- I want to post some turning points on our journey into the Roman Catholic Church. These will not be in any chronological order, nor in ascending or descending importance. They will simply be moments of clarity and insight which, with hindsight, were markers on our journey home. In no way am I suggesting that the people mentioned are not honestly and faithfully trying to serve God.
I have always been drawn to scholastic philosophy, especially the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. I remember reading a book on the genius of the Angelic Doctor which drew particular attention to the Order of Preachers. He, in one sense, embodies the spirit and charism of that Order. I was taken by the life and charism as it was outlined in that book: study, prayer, mission. I read a couple of articles and a book on Dominican Spirituality which only fueled the fire.
So I did the only thing I could: I googled “Order of Preachers”. After the usual suspects (that is, the real deal) I stumbled across the Anglican Dominicans. Further searches turned up the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province Dominican Priory of Christ the King. Yes, there are Anglican Dominicans.
At first my Anglo-Papist spirit rejoiced: yes, here is something which I can get excited about (let’s forget about the obvious problems of being married and unable to live in community etc). I made contact with one priest in the US who was working on establishing such an Order of Preachers within the Traditional Anglican Communion. The priest was honestly seeking to live the fullness of the Dominican life. He managed to set-up an Order of Preachers within the Anglican Church in America. I helped this group with some issues (liturgy and constitution) and was on the verge of joining myself. I truly believed this to be the way forward for me.
At the same time I was writing to a Roman Dominican priest in Camberwell, Australia. We share a love for computers and liturgical history. One day I remember emailing him about this group expecting to get a positive response. He simply wrote back that unless you are obedient to the Master of the Order (and, thereby, Rome) there is no Dominican Order. I was heart broken. That same day I was flipping through some pictures. I saw the Anglican Dominican priest dressed in full habit receiving a new member. And it all at once struck me: This is just play acting. Why create a Dominican Order (leaders in enforcing Roman Catholic orthodoxy in the Inquisition)? The clarity of the moment came with bitter hurt and disappointment.
The painful realization was that Catholic Anglican identity which heavily borrows from Rome is stunting its own growth. To tie oneself so closely to another denomination means that any organic growth of self-identity is also tied to that group. Why not create an Anglican expression of the Dominican charism? People may say they are not aping Rome. But when married priests create religious orders, dress in the full habit, without being connected to the historical head, how can you uphold such a claim? Why recreate Roman religious life 50 years ago? Why recreate Rome 50 years ago?