THIS is interesting.
LONDON (CNS) — In a show of religious unity, a Catholic bishop and an Anglican bishop commemorated the death of the first English martyr of the Protestant Reformation.
Anglican Bishop Richard Chartres of London and Catholic Auxiliary Bishop George Stack of Westminster led an ecumenical service May 4 in memory of St. John Houghton, one of 18 Carthusian monks killed by King Henry VIII in the 16th century. It was the first time the two churches celebrated the ceremony together.
The service was held on the grounds of the former London Charterhouse, the monastery where St. John served as abbot. The two bishops unveiled a commemorative stone on the site of the cloister.
Bishop Chartres, explaining why Anglicans would honor Catholic martyrs, described King Henry as a “monster of egotism” with “messianic pretensions” similar to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
“We salute the courage and discernment of those who said ‘no,’” he said. “We are honoring martyrs who deserve to be remembered with thanksgiving by the whole church.”
What makes this especially interesting, to me, is not simply the unusual aspect of an Anglican bishop honoring a Catholic saint, but the strange synchronicity of this story breaking on the same day we see The New Republic feature a story by Ross Douthat which does some serious damage to the meme that “liberals and progressives can save the Church.”
The election of Benedict XVI, at least in the Western press, is being interpreted primarily as a blow to liberal Catholicism–the Catholicism that has endured a kind of exile since the late 1960s, when it became clear that the post-Vatican II renovation in Church teaching was not to be as sweeping as many hoped. For some, this exile has meant formally abandoning the Church; for most, though, it has meant remaining within it, waiting first for Paul VI to die, and then John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI, and all the while insisting–often from major op-ed pages and tenured positions at Catholic universities–that all of the Church’s difficulties, from declining vocations to dwindling mass attendance to the sex-abuse scandals, would be solved if only Catholicism were to become more in step with the modern world.
It’s an appealing notion, particularly to people whose lives and beliefs already conform more closely to modern mores than to traditional Catholic teaching. But it has almost no empirical support. All the evidence suggests the opposite–that a more liberal Catholic Church would be far weaker, smaller, and less influential even than the wounded and divided Body of Christ that Benedict XVI will govern.
The problem for liberals is that their preferred path to the Catholic future has already been tried, and with less-than-encouraging results.
The Episcopal Church offers the most striking example of this phenomenon, since it would seem to embody everything that a Garry Wills or a Maureen Dowd would like Catholicism to be–the liturgy and tradition, that is, without the sexual prohibitions and inconvenient dogmas. Yet in an era when John Paul II supposedly alienated so many otherwise faithful Catholics, it’s Episcopalianism, not Catholicism, that’s been hemorrhaging members, dropping from over 3.5 million American communicants in 1965 to under 2.5 million today. Far from making itself more appealing and more relevant, the Episcopal Church’s reforms seemed to have decreased its ranks in the United States.
He points out that it is precisely those liberal ideas being promoted incessantly by the press and the left which are destroying the Church of England.
(H/T to Fr. Ethan who gives us a picture, as well. Here we see a procession of Women Priests, Church of England. That front one is pretty scary and what IS that thing she’s carrying? A crozier? With a feminine figure on it? Can anyone see?)
And that point is being made even as this story reinforces further the reality which the progressives would choose to ignore: that where Orthodoxy is embraced, seminaries are bursting:
Two patterns were apparent from the statistics:
1. There are currently nearly twice as many diocesan priests per million active (or practising) Catholics in orthodox dioceses as there are in progressive dioceses (2,057 vs. 1,075); and
2. The proportion of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses has remained steady, while the number of diocesan priests in progressive dioceses has been continually declining for four decades. In orthodox dioceses, there were 1,830 diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1956, and 12 percent more (2,057) in 1996.
In progressive dioceses, there were 1,290 diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1956, and 1,075 in 1996, a 17 percent decrease.
A second statistical analysis looked at the numbers of diocesan priests ordained in the period 1986 to 1996.
Two patterns were evident from this:
1. There are currently nearly five times as many ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in orthodox dioceses as there are in progressive dioceses (53 vs. 11); and
2. The rate of ordinations of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses shows a strong upward trend, while the rate in progressive dioceses, relatively low four decades ago, continues to decline. In orthodox dioceses, there were 34 ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1986, and 53 in 1996 – an increase of more than 50 percent. In progressive dioceses, the rate was 16 in 1986, and only 11 in 1996 – a one-third decrease.
News that just hasn’t been getting out there, isn’t it? H/T RomanCatholicblog.com.
And all of this, of course, is going on as we observe the two-week-long construction of the latest meme: Those Damn Christians are Dangerous and they Want to Take Over the World. Or, THEOCRATS ARE THE NEW NEO-CONS for short. Having been sick, I’m late to the party, but while I was forced to lay on the couch, I did manage to flip by a few news stations (I hate to watch news unless its breaking and its NOT about runaway brides, Michael Jackson, American Idol, etc) and come away with the understanding that this meme is transparently being constructed right before our eyes. Somewhere, the left must have a giant fax center with an Orwellian Daily Meme Constructor that prints out:
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Euthanasia is Honoring Life
Good Christians are Nazis
Good Humanists are the new Christians
Or something. And then all the usual suspects go scurrying to their stations to get busy constructing the meme. Hence we have the excellent writer Christopher Hitchens, who has never met a religion that didn’t make him vomit on his keyboard and call it an essay, slap down his gin glass and belch out “Something has got to be done about these Christians! Urp!”
He’s angered Dirty Harry, a man who has never struck me as a religious fanatic, who has slapped down an equally angry glass of something and declared, “Oh yeah? Well, then screw it, I”M A THEOCRAT!”
I’m tired of this. I’ve been thinking about this “theocrat” meme the left has been so busily constructing these last two weeks, and I think the left is merely doing exactly what Howard Dean said they would do, the very thing the left and the press found so “despicable” two months ago, until it became politically expedient for the left to do it: They are “USING SCHIAVO.”
I mean, all of this could not be more transparent. When Republicans (and a number of heavy-duty leftists, like Ralph Nader, as well as a number of Democrats) tried to prevent Terri Schiavo from being starved to death, they were (we were told) “using” Schiavo. It’s BAD to do that. It’s bad to exploit the Schiavo tragedy, unless you are a liberal in which case the whole matter may be used as a bludgeoning tool against the “extremist, over-reaching” religious right. By re-focusing the entire Schiavo story into a “extremists vs mainstreamist” meme, you get to more or less take Terri and her humanity out of the picture, which immediately (always) strengthens the left (that’s why babies are “fetuses” and “clumps of tissue” and abortions are always a “choice” and never, never an invasive act of violent dismemberment performed within a woman’s actual, living body).
The religious right did not “overreach” it simply did all it could to save a woman’s life, while working against a machine and culture of death that somehow NEEDED Terri to die. This re-framing by the media and the left is literally a re-write of history, with a good dose of scary-ghost-stories thrown in. Don Feder says it better than I. The papers are full of crap (yes, just plain crap) like this article from this silly woman who would very likely tell a Christian not to get offended by The Da Vinci Code because, “it’s just fiction,” but who has no problem using another piece of fiction to give gullible people the willies. Her part of the construction: These Christians are BAD for America! Just LOOK at these Left Behind books!
But still…weirdly…even as the meme is being constructed, it is being deconstructed. While the Terri Schiavo story is being spun away from the story of a woman whose husband would not fix her wheelchair or allow her ANY SORT of recovery therapy as he fought and fought and fought to make her go away, America reads about this firefighter, who was lucky enough to have a spouse and a doctor still committed to his recovery and not to his death.
Even as the meme of the Thundering Theocrats is being promoted, we read all of those articles above, suggesting that the power the progressives insist they have in numbers is an illusion.
I think it is staggeringly significant that all of this “theocracy” talk comes within weeks of the recent events in Rome. I think the left and the press saw everything leading up to JPII’s death – including how so many people found the connect between his being allowed to simply die when it was his time, (and for a short while, with a feeding tube) as opposed to Terri Schiavo’s being FORCED to die. Then the funeral. Then the election of the most hated Benedict…it’s all of a piece.
When Terri Schiavo died, we all knew it was not over. Indeed not. Things are still moving and shaking. God has his hand in all things. When Jesus was asked whether a man was blind because of his sin, or his parents, he responded neither…that the man’s blindness had been permitted so that God’s Glory might be demonstrated through him. Then he healed the man’s blindness with humble mud and humbler spittle. God has a funny way of winning, but he always does.
Perhaps the Culture of Death believed it had won a significant battle in claiming her life. Perhaps it did. But perhaps not. Perhaps it is poised to lose the war. And perhaps that’s what all of this fuss and fury is all about.
I’m tired. Feeling a little stronger (thank you all for your prayers – I do believe they are helping. This is the first time I have been able to sit up for any length of time and not feel lightheaded and clammy and sick…though I am tired out just from the rant)
Clearly, I am still not coherent enough to write a lot…I know my prose is rocky and my reason is fuzzy and disjointed…and as you can probably tell, I am cranky, to boot.
But I just hadda get all that out!
UPDATE: Jeanette has a really good link to a piece at World Magazine which points out just how little REAL information on Terri Schiavo made it out through the press.