“Anglican Catholic” – Generic or Proprietary?

I would just like to add a little note to my previous article on ecclesiastical counterfeiting. My Bishop did observe that the use of the term Anglican Catholic by those who are not formally members of The Anglican Catholic Church is debatable. Personally, I use the term by virtue of having been formally received and licensed by Bishop Damien Mead into the Diocese of the United Kingdom of the ACC and continuing to be in good standing. In addition to my documents, the mention of my Chaplaincy and my own name in the diocesan website also establishes more than a little in the way of credentials. However, the site issues a disclaimer saying that such “descriptions do not constitute any canonical recognition of status“. All that being said, it would be known if I were claiming to be something I’m not.

If it’s not known to be true, it isn’t true. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. Secrets don’t stay secret for long. Sometimes, someone tells me about some wonderful independent church hitherto unknown – and gives me the link to their website. I then see then names of those involved and mutter “I wasn’t born yesterday“. My reaction is to ask myself how stable they will still be in five years from now. Corporate knowledge and long experience can be embarrassing. A person remains bound by his antecedents and cannot “remake” himself just by disappearing for a couple of years!

There are two national parts of the TAC using the title Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (they will change their site to anglicancatholic.com.au from next month) and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. This would seem to be for the historical reason that these bodies at some time separated from the Original Province of the ACC and became parts of the TAC when the latter was instituted in the early 1990’s. However, they do not use the coats of arms and other proprietary symbols of the ACC. They have their own and no one is deceived or misled.

There has been a new comment by my Bishop in his Facebook thread:

There are some genuine folk who don’t understand that the ACC is a distinct body in it’s own right and instead think of ‘Anglican Catholic’ as a generic reference to the historic meaning of ‘Anglo-Catholicism’. However, I think the reason that men like this like the name ACC and want to be identified with us is because generally they want the externals but not the internals. By this I mean they don’t want to be under authority (unless it is their own) and don’t want to be subject to any rules (unless they have written them themselves).

Indeed, this is fragile treading ground, and we have a new distinction, not between “I am Anglican Catholic but don’t belong to the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province” (or to the two member Churches of the TAC mentioned above) but between Anglican Catholic and Anglo-Catholic. Etymologically, there can be no distinction. When I was in the Church of England, I often heard about Anglo-Catholics but never about Anglican Catholics. However, the term is sometimes brought up by Fr John Hunwicke, who is now a priest of the English Ordinariate but who was previously a priest of the Church of England. I would be grateful to know whether members of the Ordinariates in communion with Rome call themselves Anglican Catholics.

My Bishop would certainly prefer the term Anglican Catholic not to be too generic or be used by too many Anglicans not belonging to the Anglican Catholic Church, and certainly not by con-men or wannabes who would compromise our reputation through ignorance or insufficient distinction.

Certainly, our Church is distinctive as well as being a manifestation of what we would like to consider as mainstream Catholicism without any adjective. English ritualists can sometimes tend to focus on details of liturgical rites and other trappings without the theology and spirituality of traditional Catholicism anchored in the pre-Reformation Church with the positive pastoral aspects brought by the Reformation. Examples of those positive aspects are the rethinking of popular piety and the Bible and liturgy in English. Obviously, our roots are in the indigenous English Church, but also in the various Catholic movements in England from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, and this makes us stand apart from Counter-Reformation Catholicism as exemplified by the polemical wake left behind by the Council of Trent and the rise of Ultramontanism. To what extent we are an organic continuation or a grafted-on pastiche is open to question, but I don’t think it matters if the outside matches the inside.

Indeed our Bishop is right in that if we want to be known by the name of Anglican Catholic and identify with the traditions and privileges of the ACC, then we have to be ready to accept authority and follow rules. That was my intention when I made my canonical promises to Bishop Mead last April. It was reassuring as well as painful to be subjected to a good grilling by our Diocesan Board of Ministry, because the standards are high and those people expect priests of quality and loyalty! This is part of the pastoral duty of a diocesan bishop.

What’s in a name? The big problem is when a Christian community finds itself having to break away from its parent Church for reasons of conscience and continue to identify with its tradition. If we were members of the Anglican Communion, we continue to identify with Anglicanism. If we were Roman Catholics, we still call ourselves Catholics, because we understand the term in a generic way without the intention to mislead or masquerade. If we call ourselves Anglicans, the Church of England will accuse us of masquerading. If we call ourselves Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church will accuse us of masquerading. So we use an adjective to distinguish ourselves in a concern for being honest – we identify with such-and-such a tradition but we don’t pretend to belong to the Church that continues to claim a monopoly on the title.

We can go round and round in circles looking for the unique trademark that will set us apart from both the big Churches (which have modernised their liturgies, admitted women into their clergy, weakened doctrinal teaching, etc.) and the charlatans who often turn out to be bogus in terms of their lack of training and never having been ordained. There is always someone to the left and the “more legitimate” to the right. I have seen this kind of juggling for years, which is why I seek to make fine distinctions between the generic (sodium chloride being called salt) and the proprietary (sodium chloride being called Cerebos).

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18 Responses to “Anglican Catholic” – Generic or Proprietary?

  1. Andrew says:

    “By this I mean they don’t want to be under authority (unless it is their own) and don’t want to be subject to any rules (unless they have written them themselves).”

    Is this a joke or just unintentional irony?

    • Answering like a Jesuit, what is implied in your question? If it is what I think it might be, the ACC has never applied to Rome for anything. I can go further (in the light of some of your previous comments) and say that Rome has never offered anything to the ACC.

      • Andrew says:

        Dear Fr. C – you misunderstand my point. I simply meant that I find it rich that this bishop criticizes these other individuals and groups who have gone off and done their own thing, “written the rules themselves”, when this is precisely what his own group did. How can you piously opine about the need for authority and unity when the founding of your group is another example of the same? If I decide to create the Catholic Anglican Church (if it does not already exist), with its own set of canon laws, website, holy orders, etc., do I get sued by the Anglican Catholic Church for copyright infringement, simply because I do it a mere 36 years after the later did so? Perhaps that is the problem – these poor guys have to take other people’s names, because all the combinations of “Anglican” “Catholic” “Orthodox” “Church” “(North) America” have been taken by start-ups just a little earlier to the church creating game. What else is an enterprising young bishop-to-be going to do to create his small fiefdom and purist enclave – where he can do as he wishes?

      • It seems I understood your point exactly: that my Bishop would in your logic be a hypocrite unless he conformed to what some consider as the “highest authority” – the Pope, in other words that he converts to Roman Catholicism. The alternative would be his allowing anyone and anything to use his identity. My way or the highway. My point is that he is no more morally bound in that direction than the Eastern Orthodox or the Old Catholics. He does have the right to require obedience to the ACC’s authority and canon laws of anyone who wishes to use the title The Anglican Catholic Church and use our symbols and coats of arms. There it all is, out in the open.

        The bishops of the ACC are not using the title “Roman Catholic Church”, “Catholic Church” or in any way causing their faithful to believe that they are a part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. There is no hypocrisy on the part of our bishops.

        I reiterate the fact that the Anglican Catholic Church was not involved in the Anglicanorum coetibus movement at any time, nor has it refused any “generosity” coming from Rome in respect to “Anglicans”. I thus answer points you made in your previous comment.

        If you want to found to found a generic Anglican Catholic community, you have every right to do so in the name of religious freedom. The only thing is that you choose a name for the denomination that isn’t used by anyone else and not in respect to the ACC use The Anglican Catholic Church. It’s up to you to create your own “market” and reputation.

        In short, our Bishops have every right over their own subjects, and our Church has every right to have its internal rules of discipline. They have not to relinquish this right either in respect to the RC Church, ECUSA, etc. or to the “imitators”.

  2. Martin Hartley says:

    Dear Fr Chadwick, as a former Anglican, who crossed the Tiber in 1978, and now a member of the Ordinariate, I think I can say that here in England, members of the Ordinariate call themselves simply either ‘Catholic’ or ‘Ordinariate’. I do not think we use the term Anglican-Catholics, as that would probably lead to confusion. Many thanks for your interesting blog.

  3. Stephen K says:

    Father, I don’t think anyone can get too proprietary about many of these religious descriptors. I understand by the term “Anglican Catholic” someone who sees themselves as holding the (big ‘C’) Catholic faith through a religiously cultural Anglicanism and usually attached to a non-Roman community or church. I understand the term “Anglo-Catholic” as standing for someone almost identical but who remains attached to an Anglican Church affiliated with Canterbury. The difference is that I sense that “Anglican Catholic” is a deliberate usage by its subjects, whereas I sense that “Anglo-Catholic” – although for a long time now a respectable and meaningful descriptor – began as somewhat of a pejorative by both fellow but lower Anglicans, and Roman Catholics alike.

    The term “Anglican Catholic” can probably be no more quarantined than “Roman Catholic”. Whether the ACC sees itself as part of the Anglican tradition or part of the Catholic tradition, it is autocephalous, just like all the others. The Society of St Pius X does not purport to be an autocephalous “church” but for all intents and purposes it is, yet who could realistically say they are not “Roman” Catholics? A similar thing might be said about the various sedevacantists, both those with or without alternative Popes.

    If you look at all the appearances and prayers of these dissident traditionalists, they are all similar. That is, they all look and sound like pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics. I think that this is why I think the terms “Anglican Catholic”, “Roman Catholic” cannot help but be common property to a large extent. Non-traditionalists will also assert that they have the “Catholic” faith, and so we come down – yet again – to trying to pinpoint what that might be.

    Some people locate the essence in official affiliation / communion – and this kind of ultramontanism, this kind of juridical approach, widespread though it is, only succeeds in denying whole swathes of people whose faith and religious culture is otherwise indistinguishable. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

    We naturally wish to be able to describe ourselves, for others’ sake, as well as to make sense of things for ourselves, hence our attempts to coin a perfect name. Unfortunately, others might arrive at the same name with different considerations. The other negative side-effect of this exercise is that we may end up in unintentional idolatry, the focus on human associations – as Rowan Williams would say, the ‘religion-making’ – rather than on God.

    I think that ‘Catholic’ faith and religion carries variously-hued garments. At its essence I think “Catholicism” is characterised by sacramentalism, sacerdotal sacrificialism, and a hagionomy (cultivation of saints and holy things) that is not always comfortably distant from polytheism and naturism respectively. Hence its ability to throw up from time to time its exotic heretics (disputed visionaries etc), or mystics and holy radicals like St Francis. By contrast, non-Catholicism might be characterised by whatever the alternatives to these things are.

    This is why I think the Catholic religion is not confined or identified along ecclesiastical lines, but by the presence or intensity or comprehensiveness of these characteristics. What we think we see as “Orthodox” or “Protestant” could be, I’m sure, analysed the same way and we will probably find that in the middle of the religious spectrum all three essences are to be found in different degrees.

    Lots of people love to insist that religious affairs are black and white, just-so, not-so, and that religious affiliations explain everything. I think, to the contrary, that this homogeneity is elusive, if it exists beyond the core concepts I have attempted to identify above. But this is just how I see it.

    • Michael Frost says:

      Stephen K, Some excelling interesting insights. I do wonder sometimes if there isn’t a different perspective on both sides of the pond? Here in America we are swamped with various jurisdictions. A plethora of alphabet soup just for “Anglicans”. Issues of canonical versus non-canonical for Orthodox. And the vagrante/schismatic ultra-traditionalists for Rome. Though it is interesting to see various jurisdictions appealling to the traditions of others. So Orthodoxy has its WR (with liturgies appealing to Anglicans and RCs). Rome its Anglican Use/Ordinariates and various uniates. Even one “Anglican” jurisdiction (APA) with a WRV.

      I oft think I can only barely attempt to understand and explain by stating… I “know it” when I experience it. I pulled out a copy of an ACA pamphlet that attempts to explain who they are. So they are… Part of the historic Christian Church. Historic Anglican. Continuing Anglican. Traditional Anglican. Anglo-Catholic. Catholic Christian. Anglican and Catholic. Catholic faith and Anglican expression. And that is just in one small pamphlet!

      • I am presently reading Martin Mosebach’s Heresy of Formlessness. The point he is making is we all have to become experts on everything just to justify our resistance to those who are secularising the Church and ruining everything. Then everyone goes on the defensive instead of peacefully being a member of the Church he was brought up in. This proliferation of names and titles – to justify not being in ECUSA and not being some wannabe charlatan either – is part of the psychology.

        Innocence is definitely lost, and this brings us to understand why so many are disconnected. They don’t want to be “experts”.

      • Michael Frost says:

        When I saw your mention of ECUSA and your statement–“Innocence is definitely lost, and this brings us to understand why so many are disconnected. They don’t want to be ‘experts’.”–I immediately thought of the ECUSA church nearest to me in my supposedly generally moderately conservative midwest area. With the lesbian priestess. And all of its progressive, secular theology regarding interacting with the world (abortion, marriage, medical ethics, etc.). Yes, certainly compared to say 1925 or 1965 members of ECUSA have seem unimaginable changes: “those who are secularising the Church and ruining everything.” All I can do is pray for their repentance and a return to the Gospel of Christ. For as Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”. The gates of Hell appear to be swallowing churches and that is a belly which isn’t full?

  4. Fr Graham Colby says:

    Dear Father,

    The term “Anglican Catholic” was widely used by Anglican Papalists, especially in the 60’s. By “Anglo-Catholic” they usually meant “Catholics without the Pope”. “Anglican Catholic” became the self-designation of choice in organizations like the Catholic League, and in publications like “The Dome” and “Crux”, which we papalists referred to as “Full Faith”, whereas the Church Union and other less explicitly or exclusively “Roman” groups, as I recall, continued to answer to “Anglo-Catholic”.

    I left the C of E in the early 70’s so I don’t know if or how long this situation continued. How long ago it all seems now!

  5. cumlazaro says:

    When a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, I certainly regularly identified myself as an Anglican Catholic. (I was inspired by the example of Frank Williams (the actor who played the Vicar in Dads Army) using this term of himself in a radio interview.) I simply meant that I regarded myself as theologically Catholic, but not really part of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, especially in matters liturgical.

    There were certainly others who did the same. (This would have been in the eighties/nineties.) My impression -and I’m not a member of the Ordinariate so I can’t be sure- is that few in the Ordinariate would describe themselves in the same way. They would regard themselves as simply Catholics.)

    I think it would be odd for any particular continuing Anglican Church to claim the title as uniquely theirs, less because it would confuse matters with the Ordinariate, and more that it is (I suspect) a description that many other existing Anglican/Episcopalians would regard as their own.

    • The difference is between:

      I am / belong to The Anglican Catholic Church.


      I am an Anglican Catholic.

      It’s that simple.

      • cumlazaro says:

        Sorry, I may have misunderstood you. Of course it is a straightforward matter as far as ‘I am a member of/belong to The Anglican Catholic Church’. I thought (and having re-read the post, I’m still not sure that this isn’t a correct reading of at least some of it) that you were wondering about the advisability of identifying that claim and the claim, ‘I am an Anglican Catholic.’

        If that is the worry, then my advice would be (on the grounds that others of an Anglican tradition might want to claim ‘I am an Anglican Catholic’) not to suggest that the claims should be identified. If there is another worry, then clearly I have indeed misunderstood.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Does seem pretty simple indeed. Churches have the same rights to engage in copyright, incorporation, patent, trademark, and other legal protections like anyone else. Those who infringe on such aren’t behaving as Christians. And they should expect that the holders of said protection will take the appropriate legal action when violations occur.

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes. The Anglican Catholic Church is a subset of all those who would or could identify as Anglican Catholics and those who actually identify as members of the Anglican Catholic Church constitute a subset of all possible eligible members of the Anglican Catholic Church. Thus, it comes down to the obligation of all those who identify themselves as Anglican Catholic not to say they belong to the Anglican Catholic Church if they don’t, and of members of the Anglican Catholic Church to make clear they are Anglican Catholics who belong to the Anglican Catholic Church.

  6. Bishop Mead says:

    In response to Andrew’s comments above. The quotation from my Facebook thread:

    “There are some genuine folk who don’t understand that the ACC is a distinct body in it’s own right and instead think of ‘Anglican Catholic’ as a generic reference to the historic meaning of ‘Anglo-Catholicism’. However, I think the reason that men like this like the name ACC and want to be identified with us is because generally they want the externals but not the internals. By this I mean they don’t want to be under authority (unless it is their own) and don’t want to be subject to any rules (unless they have written them themselves).”,

    was actually posted in direct response to (and intended for the individual asking) a question about a man in Italy who had claimed to be a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church on his Facebook Profile, had used the ACC name and our logo and, I have subsequently been informed, claimed me as his bishop. It was not intended to reflect or in response to any individuals or group of individuals believing themselves to be, or desiring to be identified genuinely as Anglican Catholics for theological or historical reasons.

    The question was direct in asking why an individual like this wanted to pass himself off as a member of the Anglican Catholic Church – Not an Anglo-Catholic, Not an Anglican Catholic, but as an ordained member of the body that has used that name since 1978 – and which in the UK is a Registered Charity – when he most definitely isn’t and never has been. My comment about authority and rules had nothing to do with a genuine group of people nor even a genuine individual … But someone who wanted for some reason to mislead others and who when challenged was extremely rude and abusive. Given this clarification of the context (which I can see wasn’t clear in the post above) I do not think that there is anything hypocritical about my statement.

    • Many thanks, Bishop, for this clarification. I remember the days of the ordinariate movement and the pressure put on the TAC bishops to act in consequence to what some considered to be an unconditional promise to convert to Roman Catholicism as soon as Rome’s “generosity” was manifest. Some of the RC zealots would then extend this notion to other continuing Anglican Churches, even those that had never been involved in the “uniate” movement. Following this logic, all continuing Anglican Churches should have disbanded in November 2009 to await the “generous” provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus.

      Those continuing Anglican Churches not complying with the notions held by the “apologists” would have no moral right to preserve their own integrity. In the same perspective, any Anglican remotely resembling Roman Catholics would be deemed to be deceiving people. This would be the source of “hypocrisy” of continuing Anglican bishops denouncing usurpers.

      Andrew seems to have expressed the above point of view, one I encountered with many others over the period 2010 – 2011 when I was still licensed in the TAC. Naturally, the ACC is elsewhere from those old polemics, and we preserve intact our integrity as a Catholic Church independent from the Roman See, with our own Provincial and Diocesan hierarchy.

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