Certain circles in the blogosphere are all abuzz with the return of Fr Addison Hart to some form of Anglicanism. Here are his parting words:
As an Anglican priest who, with high ideals but considerably lower savvy, “poped” back in 1997, all I can say to those who may be thinking likewise is this: Unless you know in your heart you can believe in such super-added dogmas as papal supremacy and infallibility (very late inventions), that Jesus did not need to possess “faith” during his earthly years (to which I respond, was he or was he not fully human?), and that the bread and wine physically change into his body and blood during the Eucharist without any palpable evidence of it; unless you can believe in Mary’s “Immaculate Conception” (an unnecessary and unverifiable belief, if ever there was one), her bodily assumption, and so on, then I would urge you to stay put. You already have everything you need, and, what Rome would add to you, you not only do not need, but should positively avoid weighing yourselves down with. Anglicanism is doctrinally sound and blessed with great forms of worship. Rome is neither. As for Rome’s claims to a vastly superior moral authority — well, I would venture to say that after such revelations as clerical sexual abuse on an international scale and their bank’s money-laundering, the lie has been put to that.
No, don’t make my mistake. I wouldn’t make it again myself, and, as it is, I’m making my way out the Roman door.
Fr. Hart was a former Anglican priest, ordained under the pastoral provision. He is the brother of Revd. Robert Hart–who is a priest in one of the over 120 Anglican schism denominations. They have another brother who is an Eastern Orthodox theologian of some reknown. Robert Hart and some of his pals maintain a blog called The Continuum. I’ve stopped by there from time to time and it’s never a joyful experience I’m afraid. It represents a sort of dry, overly intellectual, conservative Anglicanism. The blog has a musty bitterness to it. Think of milk soured by lemon or Ebenezer Scrooge in preaching scarf and tabs.
Fr. Addison Hart was, for a time, one of the Catholic voices of Touchstone Magazine, and I met him at a Touchstone conference in the late 1990s. He reviewed one of my books very nicely, and then I lost touch with him. I’m afraid there is a fair bit of gossip buzzing about him and his departure from the Catholic Church. Fr. Z dissects his words of departure here, and I can’t really improve on that. People are also saying that he divorced his wife some years ago and plans to remarry, and of course, there is no lack of self righteous comment and gossip on that element of the story (if it is even true).
I’m not going there. What befuddles me about Fr. Addison’s statement is the amazing naivety of it all. Was this man ever truly a Catholic believer? Is it possible that he not only was received into the Catholic Church, but was also ordained as a priest with so little understanding of the ‘difficult’ elements (for the convert) of the Catholic faith? If he had not got his head and heart around these elements of Catholic belief why on earth did he become Catholic? If it was only as a reaction to his unhappiness in Anglicanism that was not good enough.
This brings me to another point about the doctrines of the faith. As converts we confront the ‘difficult’ doctrines of papal infallibility, the Marian dogmas, Eucharistic dogmas etc., and we most often encounter them with our minds. We seek intellectual and logical understanding. This is good, and through study and prayer we can get to the point where we both understand and accept the Catholic beliefs. What is most often missing, however, is the heart. I do not speak for Addison Hart, because I don’t know him well enough, but I do know that for many converts the head is convinced of the Catholic doctrines, but the heart is not involved.
Someone has said the ‘longest journey is from the head to the heart.’ What I am trying to get across is that in the process of conversion we have to not only come to an intellectual understanding, but we must also come to love the doctrines that have been so alien to us. I could never, for example, abandon the Marian dogmas–not because I am so totally intellectually convinced that they are true (although I am) but because, by God’s grace, I have come to love the Mother of God. I do not just believe in her Immaculate Conception. I love her Immaculate Conception. It thrills me and fills me with wonder and joy. It is the same with her perpetual virginity, assumption and coronation. Likewise, I do not just believe in papal infallibility. I love the Pope. I wept with joy every time I saw him in person. What a marvel and thrill to have the papacy and both marvelous popes I have known. The same can be said of the Eucharistic Doctrines. I do not simply believe in transubstantiation. I have come to love and adore Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
This is what Bl. John Henry Newman means with his motto, Cor ad Cor Loquitor – Heart Speaks to Heart. The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the beauty and fullness of the Catholic faith, speaks to my heart. It is a matter of deep love for me, and I think I am only now beginning to understand how St Paul spoke of marriage to the Ephesians and then said–as if he was reaching for words he did not have–”But this is a mystery, but I am speaking about Christ and his Church.” I therefore could not imagine walking out on this nuptial relationship. Where else would I go?