If you are like me and get lost in the complex world of Anglo-Catholicism and the whole "will they or won't they enter the Catholic Church?" debate, you need to read this wonderful post from the Churchmouse Campanologist. (What a great name for a blog!)
It is a summary of an interview with the witty and ever enlightening master of the Sub Tuum blog, Brother Stephen. Once Anglican, now a Catholic and a Cistercian monk.
Some highlights to give you the flavour:
Are there any (Anglo-Catholics)who swam the Thames, so to speak?
"In fact, many Anglo-Catholics are ex-Roman Catholics who crossed the Channel because they disagreed with Roman Catholic doctrine or wanted to escape the post-Vatican II Church for both liberal and conservative reasons."
How Catholic are Anglo-Catholics?
"Among traditional Anglo-Catholics, you will find those who believe in 3, 4, 7, 19, 20, and 21 councils as well as those who believe that no council taught infallibly. It is safe to say that traditional Anglo-Catholics generally believe in via media, 3 to 7 ecumenical councils, and lay government. Most traditional A-Cs get from a little to very queasy at the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and any form of devotion that is too ’sentimental’. Many hold an idea of the real presence that owes as much to Luther as to Trent. A confessional in the back of the church is often considered to be an important symbol, but few consider it necessary to be a regular penitent."
Sherry: It is funny in a stomach churning sort of way. I'd laugh but my mouth is too busy dropping. Back to the interview.
Tell me more.
"Essayist Florence King spoke well to another aspect of the Anglican mindset when she wrote, ‘I don’t care about church and state so long as the church and stateliness go hand in hand.’ Traditional Roman Catholics hoping for reinforcements need to understand that traditional Anglo-Catholics are conservative compared to other Anglicans, but that is a very different proposition than the ideological and social agenda held by many traditionalist Roman Catholics. Many, probably most, traditional Anglo-Catholics have no objection to things like women in the diaconate, contraception, remarriage, or suitably discreet same-sex relationships. There are certainly Anglo-Catholics who support the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life and who are vexed by the Robinson consecration, but these are generally not the parishes whose photos make their way around the Catholic blog circuit … The folks who agree with Catholic social teaching are more likely to be liturgically low-key modern rite people."
Whoa. As someone who spent two years in a standard issue Episcopalian parish on my way in, this is illuminating and disconcerting all at the same time. Obviously, the whole picture is way more complicated than I thought.
Not because he was born in Vietnam. Not because he was a Jesuit scholastic before he discerned that his call was to the secular apostolate and politics. And certainly not because he was the only Republican to vote for the health care reform package. (Catholics are free to honestly disagree about the practical application of the Church's teaching in a given situation.)
What I find so remarkable is how Cao describes the prayer and discernment that went into his decision:
"Cao: I still use the Ignatian methods almost every day, from examination of conscience back to the methods of the 30 day retreat. I do that very often. Using the whole process of discernment to see where the Sprit is moving me has been extremely important, especially in my recent decision to support the health care reform plan. The Jesuit emphasis on social justice, the fact that we have to advocate for the poor, for the widow, for those who cannot help themselves, plays a very significant part. But at the end of the day, I believe that it’s up to, at least from my perspective, understanding what does my conscience say, how is the Spirit moving me. I use that almost every day in my decision making process. The issues that we contend with in Congress affect every single person here in the United States, so I want to make sure that my decisions are based on good principals and good morals.
For example, right before the [health care] vote, I actually went to Mass and I prayed. And the theme of the day was one of the readings from Isaiah. The priest gave the homily about be not afraid, so I really felt a personal touch during this homily, that this homily was meant for me. I was going through a lot of turmoil, debating on what was the right decision, knowing the fact that if I were to vote ‘yes’, I would be the most hated Republican in the country. [laughs]. So, it was a tough discernment process but I felt during the Mass that it was speaking directly to me. It gave me the strength to say ‘yes, you have to make the right decision’ and ‘be not afraid’ to do it because ‘I will go before you’ so that is why I supported the bill knowing the fact that I would be the only one."
(Ca made it clear months before the vote that "I would not support a bill that would support federal funding of abortion.")
I'm just struck by his prayerfulness, his sense of the presence of God, and constant desire to seek to will of God as a politician. This is a true Catholic seeking to live his office for God and the common good. And his detachment:
Cao: "The question, ultimately, is ‘what is God’s will for me in my life?’ I see everything in life as a gift. I’m not too attached to my position. I’m not too attached to being a U.S. congressman. I see myself as being there to serve God, to do what is God’s will in my life, and if things happen to change, the next year or two, then I’m pretty happy and pretty satisfied. That’s how I approach my life, one day at a time and make sure that each and every day, what I do is according to how God’s will is for me on that day."
Wow. A man whose spiritual courage, intention, and integrity you can count on and respect even if you disagree with his conclusions. A politician disciple-discerner.
Marvelous and inspiring. What a model for lay apostles in the public square. May his tribe ever increase!
P.S. Let's keep our comments to the topic at hand which is Representative Cao's spiritual and discernment practices in the midst of his high visibility, high pressure, political life. This is of universal importance to all lay apostles seeking to do God's will in whatever position God has called us to.
What spiritual practices and disciplines have you found enable you to stay centered in God and discern the good in the midst of your work?
Barrister Neil Addison has written extensively about the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the crucifix over on his blog. He believes that the ruling may have implications for Britain.
“As several press articles on the case have pointed out the court did not expressly order the school to remove its crucifix but this is because the court does not have the power to make such orders what it does do is find a violation of the convention and then the Italian government has to report back to the Council of Europe exactly what it proposes to do in order to impliment the ruling which in this case will mean removing crucifixes from the classrooms, courts public buildings etc. In the UK because of s2 of the Human Rights Act the ruling has effect as a binding precedent in UK law and I suspect we will shortly be hearing about public displays of Christmas decorations being removed, School nativity plays being banned etc by local authorities who will say they are acting in accordance with this court ruling.
"Unless the Grand Chamber of the ECHR overrules this Judgment on appeal Italy, and indeed the rest of Europe, has a serious problem; for example in Greek and Cypriot Schools it is common to see Icons displayed, but under this judgment those Icons will have to be removed and, arguably so will displays of Christianity from all Public buildings throughout Europe."
However I do wonder if perhaps this Judgment may, in time, come to be seen as European "Dredd Scott" case ie a moment when the implications of a Court ruling are so significant and so contrary to public opinion that they lead to a public backlash. Americans will, be familiar with the 1857 Dredd Scott case when the US Supreme Court defended slavery to such an extent that, in effect, it extended slavery to the free as well as the slave states and that ultimately strengthened the abolitionist movement and is often quoted as a leading cause of the American Civil War. I often refer to the Dredd Scott case when arguing with my more "liberal" legal colleagues who simplistically believe that Supreme Courts are always filled with nice liberal types who will uniformly do the right thing. They are not, Judges are as prone to personal prejudices as anyone else which is the danger of trying to use the Courts to force change in society rather than relying on the slower processes of democracy, voting and debate.
If I can misquote Abraham Lincoln
"We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Europe are on the verge of becoming a multi-faith society, and we shall awake to the reality instead, that the European Court has made Europe a non-faith society"
Anna is tracking this story as it unfolds, so watch her blog for UK developments.
We will could be calling him "Venerable" John Paul II by Christmas - or so this story from Inside Catholic implies.
The Congregation for Saints Causes has voted unanimously that John Paul II be recognized as having "heroically lived the Christian virtues" and be declared "venerable". All that is necessary is for Pope Benedict to sign the decree and December is usually one time of the year when the Pope does so.
I'm re-reading George Weigel's biography right now and feel that I am reading it for the first time. I have felt a great deal of regret that I missed so much of his early years: the significance of his election, the drama of his first trip to Poland, etc. I didn't come to until he had been Pope for nearly 8 years and so I didn't witness the early impact of his relative youth and incredible energy, warmth, and joy.
And I only saw him at the end of his life - far away on the rolling platform that enabled him to navigate the center aisle of St. Peter's in his old age.
But I miss him. And I am truly delighted to see his cause moving so quickly.
THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT JOHN HENRY NEWMAN'S THEORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE.
So there is not need to keep saying "You've got Newman all wrong." Cause this post is not about that. Which is why you'll notice that I didn't write about Newman's understanding of the development of Doctrine at all. Really. Capiche?
This post is about how people actually experience and understand the meaning of their conversion at the personal level. The current popular understanding of Newman’s famous phrase is that Christian history is European history and that an essential and nearly universal motivation for becoming Catholic is (and should be) seeking to connect with one's historic roots in western Christendom, and that anyone who is "deep in history" will become Catholic.
Which is not true for the hundreds of millions of new Catholics in Africa and Asia whose familial, historical, and cultural roots are in one of the ancient non-Christian faiths. How instead of the common experience in the west of coming home to one's historical and cultural roots in Catholicism, many African and Asian converts experience becoming Catholic as a new thing, that requires a significant break from their own historical and cultural roots.
My point is how real people understand what becoming Catholic means in light of their own lived cultural and historical context. And how different that looks in the west with our historical experience and in the new Catholic communities of the global south. Not that the western pattern is bad or invalid. Just that it isn't the only pattern.
And now back to the original post.
One corollary of becoming a "World Church" as John Allen terms it.
How often have I heard Catholic apologists and writers quote John Henry Newman: "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant"?
Fr. Dwight Longenecker over at Standing on My Head has another thoughtful post this morning on the proposed Anglican Ordinariate and after reading Allen this weekend, I was struck afresh by the language he uses:
"I believe that the new Anglican Ordinariate will eventually become a bridge into full communion with the historic Church for Protestants of many different backgrounds. Many Catholics do not realize that there are large numbers of Evangelical Christians who look very longingly at the historic liturgical churches. They hold to the historic faith, but they want to belong to a historic church."
And all this is very true - for western European culture Christians. Catholicism is the historic church for western Christians and Protestantism is the Johnny-come-lately. It was most certainly true for Newman, steeped in the writing of the early Fathers, and writing as the most English of men.
A love of and longing for historical depth and continuity is one of the most common themes in the sort of English language conversion stories that conservative Catholics love to read. It is a very common theme on Catholic blogs. To the point that those of us where aren't primarily drawn to the Church by a longing for historicity, authority, and a bulwark against western secularism, can feel very much out of place in the contemporary Catholic scene.
As though those were the only possible reasons for a 21st century man or woman to choose to follow Jesus Christ in the heart of his Body on earth.
But what about those Catholics who live in a world where Catholicism, indeed Christianity of any kind, is brand new? John Allen points out that most Catholic growth in sub-saharan Africa has happened in the late 20th century. And the same is true in large parts of Asia and in those parts of the Muslim world which are starting to see significant conversions to Christianity. One, or at most, two generations deep.
A large part of Catholicism where to be "deep in history" is to be Buddhist or Hindu, or Muslim or animist. Or perhaps another kind of Christian: Nestorian or Orthodox or Coptic or Melkite?
Where being a Catholic is profoundly new and literally "ahistorical" as far as your own family or culture or national history is concerned.
Where being a Catholic looks historically a lot more like being an evangelical in the west. Like a break with history in order to follow Christ, not a return to historical cultural roots.
Where a "thick" Catholic culture won't exist for generations, if not centuries, because it has to be created from scratch.
History is critical for European culture peoples who lived through the historical break of the Reformation. Particularly in the western English speaking world where the trauma and historical amnesia was great.
But we are not the whole world. We are, in fact, a fairly small minority within the larger Church. For large parts of the southern majority, in Africa and Asia, Catholicism is mostly new and the spiritual hunger it answers is usually not historical.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel pointed out years ago in his wonderful book "Spiritual Passages" that Catholic spiritual theology has long recognized that people seek God under many guises. The Good. The Beautiful. The True. The One. Not The Historical. (And I write this as someone who has been passionately interested in history since I was a small child and for the historical dimensions of Catholicism are very important - but not the reason I became Catholic.)
If it is legitimate and fitting for southern Christians to seek Christ without reference to history, as a wholly new revelation of God, it is surely appropriate for western Christians to do the same. Every historic Christian culture began that way. Even the Irish and the Poles had a first generation of Christians. Throughout history and around the world, people have sought and encountered Christ and Christianity as something fresh and revolutionary that called them beyond their individual and collective history.
Which is important to remember because so many millions of young adults in the west now no long have any living connection to Christianity as a culture or a historical past. For them, the fall of the Berlin wall is ancient history and there are no memories of Christendom at all. And a genuine living Christian faith is something absolutely new in their experience.
In every generation, the first mission of ecclesial insiders is not to create a dream church for ourselves, but to proclaim Christ to our own generation. For so many of whom, today - in Europe or Asia or Africa - the Catholic faith is truly something new.
And for whom, to be deep in history is to to be anything but Catholic.
Global, Uncompromising, Pentecostal, and Extroverted"
That's how John Allen sums up what the observable Catholic Church of the 21st century is going to look like in his new book, The Future Church. But that summary is 432 pages in. Before you get there, Allen takes his readers on quite a ride.
Allen's book is 480 pages long, his thesis is as broad as the future of Catholicism, and it is just hard to wrap your mind around it all. Allen covers an enormous number of topics under the heading of his ten chosen trends, all fueled by a thousand statistics and anecdotes. The book reads like a patchwork made up of a series of short articles or blog posts (if you have been reading Allen’s blog over the last few years, you will recognize material.)
I'm not complaining exactly. Allen's view of the Catholic global scene from 30,000 feet is extraordinarily valuable, especially for western Christians caught up in our insider struggles. It is a salutary reminder that our world is not the Catholic world.
Allen is a journalist, not a theologian or historian or scholar. But I found myself wishing over and over that he would (or could) go into greater depth on a given topic, that he would stop and really dig in rather than hurtle breathlessly along. His reader will have to work to stitch it all together meaningfully for themselves. And humble bloggers will have to work even harder!
Where to begin? It is appropriate that right after a post on a new Orthodox/Catholic ecumenical effort to join forces in the face of secularism, I should write about how very different the world looks for the majority of Catholics who live in the global South.
The first trend is The World Church. As John Allen puts it: "outside of Europe and some elite pockets in the United States, secularism is not really a grassroots phenomenon." For Christians in the South, the issue is “a highly competitive religious marketplace.”
Southern Catholics are wrestling with pluralism, not secularism. In the southern context, Catholicism doesn't strike people as hidebound and conservative but rather as moderate and sophisticated. And in many places, the struggle is how to manage staggering growth, not steady decline.
In Nigeria, for instance, the Church's structures are stretched to the breaking point trying to catechize new converts and form new priests. The country has the largest seminary in the world - 1,100 men strong. In the South, Catholicism is often very young, historically and biologically. The huge growth in numbers has taken place over the past 50 years. “In sub-Saharan Africa, Catholicism is almost entirely the product of the late twentieth century.” And the majority are still children. Young and on the rise.
In light of my work on the 17th century French revival, I found this prediction fascinating: "Places such as Nairobi, Manila, and Sao Paulo are . . . likely to be to the twenty first century what Paris, Milan, and Leuven were to the Counter-Reformation, meaning the laboratories in which creative new theological and pastoral approaches of the era take shape."
And this will really help us grasp the gap in experience between northern and southern Christians. What are two of the biggest pastoral issues in the Global South? Polygamy and witchcraft. Seriously.
In February 2007, The Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, held a three day symposium on the pastoral challenge of witchcraft. Experts warned that witchcraft was “destroying” the Catholic Church in Africa, in part because skeptical, Western-educated clergy are not responding adequately to people’s spiritual needs.”
“Witchcraft is a reality; it is not a superstition. Many communities in Kenya know these powers exist.” Said Michael Katola, a lecturer in pastoral theology. Katola warned that inadequate pastoral responses are driving some African into Pentecostalism.
“Many of our Christians seek deliverance, healing, and exorcism from other denominations because priests do not realize they have redemptive powers”, he said. “If we don’t believe in the existence of witchcraft as Satanism, then we cannot deal with it.”
I was steeped in such a perspective in my early evangelical missionary days. As I tried to sum it up as a newly Confirmed baby Catholic:
This is the recognition of what is called “The Excluded Middle”. The theory goes as follows: Western missionaries carried their rationalist and anti-supernaturalist cultural assumptions with them and went to people saturated with a spiritual worldview that incorporated minor deities, demons, curses, charms, and spells into daily life.
Western rationalist dismissed these beliefs as mere superstition and converted people to a worldview of a “high” Trinitarian God and a “low” moral code of behavior. The “middle” realm of demons and spells was never addressed, but it would not go away. These people have lived for many generations with the spiritual realities of the demonic, had seen people die of curses, and know, whatever the missionary said, that these things are real. To deal with them, they turned once again to their traditional spiritual practices and the result was the various forms of Christo-paganism.
To fill this gap, evangelical missionaries looked once again to the early Church and found in the experience of Pentecost and the healings, prophecies, and miracles of the Book of Acts, a Christian answer for the “excluded middle.” This approach has come to be called “power evangelism.
Allen’s comment? "It does not tax the imagination to picture a future pope from the global South issuing an encyclical presenting Jesus Christ as the definitive answer to the “spirits of this world . . . The implicit Christology of many Africans is that of “Christus Victor” whose resurrection invested him with definitive power to vanquish the dark forces in the spiritual world, to break spells, and to reverse curses."
See what I mean? You follow a single strand of Allen’s and you end up in a whole new world. And there are 100 such strands in The Future Church, all fascinating and with big implications. More in another post.
Archbishop Hilarion, working with a team of young Orthodox clergy and laymen, decided to found the St. Gregory Nazianzus Foundation in order to work together with Catholics and others in the West, to support traditional spiritual values in Russia, but also throughout the world.
St. Gregory was a theologian in the 300s, well before the division of the Church into East and West, and so is venerated both by the Catholics and by the Orthodox. He is a Father of the Church for all Christians. The co-founders of this new foundation are Archbishop Hilarion and Vadim Yakunin, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Russia. Yakunin has made a personal commitment to support the spiritual and social vision articulated by Patriarch Kirill.
“We want to try to attract the attention of religious believers, in Russia and abroad, who believe in traditional Christian values, and who want to contribute to making society more just and more moral,” Sevastianov told me.
“We want to promote the idea of the unity between the West and Russia on the basis of common Christian roots. We believe in this alliance among traditional Christian countries, and we believe we need to talk with one voice in the face of secularism and a false ‘liberalism,’ and we believe that, with a united voice, we can be a strong force against the radical secular world which has become dominant in our societies.
What I have seen so far is short on details but the idea is wonderful. Just the fact that it is being publicly proposed is significant.
This story was making the rounds over at First Things (The Anchoress and Gateway Pundit) this weekend so I thought I'd post my response here as well.
The headline? 800,000 Sudanese Muslims Have Become Christians. The source? A Dutch article, somewhat mangled by internet translation.
Grossly exaggerated - on the scale of the 6 million Muslims become Christians every year story that was circulating last year. There have indeed been many conversions in southern Sudan but they are almost all from non-Muslim backgrounds. As I commented on both blogs:
"I hate to be the one to burst people’s bubble but I’m in touch with the major networks of missionary news and statistics and nothing on this scale is being reported for Muslims in Sudan. Evangelicals follow this sort of thing assiduously and they love to crunch numbers.
Arab World Ministries puts it this way:
“Estimates of Sudanese Muslims who have become Christians range from 200 to 2000. With decades of prayer and nearly fruitless ministry behind, a harvest among Northern Sudanese Muslims seems to be beginning.”
“The population in the north is largely Sunni Muslim, though among them are 300,000 or more Coptic Christians and maybe 2 million southern Christians displaced by war. Sufi religious orders are strong – especially Ansar, followers of the famous Mahdi. A small but increasing number have become Christians – disillusioned by Islam and attracted to Jesus. There are probably some thousands of these. There are reports of whole villages turning to Christ. Pray that their numbers may increase. There is a remarkable openness among many.”
So there have been some conversions but maybe 2,000 – which is really significant - but not 800,000.
I think the source of these numbers is Joel Rosenberg who is an evangelical who writes popular thriller novels. His numbers are greatly exaggerated. (I don’t know where he got them.)
There are really significant numbers of Muslims becoming Christians in the past 20 -30 years – but not numbers like this. The largest numbers that I have ever seen reported are 10,000 (Algeria) or 20,000 (Turkey) – which are staggering – if you know the history of Muslim missions.
When you hear suspiciously large, rounded numbers like this – millions or hundreds of thousands of Muslims becoming Christians – always check out the numerous evangelical missionary resources online – Joshua report, Operation World, or some of the agencies focusing on the Muslim world.
Cause chances are, those numbers, as in this case, are wildly inflated.
I have and am reading the new John Allen book, The Future Church, which came out on Tuesday.
There has been some harruphing going on around the Catholic blogosphere about this book. From the left and the right. Some by those who have actually read it. And some by those who haven't. Basically, they didn't see their favorite thing(s) listed as one of the Ten "Trends" that are "revolutionizing" the Catholic Church.
Allen has a whole chapter on how he ultimately picked the trends to focus upon. He received input from all over the world and some of it is very amusing. There was the "persistent reader" who insisted that Allen include the work of Rene Girard on "mimetic desire." Another who said that the heart of the matter was "String Theory".
As Allen sums it up:
"One rule of thumb I developed in light of such proposal: If I have to google a proposed trend to figure out what it means, it's probably not setting the Catholic world on fire."
Allen's criteria for choosing a trend: (I've tried to simplify his categories for a blog post. When I quote Allen directly, I do so in quotes.)
1) It had to be "global as opposed to something associated primarily with a given country or region."
2) It has to have "a significant impact on the Catholic grassroots." (beyond theologians, activists, clergy and - gasp! - journalists and bloggers)
3) The leadership of the Church has to be engaged with the trend and it must have the potential to influence Catholics institutional structures.
4) The trend has to have "explanatory power." It must help us understand a wide variety of events, issues and developments.
5) The trend needs to have "predictive power". It must help us understand where the Church will likely go in the 21st century.
6) "It cannot be ideologically driven" and must be a current that Catholics across the spectrum can acknowledge is real. (Regardless of whether individuals think the trend in question is a helpful or damaging trend.)
I know a fair amount about (and have blogged) about six of the trends Allen writes about: a world church, evangelical Catholicism, the new demography, lay roles, multipolarism, and pentecostalism. I have a pre-Catholic personal and academic background in the 7th trend: Islam.
And am fairly clueless about three of the trends: globalization, ecology, and the biotech revolution. It should be interesting.
Since the breadth of the topics covered is so enormous, I'll probably be blogging on one topic at a time.
For sure,my next book is going to be on The Influence of Mimetic Desire and The Da Vinci Code on String Theory. It'll be a page turner. Stay tuned!
i found it on this blog of the British Pakistani Christian Association, a new group headed up by what looks like two brothers: Alex & Wilson Choudrey. Their goal: bettering the lives of persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
Mary Baughman, my husband's mother, is scheduled to come home from the hospital today. The cardiologist thinks that her heart muscle emerged pretty much undamaged from the heart attack. She is sore from the surgery to repair the artery that was torn, but that is improving too. (The hospital's top surgeon "just happened" to be at hand at that critical moment and did the repair; otherwise we would have lost her.)
She'll not be ready to return to work for a while, but she is looking forward to sleeping in her own bed again. Hospitals are never good places for getting a good night's sleep.