Anglicans: A Hostile Takeover From the Continent?
Why do the Vatican's policymakers believe the Church of England is in Chapter 11?
November 4, 2009
How humiliating! The nation that bred Margaret Thatcher, and that has reveled in the personal financial gains of bringing the dynamic art of the hostile takeover to the corporate world over the past 30 years, is meeting its match.
It now finds its own, nearly 500-year-old national religion under assault from the biggest multinational corporation of all — the Roman Catholic Church. Surely, its headquarters in Rome, Italy, is an unlikely site for originating aggressive corporate maneuvers.
The Vatican has invited disaffected Anglicans, who find themselves appalled by their venerable church's loss of confidence, consistency and moral compass, to come join the Catholic Church instead.
In an otherwise utterly secular England, this first probing move — rather like a generous offer to disgruntled shareholders in a floundering company — has provoked salvos of fulmination from British pundits.
Two successive Archbishops of Canterbury — the top leadership position in the global Anglican Church — have made clear their anger at Pope Benedict's move. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, made no secret of his deep emotional upset when discussing the new Catholic outreach at a press conference. His predecessor, now Lord Carey of Clifton, said he was "appalled" by the Vatican's move.
However, the Church of England, to give the Anglicans their formal title (they are known as Episcopalians in the United States), is in such a dire state of creeping dissolution that any serious attempt to incorporate or revive it would amount to grave-robbing — rather than resurrection.
The Vatican's policymakers, shrewd religious business analysts for most of the past two millennia, recognize the Church of England is in Chapter 11 and won't be coming out of it in any recognizable form.
In effect, the Anglicans are going the way of General Motors and certainly Chrysler. Like those two dying colossi of Detroit, they have been sliding down the long, relentless slope to extinction for a very long time.
Half a century ago, the Anglo-Jewish (actually Scottish-Latvian) writer Chaim Bermant told the story of a Cambridge friend of his who had become a prosperous, secure and happy vicar in the Church of England. When Bermant expressed admiration of his lifestyle, the vicar suggested Bermant become an Anglican priest too.
Bermant demurred, saying that, as a practicing Orthodox Jew, he could never accept the divinity of Jesus Christ. His friend airily waved away that objection, pointing out quite correctly that neither he nor most of his colleagues in the Anglican clergy accepted it either.
The Church of England, in other words, made the same mistake as Detroit's Big Three (General Motors, Chrysler and Ford) when they followed the disastrous example of Robert McNamara in his rise to the top of the Ford Motor Company in the 1950s.
For Detroit's Big Three, making a quality product was dumped in favor of squeezing more profit for the shareholders out of the bottom line. First in autos, but then across U.S. manufacturing of all kinds, product took second place to the tyranny of numbers.
The Church of England went the same way. It loyally danced to the strings of the British state and, for more than a century, looked with discouragement and distrust on any spontaneous or serious spirituality, the very quality that was supposed to be its stock in trade.
With no viable product to market, and an obsessive, trend-sensitive reliance on the marketing process itself, its current state is not surprising.
The British have been remarkably successful and relentless in buying U.S. business assets over the past generation. Britain is the largest foreign investor in, and owner of, U.S. companies, followed by the Netherlands — and far ahead of Japan, China or Saudi Arabia.
But now, they face the prospect of their own prime religious brand being taken over by its historic arch-competitor. It's almost as bad as if Pepsi finally admitted defeat — and accepted being swallowed up by Coke.
And suddenly, the very voices that rejoiced in the revival of British economic might via the finance sector over the past 20-plus years are howling the loudest. They cannot fathom their bankrupt religious brand name being in danger of being bailed out by the main multinational on the block, the Church of Rome.
The revival of 18th century anti-papist sentiments in multi-cultural London would have fascinated and delighted Sigmund Freud. For Freud loved to document and analyze examples of old phobias and patterns of abusive or obsessive behavior, long forgotten by the conscious mind, erupting out of the unconscious in sudden and unexpected outbursts of anger and paranoia.
I wonder: Why should the tolerant and increasingly sensitive post-Vatican II Catholic Church be such a threat to all that is English? All the more so, as the multi-cultural acceptance of Islam — and even the implementation of Sharia religious law — are not considered a similar threat to modern English life?
In fact, it is England's, and specifically the City of London's, double standards about the operation of globalization and the workings of the free market that are being exposed.
In the classic free market, firms with superior product quality, business acumen and sales technique are rewarded, while those rife with complacency, laziness, unsatisfying products and business practices are penalized. Ultimately, they are liquidated by their more efficient and unsuccessful competitors.
Superior products triumph through the operation of the free market. Society, civilization and general living standards advance. And Joseph Schumpeter's remorseless creative destruction of the inefficient and obsolete works again.
All of these repeatedly documented and observed capitalist processes explain the effective extinction of the Church of England. And all of them explain why the Catholic Church (a reviving spiritual multinational corporation over the past 30 years thanks to the controversial, but highly successful recruitment and expansion policies of its late Chairman and CEO, Pope John Paul II) is now in a prime position to pick up the pieces.
But it ill becomes English pro-free-marketeers, as champions of one of the most sweeping and relentless versions of modern capitalism, to complain when those same principles operate to liquidate one of their own most obsolete and under-performing corporations.
In fact, globalization may be the key to saving and reviving English Christianity, just as Japanese investment created a new, vastly more successful British auto industry after the old home brands finally imploded and collapsed.
After all, didn't St. Paul, that pioneering visionary entrepreneur in the multinational, trans-cultural marketing of religion, argue this same free market principle in justification of his own business plan? St. Paul made clear he approved of any methodology initiated by local Christian franchises, however independent or different from the guidelines laid down by Head Office, that brought new believers into the rapidly expanding Church.
And Pope Benedict is flexibly applying that same principle in his efforts to get disaffected Anglicans to abandon their old franchise and come join his own far older and currently vastly more confident and successfully run mega-brand.
For as St. Paul said in Philippians 1:18, "Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice.”
It's almost as bad as if Pepsi finally admitted defeat — and accepted being swallowed up by Coke.
The revival of 18th century anti-papist sentiments in multi-cultural London would have fascinated and delighted Sigmund Freud.
The Vatican's policymakers, shrewd religious business analysts for most of the past two millennia, recognize the Church of England is in Chapter 11.
Repeatedly documented and observed capitalist processes explain the effective extinction of the Church of England.