To follow up from my previous article, I give some ideas about what I would like to see in Anglo-Catholicism as expressed in the Continuing Churches and how things could be in the future.
Rather than a revival of the kind of Anglicanism that was founded on the English Reformation and fettered to the State down to matters of ritual and interpretation of the Prayer Book, we need to have a broader vision, one of Catholicism without any qualifying adjective. This kind of Catholicism would be as understood over the first millennium and by the more pastorally-minded of Eastern Orthodox priests and bishops. There needs to be a profound sense of not founding a new church, but of rediscovering the living Tradition.
Wanting to reject all ecclesial development since the first three centuries of Church history is not a good idea. There were many healthy developments in the middle ages in spite of the presence also of some corruptions and accretions. One capital task for us all is learning to understand the Orthodox and helping them to learn to understand us. We have got to get beyond the notion of “conversion” to the “true Church” to an attitude of whole-hearted hospitality and welcoming of diversity in matters of liturgical traditional and culture.
As in all Catholic and Orthodox Churches the integrity of the priesthood and episcopate needs to be carefully safeguarded without falling into excesses of Donatism. Ordination is not “defiled” by its being conferred by the “wrong” bishop. It is valid or it is not valid. There need to be clear guidelines for conditional ordinations when they are judged to be necessary or appropriate. There needs to be a programme of education to combat neo-Donatism.
The legitimacy of the Church does not depend on approval by Rome or a canonical Orthodox authority, but on the integrity of its creedal orthodoxy and the integrity of its Episcopate. There needs to be a considerable amount of thought about the role of the bishop in the Church. The Church consists of human beings who are sinful through weakness, but steps need to be taken when weakness becomes a permanent state of evil, arrogance, pride, ambition and delinquency. Bishops need to be accountable to their priests and lay faithful so that an evil or unfit man can be removed with the minimum of damage to the Church as a whole.
The Affirmation of Saint Louis is an excellent basis of doctrine. There are also the agreed statements of a couple of decades ago between the Union of Utrecht and representatives of Orthodoxy. There is also the Declaration of Utrecht from 1889 to state a clear position concerning the definition and exercise of “papal infallibility” in the Roman Catholic Church. Like Old Catholics, Anglo-Catholics need to be aware of the unacceptable developments in Roman Catholicism to be encouraged to rediscover the older ecclesiology and basis of the Church. The emphasis should be on the idea of belonging to the universal Church of the whole of its history.
Anglo-Catholicism needs to be dedicated to the following orientations:
- Theological study based on the Scriptures and Fathers of the Church, and all the noted theologians ever since.
- The reform of excessive clericalism, a synodal method of government and subsidiarity. There needs also to be a healthy detachment from secular politics or the temptation to worldly power. The mission of the Church also is essentially religious and spiritual.
- Commitment to union with other Churches of like theological convictions and with the Catholic Priesthood. Union is more through human contact and bonds of friendship than negotiations between bishops. It needs to be a work of the whole Church.
I see no tendency in the Anglican-Catholic to compromise on the essentials of the Sacramental integrity of the Church or traditional doctrine, for example giving in to temptations of liberalism or unhealthy forms of esoteric religion. For this, the Anglican Continuum should be praised. This puts Continuing Anglicans into a unique position in relation to Rome and the Western Orthodox vicariates. Even if conversion and absorption are out of the question, the duty remains to resume the dialogue when the current polemics will have abated.
The marriage of the clergy should be maintained as presently. Divorce and remarriage in the clergy is a real problem. Institutional procedures for annulments should be carefully researched and conducted according to acceptable canonical norms.
It would be fitting in the Anglo-Catholic world that churches should be appointed and liturgies celebrated in an “English” manner, avoiding the excesses of baroque Roman Catholicism. I would encourage more use of the Sarum or northern French liturgical rites and traditions rather than counter-reformation Roman Catholic custom. The resources are available and a printing house could easily publish the necessary books. The language of the people would normally be used, archaic English for English-speakers, but without excluding the possibility of reviving the liturgy in Latin, especially when sung. Some parishes in the ACA offer Mass in Latin for former Roman Catholics who prefer it.
Liturgy needs to be given its importance like in the mind of the Eastern Orthodox and monastic traditions of the east and the west. Liturgy expresses what we believe as Christians and how we build our relationship with God and our fellow Christians in the Church. Through beauty and communication with all the five senses, the liturgy has the power to evangelise the whole person.
A vital dimension of Anglo-Catholicism and the Old Catholic idea is the primacy of the conscience, not merely obedience to an authority. The right conscience needs to be formed by empathy for other people and through education, especially in the family. A correct understanding of magisterium would be instructing, guiding and teaching, rather than imposing a spiritually totalitarian regime in which the screws are tightened always in the same direction – until something breaks.
Many of these ideas may seem to have little to do with Anglicanism but rather to a wide vision of Catholicism without any restricting or qualifying adjectives. The term Anglican Patrimony has been discussed a considerable amount over the past few years in the context of the Ordinariate. It is discussed in a different way in a continuing Anglican context, often in conflictual terms. As I mentioned in my previous article, separation of the “churchmanships” of comprehensive Anglicanism into a number of communions seems inevitable, given the separation from the Anglican Communion and the Establishment. Anglo-Catholicism should see no shame in putting the Thirty-Nine Articles, Black Rubrics and other historical accretions from the English Reformation into a museum and appealing to Catholicism.
Freed from the fetters, I am sure the restoration of bonds of mutual friendship and fellowship in prayer can be brought about even if communicatio in sacris is still a few years down the road. To a large extent, we are responsible for building up our own hope in the future.