Anglican Catholic Clarity

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.

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7 Responses to Anglican Catholic Clarity

  1. Stephen K says:

    You know, the thought struck me in reading this that the usual approach to ecumenical dialogue is misplaced. You either have an agenda about converting the other party, so it is neither equal nor respectful; or you become too anxious lest the other party does not talk with you or “recognise” you. I find the whole concept un-Christian. The REAL challenge seems to me to be how to converse with the other in a spirit of love with no agenda other than to how love. Leave well alone and leave others to be in the confidence that with and in love they will leave you be as well. (Maybe they won’t but someone has to start).

  2. Stephen K says:

    Another question has occurred to me, upon reading Father Marriott’s comment about the “Anglican way” on “For a Continuing Anglican Ecumenical Movement” and Father Anthony’s term “Catholic Christian”. What sense is one to make of all these qualifiers? Can the word “Christian” not encompass all of them? Is to be “Anglican” to be “balanced”, “empathetic”, “understanding”, “accommodating”? Is to be Catholic “desirous of unity”, “inclusive on a universal scale”, “poly-cultural”? And what about others? Is to be “Evangelical” to be “enthusiastic”, “eager to share one’s religious experience”, “steeped in the language of the Gospel”? Is to be “Reformed” (or “Reforming”) to be “self-purifying”, “simple”, “desirous of the Source”, “steeped in an ethos of renewal”? Is to be “Orthodox” to be “respectful of tradition”, “enamoured of mystery”, “apophatic”? And so on? Should not a Christian by implication be all of these things, or could they be?

    Alas, these are used as tribal identifiers, not spiritual charisms. And, to my view, they are all to some extent losing their original or older meanings. No-one following the faith of their childhood can ever be “Protestant”, although there are many protesters within the official bosoms of all churches; no-one seeking to exclude or banish can, I would suggest, ever be “Catholic” or “Evangelical”; no-one insisting on any particular mode or custom can ever be safe from forgetting what it is to “Reform”. And so on. It would do no good therefore to go out into the highways and byway and invite all to the “Reforming Evangelical and Orthodox Anglican Catholic Church”.

    I don’t suggest these terms do not serve to broadly identify an affiliation or connection or custom, but the infra-ecclesial polemics and fissiparous nature of, or instinct within, Christian religion means that on closer scrutiny, they sometimes mean something much more and sometimes something even less. It is dizzying. A complete outsider, a Martian, might see no difference whatsoever between an ACC and a RC high mass, or between a Baptist and a Catholic charismatic service. The need for cross-denominational or ecumenical dialogue is perhaps neither necessary or useful between “churches” but only between each individual on the personal plane. But perhaps my co-readers will have other thoughts on this.

    • I kind of think a Martian would indeed discern the difference between a classical Pentecostal service (and what are classical Pentecostals but Baptists on steroids?), even one at which the “Lord’s Supper” was celebrated, and a charismatic RC Mass. I say this as one, BTW, who found his way into historical Catholic Christianity by crossing the bridge of charismatic renewal from Evangelical Protestantism to my first stop on the other side of the “Tiber/Bosphorus/Euphrates”, the RCC.

      As far as a classical Pentecostal service vs. an RC charismatic one at which Mass was not celebrated: well, as I recall, there was still quite a bit of invoking the BVM and other Saints as well as spontaneous offerings of the St. Michael prayer against Satan in the RC charismatic prayer services. Never heard any of these in Protestant Pentecostal circles.

    • Ah! Unredeemed humanity! It seems to be intrinsic to Christianity to split up, because it is made up of human beings. For many people that would discredit Christianity. One could imagine a “self-regulating mechanism” that would make those who claim their truth to be the only truth to have to be isolated and have no resources to support the continued existence of their particular “brand”. This makes individuals and groups seek to group together in order to find respectability, resources and solidarity. It is perhaps a cynical way of looking at things, but perhaps the most realistic.

      In the meantime, most Christians have given up on Christianity. The problem is finding alternatives – the various “failed gods” of the twentieth century…

  3. Father Gregory says:

    “… 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.”

    Very well put Father. I think it is that realization that brought Fr. Sergius Bulgakov (Russian Orthodox) to write “An article on the actual unity of the apparently divided Church: in prayer, faith, and sacrament (By Jacob’s Well http://fathergregory.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/by-jacobs-well/).” More recently, 2004 or 2005, SVS Press published a special volume of SVSQ dedicated to Bulgakov and in it one finds an excellent article by Fr. Michael Plekon “Still by Jacob’s Well” urging refection and unity.

    Fr. Sergius acknowledges that in spite of there not being a proper priesthood in Protestantism, the Orthodox do in fact have sacramental union in them insofar as Baptism with them is still the one sacrament of Baptism belonging to the Church. Protestants are therefore related the Orthodox *within* the Church. However the sacramental unity does not extend beyond this. With regard to Roman Catholicism Fr. Sergius notes that the sacraments bind Orthodox and Roman Catholics together even if the sacraments are “mutually inaccessible.” He goes on to note:

    “… we can speak of communion in sacraments (apart from baptism) in relation to Protestants only in the general and indefinite sense of their participation in the life of the Church through grace, but of nothing beyond this. A more direct and true communion in the sacraments with the Protestant world is hindered by the absence of a rightly ordained priesthood: this is the threshold over which Protestantism must pass, the reestablishment of an apostolically ordained hierarchy.

    These barriers do not exist, however, for those sections of the divided Church that have retained this succession and have therefore a correctly ordained priesthood. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism belong to this category, together with the ancient Eastern Churches (as well as the Episcopal Church in Protestantism and Anglicanism, particularly in the case of a positive solution of the question of Anglican ordination).

    The Churches that have preserved such a unity in sacraments are now divided canonically in the sense of jurisdiction, and dogmatically, through a whole range of differences; but these are powerless to destroy the efficacy of the sacraments.”

    It seems to me that what Fr. Sergius wrote in 1933 from an Orthodox perspective is true from ours as well. There is much ecumenical work to be done, but most of the work has already been done by Jesus Christ insofar as He gives Himself in the sacraments and draws all of us into Himself. The divisions are real, but they should not be overestimated. The walls separating Christians are walls *within* the one Church it is therefore not a matter of in or out, but of in what room we are in the same house and how mutually open the doors toward one another.

    Fr. Sergius reflected on steps towards practical re-union (in which he included Anglicans) in “Ways to Church Reunion” which I published on the same blog in three parts. Ecumenical issues have been close to my heart for a while and really think your post fits well with the thought that Christian ecumenical work is performed within the Church. Our divisions have not in fact ruptured apart Jesus Christ whose body we still are (in spite of it all).

    Also you mentioned you enjoyed Russian Orthodox thought, I hope you enjoy this as well.

    Gregory Wassen +

    • One way of explaining this kind of ecclesiology would be the Universal Idea of Plato. Most of us know the analogy of the cave and the shadows, and how reality is found as the people emerge from the cave to find the sunlight. The Universal Idea is the reality of which individual manifestations are but shadows. We need to hold onto the Universal Idea of the Church.

      That’s being a little simplistic and there is wisdom to be found in Nominalist thought – but I find Plato a great help to get our minds clearer.

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