I greatly appreciate what Archbishop Mark Haverland wrote a couple of years ago in The Trinitarian about the position of the ACC in relation to Anglicanorum coetibus. I bring up the subject, not as an attack against the Roman Catholic Church, but in view to a comment or two that have come this way recently. Some members of the ACC were at the time more vocal than others about the movement set in motion by Pope Benedict XVI, but the Archbishop’s statement is measured and temperate.
He was lucid right away in that going to the Ordinariate was no different from any classical way of converting to Roman Catholicism. True, there would be a certain corporate aspect, but that was to be all. Anglican orders are valid only when the RC Church deals with the Canterbury Communion in the ecumenical dialogue. They “become” invalid in the case of converting clergy. In the end, the provision was only of interest to a number of clergy and laity leaving the TAC and the Anglican Communion.
One of the important issues was that of Anglican orders and their condemnation as “absolutely null and utterly void” by Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae of 1896. The English Archbishops responded with Saepius Officio and affirmed that the theological principles contained in the Papal bull would cast doubt on the validity of Roman Orders too. The current sedevacantists claiming the Roman Catholic tradition indeed use Apostolicae Curae as an argument against the validity of the rites reformed by Paul VI in the 1960’s. Rore Sanctifica is a prime example of this argumentation. It could be inferred that if the current Roman Catholic rite is valid, so are Anglican orders, because validity survives the radical change of the rite, and even that of the “essential form”. There has also been theological scholarship since 1896 that is more favourable to the validity of Anglican orders from a Roman Catholic point of view.
The big obstacle is the ordination of women, but that is not our problem, nor is it anything to do with the rite.
Archbishop Haverland made the point that the Ordinariate can only attract Anglicans who are desperate to get out of Anglicanism“. I’m not sure if that was entirely fair to all, but perhaps to a good number. There is the question of numbers, which can be made to mean anything, since Continuing Anglicanism is itself quite marginal. At the same time, relatively few joined the Ordinariates of the USA, the UK and Australia. It remains to see how they will fare under the pontificate of Pope Francis who allegedly said before his election to the Papacy that the Ordinariates were unnecessary and that any useful dialogue was with Anglicans who remain Anglicans.
Our Archbishop made the point that those who formed the backbone of the English Ordinariate were not using Anglican liturgies, but the modern Roman rite. There is provision for the Book of Divine Worship and any new Anglican-inspired liturgical books for the Mass seem to be elusive for the time being.
First, there are those, particularly in England, who have either never worshipped using classical Anglican forms or who long ago abandoned such forms. Many English Anglo-Catholics use the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgies. If one is already dieting on the mess of pottage which is the Novus Ordo, conversion is liturgically easy. But such people will not reconstitute Prayer Book or Anglican Anglican missal (even if “corrected”) worship in the Roman Church. They will just improve the quality of the music a bit and perhaps for the sake of of an occasional nostalgic kick might sing Evensong and Benediction in an Anglican fashion. In a generation this group will probably assimilate fully into existing Roman diocesan and parochial structures. The converts in question do not really value their liturgical patrimony, because they willingly abandoned that patrimony years ago. For such people conversion is a matter of finding a safe berth after their comfortable jobs and guaranteed incomes in the Church of England become too costly for conscience to permit them to continue to enjoy.
He sees the Americans in other terms:
Those who do, however, will tend to be more traditional liturgically than the English converts. They also will tend to be unhappy with their current Church homes. They will tend to belong to ‘Continuing’ Churches that are unstable or poorly led or they will come from the Episcopal Church or other bodies of the old Canterbury Communion.
It just seems to be statement of fact. Some had a solid conviction that it was unnecessary to leave Anglicanism to be Catholic. Others of us have come to this realisation through experience, and perhaps in certain cases already having read the book, seen the film or even been there. I have come to the ACC confident in its stability, maturity and self-confidence – gained from having learned lessons, notably about the qualities of those called to the Episcopate.
In the wake of everything, our Archbishop says:
We are not refugees looking for a perch on which to settle. We are adherents to one of the great traditions of Christendom, whose treasures we value and will preserve. Some day Rome may care to talk to us as happy traditional Anglicans, not as wannabe Roman Catholics.
Some may scoff at this, and certainly it will take many years of strengthening the stability, maturity, and contentment of our Church, but perhaps one day it will become possible to dialogue with Rome as grown men, recognising each other as Catholic and being concerned for the well being of the faithful and the world.
The experience of the past few years has been educational and salutary for myself and some others. It is a temptation to seek security in big mainstream churches, but safety and security are but illusions we have to live without. We are mortal beings and fragility and danger are part of our existence as fallen beings and a consequence of Original Sin.
It is equally wrong for us to show disrespect to the Roman Catholic Church. The Papacy, properly understood, is a symbol of the Church’s unity. Many of us mention the name of the Pope and that of the Ecumenical Patriarch at Mass before naming our own Bishop and the Queen of England. Under Pope Francis, certain obstacles to dialogue may well be crumbling, and we may indeed hope that dialogue may be initiated on the basis of mutual recognition. That may well be something for beyond our lifetimes, as we do well to be realistic and free from illusions.
The intention should be there, but it is finally in the order of the bene esse of the Church, since the Church subsists in each community – like the Body of Christ subsists whole and entire in any fragment of a consecrated host broken into a hundred or a thousand pieces.
Let us be confident and go forward in faith, hope and charity.