It's interesting, and not a little unsettling, to be called a heretic, but at least blogging has taken the place of burning at the stake as a way for orthodoxy to assert itself - for that I am more than a little thankful.
I'd rather come before the seat of judgement and mercy as an honest heretic than as a dishonest conformist, and only then will we know who the heretics are, for only then will the goats be separated from the sheep. I ask myself in what ways might I be a heretic, given that I believe in all the core doctrines of the Catholic faith. Is one a heretic for criticising the Pope? Then I am happy to be in the good company of Catherine of Siena. In fact, I can think of few happier fates than to share a corner of heaven in the company of erstwhile heretics. Imagine an eternal conversation at the heavenly banquet with confirmed heretics Origen, Tertullian, Meister Eckhart, Peter Abelard, Joan of Arc, Galileo, Marguerite Porete and Martin Luther (the Church changed its mind about some of these, eventually), and with those who have at various times been suspected if not accused of heresy (John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Karl Rahner, John Sobrino .... an unfinished list).
Absolute faith is not something I can lay claim to, but this I will say: I have absolute faith that, if the Kingdom of God exists, it is more forgiving, compassionate and wise than the Catholic blogosphere, so one way or the other, I'm happy to take my chances.
I have said all I intend to say about the Ordinariate (for now). I believe it's right to create space for a variety of views, concerns and hopes to emerge at the beginning of the process, but now we must allow ourselves time to adjust and get to know one another. I'm sure we're all in for some surprises.
So here's a change of perspective. Yesterday evening, I stopped to take a photograph of the sunset over the Thames at Richmond. From a distance, this is a scene of perfect tranquillity - it seemed like a moment when the windows of heaven were flung open and the light of God's glory streamed through. But this is earth, not heaven, and that glorious sunset in all its serenity expresses a seething ebullience of life: every atom and cell, every creature and life-form, is caught up in a jostling, exuberant expression of being in which to live is to struggle and to give up is to die.
From a distance, the earth is a jewelled orb suspended in the glitter of space - beautiful, serene and timeless. But zoom in, and today especially zoom in on Egypt, and one sees that this beauty is home to such urgency of hope, such inspiration and vision, such fragility and vulnerability. Thomas Aquinas says that all of creation participates in God and bears a trinitarian likeness. The sunset, the earth, the Church - ultimately, the struggle, the beauty and life itself are inseparable.
God's creation, like the new creation of the Church, is struggling in birth pangs to bring the future into being. We don't know the fullness of truth, and when we do it will astonish and overwhelm us in its unexpected and unimaginable possibilities. But until then, we can be truthful, we can be honest, we can be penitent, we can be prayerful, and we can keep our sense of humour and solidarity. We're all in this together. Look again at what a small and wondrous planet we share with all those other jostling life forms. Last night, a pair of swans folded in their necks and slept outside the window of my houseboat, and this morning the geese and the ducks squawked and quacked their greetings to the dawn. How amazing this world is, and our human squawking and quacking is part of that wonder.
Let me give the last word to Cardinal Newman. This is from his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Perhaps it's a fitting comment on which to close my own contribution to the debate about the Ordinariate, for the time being:
But whatever be the risk of corruption from intercourse with the world around, such a risk must be encountered if a great idea is duly to be understood, and much more if it is to be fully exhibited. It is elicited and expanded by trial, and battles into perfection and supremacy. Nor does it escape the collision of opinion even in its earlier years, nor does it remain truer to itself, and with a better claim to be considered one and the same, though externally protected from vicissitude and change. It is indeed sometimes said that the stream is clearest near the spring. Whatever use may fairly be made of this image, it does not apply to the history of a philosophy or belief, which on the contrary is more equable, and purer, and stronger, when its bed has become deep, and broad, and full. It necessarily rises out of an existing state of things, and for a time savours of the soil. Its vital element needs disengaging from what is foreign and temporary, and is employed in efforts after freedom which become wore vigorous and hopeful as its years increase. Its beginnings are no measure of its capabilities, nor of its scope. At first no one knows what it is, or what it is worth. It remains perhaps for a time quiescent; it tries, as it were, its limbs, and proves the ground under it, and feels its way. From time to time it makes essays which fail, and are in consequence abandoned. It seems in suspense which way to go; it wavers, and at length strikes out in one definite direction. In time it enters upon strange territory; points of controversy alter their bearing; parties rise and around it; dangers and hopes appear in new relations; and old principles reappear under new forms. It changes with them in order to remain the same. In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.