So What Do I Think?

Oh the churchy world is ablaze with the news from the Vatican regarding “a single canonical model” for some Anglicans.  Whatever this might be – it is NOT a case of simple ecumenism and holding hands, all kumbayah-Jesus-loves-you-togetherness. If I were Anglican or Episcopalian, I think I would be really, really ticked off – now that I *get* in a big way.

I have commented on various blogs and on Facebook regarding this. I am both upset and not over the whole thing. However, many emails have come in asking me what I think and since I do not have anything else to post right now, I will say a few words.

First of all, for good or ill, I am immersed in the life of the church. That is just true. There is more that I will write about this in the next few days. Church is not just institution or structure and it is certainly not building, church is people. What I am a part of and what the larger thing are, well they are the same and different.

Case in point, we have been so busy not a word has been uttered about this other than me bringing up how I wish that we had time to sit and just talk about it. We don’t.

I posted an Anne Lamott quotation on Facebook about how it was “too soon to tell.” And that is what I do believe. Someone sent me an email accusing me of agreeing with the whole mess if that is how I feel.

Oh please.

If you stood at the foot of the Cross 2000 years ago, I doubt you would see glory, no matter how hard the Renaissance painters have tried to convince you of the immediacy of it. Oh – to be certain, there was immediacy, but not to the human eye at the moment.

Nor now.

My professor was talking about something that Elizabeth Johnson had said to her the week before (now I am name dropping off someone else’s theological name dropping!) during a talk. We are all parts of generations that are “hanging in there.” If the reformists of the earlier part of the 20th century did not hang in there, maybe Vatican II would not have happened. We just don’t know. I think that Elizabeth is onto something.

Sometimes you hang in there but then the spirit prompts you to depart. I have also thought a lot about Mary Daly and her “exodus moment” when she knew it was time for women to “walk.”

How do we know? And is it always too soon to tell?

I don’t have a clue. Right now I am where I am and while not 100% happy I am not prompted to have my exodus moment. It is probably out there, I can get a whiff on distant breezes, but now is not the time.

The other day I was talking to Mimi and she said to me, as only Mimi can, “Fran – I am not sure how to say this, but you’ve changed.” I acknowledged that yes, things were up with me. She seemed hesitant to say more, but she seemed like she had something to add, I urged her on.

“Fran, you’ve become more… this isn’t the word, it just isn’t but… well I have to use it. Fran, you’ve become more pious.”  I threw my head back and laughed out loud.

She’s right and yet not. Oh that is rich. We had a good talk about this place that I am in right now – emotionally, spiritually and even practically. Pious is not it, but I am more serious and I am not so close to the edge. Nor am I am in the middle.

It is a place of journeying.

Well, someone has drifted a bit off-topic about the Vatican-Anglican flap. I am quite put off by all the hand-wringing and angst. I was particularly turned off by this dose of bitterness from the Anglican turned Roman Catholic priest, Fr. George Rutler. I used to pray in his lovely church in NYC, a beautiful place. He always looked a bit pinched and angry.

Here is another piece that left me feeling uncomfortable at large. Now John Allen is someone that I tend to trust and his piece is here.

As for some good analysis and an outstanding comment thread, I have to point to a post with a most provocative title – Is The Vatican Creating An Anglican Petting Zoo? by Eric Stoltz.  Eric really speaks well to some thoughts I have about the need for unity through diversity. In fact, he tends to speak it a lot more clearly than I seem to be able to.

So what do I think? At face value, I don’t like it, I don’t like it one bit. And if it is truly a bad idea, I think it will backfire.

This I do know. It is too soon to tell for me. That is what I think.

27 thoughts on “So What Do I Think?

  1. Good post, Fran.Your friend's comment made me looked up the word pious in the on-line dictionary. I had forgotten it had both positive and negative uses.In my book, there's nothing wrong with showing reverence and devotion (definition 1a).I don't know enough about the new structure to comment in a fully-informed way.But, I think it has the potential to be a good thing. It could be helpful for the Anglican Communion in that alienated members of its Churches could have a (hopefully) healthy alternative to forming competing dioceses for the same denomination in the same geographic region.One of the things that leads me to this conclusion was the participation of the Archbishop of Cantebury in the announcement.Also, perhaps this could be a step along the journey toward greater overall Christian unity? I pray that it is.

  2. I found this a thoughtful post but unlike you I reacted to the first news of this with great joy, albeit tempered with some trepidation.I'm a Latin-rite Catholic and struggle day-to-day along with everyone else to try to bring my life in line with my faith.And as I have matured, I have realised – much to my humiliation -that incredible thinkers over the course of many, many, centuries, have not only posed the questions that had perplexed me, but also have answered them – to at least my satisfaction.Is the Catholic Church perfect?Of course not. If it was, I would be fearing that the end times were indeed nigh.Yet…there is just something about Benedict that gets me excited.It's as if the whole carry-on about the Church thinking in terms of centuries is actually realised in this one person. He's thought long and hard and written screeds of papers about the necessity of unity of Christianity and we are seeing in his pontificate that he actually not only talks the talk but walks the walk. He means it and he's working hard to achieve it.I, for one, applaud him for the effort. And I welcome the Anglo Catholics to the rich diversity that Catholicism actually embodies.

  3. Paul, you know that I especially value your words. I always liked you, but having met you changed everything and your friendship, fellowship and sincerity are tremendous gifts in my life, for which I am deeply grateful.And I feel very much the same about my friend Mimi who you don't know, but trust me – she is something. I have met her too.I am grateful for the pious definition of pious but I am not sure that is exactly what she was talking about. I have indeed become more serious on this blog than I was on my old blog. And while I would still say that I am more inclined to the liberal side of things, I do feel some distance from elements of my own liberalism. That does not make me conservative by the way.It is essential to note that I remain equally impatient with elements of conservatism as well.While I can appreciate your undoubtedly (to me who knows you, even if just a little) sincerity about unity, I am a bit skeptical.While it may be nice to welcome so-called alienated members from the Anglican communion, what about the alienated members of the Roman Catholic Church? Who may just well have grown in numbers?This is not dissimilar from the conversations regarding the SSPX flap last year.All that said – I remain somewhat skeptical but not in a huge lather either. It just may be too soon to tell.

  4. CMH Welcome to the blog, not sure if you have been here before, if I knew you in my other blogging life or not. Either way, welcome.Your comment is difficult for me to address and if I sound harsh, please know that I say what I say from my heart and not with malice.Your comment is long and my reply will be long, so I am going to quote pieces of yours and reply. I hope you read this."I found this a thoughtful post …" Thank you for saying that this was thoughtful. I hope that it does come across that way."And as I have matured, I have realised – much to my humiliation -that incredible thinkers over the course of many, many, centuries, have not only posed the questions that had perplexed me, but also have answered them – to at least my satisfaction." That is a pretty sweeping remark and I do not think that was done with malice or ill intent. What great thinkers is my first question? And what is this obsession with "the answers?" There are never really answers, mostly questions I think. What do I know, but in the end, even St. Thomas Aquinas apparently proclaimed, "It's all straw." I have been told that in the New Testament, Jesus was asked 183 clear questions and he only gave direct answers to 3 of them. Answers are overrated. I will simply posit that while the Latin word, Sacramentum gives us much in the RC church, perhaps the original Greek said it better – MysterionYou also say, "It's as if the whole carry-on about the Church thinking in terms of centuries is actually realised in this one person. He's thought long and hard and written screeds of papers about the necessity of unity of Christianity and we are seeing in his pontificate that he actually not only talks the talk but walks the walk. He means it and he's working hard to achieve it."I can't fully address this, but I will try. All the centuries realized in one person sounds a bit as if it borders on idolizing him, which I think is NOT your intent, but I am just saying how it sounds. That is a bit off-putting to me.While unity should be the focus for all, I (and note – I will shout here!) THAT MEANS WE ALL SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON UNITY. That means that WE ALL have to put up with those we would rather not put up with.Yes – all means *all*. This is one reason that I do not jump for joy on this announcement nor would I likely jump for joy, even if it brought justice, about announcements that were more to my own theology, ecclesiology, Christology and thinking in general. We have to become *unified* in Christ and not by such arrangements. That means putting the rubber to the road in truly becoming the body of Christ. This may include stinky feet, gassy intestines, sores running awash with pus and infection, etc. I use body images quite purposefully as we live an incarnational faith. So any joy over Christian unity is well founded, but what about those who were and now may be potentially more, splintered?

  5. Paul One more thing – the appearance of +Rowan, the ABC is not necessarily a good sign as I see it.He is in a particularly unusual position here for many reasons, too many for me to go into at this moment.

  6. Very good and thoughtful post, Fran. Thank you.Yes, as an Anglican (Church of England) and a Franciscan to boot, I am a little ticked-off. Too much has been said already for me to expand on that publicly, but it does cheer on up to hear Catholics like yourself who understand how we might feel!Thanks againMike

  7. Pious? You?According to a phone call we shared yesterday, pious was not a word that came to my mind.As for the Pope's latest plan, I saw it as a simple recruitment maneuver, nothing more or less.If he wants more clergy and more members, he needs to adapt to the 21st century and change the churches' doctrine on women priests, clerical celibacy and birth control.

  8. Jewish wisdom from the Christian scriptures:"Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."We Catholics have always been good thieves, and, when I am told that we got Christmas from the pagans, or the rosary from the Moslems, or Vacation Bible Schools from the Baptists, I always say, "Yeah, so?"There is indeed a rich Anglican patrimony upon which I hope we can draw, and perhaps this new structure will be the vehicle for its entry. Or maybe not. Who knows?As always, there is much silliness. "The End of the Anglican Communion" "Pope Parks his Tanks on Lambeth's Lawn" As if it might not just end up as fourteen people from New Zealand with a cool Latin group name. Those for whom this was done left the structural Anglican fold long ago, and, if anything, we probably do our Anglican friends a favor by making room for these difficult malcontents (we don't have many of those, do we?).Anyway, I meant at some point to tell you I enjoy your new blog, and thought the end of the world as we know it might be a good time to stop by.More pious? Could be a dangerous thing. Was reading Gibbon the other day, not exactly the Church's biggest fan. He was noting, with chagrin, that a pious and committed clergy was always more dangerous than a corrupt one. And obviously not just the clergy.

  9. Terrific post, Fran. I spent part of last night reading the Vatican announcement along with news service reports and a very few, selected blog commentaries. Like you (and I do like you!) I'm not rushing to blog my opinion until I collect a bit more information and information.Top of mind thoughts: Interesting to watch the scuffle over religious capital.

  10. I definitely go with the too soon to tell opinion.The one thing that came to my mind right off the bat. Anglican's have their entire Church based on a King who wanted to marry outside the the Roman Catholic Church, in order to have a son. Talk about disenfranchised. The other thought…irony abounds.

  11. No, Angel, our church is based on Christ the King, not on Henry VIII! He provided a historical accident that allowed the Reformation to cross the English Channel, that's all… Pretty grubby historical accident I must admit, but then God's never been to proud to use grubbiness – look at poor old Joseph's (Jacob's son I mean, not our Lady's good and gentle husband) brothers!

  12. Of course, Fran, I'm so far removed from the schism that many of its nuances are lost on me. But as a far-removed observer, the news struck me as rather odd–a sort of subversive maneuver by one denomination to capitalize on the growing pains of another.The Anglicans are wrestling with issues Rome has refused to address–e.g., women priests, gay inclusion, etc. These are theological, not political, matters and therefore very likely disturbing many traditionalists. If accepting the Pope's offer keeps their faith intact, this can only be good. But if they use it as an escape hatch to avoid the call for change their communion seems to be hearing, then not so good.What's most perplexing to me is the Pope's comfort in presenting his flock as viably non-progressive. From the Council of Jerusalem on, the catholic (small c) Church's duty has been to search its heart to respond to the leadership of God's Spirit. And making a broad generalization here, we have yet to find Him stalling or backing up. His word always seems to be, "See, I am doing a new thing."I guess one might say this out-with-new-in-with-the-old idea is a new thing. Just not sure if it's His kind of new thing.

  13. First off, "pious" is not the right word to describe the change I've seen in you, Fran. We were on the phone, and I had to come up with something, but that is definitely not the correct word. Having more time to think, I'd say that you seem more serious, and another word came to mind while we were talking, but I was sure you would vehemently object to it, and that word is holier, not in the sense that you're more saintly than anyone else, but in the sense that you're more steeped in the mysteries of the faith than formerly. I didn't say it then, but I'll say it now, for better or for worse.As to the offer by Rome, I was more upset that +Rowan was so gullible and naive in his dealings with Rome. The only way that those outside the RCC can come in is on Rome's terms. No other church is viewed on equal footing. To me, that is the fact, those are the terms, and I accept them for what they are. In the end, I believe that God will have God's way, and that we are already one in the Body of Christ.

  14. Very very good thoughts, Tim, thank you: truly encouraging words, bravely written. It means a lot for someone on the outside, as it were, of this debate to see so clearly through to the real issues involved.

  15. Personally, except for the obvious pain it is causing my progressive RCC brothers and sisters, I find the entire thing hilarious!1. The RCC is welcome to our Anglican malcontents. We'll see if they are any likelier to behave for B16 than they have been for us. I tend to doubt it, so I'm popping the popcorn and sitting back to enjoy the show.2. This has blown the idea of an Anglican Covenant COMPLETELY out of the water. God moves in mysterious ways…3. Rowan Williams is finally getting a taste of his own medicine. At every turn, he has castigated the American church, and allowed the reactionary bullies to run the show. Now he is going to find out what happens when foreign prelates come into his church and start trying to steal the silver. If I were a better person, I could feel sorry for him, but I'm not. I am quite gleeful in enjoying the schadenfreude I feel. (I'll go to confession later! ;-)4. I would give money to have been a fly on the wall in Latin Rite seminaries this week, as men who are valiantly struggling with their vow of celibacy got the news that their married Anglican brothers will be welcomed into the priesthood with their wives and children. I theorize that the most frequently uttered sentence in those hallowed hall this week has been "Can you BELIEVE this shit?!?!?!?" ;-)Cheers,Doxy

  16. My dear departed Polish Grandma would probably have said, "See what happens when you put a German in charge? Rules, rules, rules. All they know are rules."I'm sure that's not true, but it makes me smile anyways.

  17. I would say right now, you are in a "more studious" place than you were a year ago. You are wanting to understand the theology behind the curtain.Kind of like I seem to have become more of a "studious mystic" in the last year.I have sensed a parallel. I guess I'm not surprised.

  18. Excellent post, Fran. I think that Tim hit what I wanted to say. If accepting the Pope's offer keeps their faith intact, this can only be good. But if they use it as an escape hatch to avoid the call for change their communion seems to be hearing, then not so good.

  19. Thank you for all these great comments. I have frittered my time away on FB and now must leave, so no time to comment back.I will say that I particularly enjoyed this line: "Anyway, I meant at some point to tell you I enjoy your new blog, and thought the end of the world as we know it might be a good time to stop by." – Rick you make me blush and laugh at once! I don't think that that has ever happened before! Thank you.

  20. I have every confidence in what Grandmere said, not only about you and holiness (yes, I think she is right), but about the whole churchy snafu –we are already ONE. I see the Pope's move like the way one moves pawns and rooks and bishops on a chess board…. We got Cutie, he's getting a bunch of conservatives who are unwilling to be obedient to the vows they have already made…. what makes any one think they are going to be more obedient on the other side of the fence?It's all politics and institutions…. I'm still waiting to hear about Jesus or the Gospel in any of this…. and what Grandmere said comes the closest. We are already ONE. It is only sin which keeps us apart. When we start talking about that poopoo caacaa, instead of rites and marriage and liturgy and ordination and prayerbooks we will have made some progress toward the light.Just sayin'.

  21. More thoughts about the offer from the Pope by the Very Reverend Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Phillip, Atlanta. I commend it to you:"I welcome the news of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to make provision for the conversion of certain Anglican Christians to the Roman Catholic Church.In the past ten years, I have noticed many of my disenchanted Episcopal and Anglican friends drifting toward Roman Catholic structures. They have been arguing for more ecclesiastical order and authority. It has long been my prediction that our current Anglican controversies will be cleared up, finally, with a choice between distinctly Anglican and distinctly Roman ecclesiologies. Much of our current controversy, having been precipitated by sexuality issues (ordination of women and homosexuality), is more accurately about authority, uniformity, and legal order.The Roman Catholic tradition, certainly a long and esteemed tradition, is very good on these very issues: authority, uniformity, and legal order. The Anglican tradition (in my opinion having begun in the fourth century A.D., and thus almost as old as the Roman tradition) is very good on other matters. In particular, the Anglican tradition of Christianity is very good at allowing local authority and jurisdiction to exist in partnership with wider authority and jurisdiction.Many disenchanted Anglicans and Episcopalians have actually been arguing in the last ten years for more centralized and universal jurisdiction, when the Anglican tradition of Christianity has always resisted such universal and centralized jurisdiction. Thus, it is gratifying that the best centralized and universal jurisdiction in the world-the Roman Catholic Church-has been able to make provisions to welcome such disenchanted Anglicans.I note, too, the gracious words in the joint statement of the Archbishop of Winchester and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is good relationship between these two branches of Christendom, the Roman and the Anglican. Fruitful ecumenical conversations have certainly enabled the Vatican to allow go forward with these provisions, and I salute all those who have been involved.I believe there is room in the kingdom of God for various ecclesiastical styles, and I pray that God will direct us all to a place where we can more freely preach the gospel and work toward the kingdom of God.20 October 2009"Again, the main emphasis is ecclesiology and authority….. which is pasrt of the root of the break between Rome and Canterbury.

  22. What if the Episcopalians recruited gay Catholic priests? The Vatican would be up the creek trying to fill vacancies in 90% of the parishes in the US. Just saying.

  23. Note: This is in two partsPart 1Fran, I am indeed new to your blog-drawn via internet to your posting re: the announcement of apostolic constitution. Thanks for the kind welcome. May I say straight off, that I'm rarely offended by comments coming from the heart. I welcome the opportunity to test the validity of my own developing views against those of others and usually find that the exchange results in me learning a great deal more about myself and my own deficiencies – hence my deliberate use of the word "humiliation" when speaking of the great thinkers of centuries past. Let me now turn my attention to your thorough response to my post and I'll try to take these issues in the order in which you posited them – although I may need to do so over time. For now I'll limit myself to your first major response:1. "What great thinkers is my first question? And what is this obsession with "the answers?" There are never really answers, mostly questions I think. What do I know, but in the end, even St. Thomas Aquinas apparently proclaimed, "It's all straw." I have been told that in the New Testament, Jesus was asked 183 clear questions and he only gave direct answers to 3 of them. Answers are overrated. I will simply posit that while the Latin word, Sacramentum gives us much in the RC church, perhaps the original Greek said it better – Mysterion"My reply: I do hope that I did not give the impression that I was obsessed about "the answers" but more on that later. As to great thinkers, for me-having had the mixed blessing of attending Catholic schooling from 1970s-1980s, it was a very unfortunate outcome that by the age of 18 I had had little exposure to the writings of major theologians of the Church, yet also a positive outcome in that I was fully equipped to argue the Church's social gospel. The fact that the latter fitted in nicely with my nascent political views was a fillup. But just as one's political positions change and adapt as one matures, so should one's understanding of faith. And it was here that I found myself in the cul-de-sac that all my years of Catholic primary and secondary education had ill-equipped me for -I had been provided nothing with which to guide me in developing and growing my faith as an adult so as to remain not only emotionally and culturally in communion with the Church of which I was a member – but intellectually so.

  24. Part 2It has been a voyage of discovery -these decades since – starting falteringly with Hans Kung and Bishop Spong (back in the day when he actually still believed in the incarnation)and from them going to the sources, working my way through Augustine and Aquinas (preferring the first, as I still do), St Catherine, St Therese and onwards. I've found much to learn from Bonhoffer and Balthasar as well. In more recent years, I've had the opportunity to read the works of the early Church Fathers (St John Chrysostom etc). I've also been much taken by Joseph Ratzinger's writings. He has a great gift in his ability to canvass the history and current position of the Church with respect to some very difficult theological issues in a way that is understandable to laypeople without being condescending. (Sidebar: I find many of the writings – except for the poetry, ironically -of John Paul II almost impossible to comprehend, possibly because of his reliance upon the "Mysterion" – another reason to feel more properly humble). 2. Whether Aquinas actually proclaimed "It's all straw" is neither here nor there. We now know that Mother Theresa spent decades of her life wracked by serious doubt – an existential crisis if ever there was one – and yet through it all she continued to do her work for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. We know that Archbishop Romero knew that if he kept speaking out against the regime he would be killed and yet he kept doing so. We know that Father Damien was warned that if he kept tendering to lepers then he would most likely get leprosy – and yet he kept on tendering. All human beings know with certainty that our lives here will end and this is why St John of the Cross's "dark night of the soul" continues to resonate because its theme reaches into our deepest fear – that God may not acutally exist (beyond a human construct) and therefore, if you follow this thought through to its logical conclusion, there is no life with Him beyond this "vale of tears." Death terrifies us-and rightly so. In full knowledge of this inevitable outcome, what is our response?Answers are indeed overrated, but endless questioning for the sake of questioning founded in ignorance is a futile and somewhat meaningless pursuit. That's when we get stuck in the cul-de-sac. I would suggest that it is not answers that we are being called to provide by God, but FAITH as in "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews11.1 I don't know whether "Jesus was asked 183 clear questions and he only gave direct answers to 3 of them." What I have faith in is that when He said this, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (John 20:29)that He meant it.

  25. Fran, I read your post yesterday and thought to myself that I should respond. But I didn't know what to say.I don't think I do even now. What I can say, though, is that I live in that itchy space you're describing, and I know how uncomfortable it is–but for me now, there is no other space to be. I would never presume to tell anyone else how to handle the recognition that the church can do incredible harm while it also offers salvation and community. For me, this recognition has led to a determination–a necessary determination, over which I have little control–to distance myself as much as possible from people and structures that are toxic for me.But at the same time, I also realize that my home is in the church, and I value what the church has to offer when it lives up to the kingdom ideals of Jesus.Meanwhile, for many of us, the church is creating no option except either to leave or distance ourselves. And I am deeply sorry that you have to go through the turmoil caused by that no-win option–I understand a little bit how it feels, given my own experience.And I sympathize, for what that's worth.

  26. I had no time to be on the blog today and tonight I am far too tired to give these comments my fullest attention.I really want to thank CMH for returning and with such detailed replies. I wish I had more energy and focus right now. I don't want to give the impression that your replies are unread, unheard.Good night and peace all.

  27. Hanging on is not the answer. The kind of change that the "spirit of Vatican II" Catholics have been waiting for is no longer in the cards, if it ever was. Pope Benedict is taking steps that will ensure a future of increasing adherence to Church tradition and teachings. Progressive leaders (think Weakland) are being replaced by the Dolans. "Gather Us in" will be replaced by Gregorian chant in a number (small but telling) of parishes. Those who cannot abide the actions of the current pope will either join Mary Daly or go frustrated and sit increasingly on the sidelines.

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