Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Kirk and Rome Unite

It is always a joy to welcome fellow former Anglicans into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  This weekend, we heard of the reception of Geoffrey Kirk by Monsignor John Broadhurst, and even though this was expected (not only through the self-evident logic for an Anglo-Catholic of joining the Ordinariate, but also in the more practical fact that we spotted Dr Kirk in the congregation at the Ordinariate Anniversary Evensong and Benediction), we are delighted to learn of the arrival amongst us of so eminent a former Anglo-Catholic.

The news was announced on the Ordinariate's own website as follows:
On Sunday 1 July 2012 Monsignor John Broadhurst received The Reverend Geoffrey Kirk into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, London.

Fr Kirk was an Anglican Priest for 40 years and Vicar of St Stephen’s, Lewisham for 30 years. As Secretary of Forward in Faith, Fr Kirk worked closely with its Chairman, Fr Broadhurst, over the past 20 years in developing Forward in Faith’s vision for unity and truth together with its statement on communion.

He also wrote extensively for “New Directions”, the monthly journal of Forward in Faith. Fr Kirk’s sponsors were Deacon Robbie Low and his wife Sara who were also both closely involved in work of FiF, Robbie was editor of "New Directions", before becoming Catholics several years ago.

The reception took place during the regular 11am Mass at the Church where the London (South) Ordinariate Group worships. Fr Christopher Pearson, the Pastor of the group, prepared Fr Kirk for his reception and said:

Many people have been inspired by Fr Geoffrey’s teaching, preaching and pastoral care over the years.  His intellect, writing and wit encouraged a generation in the Catholic movement within the Church of England. I hope that they will now be similarly inspired to follow Fr Kirk's actions in seeking visible unity.
Dr Kirk has been mentioned on this blog before, in connection with a stunning article he wrote for Forward-in-Faith's magazine New Directions.  We reproduce it in full below.  It is shocking in just how clear it is about the reality of the situation for any who still consider themself catholic in the Church of England.  It reminds the reader that inaction is not possible, an ostrich-like head in the sand approach is not possible, the Egyptian approach Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt is not possible.  If you like what the Church of England is doing, good for you, then we can all behave like adults and wish each other well in our disagreement.  However, if you don't, then there is only one logical path for you, and it does not involve sticking your fingers in your ears, pretending nothing is happening and claiming, despite ever-increasing evidence to the contrary, to be part of the Universal Church.
‘Final Approval of the current draft Women Bishops legislation is not a foregone conclusion; the best way to secure its safe passage would be to amend it to provide properly for traditionalists; modest amendment of the legislation, together with a suitably drafted Code of Practice could yet enable the Church of England to move forward together on women bishops in 2012. Failure to amend the legislation could result in the failure of the legislation at Final Approval, which would delay the introduction of women bishops for many years to come’ Thus the leader of the Catholic Group in Synod of the forth-coming debate ¨ [note - Dr Kirk's article was written shorly before the Church of England's General Synod debates in February 2011].

So it has come to this: a movement which once embraced a vocation to reassert and affirm the Catholic nature of the Church of England, to defend its orders as those of the Universal Church, and so to progress the unity of Christendom, is reduced to horse-trading for its very existence, arguing in favour of what it most bitterly opposes in order to eke out a ghetto existence in the home it once supposed to be its own. A group of bishops, most of whom (and some immediately before they were so recently consecrated) sought arrangements of reconciliation with the Holy See, are now the sponsors of a ‘Society’ within the Church of England which promises a future which without compromise it cannot deliver.

What am I to say?

This ignominious ending to a long and hard-fought campaign is properly a cause of grief and shame. Shame, because it is a betrayal of the entire Catholic movement – of Keble as well as Newman, of Pusey as well as Froude. Grief, because it has exposed a fault-line which, in our generous optimism, many of us supposed not to be there. When Benedict XVI called their bluff, men whose rallying cry had been ‘Look to the Rock from which we are hewn!’ looked the other way. When the life-boat was launched, they complained about its colour. They claimed to act out of affection for the Church of their baptism and ordination. Tragically that is a demonstration of loyalty which, in the course of time, the Church of England will discover that it can well do without.

It may simply be that there is, even among Anglo-Catholics, a residual, irrational, atavistic anti-Romanism which the passage of time has not been able to erode. But I think there is a deeper and more disturbing explanation for this sorry state of affairs.

A characteristic of modern Anglicanism, of all parties and opinions, has been creeping indifferentism. In increasing numbers people have concluded that doctrine does not matter – that it is merely ‘theological’, in the Harold Wilson sense of abstruse and irrelevant. How vividly I remember Dennis Nineham celebrating in the college chapel in a chasuble bought by Austin Farrer, behaving for all the world as though he believed in the Real Presence, when he did not even believe in the Incarnation. And I wondered what John Keble would have made of that. The virus has proved not only lethal but catching. It was doctrinal indifferentism which allowed the development of the so-called ‘Doctrine of Reception’ which was embraced by opponents of women priests more or less tongue-in-cheek. And that has left its doleful mark.

‘Reception’ was an idea borrowed from the world of ecumenism, where for two generations and more, theologians had been practising the dark arts of fabricating agreement where truly none was to be found. By ‘Reception’ the Church of England was enabled to authorise orders about whose validity it freely admitted that it was itself uncertain – thus undermining its own trustworthiness and reliability. By ‘Reception’ bishops were enabled to license to the cure of souls ‘which is both mine and thine’ clergy about whose orders they were in doubt, and whose administration of the dominical sacraments was therefore equally dubious – thus jettisoning their own claim to be guardians of faith and sacraments.

‘Reception’ was, of course, a scam in which the proponents of women priests did not for a moment believe. By embracing it, to whatever degree, opponents nurtured the seed of their own downfall: they compromised the doctrine of sacramental assurance which lay at the heart of their ecclesiology. Now the Catholic Group is eager to ‘move forward together on women bishops’. Will they, I wonder, vote for the legislation they have so long opposed in order to secure the minimal concessions to which they are sure to be condemned? Nothing could be more demeaning; but anything is possible when principle and self-respect alike have been abandoned.

Those who live by the Synod die by the Synod. And where traditional Anglo-Catholics are concerned the writing on the Synodical wall has for some time been visible to all but the most determinedly myopic. From the failure to receive the Blackburn Report in July 2000 to the defeat of the Archbishops’ amendment in July 2010 the message has been clear. There is, therefore, something verging on the pathological about the expectation that there will be a last minute change of heart. Like a neurotic victim of domestic violence, the optimists are compulsively returning to the scene of their own suffering.

Let enough be enough. The time has come for opponents of women priests and bishops to admit that the game is up, that the battle is lost, and that the logic of the proponents’ arguments will not admit the possibility of a mixed economy. The future has already happened; let them look to The Episcopal Church of the United States and to the Church of Sweden to see the shape of things to come.
When still an Anglican, Dr Kirk gave a truly excellent talk at an Ordinariate Study Day held at St Agnes Kennington, a church which saw a significant number of its members accepting the call to unity that is at the heart of Anglicanorum Coetibus, and following Fr Christopher Pearson to form the core of the London (South) Ordinariate Group, now meeting at the Church of the Most Precious Blood near London Bridge, the church where Dr Kirk was received into the Catholic Church at the weekend.

If you have Anglican friends who are wavering about whether to become Catholics or not, I suggest that you share this video with them.  The sound quality settles down very quickly, so do bear with it.

They may find Dr Kirk's speech particularly useful if they have read the Anglican Association's "Is the Ordinariate for you? Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans" a pamphlet reviewed very effectively by Dr Kirk here.

December 11, 2010 - Fr Kirk from St Agnes' Church, Kennington on Vimeo.

(Apologies to all Scottish readers who read the title of this blog and became over-excited.)

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