Monday, October 26, 2009

Time for the details

We're lucky in Edinburgh to have a few Titians 'hanging about' in the free part of the National Gallery of Scotland. For those of you who are connaisseurs of 'healthy women' but have no Reubenses right at hand, Titian will do in a pinch.

One of my favourite paintings is the one shown above - The Three Ages of Man - which I was looking at on Friday when I had a spare half-hour. On the right hand side are the infants - largely unaware of their surroundings and producing much fluid and little language. At the left you'll find the youth - "struck" and fixed as he is by the object of his desire. Finally, at the back, is the old man - senile and decrepit - slogging through his obsession with what is past and dreading what is yet to come.

Art is not always prescriptive of reality, though. There's more to life than being caught in a series of bottomless pits of self-absorption. My father's last two posts are a testament to the degree to which the last age of man can be a time of attention. With a certain amount of Adam's Curse laid to one side, space is made for one's attention to fill in - notice is taken finally of small things.

If we do, in fact, follow our fathers then the future bodes well for me.

I shall begin paying attention to the small things I'd missed.

My wife, I think, will appreciate that.

Fear and Surprise!

Back in the Diocese of Montreal it was always easier to marry two divorced Presbyterians in an Anglican Church than it was to perform the service for Roman Catholics where one party or both had been divorced. As was the case of all remarriages of divorced people, an application had to go before the Bishop and the Matrimonial Commission. With Roman Catholic applicants, however, there were additional concerns about "not alienating" a couple from their own Church. At least that's how it was explained to us at the time.

As Rector of a parish, you were left to deal with most things in the parish as you saw fit (within reason) and it always seemed a little 'out-of-keeping' that as much muscle and as as clear an interdiction was applied to this particular process. After all, nobody was worried about alientating the Baptists or the Dutch Reformed from their particular ecclesial bodies - who also disapproved heartily of divorce and remarriage.

As a young priest with lurid powers of imagination, I always figured that the Cardinal had gotten the Bishops' arms up behind their back at some point - but the groundwork of the explanation made a certain amount of sense:

"We are in the midst of a number of ecumenical discussions with Roman Catholics through ARCIC. Look - we've produced a document called Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry - we'll send you a copy in the post. We're getting close - real close - Authority next, then the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the meantime we'll try real hard not to stir the pot with our Cousins down the road."

Some of it didn't resonate with our immediate context. The Island of Montreal, itself, was not a hotbed of Ecumenism, nor was the military chaplaincy in the Canadian Forces where separate tents were required for religious services in the field and Anglican chaplains were by definition Chaplains(P) and lumped together with Presbyterian separatists with bad haircuts who preferred to call themselves l'Eglise Reformee du Quebec while our erstwhile cousins - Chaplains (RC) - met in other conclaves at conferences.

But, then again, there was the Diocese of Joliette. When I was the Rector of St Margaret's Mascouche I was friendly with the local RC priest. The clergy of the Diocese of Joliette were mostly Clercs de St Viateur - they were very creative, integrated and open and the Bishop took pity, at least on this particular Anglican, and I found myself included in all sorts of local clergy conferences for the priests of that Diocese. While not 'quite' sharing altars, it was the case that the emergency contact in my absence was Fr Bernard and in his absence it was me.

So the whole 'cousin thing' depended largely on which square kilometre of territory you happened to live in.

So let's turn to the candidates for 'inclusion': Brother Stephen (himself a 'convert') has listed the various 'types' of disaffected Anglicans and explains which three of these five 'types' might take up Benny's offer. There are the Prayer Book Catholics such as those found at St Thomas' Toronto (always grateful for Canadian content in the Christian blogosphere) and of course the Walsingham crowd - the Modern Catholics - who, according to Brother Stephen, make up the majority in Forward in Faith. There are then, finally, the Missal Catholics, and the example given comes from here in Scotland and I'll embed the video at the bottom of the post just because it's the sort of thing which 'speaks for itself' in terms of the Gospel horizon Rome might reasonably expect from such a tradition when 400,000 of them descend on St Peter's Square looking to have scratched what has made them itch.

Or fewer, perhaps, than 400,000. Take away as many zeros as you like.

Folks like this are, granted, a little more numerous than, say, British Israelites, but they will have approximately the same long term influence on the Christiian gene pool. They are not a force to be reckoned with, although I suspect that the points they've added which make up the collection of planes and surfaces within the Anglican tradition has given them more influence than they'll ever enjoy once they've joined 'Aunty'.

It would be an act of friendship on our part, with respect to the progressive Roman Catholics we have worked in partnership with over the last thirty years, to bitch and bellyache about this tactless invitation to our "disaffected" to come home to Rome. We should bitch effectively with an eye to getting a face-saving retraction.

A second statement could be issued which 'clarifies' what had obviously required closer scrutiny by some fictive underling who could then be said to be languishing in chains in the basement of the Vatican where it is expected he will be severely dealt with.

Let's face it - the Roman Catholic Church needs an infusion of waddling anachronisms in birettas like it needs a plague of Cane Toads.