Monday, 2 February 2009

While the whole town joins the rest of the county and country in suffering from the heaviest snowfall for at least two decades, the Holy Sacrifice was offered in church for a small congregation. Sacred Space has been cancelled and so has the assembly at school. We are all bracing ourselves for more snow, so it seems that it will get worse before it gets better. This will give me some time to work on the reflections and worship material for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land which is only under two weeks away now.
Last week two news items dominated the Catholic headlines. The first one concerned the lifting of the excommunications of four bishops who are not in communion with the Church of Rome. These four bishops, ordained by the schismatic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, are illicit bishops not in communion with Rome. As the ordaining bishop and the co-consecrator perpetrated yet another crime in ordaining bishops not chosen by the Chief Pastor of the Church, their original penalty of suspension “a divinis” was turned to the greatest penalty possible – excommunication reserved to the Holy See. It seems that these bishops have been approaching the Holy See for reconciliation and since the end of last year they have asked the faithful of SSPX to offer up Rosaries for the lifting of these excommunications. The faithful and the priests of this schismatic group are not excommunicated but only these four bishops. Now if reconciliation is on the cards then it is an act of justice and mercy to lift the greatest punishment in order to be able to see if the road to reconciliation is viable. The lamentable event was the broadcasting of an interview with one of these four bishops, the English and ex-Anglican Williamson. What he said about the Holocaust is deeply offensive and is not something that a bishop should be talking about, especially on camera. It was unfortunate that the lifting of such excommunication almost coincided with the broadcasting of this interview as they are two distinct issues. What is clear is that the lifting of the excommunication has nothing to do with the (hideous) opinions held by this prelate; and such remission does not put him or the other three bishops as bishops in good standing in the Roman Catholic Church. The lifting of the excommunication enables these bishops to reflect upon their place in Catholicism and does not endorse any opinion that these prelates might hold. Even in our culture of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, Bishop Williamson’s opinions are ugly and all self respecting Christians will distance themselves from them, as did the immediate superior of Williamson himself. However, nothing will stop the enemies of the Vicar of Christ from simplifying the whole issue to use it as a disgusting attack on him. The Holy Father’s wisdom and holiness is really getting to them, and that is a good sign, a sign of springtime for Catholicism. Just like Jesus, the Holy Father stands for faithfulness and not popularity.
For us Anglo-Catholics this remission shows that Rome is ready to make provision for small groups and therefore unlike rumours spread by those who do not have our best interest at heart it shows that Rome will be willing to provide for us a home in which we can flourish and not be merely tolerated or offered terminal care.
This brings me to the second news worthy item which resulted from rumours about TAC being offered a personal prelature in the Roman Communion. I wish them well, especially if this is what TAC needs. I think this is a rumour as I find it difficult that Rome will fence this group in a personal prelature. A personal prelature is there to guarantee the freedom and ease of a movement working directly under the Bishop of Rome as Universal Pastor and even there the local bishops have a significant role to play. TAC might be multi national but I do not think that it is international in character; however I hope to be wrong. Any move like this would confirm to us what is evident in the SSPX case, that Rome is willing to make provision to Christians to flourish, however our cause is as different from the one of TAC just as almost it is different from SSPX.
We are so deeply entrenched in the established Church, that even fifteen years in our own ecclesial structures have not undone one of the many layers which bind us to the Church of England and the Crown. It might be that while we were busy flourishing and producing the arguments for giving the reason of our hope and faith in Christ, we have not spoken openly about the need of receiving our share as the parting of ways seems inevitable for every side to keep integrity. Genuine Christians will see how to facilitate each other’s pilgrimage of life rather then placing more barriers, but then we all know that it is better to spend a day as a gatekeeper in the house of the Lord than a thousand in the tents of the wicked.

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