Anglican Catholicism in the ‘Broken Vase’ analogy

A gentleman raised the Aidan Nichols ‘broken vase’ analogy on an online forum yesterday morning:

“You might like my comment on the name of the Ordinariate: We can keep the “Anglican” name as this is how it was set up by Pope Benedict; but as Aidan Nichols says in his excellent book on the Ordinariate, we bring together the two shards of the broken vase of English Catholicism: the recusant tradition and the Oxford movement and its ‘High’ church forbears. The English Martyrs are a great inspiration and when I kept their feasts as an Anglo-Catholic I always was aware I was on the wrong side of history; now we are not!… The Ordinariate Use reflects that patrimony, especially choral evensong; but we can also claim the TLM (EF). We can claim Elgar, Howells, Bairstow, C.S.Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ronald Knox, Newman and many others. I hope this does not smack of cultural imperialism!”

Some might think it a minor distinction, but it gets to the heart of the question of our identity in the ordinariates, so I figured it was worth clarifying the vase analogy:

“Those are some good reflections, Robert. You’re quite right that the name ‘Anglican’ applies to us Catholics in the ordinariates of Pope Benedict XVI, but the broken vase or jar analogy of Fr Aidan Nichols is slightly different from how you’ve recalled. img_9414.jpgIn his book ‘Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony’, he describes the relationship between the Catholic Anglicans of the ordinariates and the Roman Catholics of post-Reformation England as being similar to that between two complementary shards of a broken jar. “The notion that the post-Reformation Roman Catholic community in England constitutes with Catholic Anglicans of an orthodox outlook the two shards of a broken jar completes the picture: this will be an Ordinariate, whose members not only profess the Catholic faith as understood at Rome, but do so in canonical unity with the dioceses of Latin Catholics maintaining, however, as their shard-character qualifies them to do, those ‘liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions proper to the Anglican Communion’…”

“In other words, the reconstituted jar represents the whole of English Catholic Christendom in its Roman and Anglican halves, restored in Catholic unity. In this analogy, the ordinariate itself is not the juridical form of the whole jar reconstituted, but the Anglican component or shard. The Roman half or shard is found in the post-Reformation Latin dioceses of England.

“In this way, we can see how the Anglican tradition is retained in its integrity in the ordinariates, and not merged or hybridized with the Anglo-Roman heritage of the post-Reformation English Latin Church.

“The Anglican Catholic heritage and identity of the ordinariates do have an ongoing relation to the Anglo-Roman Catholic heritage; indeed, because of their common history, they have a bearing on each other.

“This doesn’t mean the Recusant history isn’t in some way a part of the Anglican heritage as well; after all, one could say that St Thomas More’s rejection of our community’s schism has since 2009 been divorced (pun intended) from the legitimate heritage of our formerly separated community, and his Catholic witness and martyrdom have been internalized by our Anglican community on entering these ordinariates and made our own as well.”

This would also apply to the English Roman Catholic shard: their culture and identity are not unmarked by their common history with Anglican Catholicism either.

3 thoughts on “Anglican Catholicism in the ‘Broken Vase’ analogy

  1. Thank you for this, Christopher. I continue to think an aesthetic/philosophical concept from a non-Anglosphere culture is helpful as an analogy. The Japanese art and philosophy of kintsugi, “the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum … As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” Though English Roman Catholic Christians and Anglican Christians have had so much in common since the English Reformation, it is not helpful to ignore the real differences. _Anglicanorum coetibus_ allows us to celebrate those differences rather than ignore or disguise them. Diversity in unity.

    Liked by 2 people

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