Friday, 18 September 2009

Face it: most Anglicans are happy as they are

Ex-Anglican Fr Ashley Beck takes issue with a recent article suggesting that Anglo-Catholics are ready to stream across the Tiber.

Fifteen years ago, on a sunny Saturday in July 1994, after nine years of ordained ministry in the Church of England, I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at a quiet, ordinary lunchtime Mass in St George's Cathedral, Southwark, celebrated by the late Bishop Charles Henderson. Most of the people there were the ordinary cathedral congregation who didn't know me. Others were the priest who had prepared me and two priests from the local parish in the area where I had worked as an Anglican, as well as my mother and few other relatives and friends. My wife, Caroline, was pregnant with our first child. Afterwards, the cathedral administrator hosted a small informal reception and the archbishop dropped in to greet us.

At that time many were received in similar ceremonies all over the country, the fruit of a long process of discernment with bishops, priests and lay people: we were received with great warmth, understanding and generosity of spirit. This helped us realise that God was calling us into the Catholic Church, and to be priests in the Church. After two years of formation and the gaining of the necessary dispensation from Pope John Paul II, I was ordained a priest. For me and for those I knew, these were days of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So Damian Thompson's words in his article "We should throw a lifeline to struggling Anglicans" (Comment, August 7) are a false caricature when he says that in 1992 the "Bishops of England and Wales were not well disposed to 'misogynist' traditionalists, as they were unfairly characterised; the standard of English Catholic liturgy was at an all-time low; and Anglo-Catholicism, though divided and unhappy, still had the stomach for a fight..."

The bishops who dealt with people like me and our families could not have been more positive, and Thompson's picture is not only mistaken but an insult to the bishops and the memory of those who have since died, such as Bishop Henderson, Cardinal Hume, Archbishop Couve de Murville, Bishop Brewer and Bishop Clark.

We were given financial support. We were pastorally cared for and formation programmes were devised for us, taking account of our Anglican training and experience. At the ordination ceremonies a specific clause was introduced (with the Holy See's approval) which recognised the value of our Anglican ministry. We have worked in a variety of parish and other jobs and many of us have been given positions of responsibility and seniority in the Church in this country, receiving much support and affection in our parishes. We are at home and have not looked back, like Lot's wife. Read more
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