A most revealing patrimony

As the attempt to define Anglican patrimony continues to occupy the blogosphere, Ed Tomlinson has a radical suggestion for redefining the parameters

I am willing to bet that no member of Forward in Faith placed the words ‘Anglican’ and ‘patrimony’ together with enthusiasm prior to the papal offer of an Ordinariate. But since Anglicanorum coetibus was unveiled those words have suddenly been twinned with passionate frequency, to the bemusement of many on the blogosphere.

What exactly is our patrimony? And would we want it preserved should we locate it? Might this need for a distinctly Anglican patrimony even derail us, exposing us for the liturgical thieves that we are, or even force us to adopt services long forgotten? After all, it has long been quipped that ‘Rome does the words and we do the choreography’!

The paradox of being forced to become more Anglican simply to qualify for conversion chilled many early commentators. One wag on my blog wondered with glee if Ordinariate members would one day be found standing north end in the Vatican with chasubles abandoned! Others feared an end to a Roman Rite which many now love as their own. Doubtless the Prayer Book Society was cheering at this thought whilst many a modernist wept into their beer.

How Anglican are we?

Such fear will prove pointless for rumour has it that our ‘Anglican patrimony’ is both deeper and more subtle than mere external trappings. What relief! We can surrender those preaching scarves to the moths and return our ASBs to our doorstops. But what of the patrimony? How are we to define it in a discernable and helpful way?

What exactly are we meant to bring with us if it is not our liturgy and devotion? And in what way will a future Ordinariate retain an Anglican presence? The search for our patrimony continues…

Certain internet commentators have seemed embarrassed when the search proves demanding. What does it say about us modern AngloCatholics that we struggle so much to locate our own patrimony? It is a particularly acute problem on this side of the Atlantic where we no longer share the American allegiance to the B CP. We are a Romanist bunch to the core and perhaps it is time to admit this. How Anglican are we? And whose fault is it anyway?

If we are thoroughly Romanized and not remotely Anglican (and who could deny it?) it is only because the Church of England has allowed it. Certainly I learnt my Romanist ways in her bosom and she seems thoroughly unbothered by this fact. So here is a radical suggestion – let’s stop pretending a lack of ‘Common Worship’ style identity should bother us. We are not broad Anglicans, we never were and we never will be. And being broad Anglicans is not what Rome desires in any case.

A new focus

Instead let us narrow the search by defining our own set parameters. Let us unpick our patrimony from our own sound formation. Why bother with the traditions of a wider Anglicanism which our forebears so deplored?

Instead let us cleave to the things that they taught us. We are children of Newman, Pusey and Froude and it is they who must guide us to unity with Rome.

Focusing solely on the Oxford fathers, and Blessed John Henry Newman in particular, changes the picture entirely. How precious the intellectual rigour of Newman and Pusey!

How necessary the focus on worship and prayer. And who would not want to bottle a love for the people, thus ensuring our pastoral care for the poor, such a benchmark of Anglo-Catholic witness, is carried like treasure as we enter our home? We need the zeal, the passion and the unity that launched the Catholic movement and we need our cherished guilds and societies as well.

Encouraging and wonderful

Here then is a patrimony, a discernable history to sustain us with a familiar fraternity to feed us. How glorious if SSC went from praying for unity on Canterbury’s shores to calling others to safety from Rome! How inspiring if the Guild of All Souls carried the deceased across the Tiber to continue their prayers for salvation! Not that all societies will survive. The political Forward in Faith will no longer be needed, for persecution will be a thing of the past.

Doubtless there will be other things besides, and it will be for bishops on both sides of the Tiber to discern this, but that will do for me. We need little else, for we are not becoming a sect within Rome but entering her doors as full members.

So as we struggle to locate our Anglican identity, let us smile and not squirm. Let us see in our Tractarian identity an encouraging and wonderful thing. The things we hold dear – stations of the cross, rosary, daily Mass, formal confession, angelus, benediction and more – were never ours to begin with.

So let us go home and reclaim them as our own. But let us do this with our history. We make the right steps! Where Blessed Newman leads let all Ordinariate members follow. ND