Bishop Lopes on the Anglican Patrimony

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[An interview with Bishop Steven Lopes, bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, is published in the May edition of Inside the Vatican. (Click here for the link to the full interview.)  An excerpt is provided below.

Bishop Lopes’s comments are excellent for several reasons. In the first place, the way he lays out the three “keys” to discern the Anglican patrimony is important.  The first key grounds the Anglican patrimony not in subjective preferences and impressions but in “the Church who makes the discernment on [an] official level.”

Everything we know about Church history says this kind of objective discernment takes time. We must therefore expect the same for the determination of what the Anglican patrimony is (and what elements from the Anglican tradition might be inconsequential or even best left behind).  Those who rushed to dismiss Anglicanorum coetibus (and those who continue to do so) bear the burden of proving that they somehow have a solid grasp of what the Anglican patrimony is and isn’t even though the Church herself hasn’t had time to sift through the many aspects of the Anglican tradition to make this determination.

Perhaps a more difficult corollary of this first key is that some of what this or that blogger or Ordinariate group or parish regards as essential to the Anglican patrimony might not be part of the patrimony after all. (See a few thoughts on this topic posted here.)

An example that comes to mind is the language of the Divine Worship liturgy. Or rather, the example is not so much the language itself as it is how that language is perceived.  If the Divine Worship liturgical language is perceived as, in the phrase of one blogger, “faux Cranmerian English” that is “cutsey-pie” [sic], I would agree with this blogger’s implicit judgment against Anglicanorum coetibus. It would not be worth the Church’s time to validate—to officially discern—a particular kind of liturgical language on so shallow a basis.  But if this language is perceived as being in accord with official ecclesial statements (as discussed, for example, in Clint Brand’s “Very Members Incorporate: Reflections on the Sacral Language of Divine Worship,” Antiphon 19:2 [2015], 132-154), this liturgical language is indeed part of what Anglicanorum coetibus regards as the Anglican patrimony.

I’m also happy to see Bishop Lopes’s acknowledgement of the importance of the Fathers of the Church as an aspect of the Anglican patrimony. There are numerous sources and authorities that point to the importance of patristic theology and the patristic understanding of liturgy as a uniquely important factor in the Anglican tradition.  Indeed, Bishop Lopes’s reference to the Church Fathers and the way “Scripture is used throughout prayer and worship” points not only to a recurring theme in my own writings—i.e., the theme that patristic theology regards Scripture, theology, and liturgy as one integrated whole—it also points to lectio divina, which is the way Christians of the patristic era approached Scripture. Lectio divina was not only the way Scripture was read in private. It informed worship, especially in monasticism, which carried this tradition throughout the Middle Ages and planted unusually deep and pervasive roots in Britain very early on.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, the rise of the mendicants and scholasticism in the late Middle Ages caused lectio divina and that approach to theology to diminish in much of the West. But England’s monastic roots sustained a more important role for lectio divina and monastic theology in English spirituality than in other regions of Europe.

The importance of lectio divina in English spirituality will also play a foundational role in Bishop Lopes’s reference to further explorations in Anglicanism’s musical patrimony. (Or perhaps not lectio divina as much as auditio divina, to use a provisional term.) That liturgical music is not only about singing praises to God but also listening reflectively to the texts set to music is an idea that is too little developed in most Church documents about music (for reasons I hope to explore in an essay I’m working on at the moment).  The Anglican tradition has been developing this idea not so much in its theological reflections but in the lived experience of its musical heritage.

There is much more that Bishop Lopes communicates in these few paragraphs of the interview as well as in the entire interview. But I thought it worth pointing out these few elements since many of us, myself included, tend to breeze through interviews as, well, fluff pieces.  Not in this case.  Or if it’s fluff, it’s a paradoxically pithy fluff.  (Which calls to mind the apothegmata of the Desert Fathers. But that’s a topic for another essay.)

Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.]

 You spoke about the fact that the new Anglican Missal originates in the Roman Missal, but then includes parts of the “heritage” of the Anglican Church. How do you discern what is “heritage” and what is not?

Lopes: The big word in our way of speaking is “patrimony.” What is our patrimony? What is that? What is that which we bring into the Catholic Church? What is that which we wish to maintain while in full communion with the Catholic Church? The Patrimony that has brought us to the faith, has nurtured us, and has brought us into full communion. The most tangible sign of patrimony is liturgy, the way that our communities pray. It is certainly not the only one, but that is the one that I focused on because I was speaking at a liturgical conference. I suggested three ways of “patrimony” that can be discerned. I called them the three “keys” to discern patrimony.

The first is the action of the Church itself. The Apostolic Constitution Anlicanorum coetibus gives permission to our commission for the celebration of Mass according to the Anglican patrimony. In article 3 it says that these liturgical rites have to be approved by the Holy See. There is therefore an action of the Church to approve patrimony, and that is a key. This is not some sort of subjective criteria. Patrimony is not something that I say it is or that you say it is, this person or that person, or – these days – that blog or that internet site, but it is in fact the Church who makes the discernment on some sort of official level.

A second key is interior or internal consonance with catholic truth. How does the Church make the external judgment: “Yes, that is patrimony!” She can do that because when the Church looks these prayers or this form of the celebration what she sees reflected there is her own faith, perhaps expressed in a different and felicitous manner, but it is her faith all the same. These are Catholic elements of Catholic truth and sanctity; the Church recognizes there something that is already her own, something that is in the Church of Christ. She can therefore incorporate it into her own life and worship as her own expression of the same thing.

Thirdly, for the Ordinariate communities, there is the element of pastoral concern. Some determinations have to be made. How do these communities worship, how do they pray? How do they structure their parish life? Is that valuable? Has that nurtured their growth? And has that contributed to their wanting to become Catholic? If the answer to those questions is “yes,” they seem to be doing well and spiritually flourishing, and these things have actually pushed them toward Catholic unity—why would we change them? We have to allow that expression of patrimony. Though it may be a different way of, say, structuring parish life than what would normally be found in the Catholic Church, it is still valid and therefore a valuable expression.

More could be added. Evangelization, for example. You can look at the elements that have helped evangelization. We still have to explore the musical patrimony of Anglicanism much more. Also, the theological patrimony with the insistence on the Fathers of the Church and the Scriptures and how Scripture is used throughout prayer and worship. There is much more to explore, but I think it is important to say that it is not just some sort of subjectivity. It demonstrates a care and concern of the Church, not just for the communities coming in but for enriching her own life.

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