The Other I

November 23, 2010

Religion and ritual: The advanced version

Several months ago, Pope Benedict invited disaffected Anglicans – bishops, priests, their families and their parishes – to move en toto to a special conclave in Roman Catholicism where the vicars would be permitted to continue to practice their ministry even though they were married, and parishioners would be assured that they would never be ministered to by a woman priest.

Nobody really knows for sure how many Anglicans are contemplating a transfer to Roman authority, but one parish in a village in Kent – or rather about one-half a parish – that wants to convert  is negotiating with the other half.  The departing half wants to share the use of the parish church with the non-transferring Anglicans.  They would like to use the facilities for Sunday Mass and other Roman Catholic services with their departing vicar-become-Catholic-priest either before the Anglicans hold their services with their remaining still-Anglican vicar.

The resident Anglicans are making accommodating sounds, but I wonder how an arrangement like this will evolve.  Here in the little village outside Cambridge where we live, the imposing Anglican Church as stood for almost a millennium.  Roman Catholics attend Mass said by a Catholic priest every month.  It has not, to my knowledge, been a source of friction.

But the Catholics using the church were not part of the original Anglican community with whom they disagreed so fundamentally that they could no longer attend the same services together.

In the case of the Kent and similar parishes, I foresee one of  two scenarios.  The first possibility is that the split will ultimately be divisive and long-term.  The alternative is that with time, and as the older generation dies, the problems the new Catholics have with Anglicanism will diminish and problems with Rome will increase.  Most especially, the English, in my opinion, are not temperamentally suited to accepting the infallibility of the pope.  It’s just that they happen to agree with him on the issue of women priests right now.

But whether it’s homosexuality or abortion, women priests or papal infallibility, I find myself wondering what has happened to the Christian command to love ones fellow-man?  Should a stray Anglican stray into their communion service, will the Catholics refuse to break bread with them?

How can these matters of doctrine be so important that these neighbours cannot even pray together anymore?



  1. I’ve been reading your Blog just been awhile since I posted any comments. Following a blog gets personal, you really feel you know the person who is writing. I notice a change, more academic or I guess getting a little over my head. But I love reading and trying to understand how people come to think or believe what they do. I find it very interesting your Catholic background and now your doubts in God. They do not go along with my beliefs and faith. Did I ever question my beliefs, of course on somethings but belief in God never. I’ve just noticed you really have been writing a lot more blogs about Catholicism and Religions. I guess my question is what is that all about? Are you trying to figure out where Religion fits in your life or how it can’t.
    Are you going to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday? Hope you and your husband have a Wonderful Holiday!


    Comment by djc1 — November 24, 2010 @ 1:53 am | Reply

    • Donna, I was so glad to read your comment! Believe it or not, I have been thinking about you and wondering if you’d decided I was simply beyond the pale. I try not to write my posts in order to please or even be popular, but I do benefit hugely from feedback – and especially from feedback from a point of view different from my own. And so very especially thank you for sharing your thoughts. (Not, I think, that we necessarily disagree about the fundamentals that really really matter, but we do come from different perspectives.)

      I don’t know if I can actually tell you what it’s all about. I’ve always been a thinker, and much to my surprise, I think the evidence is that I have been an intellectual contrarian at least since I was in my teens. It’s not just in relation to religion – I do the same thing in relation to philosophy, I did it as an academic in psychology, I do it in relation to politics and economics. I even do it all the time in relation to my own system of ideas. I do try not to descend into sarcasm or disrespect, but I do try to be clear about what I’m thinking and occasionally the line between the two is surprisingly easy to cross.

      I used to think that thinking was a superior way at arriving at the truth. But I see now that it is only one way, and just as subject to error as any other approach. Since I’ve been thinking about religion and ritual, I’ve written several posts about how in my life it has been both a bond and a divisive knife.

      Now, after reading your comment, I’ve been thinking that I would like to write about two particular women in my family who were not thinkers. And yet whose hearts were like arrows when it came to recognizing what really matters. It would be interesting to know what you think. I’d be amazed if they aren’t women whom you would recognize in some way, and admire. Not quite sure what you might think about my analysis, though.

      Yes, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, even here in the heart of England. Along with Easter and its message of hope, Thanksgiving is my absolutely favourist celebration of the year. I hope, for you too, it is a day on which you can feel as grateful as I do.

      Again, thank you for staying in touch.


      Comment by theotheri — November 24, 2010 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

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