of evangelizing many of the families of the students. The children are excited about their faith, and they in turn encourage their parents to get serious about regular attendance at mass and confession.

He offered one especially moving mental picture: Imagine several hundred children reciting the
Prayer of Humble Access at morning mass every day.
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
One more thing. Pictured on the seal of Atonement Academy is a mother pelican, the "soft self-wounding Pelican, whose breast weeps Balm for wounded man," in the words of the 17th century hymn by Richard Crashaw, based on the hymn by St. Thomas Acquinas, Adore te devote. The mother pelican is said to pluck pieces of her own flesh from her breast to feed her chicks in times of drought. Used as a symbol of self-sacrificial love from ancient times, the pelican was adopted as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice on the cross from the early days of the Church. To the left is a picture of Fr. Allan Hawkins standing next to the school banner. Fr. Hawkins is pastor of St. Mary the Virgin, the AU parish in Arlington, TX, near Dallas.

III. One Man's Story

Speaking of Fr. Hawkins: He was charged with the task of instructing us about "How to establish an Anglican Use Society Chapter in your city." Instead, he turned over the podium to a young man who is currently in the midst of the PP process and thus has had recent, hands-on
experience of this. His name is Oliver Vietor (pictured at right--from Fr. Phillips' blog), and his journey to the Catholic Church began in 2003 when he was an assistant rector at a church near Charlottesville, VA. (My husband and I used to live in Charlottesville, so we found that we had friends in common with him.) To make a long story short, he now lives in Phoenix, AZ, and was received into the Catholic Church in December of 2007 with his wife and five children and approximately 13 other people who hope to start an AU parish there. He mentioned that he first learned about the Pastoral Provision on the web. That's where my husband and I first learned of it, too.

It has been a long, slow process for him, but he seems to have the perseverance that is evidently necessary to do this. He offered an interesting observation about the notion of "the perseverance of the saints." He said that it is not merely clinging desperately to the tale end of faith; it is the act of laying down one's life willingly, sometimes on a daily basis.

IV. Odds & Ends

A trip to San Antonio would not be complete, of course, without a visit to the Alamo--and to the Riverwalk. That's where we headed on Saturday after the final mass marking the end of the conference. At left is a photo of the Riverwalk, and below is a photo of my husband and me at a restaurant called Casa Rio. It was touristy, but the food was quite good. As it turned out, I had been to Casa Rio before when I was in town for a conference in August of 1999.
We visited the Alamo, too, after viewing the I-Max film, "Alamo-The Price of Freedom" in the Rivercenter Mall next door. It was entertaining, and refreshingly NOT politically correct. The exhibits in the Alamo itself are equally un-PC and very informative. That's probably not accidental, since the Daughters of the Republic of Texas are in charge of the historic site. Here's their website.

One more thing and I promise I'll stop. The photo at right was taken from our car of an enormous road sign marking "Cornerstone Church," which is located almost across the highway from our hotel, a few miles east of OLoA Church. It is difficult to see the name of the pastor in the photo. His name is John C. Hagee, and he was much in the news in recent months, particularly in connection with his endorsement of John McCain for president. Mr. Hagee is well known for his support of Israel through his organization, Christians United for Israel. He is also known for his somewhat controversial--though not particularly unique (for a protestant fundamentalist pastor)--views on the Catholic Church. We passed by this sign every day we were in San Antonio on the way to and from the AU Conference, and I had to smile at the irony.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Defender of the Faith

Archbishop of San Antonio Jose H. Gomez honored us by serving as the celebrant for a solemn high mass on Friday, July 11 during the Anglican Use Conference. Fr. Phillips has has been kind enough to post the text of the sermon here. It is well worth reading.

Archbishop Gomez began his remarks by pointing out a remarkable coincidence: As it happened, July 11 was not only the Feast of St. Benedict but also the 475th anniversary of the excommunication of King Henry VIII by Pope Clement VII, a fact that was news to many of us at the conference. In the Archbishop's words, " This day of infamy marks the day in which England formally fell out of communion with Rome."

He went on to point out that here we are, 475 years later, under a Pope whose patron is St. Benedict, and who has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the Church's communio. Archbishop Gomez again:

Our Holy Father reminds us that we must be one in Christ and this union is ratified every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, our union with one another is further realized when at each Mass, the celebrant invokes the name of the Holy Father in Rome.
In other words, to be in communion with the Holy Father is to be in communion with the whole Church, a church that is big enough to accommodate a number of liturgical variations, including Anglican Use. Another excerpt:
Although we may share liturgical variations, we are united in the Eucharist and we celebrate our communio with one another by being in constant communion with our bishops and, ultimately, with the successor of Peter.
In connection with this sad anniversary of King Henry's (and Thomas Cranmer's) excommunication, a new edition of Henry VIII's Defence of the Seven Sacraments, published in 1521 in response to Martin Luther's "heresy" (the King's own word). A new edition of the book, which earned Henry the title, "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo X, has been published by Saint Gabriel Communications. The book is pictured at right. To find out more about the book or to order a copy, click here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Anglican Use Conference

My husband and I returned rather early this morning from San Antonio, TX, where we attended the 2008 Anglican Use Conference. It was a rather arduous trip. (We flew through Atlanta in the summertime, so we did ask for it.) As a result I am still somewhat bleary-eyed, so for now I will just jot down a few comments about some of the highlights. I intend to write in more detail later, once I have had a chance to recuperate from the trip home.

In brief, the experience was both inspiring and sobering. It was inspiring to hear from so many people who have made the journey to Rome despite considerable practical challenges. In particular I mean the Pastoral Provision (PP) clergy who abandoned their livelihoods in order to seek reconciliation with the Church. Many of them, good Catholics that they are, had growing families to support when they relinquished Episcopal Church orders in the hope of being accepted for ordination as Catholic priests. Yet, like Abraham, they were obedient, and most of them I have met would agree, I think, with Fr. Christopher Phillips that they have never regretted the decision for a moment.

Dr. (formerly Bishop) Jeffrey Steenson's talk was excellent. The text is available through the Anglican Use Society website. Click here to read it.

The worship, too, was inspiring. Our Lady of the Atonement is a beautiful church, and for someone like me who learned to appreciate the Anglican form of worship from babyhood, it was indeed a little foretaste of heaven!

Some of the conference attendees were men currently in various stages of the PP process, some of whom have already been received into the Church and are awaiting approval of their petitions. Despite the uncertainty of their future, their joy at being reconciled to the Church is evident. I am not sure yet whether it would be appropriate to mention their names. Perhaps I can go into more detail later. At least one of them mentioned that he meets with his (Catholic) bishop on Tuesday (tomorrow), and he asked for prayer. I don't think it would give away anything to mention that his first name is Oliver.

It was sobering to hear their stories, but even more sobering was the presence of several Anglican priests who are in various stages of the journey to the Catholic Church. Seeing them reminded me of what it was like to stand at the far bank of the Tiber, part of me wanting badly to wade into the water and swim, part of me hesitating to do so. I had my own reasons for hesitating, few of them on the scale of what these men face. My heart goes out to them. Clearly God is beckoning them, though. Please pray for them--and for their colleagues throughout the Anglican Communion who have some hard decisions to make in the coming weeks and months.

You may notice a change in the motto below my blog title--something I have been considering for some time. It used to read "Confessions of a Recovering Episcopalian," but it seems more fitting to emphasize the joy of reconciliation rather than the relief of leaving behind the chaos in the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm Off to the Anglican Use Conference

My recent bout of frequent blogging will be on hold for at least the next few days. My husband and I are off today to San Antonio, TX, for the annual Anglican Use Conference, July 10-12. Although we are not part of an Anglican Use parish, we are members of the AU Society, and we travelled to Rome last September with the AU Pilgrimage. We expect to see many of our fellow Rome pilgrims in San Antonio, so in part this will be a Rome reunion. It is always a joy in any case to be in the company of fellow Catholics who crossed the Tiber from Canterbury. (See a previous entry on the subject here.)

Among the scheduled speakers is Jeffrey N. Steenson (pictured at left), formerly the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, who was received into the Catholic Church last December. The news of his conversion broke on the day before we left Rome last September to return to the U.S. Many of our fellow pilgrims are from Texas and know Dr. (for now, at least--more here) Steenson, so it was very joyous news for them--and for all of us. Another conference speaker is Archbishop of Newark John Myers, who is the Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision in the U.S. What with all the goings-on in the Anglican Communion these days, there should be no lack of things to talk about!

The host of this year's conference is Our Lady of The Atonement Catholic Church (pictured above), the first Anglican Use parish established in the U.S. Their pastor, Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, was also one of the first American priests ordained under the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips has an excellent blog, Atonement Online.

More next week when we return home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More News from England

Boy! It's just one thing right after another lately, isn't it? According to Damien Thompson's latest post on the Telegraph online, a traditionalist Anglican Bishop is ready to lead his fellow Anglo-Catholics back to Rome en masse. Bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham, one of two "flying bishops" in the Anglo-Catholic province of Canterbury, has expressed confidence that an arrangement can be worked out with the Holy See, apparently to allow whole congregations to be received into the Catholic Church.

Good news? Perhaps so, but I am inclined to be cautious. There are lots of hurdles to be overcome first, and it remains to be seen whether a large number of Anglicans will be willing to make the sacrifices necessary. I hope and pray that some will. Please continue to keep them in your prayers.

Once again, I defer to Fr. Dwight Longenecker on the subject. Ordained in the Church of England in the 1980's, he was received into the Catholic Church in 1995 and ordained a Catholic priest in 2006, so he knows whereof he speaks. Read his take on this latest news here.

C of E General Synod Approves Female Bishops, Gives Anglo-Catholics the Gate

Well, the Church of England General Synod (GS) has spoken, and what it has said is no great surprise to anyone. The church will have women bishops, there will be no extraordinary measures like "super bishops" for the Anglo-Catholics, and there will be no further discussion of the matter at the February 2009 GS meeting. The Church Society has a good summary here.

Further, it would appear there is no longer any point in ecumenical discussions between the Vatican and the Anglicans. In November of last year, speaking of ecumenical talks which were stalling at the time, Cardinal Walter Kaspar, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, said that, "what we held to be our common heritage has begun to melt here and there like the glaciers in the Alps." He calls the current situation "a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England." I believe he is overly optimistic. It seems to me that what was a slow melt has now become a full-scale avalanche as far as Anglicans are concerned.

As Fr. Longenecker points out in a very good post on the subject, "Future Church of England," it is now impossible even to identify who to talk to. What with the evangelicals going their way and the Anglo-Catholics going their way, and the schisms within schisms...

... there is no way a unified body could be identified to talk with even if we wanted to. Ecumenism will now be with individuals and smaller groups.

He concludes the post with the following observation:

Finally, the other thing that is certain is that the fuss in Anglicanism will bring a good number of people to the banks of the Tiber, and for that we should rejoice and continue to pray.

Amen. I couldn't say it any better than that. Please do pray for our Anglican brothers and sisters. They have reached an impasse with the C of E, and the next few days, weeks and months will be critical. I doubt we will see any mass return to the Catholic fold, but I think we will almost certainly see some number of individuals crossing the Tiber. I pray so, anyway.

Perhaps the words of the great Anglo-Catholic convert to the Catholic Church, John Henry, Cardinal Newman, will encourage them:

We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.

More on General Synod vote -

Another good post by Fr. Longenecker: Church of England to Have Female Bishops

From Vatican Radio: Vatican Regret at Anglican Vote to Ordain Female Bishops

More from Cardinal Kaspar on women bishops: Mission of Bishops in the Mystery of the Church

Monday, July 7, 2008

Further Anglican Confusion

As we await the outcome of the debate in the Anglican General Synod over the future of the Church of England vis-à-vis women bishops, Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a couple of very good posts on the subject here and here.

The second of Fr. L's entries above, entitled "More Anglican News," includes a link to a July 2 Damien Thompson column about the tenuousness of the Anglo-Catholics' position. As Mr. Thompson points out, the recent letter signed by 11 bishops and 1,300 clergy demanding alternative oversight for traditionalists reads a bit like an empty threat. After all, they didn't leave the C of E back when the decision was taken to ordain women as priests. Since women cannot be priests, according to Catholic doctrine, how can they continue to be part of an institution that is so clearly NOT CATHOLIC and continue to call themselves Catholics?

In fairness, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have not made it easy for them, as Thompson points out:

Why did it take them so long? Well, one answer is that some Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have done everything in their power to make them feel unwanted, while insisting that converts attend services that (in style if not in content) are more drearily Protestant than anything the Anglo-Catholics have ever experienced.
He concludes the column with the following observation about the current state of affairs, which owes a great deal to Pope Benedict XVI and his appreciation for a recovery of the sense of the sacred in Catholic liturgy. The "greatest Pope of modern times"? I would agree he is certainly one of the greatest, especially with respect to sacred liturgy. I would also argue that what he is doing would not have been possible without the good work begun by his predecessor, John Paul II:

But now, thank God, the Holy See is occupied by the greatest Pope of modern times, a man with a deep appreciation of the traditional Latin Mass and the riches of Anglican spirituality. He's also prepared to change parochial arrangements in order to reintroduce solemn and dignified liturgy.

In other words, both Anglo-Catholics and Rome are facing a window of opportunity; whether they pass through it depends on many factors, not least the defeat of the Sandalista tyranny in England and Wales. It's time for fresh thinking, an English cardinal who's up to the job, and new structures; stay tuned.

A part of me hopes, with Mr. Thompson, that the General Synod takes a hard line. This might force the hand of those Anglo-Catholics who continue to cling to the fiction that they are truly Catholic. I expect a few of them will grab onto the lifeline offered to them by the Holy See. Many, no doubt, will continue to muddle through, in the usual English way. We shall see.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lucy the [Fishing] Dog

Just for fun on this 4th of July, here is a video I shot the other day of our dog, Lucy, fishing for goldfish in the fountain behind my brother's house. She first discovered this when I visited two years ago, and when I returned recently she went straight for the fish pond as soon as I let her out in the back yard. It was a source of endless amusement for her--and for me. The fish were never in any real danger, by the way.

Monday, June 30, 2008

More on GAFCON

The GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) wrapped up on Sunday, June 29. Their final statement, which can be viewed here, leaves little doubt that the Anglican Communion as we have known it is no longer, at least as far as the Global South bishops are concerned. Patrick Archibold at Creative Minority Report attempts to throw them a lifeline. Would that they would consider grabbing hold:
Note to our friends the Anglicans, what you are proposing to do is an awful lot of work. What with setting up your own provinces, appointing new leadership, and not to mention all political headaches that will come along with this. I have a suggestion. Save yourselves all that trouble. If you want to belong to a church that does not condone "a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony." If you want to get away from all that but maintain some sort of unity (perhaps with, say..., the apostles?), why not just join the Catholic Church. Hey, we even let you use your Anglican prayer books and everything. It is quite the bargain.

C'mon guys, cross the Tiber. The water is fine. Save yourself all that trouble. You won't regret it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Year of St. Paul

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

The First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 1:21

St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, has been a presence in my own life from the start. I was brought up in an Episcopal parish that bears his name, so he has always been an intriguing figure to me. Last September, my husband and I had the privilege of visiting the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls during the Anglican Use Society pilgrimage to Rome. The picture to the left is of his sculpture in front of the basilica. Following the usual practice, he is depicted with the instrument of his martyrdom, a sword. I have included below several photos of the interior taken by my husband.

The very name of this blog owes a debt to St. Paul. As I said in my Welcome entry, the"folly" I mean is the sort described by St. Paul. He preached the gospel of Christ knowing full well that he would be denounced as a fool by many of those who heard him. He perservered because he knew that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." What a great saint he was, and how far I fall short of his example most of the time.

To get to the point of this post--tomorrow is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Not to slight St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ and one of the Church's greatest saints. But this day also commences the Year of St. Paul, as declared by Pope Benedict XVI on the same date last year. (See the full story on Zenit.) Why 2008? Because it is thought by the Church to be the 2000th year since the birth of St. Paul.

The following excerpt from the Vatican's statement describes the "ecumenical dimension" intended by the Holy Father, something very near and dear to my convert heart:
'The Apostle of the Gentiles, who dedicated himself to the spreading of the good news to all peoples, spent himself for the unity and harmony of all Christians,' the Pope said.

'May he guide us and protect us in this bimillenary celebration,' he added, 'helping us to advance in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of the mystical body of Christ.'
I would appreciate hearing from those of you who have been, in the Pope's words, "inspired by [Paul] and his teaching," either through association with an institution bearing his name or in some other way. Comments are welcome.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More to Celebrate

Today, June 22, is the Feast Day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. Since St. Thomas is my and my husband's patron saint, we consider this a sort of de facto holy day of obligation for us, even when it doesn't fall on a Sunday. More and Fisher were, of course, among the scant few at the highest levels of civil and church hierarchy who stood up to King Henry VIII and refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry Supreme Head of the Church in England. They paid with their lives. Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill on June 22, 1535. More shared his fate two weeks later, on July 6. Both were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that their feast day caps off a week in which the fault lines in the Anglican Communion, the hodgepodge of ecclesiastical communities that form the remnant of what was once the Church of England, have been particularly evident. (See Thursday's blog entry, Anglican Confusion.) Then again, perhaps it is not so ironic. To me it is all too painfully evident that the current Anglican chaos is the logical outcome of the rebellion against the Church initiated by Henry VIII. Henry distorted scriptural truth to serve his own ends. It should come as no surprise that false Anglican shepherds and their fellow travelers continue to do so, especially when they perpetuate the notion that Truth is subjective and, therefore, unknowable. The result of this distortion of Truth is also predictable--moral and spiritual confusion.

The participants at GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) believe they are called to challenge such distortions and to encourage orthodox Anglicans who reject that version of things. They see the current situation as a "fork in the road," and the implication is that they envision a separate institutional path for orthodox Anglicans. In fact, this is already the case.

My heart goes out to them. I believe they truly desire to do God's will and that they have gone about this process in a spirit of restraint and humility. I certainly understand their desire to separate themselves from a manifestly apostate institution. But further schism will not ultimately solve the problem. It will only beget further schism and a further watering down of their credibility in the world. It has happened in ECUSA--first in 1870 with the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church and with increasing frequency since the 1970's.

Not that I am expecting this situation to turn around. The news from GAFCON is certainly not encouraging. Here again is a quote from the conclusion of the statement of Conference participants, "The Way, the Truth and the Life":
We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the sixteenth century. Then, the Catholic Church in England was faced with the choice of aligning itself with either Rome or Geneva. But, when forced to decide its identity, it sought to distinguish itself from both the practices of the Papacy and the excesses it associated with the more radical reformers. Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing....
I take a somewhat different view of the situation in the sixteenth century. Not only the practices of the Catholic Church were at stake. Henry--and Cranmer and Elizabeth I, for that matter--also sought to separation from the institutional Church because it was politically expedient to do so. Furthermore, it was not simply a matter of choosing between two equally valid allegiances. Geneva was a schism from Rome. So, in the final analysis, was the Church of England.

There is another way, and I don't mean forming a separate Anglican entity. I mean returning home--to the Church that was and still is the one established by Christ and entrusted to his Apostles. And by "the Church," I mean the Church that St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher gave their lives for. It will continue to happen, but not primarily, I think, on an institutional level--with the possible exception of parishes that might seek reconciliation with the Catholic Church through the Pastoral Provision. It will continue, I hope and pray, at the individual level.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher,
Pray for us.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anglican Confusion

There has been much in the news lately about so-called homosexual “marriage.” On May 15 a panel of four judges in California declared unconstitutional the California law restricting marriage to one man and one woman, leading to a flood of marriage license applications in the state in recent days. While that news was still sinking in, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, made good on his stated intention to become a “June bride” when he entered into a civil union on June 10.

Then this week: On Saturday, June 14, the Telegraph reported that two ordained Church of England priests (a word I am tempted to put in quotes, but I’ve done enough of that already) in London had their existing civil union blessed on May 31 by a colleague in a ceremony that the Bp. of Winchester described – appropriately – as a wedding “in all but name.” Judging from the actual liturgy used, it looks an awful lot like my own wedding (performed in an Episcopal Church); they even used one of the same hymns, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” and the same Gospel reading. (To view a PDF file of the wedding program, click here.) The Rev. Martin Dudley officiated at the ceremony for The Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord at St. Bartholomew the Great Church, Smithfield in the City of London, where Rev. Dudley is the rector. See the original article from the Telegraph online. On Tuesday, June 17, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York released a joint statement that comes about as close as Church of England bishops ever get to issuing a reprimand. Here is an excerpt:

Those clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it. (Emphasis mine)

They also noted in their statement that this matter is the subject of an investigation by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in whose diocese the ceremony took place. Yesterday (Wednesday, June 18) the Diocese of London released letters from Bishop Chartres to congregations in the diocese and to Rev. Dudley. Both letters are posted here. The congregations letter is a fairly standard move-along-nothing-to-see-here/this-is-merely-a-distraction-from-our-real-work sort of thing.

(How he writes this stuff with a straight face is beyond me.) An excerpt:

So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda.

The letter to Rev. Dudley is a tad more pointed. It expresses shock – shock! – that more than two weeks after the fact Rev. Dudley has yet to contact him directly, and for an event that has been in the works since November of 2007. The central issue according to Bp. Chartres is not civil unions, nor is it homosexual practice. Both seem to be non-issues for him. (He stresses that “homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London.”) The central issue is the canonical authority of the bishop. He quotes the portion of the Canterbury/York statement excerpted above and accused Dudley of treating his parish as his “a personal fiefdom.” In my opinion, it comes off as a protracted whine. Bp. Chartres’ pride is wounded because Rev. Dudley did this in the open rather than keeping it under his hat in a more discreet “private ceremony.”

It is difficult to see how an event of this size (300 people) and consequence could have completely escaped the bishop’s notice. In other words, it seems reasonable to conclude that Mr. Dudley’s principle sin, according to Bp. Chartres, was failing to keep his bishop apprised of the wedding details.

While the response from Lambeth Palace & York Minster is stronger than I would have expected, given the recent history of dithering in the C of E, I am certain that it will all come to nothing in the end. Oh, Mr. Dudley may face some sort of mild disciplinary action from his Bishop, but I am willing to bet that he will not be forced to resign from holy orders. Although I no longer have a dog in this fight, as they say, this is hard to watch. My husband and I still have Anglican friends, after all, including a C of E vicar – in the Diocese of London. I have watched the Anglican Communion and its constituent organizations, like ECUSA, slide more and more rapidly into apostasy over the past few decades, and I feel for my brothers and sisters who still endure the false shepherds of the Anglican Communion.

UPDATE: Latest news from GAFCON – The Telegraph reports today on the release of a document drawn up by participants in the lead-up to next week’s meeting in Jerusalem, entitled, “The Way, the Truth and the Light.” The (somewhat lengthy) PDF document can be viewed here.

Perhaps the recent flood of apostasy will finally convince orthodox Anglicans that the chances of reform from within are about zero. That seems to be the consensus among GAFCON participants, although their solution is not what I would have hoped. Here is a particularly discouraging excerpt:

We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the sixteenth century. Then, the Catholic Church in England was faced with the choice of aligning itself with either Rome or Geneva. But, when forced to decide its identity, it sought to distinguish itself from both the practices of the Papacy and the excesses it associated with the more radical reformers. Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing…. (Emphasis mine)

Argh. In other words, schism was a good thing then, and further schism is the only solution we have now. They are half right. The Anglican Communion is not going to reform itself, so further association with the Communion is futile. But schism only breeds further schism, as it has for five centuries. I pray that this current mess with induce at least some orthodox Anglicans to do what my husband and I did – to investigate thoroughly and honestly the claims of the REAL Catholic Church.

Original Telegraph story:

Follow up story from the Telegraph:

Side-by-side of liturgy used in ceremony & traditional wedding liturgy:

Ceremony program (PDF):

Letters from Bp. Chartres to London congregations and Rev. Dudley:

GAFCON statement, “The Way, the Truth and the Light” (lengthy document):

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Catholic Thing

Today I came across a great new website, The Catholic Thing, launched on June 2 by the Faith & Reason Institute (FRI). A “hat tip,” I believe, is in order – to Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester. I have added the new site to my list of Favorite Links, to the right.

According to an introductory essay by FRI President Robert Royal, the site will feature an original column each day by one of an impressive line-up of writers, including Michael Novak, Ralph McInerny, Hadley Arkes, Michael Uhlmann, Mary Eberstadt, Austin Ruse, George Marlin, and William Saunders.

These are among the outstanding Catholic thinkers/writers out there, and I can attest that the writing certainly lives up to Dr. Royal’s assertion that “[W]e expect that you will not find anything quite like the quality, experience, and accessibility of The Catholic Thing.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Adventures in Scranton

It is always a joy to spend time with fellow converts from any protestant tradition, but naturally we feel a special connection with our fellow Anglican converts. When I read or hear their conversion stories I often think that an outside observer might conclude that we plagiarize each other, since our stories are so similar. But I think the more likely explanation is that we were simply led irresistibly to the same conclusion – that the fullness of the Christian faith is to be found in the Church that Christ established and entrusted to his Apostles, and that this Church, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “subsists in” the Catholic Church. Admittedly, it is a relief to be with people who understand exactly why we entered the Church, especially when many of our closest friends and family members still find our decision bewildering.

On Pentecost weekend my husband and I travelled to Scranton, Pennsylvania to visit a group of ex-Anglicans, members of the Anglican Use parish there. We had met the pastor, Fr. Eric Bergman, a couple of years ago, when he was still a “civilian,” having resigned his ordination in the Episcopal Church at the end of 2004. He came here to the Washington area in late 2006 or early 2007 to meet with a group of people who had expressed an interest in forming a parish in this area. We got to know some of the members of the Scranton parish on the Anglican Use Rome Pilgrimage last September. Anglican Use services in Scranton are conducted currently in an existing parish church, St. Anthony of Padua. The St. Thomas More Society is the organization under which the Pastoral Provision is promoted within the Diocese of Scranton.

Participating in the mass on Sunday, I was struck, as I have been before at Anglican Use masses, by the feeling of coming full circle. Rite I in the Anglican Use liturgy is very similar to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was used until I was in my late teens, so the feeling of having “come home” is often overwhelming. Now, however, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not subject to anyone’s individual judgment. It is a fact, supported by the weight of 2000 years of sacred tradition. Moreover, there is a reverent quality to the liturgy that I sometimes miss in the current English translation of the mass.

To cite one example: In the Novus Ordo mass the prayer after the Agnus Dei and just before the distribution of communion is said once only and rendered as follows:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

The Anglican Use version is said three times, and it is a straightforward translation of the prayer in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), admittedly in somewhat old fashioned English. As in the TLM, it is said three times – by the congregation:

Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.
In addition the Anglican Use liturgy adds the Prayer of Humble Access (just after the Agnus Dei):

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

I have always loved that prayer, and it is such a privilege to recite it now as a Catholic. It takes on a whole new dimension in light of the Church’s clear teaching about the Real Presence – as do so many other things. It is a fitting reminder that we should always approach the altar with great humility and a well-examined conscience.

Those of you interested in learning more about Anglican Use may want to consider the upcoming annual Anglican Use Conference, to be held July 10-12 in San Antonio, Texas. To find out more visit their website at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cardinal Newman to be Beatified

It appears that the anticipated beatification of John Henry, Cardinal Newman is at last to take place. According to stories in the Sunday Times (London) on 20 April and the Birmingham Mail on 21 April, he is set to receive the title "Blessed" later this year in a ceremony at the Vatican. (I believe he is now designated as "Venerable.") The Holy See has confirmed that at least one miracle can be attributed to the intercession of Cardinal Newman. An American deacon was miraculously cured of a crippling spinal disorder after petitioning the prayers of the good cardinal. Only one more bona fide miracle is necessary for him to be officially declared a saint.

For former Anglicans like me, this is very big news. Newman is perhaps the most famous Anglican convert of all time. After founding the Oxford Movement in the 1830's, he rocked the Church of England to its core in 1845 when he converted to Catholicism, eventually becoming a priest and, of course, a cardinal. He is often referred to as the “Father of Vatican II.” In a sense all of us who have crossed the Tiber from Canterbury and its offshoots stand on his shoulders. And very broad shoulders they are indeed! He is already a sort of de facto patron saint for many former Anglicans.

Back when I was considering entering the Catholic Church and fretting over the usual protestant difficulties concerning Mary, a priest directed me to a booklet of excerpts of Newman's writings, Mary as the New Eve (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3). It helped me to understand what lies behind the Catholic dogmas and practices concerning Mary that I found problematic. As I wrote elsewhere:

I learned that this idea – that Mary, because of her “yes” became the means of undoing Eve’s “no” – was not a new one. It was the subject of some of the writings of the Church Fathers, including St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 120-165), St. Irenaeus (120-200), Tertullian (160-240), and, later, Jerome (331-420). In other words Mary, like Eve, was a responsible moral agent, complete with the same free will that Eve perverted to her own ends. But Mary not only said yes, she did so with great joy and humility, and so, in the words of St. Irenaeus, “the knot of Eve’s disobedience received its unloosing through the obedience of Mary.” That is, she was not merely the vessel of the Incarnation, she actually cooperated in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

My “difficulties” with the Marian dogmas were certainly not unique to me. I eventually came to understand what Newman understood, that a thousand difficulties do not add up to a doubt. I am grateful to him for helping me along in the journey to Rome.