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Recovering R.C’s

2010 November 24
by Gordon Reid

Andrew Sullivan recently wrote a very perceptive blog about the huge number of Roman Catholics who are so dissatisfied with their Church’s teachings on divorce, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, married priests, women priests (not to mention dear old contraception), that they have almost stopped going to Mass.

He ended by saying that the solution was surely an American Catholic Church, separate from Rome and all connexions with the Vatican curia.

My first reaction, as you may imagine, was to exclaim: “But we already have that; it’s called the Episcopal Church”. And of course, any Episcopal parish priest will tell you that their congregation contains a large percentage of ex-Roman Catholics who have quit their own Church for one or several of these reasons. And some of our best priests were RC priests before they were received into the American Catholic Church – oh, sorry, I mean the Episcopal Church.

Then today I read of half a dozen groups of RC’s in Belgium who have set up dissenting parishes of their own for similar reasons. And of course many members of the Church of England were formerly Roman Catholics.

So maybe the time has come for the Archbishop of Canterbury or, failing him, the Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church, to set up a “Catholic Ordinariate” to receive R.C’s who have had it up to their ears with sermons against contraception, celibate old men declaring that young married men who have embraced the Sacrament of Matrimony have thereby disqualified themselves from embracing the Sacrament of Holy Orders, divorcees banned from receiving the Sacrament of the altar, homosexuals declared “intrinsically disordered” (by these same suspiciously celibate old men in the Vatican!).

I doubt if Rowan or even Katharine will follow this path. But what fun it would be if they did – we might have to buy all the closed Catholic churches that stand so sadly in cities like Philadelphia, and reopen them under new management.

33 Responses leave one →
  1. Terry Porter permalink
    November 25, 2010

    Love your blog and please that St Clements is not moving down the same path as some of our other colleagues. My feeling is that those Bishops,and clergy have always wanted to Roamin (sic) Catholic but didn’t want to give up the perks that the Anglican Communion offered. I thin they beleive that they will still be able to continue on as if they never left. I am ondering how many will return once they realise how good the Anglican Cmmunion really is. But then we will welcome them back just lke we welcome evreybody else.

    • Terry Porter permalink
      November 25, 2010

      I just read the reply, please forgive all the typo’s

  2. November 25, 2010

    Brilliant! Now why has nobody thought of this before?!

    I’m sure St Michael & All Saints could offer them a safe home. After all, many who come to Evensnog & Benediction are RCs from Lauriston Place who don’t get it there.

  3. John permalink
    November 25, 2010

    As a Roman Catholic who has found a home in a wonderful Anglo-Catholic parish, I would hope that any such ordinariate in the Anglican Church would not allow the current Liturgy to be brought over as part of it’s “patrimony!” ;-)

    • November 25, 2010

      John, there is that snag! But they would be safe at St Clement’s, and might enjoy the wild diversity that is the Episcopal Church.

  4. Steve permalink
    November 25, 2010

    @Ruth – but it already does!

  5. Stephen permalink
    November 27, 2010

    I’m still in the R C Church, because I love her sacraments and rituals, and love her so much as my Holy, but flawed, Mother that I could never take the final step and depart from her despite the fact that I have taken the “Inquirer’s Class” in the Episcopal Church, two differnt times in my adult life. Having said all that, I honestly do wonder why The Episcopal Church has been so polite about all this. It seemed to me that as I was going through my period of searching I encountered many Roman Catholics in the pews with me at places like St Clement’s, St Mark’s Locust Street and Saint Luke and The Epiphany. These places served as spiritual refuges to many R.C’s who felt rejected by their “Mother Church” and yet still needed the Sacraments.

    So many in Conservative Roman Catholic circles from the Pope on down have made such an issue of welcoming Anglicans who feel disaffected by the ordination of women, and the inclusion of one openly_Gay person in the episcopate, that I just wonder why the Anglican Church never points out that it is sheltering multitudes of hurting Roman Catholics. It would certainly add some balance to a very necessary ongoing discussion.

  6. Fr Roger Holmes permalink
    November 30, 2010

    What would happen if the entire Anglican Church applied to join the Ordinariate? Why don’t we do it just for fun.

    • December 1, 2010

      What fun that would be! But we’d soon discover that our idea of fun is not that of the Curia, and in fact that they suspect that fun is an Anglican heresy (as it may well be, thank God!)

    • Bromartin permalink
      December 1, 2010

      How would this be “fun?” Are you suggesting that such a movement would be wonderful, or facetiously presenting a joke or test for the RCC? I don’t know you well enough to draw a conclusion from your statement.

      • December 1, 2010

        Oh no, not wonderful.
        By fun, I mean that I can’t take the Ordinariate too seriously: if I wanted to be a Roman Catholic I would go tomorrow and be one. I wouldn’t want to take any Anglican baggage with me. Even if I were a married priest, one can now be re-ordained with that baggage too.

        • Bromartin permalink
          December 2, 2010

          Canon Reid,

          I was not questioning your remarks, but those of Father Holmes, who spoke just before you.

  7. PJM permalink
    December 2, 2010

    This post lacks any real thought and is an insult to those in both the Roman and Anglican communions who strive to build the bridge to a deeper understanding.

    If your intent was to attack Rome, shame on you. No Church is perfect and the Episcopal Church is certainly not exempt from that.

    You speak of the closed RC churches in the city of Philadelphia. Have you failed to recognize the growing numbers in suburban parishes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia? If you look at demographics, you’ll see that the growth is directly proportional to the population growth in the suburbs versus the city. Talk about a missionary Church!

    I suspect that if S. Clement’s didn’t have its endowment, it would be right up there with the list of closed urban churches.

  8. Fr Roger Holmes permalink
    December 2, 2010

    Fun is clearly the wrong word, started by Fr Reid at the beginning of this conversation (Hello, Gordon! and a belated happy St Andrew’s Day to you) and I would not wamt to trifle with serious and sacred things. But several people above have expressed hurt and anger at the number of Christians now alienated from the Church by the Church. Sweeping the house clean is virtually certain to lead to an even worse case; we are bidden to leave the tares and the wheat together, and above all to have fervent charity and to work for the good of all especially members of the household of the faith.

    The concept of “validity” seems to me to cause too many problems, leading to the clean sweep and the squeaky clean church, which is sectarianism. God the Holy Spirit is not bound by these (his own) rules as St Thomas Aquinas teaches, and although here on earth we are bound to strive for order in the Church, we must do it in faith and hope and above all in charity.

    The Ordinariate accepts some baggage but rejects other. If it just accepted us all (and vice versa) that might be a step towards the unity for which our Lord prays.

  9. Paul Goings permalink
    December 2, 2010

    I suspect that if S. Clement’s didn’t have its endowment, it would be right up there with the list of closed urban churches.

    A long time ago, in fact. The standard of giving at S. Clement’s is generally abysmal.

  10. Chris Bates permalink
    December 3, 2010

    I have really come to love this forum!! Kudos to all that has be said!! I am nearly on the cusp of leaving the RC because of many disagreemnents I have with her and some of the mean treatment I have received at the hands of her ministers. Indeed, I had my time as a seminarian cut short because I dared dissent from contraception. I wasn’t even granted a hearing. Many times I feel like a man w/o a country; the Anglo-Catholic option within the Episcopal Church is strating to look better & better already. A blessed Advent to all and keep up the excellent work, Fr. Reid!!!

  11. Stephen permalink
    December 3, 2010

    A Word To PJM if I may, Father,

    I can’t speak with as much first-hand knowledge about the situation regarding closed and merged RC parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as I can about things on this side of the river, but I know that here in the Diocese of Camden our Bishop has been in the unenviable position of having to close or merge many suburban parishes, along with some of the parishes in the See City of Camden. Some of the parishes in the more distant suburbs that are thriving are doing so , because in so many cases the people who fled cities a generation or two ago(or their children and grandchiledren) for the immediate suburbs, have found that their dreams of an all-white utopia have not been realized, and once again, they are keeping moving companies and realtors happily employed! Is that something of which we should be proud?

    As for an endowment being the only thing that is keeping St Clement’s open, IF that is the case (and I emphasize IF because I don’t know) all I can say is God Bless the deceased benefactor(s) who left the endowment! Because as far as I’m concerned, Saint Clement’s ia a shining beacon! and its Rector is a true Man of God!

  12. Jack Richards permalink
    December 4, 2010

    You state: ” Andrew Sullivan recently wrote a very perceptive blog about the huge number of Roman Catholics who are so dissatisfied with their Church’s teachings on divorce, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, married priests, women priests (not to mention dear old contraception), that they have almost stopped going to Mass”.

    The Roman Catholic Church cannot change the Law of God to suit the fashions of the time. That is the weakness Anglicanism. It tries to be all things to all men. There are Ten Commandments. They cannot be changed. It is time for Anglicanism to get back to basic Christianity. Premarital sex is a MORTAL SIN full stop. So lets call it as it is and not be weak kneed. You mention contraception: Contraception has spawned a huge increase in extra marital sex. Just look at the explosion in teenage pregnancies. It has also encouraged marital infidelity and an explosion of sexual irresponsibility and disease. Women have just become sex objects to be used by men and then discarded. When contraception fails the next step is abortion. And to be clear let’s call it as it is: the murder of the unborn child in the womb.
    Do you seriously believe that Jesus Christ is happy with this?

    • December 6, 2010

      But of course the Roman Catholic Church can change its teaching. At least I certainly hope it can. In the sixteenth century Rome taught that the burning of heretics at the stake was pleasing to God – and made sure that He got what He wanted. Would Rome still say and do the same today, or has it changed its teaching on the matter? I would certainly hope so.

  13. Stephen permalink
    December 6, 2010

    Amen, CJ Somers-Edgar! While the gentleman who posted immediately before you may be right that the Ten Commandments themselves haven’t changed over the course of millenia, The Church’s understanding of their meaning has certainly changed within my lifetime. I was trained for First Holy Communion and First Penance circa 1966. I was taught that visiting a non-Catholic worship service was a sin to be confessed under the first Commandment. By 1974, I remember being in a local Lutheran Church with both my parents (one RC one Methodist) at an Ecumenical Service. If such attendance was sinful, nobody informed our Monsignor who was participating in the service, or the Franciscan nun who was principal of our school. She was also happily attending the service,and I Thank God for the changes that allowed us all to be there with clear consciences!

    • Little Black Sambo permalink
      December 9, 2010

      You are confusing discipline with doctrine. One changes, the other doesn’t (or shouldn’t).

      • December 10, 2010

        Did the Roman Catholic Church really burn people to death simply as a matter of discipline? Surely such an appalling punishment deserves a better reason than that.

  14. December 8, 2010

    As an historical aside, I believe the first choice of a name for the southern dioceses in the US during the Civil War was precisely the “American Catholic Church.” Alas, they ended up being much more conservative and going with the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.”

  15. Jack Richards permalink
    December 10, 2010

    Interesting article titled “One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope” can be viewed at

  16. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 21, 2010

    There is nothing new here, Fr. Reid. Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve craved the knowlege of good and evil. Not for them any way of doing things that required consenting to an authority other than themselves, even if that authority is God Himself speaking directly to them.

    Ah, but these dissenting people are only rebelling against human authorities. Surely were God Himself to speak to them they would gladly pay heed!

    But there is no wisdom in the sin of pride! They wouldn’t listen though one were to rise from the dead.

    No Father! There is nothing new here at all!

  17. January 5, 2011

    Mr. Reid, King Henry VIII would be very proud of you. Isn’t convenience . . . convenient?

    • Stephen permalink
      January 6, 2011

      Priests are among some of the finest people I have ever met in my life. Unfortunately, a few priests I have met have been nasty, mean-spirited, hypocritical blow-hards! In any case, I have always addressed them as “Father”. That is a title of address that I feel is owed to any validly-ordained priest in the Church.

      A fine and humble Rector like Father Reid, probably won’t point this out on his own, and I fully realize that addressing him as “Mister Reid” was probably a deliberate insult on your part, Mister Mulligan. I just want to note that a faithful reader of this blog, I thoroughly resent that insult!

      • January 11, 2011

        I am a Roman Catholic. We do not accept the validity of Anglican orders.

        Good day, sir.

        • Scott permalink
          January 11, 2011

          Which is the understood Roman Catholic position. However, it does not mean Anglican orders are actually invalid. As an Anglican, of course, I believe they are.

          • Scott permalink
            January 11, 2011

            Are valid, that is.

  18. Bromartin permalink
    January 11, 2011

    Too bad! For years, Anglicans of all persuasions argued for full Apostolic recognition of their Holy Orders, and Catholic claims; however, more recent novelties, a selfish dilution of Orders and so many arguments over the basic tenets of the faith, have disqualified the claims. I do applaud S.Clement’s for at least putting on a ritual expression of comprehensive catholicism.

    • Bromartin permalink
      January 11, 2011

      The “validity” of Holy Orders is not simply a personal argument. It’s hard to argue with a body of Christians who, through thick and thin, have worked to uphold the faith and order of the Apostles, with responsibility and accountability.

      RCs have always been able to ultimately maintain the Truth of the Gospel, in spite of so many human cultural pressures.

      • Mikhail Ramendik permalink
        July 8, 2011

        Maintaining the Truth of the Gospel by starting ruthless murderous wars of aggression, like the one in Provence?

        Maintaining the Truth of the Gospel by proclaiming that it is “an error” that burning heretics is against the will of the Spirit? (Exsurge Dominus 33)

        I am unhappy about the tendency, evident in some Anglican circles, to proclaim homosexual behaviour as good and proper. This is, in my view, a grave error. But Rome proclaimed MURDER ITSELF to be good and proper for centuries – the very same error, if not worse!

        Henry VIII, you say? Well, that great saint of yours, Thomas More, whom he beheaded, was quite instrumental in judicial murder of several people for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. This was the Thomas More who wrote that he would not want to live to the day when RCs agreed not to persecute the heretics if those don’t persecute them – well, Henry surely helped him with his request!

        Rome is no judge here. Rome is quite unrepentant of its own blessing of mortal sin, so its indigance at Anglicanism doing the same sounds somewhat less pure.

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