Swim Back

A couple days ago, Episcopalian priest Pontificator advised his Episcopalian readers
to flee
the ECUSA with great haste
. He told them to join either the Orthodox or the
Catholic Church. Yesterday, an
Orthodox priest pleaded his case
. Today, a
Catholic priest pleads his

Father Addison Hart is a convert. Being a convert myself (though from the ELCA,
not the ECUSA), I’m usually pretty happy when someone crosses the Tiber. However,
every once in a while I wish some people would swim back. This guy is an – how shall
I say it? – uninspiring priest. He seems to have converted simply because the RCC
sucks less that the ECUSA. Here are some of my "favorite" bits of this
sad monograph.

“I am a Roman Catholic priest,…As such, I am obligated to uphold the Roman obedience, to adhere to the Church’s teachings without reservation, and to believe that the Church of Christ subsists in that Body which is in communion with the Roman See. But, …somewhat less than starry-eyed about Rome, harboring very few illusions about her present grandeur, still less about her uneven history and the correctness of certain of her customs. For example, mandatory clerical celibacy, which some revisionist zealots today are trumpeting erroneously as ‘apostolic’ in origin, has repeatedly proven itself more of a stumbling-block than an asset to the Church’s life. Only the most hardheaded and self-protective clergy (along with some fussy laity) insist otherwise.”


“When asked recently by a dear woman of my parish why I did become a Catholic, all I could think to respond was that I did so ‘by default’. In other words, I did so because my expectations within Anglicanism, shared by so many of us who had embraced the idea of it being a ‘bridge church’, had failed, pure and simple. So, by default, I became a member of that Body which I believed best expresses God’s Kingdom on earth.”


“Finally, in this extended disclaimer, I confess to possessing that rather skeptical frame of mind which characterizes Anglican piety. I have next to no interest in Fatima, Lourdes, etc.; I lack all depth of warm feeling for medals, scapulars, indulgences, chaplets, rosaries; I find most Italian and Polish devotions unappealing; and regard ‘private revelation’ as an unnecessary distraction from sound theology and prayer.”


“Even if we have to put up with rather stupid ecclesiastical disciplines and occasionally insipid devotions, these can be ignored easily enough; and if one is so blessed as to be in an Anglican Use parish, then life can go on rather nicely, I suppose (I’m not so blessed myself, I hasten to add).”

Having been a Protestant most of my life, I tend to be skeptical about a lot of a lot of Catholic devotional practice and I think some people verge on idolatry in their devotion to Mary, though perhaps unintentially. That said, I respect a great deal more of Catholic practices than this unfortunate member of the clergy. I’m sure one or more of my readers will defend priestly celebacy for me. I lack time and adequate information to so so myself. I don’t care for medals, scapulars, indulgences, chaplets, and rosaries either – when the’re used as lucky charms. When not treated superstitiously, they can be beautiful expressions, and more importantly, sacramentals.

This man has no understanding or sympathy for expressions popular piety or “little t” tradtions of the Church. They’re what give the Church character. They are expressions of a living faith. Great works of art, immortal musical compositions, and moving poetry have been produced as a result of inspirational faith. Fr. Hart describes a rather bare and sterile faith that I want no part of. Without the “insiped devotions” he mentions, or something similar, who would join the Church? Yes, we have the Truth. We maintain the Deposit of Faith. But what good does that faith do us if we have no love? What is devotion but love?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (RSV)

[The following is an update. – Funky]

Father Hart responded to some of the criticism directed at him in the comments section of the Pontifications entry. On a side note, the comments there are often rather impressive theological debates. I love my commenters dearly, but I wish there were more of them. 😉

“I should add that my approach to this whole thing has been with the presumption that I am addressing Anglicans. So it is that I intentionally stressed my residual ‘Anglican’ sensibilities. My rationale was simple enough: Catholicism can easily accommodate those characteristics of Anglican piety that are essentially Catholic. (I hasten to add that these very characteristics also are to be found in the English Catholic context, as well.)”

“I have nothing visceral or intellectual against Italian or Polish devotions (as I have nothing against Arab, Russian, or Greek expressions of piety, either); but – in the immortal words of John Fogerty (now there’s evidence of ‘snootiness’ for you!) – ‘It ain’t me’. It also ain’t of the essence of Roman Catholicism.”

He’s still not a particularly impressive specimen with which to lure converts, is he?

Comments 9

  1. Tom Smith wrote:

    Actually, Jerry, the Patriarchate I’d like to see in England is not exactly like that of the Ukrainian Church. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has a Major Archbishop, who has many of the powers of a Patriarch, but not all of them (not sure exactly which). (As an aside, I’m also for the establishment of a Greek Catholic Patriarch of Lviv for the Ukrainians. See http://www.ugcc.org.ua/eng/ for more information. . .) A Patriarch has a bit more autonomy than a Major Archbishop; also, Patriarchs are typically looked to above Major Archbishops and Metropolitans, because they are heads of churches of particular traditions.

    Posted 14 Nov 2004 at 11:20 pm
  2. Tom Smith wrote:

    Fr. Hart’s post is not nearly so convincing as Fr. Freeman’s. You’re right, Eric, that it seems as though Fr. Hart converted because the Catholic Church was just a bit less crappy. While I understand that he’s trying to point out that certain devotional practices are not necessary to the Catholic faith, it comes off as though he’s dissing the Rosary, which can’t possibly be a good thing. He spends a good deal of the article pointing out that the unpleasantries of Catholic belief are not necessarily *de fide*.

    It just seems that, although this wasn’t the point, he could’ve nailed some things down that the Orthodox are weak on. . . say, a living, current Magisterium, which the Orthodox flatly do not have; a total loss of Roman primacy; the heresies regarding the Orthodox teachings on artificial birth control, which clearly contradict St. John Chrysostom, the great Eastern Father. . .

    It seems to me that one of the things present within Catholicism that should appeal to Anglicans is the actual Magisterium, something the Anglican Church gave up long ago. This is one reason why I support the erection of a Catholic Patriarchate in Canterbury. First, a little on how Catholic Patriarchates work: much like their Orthodox counterparts, Patriarchs of the Catholic Church have control over liturgical and disciplinary customs within their Patriarchates. A Patriarch is able to speak as the head of a local, particular Church. If we give the English Church a Patriarchate, it would be far easier to keep many of the liturgical customs in force now, which is probably better then making converts go to the bad Novus Ordo down the block at St. Mary’s. Also, (this is exciting for an ecclesiastical history nerd such as myself), the resurrection of the Sarum rite of Mass, which disappeared at the Reformation, is a distinct possibility. And besides the benefits regarding liturgical custom, a Patriarchate would be a sign to England that the Supreme Pontiff still has a spine, and is serious about bringing people into the True Church.

    Posted 11 Nov 2004 at 8:48 pm
  3. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Here’s the link to the Torodes’ book, “Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception”: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802839738/qid=1100396186/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/002-3624949-1856021

    They do cite a number of Eastern fathers, and also a very effusive letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch to Paul VI upon the promulgation of Humanae Vitae (which emphasized the Church’s opposition to the artificial birth control, for those gentle readers who many not be familiar with it).

    Posted 14 Nov 2004 at 1:42 am
  4. Jerry wrote:

    Hey Tom,

    I’d have to disagree on a Patriachate in Canterbury. Basically, it’d come down to the Poles, Irish and French Catholics (both of them, in the latter case) saying “Oh great! We’re faithful and stay subservient to Rome, and you reward the English for breaking away by making them a full patriarchate!”

    I’d more likely imagine the Anglicans having their own Rite and seminaries, and having their own bishops and metropolitans, but being under Rome. Not unlike the Ambrosian-Milanese or a number of Eastern Rite Catholics. We’d have to take extra care that the Anglicans don’t get Romanized like the Byzantine Catholics, but I could see the Anglicans having an easier time of it.

    Regarding the heresy of birth-control, I wonder if that is partially a reaction against just how strongly Rome has fought against birth control. The schism has distorted both Churches as they try to show that the other is cooler (e.g., Orthodoxy has a sort of Magisterium, they just aren’t as fond of explicitly defining things as we are; by and large they’ve stuck closer to their heritage than the West, with birth control being a big exception). So while the birth control issue is unfortunate and should be addressed, I’d hesitate to call it a heresy, if for no other reason because the Orthodox and Catolics have so much bloody practice in calling each other heretics, I don’t think it’d do anything to advance our mutual charity or understanding of God’s law on earth.

    Posted 11 Nov 2004 at 10:06 pm
  5. Jerry wrote:

    I added my own two cents to the commentary on the Roman Catholic priest’s testimony. As someone who considers himself more or less biritual (Roman and Byzantine Rite), I wanted to caution people from turning the Pontificator’s idea into yet another “Orthodox v. Roman” debate session, which would harm the Pontificator’s vision, especially since he draws heavily from both Roman and Eastern saints.

    Posted 11 Nov 2004 at 4:48 pm
  6. Jerry wrote:

    I should add, though, that I have no personal gripe against an Anglican Patriarchate–I actually thought of that above objection because I had considered that contingency myself as a possible solution for unity. There is however, the problem that Rome has always been the sole autocephalous, or autonomous Patriarchate of the West, and I’m not sure how we could go about creating new ones in an orderly way. If God wills it, though, I’m sure it could be done.

    Posted 11 Nov 2004 at 11:49 pm
  7. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Okay, so you’d envision a non-autocephalous Patriarchate–e.g., the Patriarchs of Venice and Portugal cannot consecrate their own bishops or canonize saints. A similar situation exists for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Patriarch. I’m cool with that.

    As for the Orthodox, I’m curious to see what sort of effect, if any, that the Torodes and Frederica Mathewes-Green–who are envangelical converts to Antiochian Orthodoxy, and are against artificial birth control– have on them. I was told that if you look at Kallistos Ware’s “The Orthodox Way”, which is the gold standard in the English language for explaining Eastern Christianity, the editions go from a flat “birth control is verboten” to a much longer statement about how it’s something the couple must address with their spiritual advisor (i.e., a green light for whatever).

    I dunno, I see this being a case where East and West can help each other. The East could use some clarification on birth control, but the West could sure use a shot in the arm with catechesis and liturgy!

    Posted 14 Nov 2004 at 1:39 am
  8. Tom Smith wrote:

    You’re right, Jerry, that it would be weird for the Anglicans, should a number come back, to have a patriarch, if other groups were not to be given equal representation. But the Anglican liturgical traditions, usages, and spirituality have sufficiently differentiated themselves from those of the Roman-rite that they should get there own patriarch to protect and nurture their own traditions (this is, of course, just my opinion). Traditionally, their have been other Western Patriarchs than the Pope. For instance, the Archbishops of Venice and Milan are still Patriarchs, because they each had their own rites of Mass. I’d say the Anglican Church, should a significant portion return to union, has at least as many non-Roman features as do the Venetian and Milanese churches.

    With regard to the Orthodox teaching on contraception. . . a word other than “heresy” probably should’ve been used. It is a rather loaded term. Although multiple figures, including the Patriarchs of Athens and Constantinople, affirmed Humanae Vitae a short while after it ended, the Orthodox position on it has been so blurried since then to say that there is no proper teaching on it. (Again, just my opinion)

    Posted 14 Nov 2004 at 12:59 am
  9. John Smith wrote:

    Fr. Hart, a married Anglican priest converted to Roman Catholicism, has left his post at Christ the Teacher Univeristy Parish in Illinois, because of an impending divorce. I agree with much of what is stated above. His egotistical nature often go in the way of his faith. Sitting through his homilies oft times reminded me of sitting in a history class at the local university–devoid of anything that was really “catholic”.

    Posted 29 Aug 2009 at 3:28 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From Anglican-Rite Catholics @ Ales Rarus on 17 Nov 2006 at 11:23 am

    […] November 12th, 2004 by Jerry Dappled Things has a great blurb and some links regarding the promotion of an option for the use of an Anglican (slightly modified, I think) Rite for Roman Catholic Churches. This had come up in a previous post of Ales Rarus, and I'm all for increasing the breadth and depth of the liturgical life of the Church, so enjoy! And pass it on! I'd like to help Fr. Jim and his quest to keep reminding the bishops about this option, and getting the word out. Popularity: 3% [?]Jerry […]

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