Might it be time for opponents to admit defeat and move on? We in the Ordinariate could help by welcoming them into an authentic Catholic community. After all there is only so long you can rumble along against the grain with impossible division before it hampers evangelistic capability. Even principled stands begin to look myopic and curmudgeonly after time and from the outside it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand what the remaining Anglo-Catholics think an achievable end game is for them?
There’s a lot more, so go on over and read the rest.
Fr. Tomlinson gives five reasons why, from experience, he prefers pastoring in little places, among them the sense of community you can’t get in a larger parish with hundreds of people. But here are a couple of items he mentioned that hadn’t occurred to me, but are interesting from a priest’s point of view. And true from my vantage point.
2. Liberation from worldly temptation. When I read of dire corruption in the Vatican or overly ambitious clergy playing political games I am grateful fate led me to a little place. Perhaps it saved me from myself? In small churches there is no money worth compromising a vocation for, no serious political games to win. With personal ambition thus frustrated, as it is within a fledgling Ordinariate, focus turns solely to Christ. A manifestly good thing for the soul.
3. Liberation from reprisal of bullies. It is sad to say but many priests today fear speaking out for the Gospel for fear of being hounded out by belligerent laity or vengeful prelates. Others fear loss of that little brown envelope. Not those already on the fringes. Again we can focus on Christ in a way that is good for the conscience.
One observation he doesn’t include—perhaps because it’s so self-evident to him that he doesn’t think to single it out—is the fact that smaller flocks mean that both clergy and fellow parishioners have a stronger likelihood of supporting each other pastorally—“accompaniment,” to use the term that has recently gained a purchase. This point is implied, perhaps, by his comment about effective bonding. But I mention the word “pastoral” since it calls up an important theological/spiritual tradition in English spirituality, including St. Aelred of Rievaulx’s splendid pastoral prayer.
Being comfortable with a smaller congregation is what many of us from the Anglican tradition know. This is often the case even in cathedrals. My experience of praying with some frequency at the cathedral of an English cathedral city (Durham) made it clear that the regulars who were there for the Daily Office formed what was, in effect, a small congregation that happened to meet in a large cathedral. (And the rood screen helped mark off a smaller space—the quire—in which this smaller group gathered to pray.)
Fr. Tomlinson’s observation not only about the pastoral mantle a priest of a small congregation can more effectively wear but also about being more rooted in a small community point to two elements in English spirituality’s deep monastic roots. Unlike the non-monastic orders, Benedictines/Cistercians take a vow of stability, which means their pastoral charism focuses on the local community. Stability includes, as Fr. Tomlinson remarks, confronting mistakes and learning from them.]