Catholic priest Father Alexander Lucie-Smith wonders out loud why some Catholics become Anglican.
Writing in The Catholic Herald, his thoughts reflect the English context, but have some parellels in the American experience. Some of what he writes is interesting while other parts betray a provincialism on the Roman side. It is not surprising that he doesn’t really “get” Anglicanism, just as I suppose, many of us don’t really “get” Roman Catholicism. There is still a lot of ecumenical work to do.
As Lucie-Smith sees it, here :are a few reasons why Catholics become Anglicans:”
Firstly, marriage, and in recent times, civil partnerships: Because the Anglican church will often bless unions the Catholic Church does not recognise, some people have gone to the vicar for weddings or services of blessing and then stayed with the vicar’s community.
Secondly, aesthetic reasons: I know of some who have decided that their pretty village church with its warm-hearted community is the place where they want to be. Many of these people, in my experience, have not been particularly religious. While they may consider themselves parishioners, they would but infrequently go to the Anglican Church.
Thirdly, church politics: usually when people have a blazing row with the parish priest over the positioning of the hymn board or some other cutting edge matter, they vamoose to another parish. Sometimes, though I have heard of only one case, they storm off “to join the other lot”, as they put it.
Fourthly, female ordination: some Catholic women have left the Church to join the Anglicans so that they can be ordained. Some lay people may have joined the Anglicans because they support female ordination.
The above would all be significant but relatively small groups of people. The single largest phalanx of ex-Catholics, as far as I can gather, as those lukewarm Catholics who have been evangelised by Anglicans and have joined a thriving and lively evangelical congregation. My evidence for this is anecdotal, but my guess is that a place like Holy Trinity Brompton contains a significant number of people who were baptised Catholics, but who have now come to Jesus through the Alpha course. So, what should we do?
The comments are worth skimming.
“Anglicans get their Christianity lite but good fellowship. Catholics get the Truth but lousy fellowship.”
Fellowship is not part of the authentic church, apparently.
“In between there were those who believed, in the recent words of General Synod representative in York, that Anglicanism meant that you could hold any opinion you liked but not too strongly.”
This criticism in a way makes the C of E sound good.
“I suspect that some Catholics become Anglicans because they do not wish to be associated with the uncharitable, dogmatic bigotry which, sadly and depressingly, so often raises its head in the comments columns of the CH.”
“I can’t speak with great authority or experience, but almost every single Catholic to Anglican I have met has said that he or she made the shift because of some marital difficulty or sexual issue. One or two did switch because their local A/C Church had preserved a more Catholic style of worship than their Catholic parish, and they missed the kneeling communion and eastward position. And,especially among the post V2 generation there have been some who are unaware of the theological differences. But I don’t think one should exaggerate the point. It’s more likely that a Catholic will give up religion altogether than become an Anglican, and we mustn’t forget that the Evangelicals have a very high turnover rate.”
To which Lucie-Smith’s response is:
“This article is not meant to be in any way exhaustive, as the phrase “in my experience” makes clear. In fact all the people I know who have made the switch have said to me that the switch was easily made because the Catholic and Anglican Churches are “the same” or “almost the same. When it comes to matters of conscience, people must follow their consciences, as the Church itself teaches.”
What is your experience? Do you have a story to share that might shed light on Fr. Lucie-Smith’s musings, especially from an American context?
Thanks to Gary Paul Gilbert for highlighting and editing the comments.