There was a sociology of Protestantism that went: A Methodist is a Baptist with shoes. A Presbyterian is a Methodist who has been to college. An Episcopalian is a Presbyterian who is living off his investments. This has all changed now. Now an Episcopalian is, I suppose, someone heading a campaign against AIDS.- Joseph Epstein 2003. Click my post title for a thoroughly charming and insightful interview with Joe Epstein.
When a south side Catholic got tired of going to Church he became a Unitarian. That way he could safely believe in anything without the moral and societal complications of explaining Atheism, or spelling Agnosticism.
The great American Master of the Essay, Northwestern University's Joseph Epstein - a guy who says, " Don't call me Professor; that's a guy who bangs on a piano in a Cathouse."- wrote a number of short stories grouped as Fabulous Small Jews.
This collection presented Jewish Chicagoans as witty, complex, bitter, confused and lovely people who are thoroughly American. None of the Phillip Roth angst, for Epstein, but rather people comfortable in their own skins - no polemical table thumping, or fiddling up on the garage roof at 6800 N. Campbell - he was replacing the loose shingles. I read Joseph Epstein's collection a few years ago. I need to go back to it, but I loaned the damn book to retired Detective Billy Higgins who in turn passed it on to Gene Callahan - an Armagh Carpenter who still has my back-up banjo. The Irish are the Bermuda's Triangle of loaned items.
Joseph Epstein writes about the relationship between people and the truth. Epstein - be it in Fiction or Essay -always nails it. We poor Chicago Irish have only Father Andy Greeley, who gets about as close to the truth as I do to the Confessional Box. Mea Culpa!
There is Hope! Pope Benedict XVI welcomes Anglicans ( Henry VIII's Theological children) back to the Faith.
The Apostolic Constitution approved by the Pope creates a new structure, which will allow Roman Catholic provinces such as England and Wales to have their own “Personal Ordinariate” for ex-Anglicans.
Parishes and individuals can go over to Rome en masse and join the Ordinariate. Although Catholic priests must be celibate, married former Anglican clergy who convert under the Apostolic Constitution could be ordained as Catholic priests although they would not be allowed to become bishops.
The Ordinariate could take the form of those created to care for Catholics serving in the Armed Forces and will be supervised by a senior cleric called an Ordinary, likely to be taken from the ranks of the former Anglican clergy.
It will provide spiritual care for the converts and they will be able to ask the Vatican to approve new liturgy based on their former Anglican readings, which they would hear at their own church services. They may be allowed to use Anglican prayer books.
However it is claimed there would be “formidable legal obstacles” to former Anglican parishes keeping hold of their old church buildings.
As many as 50 Anglican bishops worldwide are expected to convert under the new procedure and Cardinal Levada said the number of ordinary worshippers who had asked for such a provision was “in the hundreds”.
He added: "If there was a woman pastor in one of these groups, I would be surprised."
The leading Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England, Forward in Faith, has warned repeatedly of a mass exodus to Rome if women are introduced to the episcopate without proper provision for those who object to the innovation.
While the group has so far remained within the Church of England to defend its place as the battle continues over women bishops, the landmark move by the Pope is likely to tempt many parishes away.
Forward in Faith said it “rejoiced” at the initiative, which it called a “decisive moment” in the history of the movement.
If Anglicans can start to see the intrinsic beauty and attraction of doctrinal and moral certainty, maybe we Catholics can become as comfortable in our skins as our Jewish neighbors reflected in the pages of Joseph Epstein's wonderful book of stories.