Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A sympathetic observer

As Anglican Catholics we are always complaining that no one understands us. Here's an insightful and sympathetic post from Fr Sean Finnegan here who seems to understand our situation very well.
Here's an excerpt:
"There has been a lot of quite triumphalistic stuff around, ‘Catholicism without Peter is not Catholicism’; well, quite; I believe that myself. But the trouble is that Anglicanism, despite the common assertion, is not so much Catholic and Reformed (meaning 100% of both), because that, frankly, would be contradictory. It means that there are compromises, and elements of both, in differing cocktail strengths, plus other stuff (liberalism, for instance). One might call oneself a Catholic (within the C of E, I mean) but not actually share all the teachings of Vatican II, Vatican I or even Trent. What it means is that one believes in a cocktail that is Catholic-heavy, if I can put it like that, and the elements that go to make up the Catholic bit can differ from person to person.
To some, union with Peter may indeed be desirable, one day, but there is a lot of other stuff to get out of the way first. Such a person may nevertheless feel much more comfortable in the company of Catholic-minded colleagues than among the usual mix in his deanery chapter. He may even belong to SSC and Forward in Faith. He may hate the notion of women’s orders. But is he really expected, then, to believe also in Papal Infallibility and the wrongness of artificial contraception, and, most painful of all, to submit to ordination in  forma absoluta…?"
         Read it all

For many clergy - in Wales certainly, but throughout the Anglican world - the sticking point where it comes to the Ordinariates is precisely the question of (re)ordination. It's not a concern I share myself, having enough anxiety about the doctrinal history of Anglicanism (not exactly diminished by recent decisions) to be too bullish about the sufficiency of our orders by themselves. From the perspective of both sides, some further act of sacramental validation is necessary to remove all vestiges of doubt. It's the price that has to be paid for sacramental certainty (not to mention reunion with Peter) and I don't think we should complain about it.
But do I understand those who say to me: 'How can I deny the validity of my priesthood and my sacramental actions in (say) decades of  pastoral ministry? How can I say that what I have always regarded as Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is, in effect, a piece of bread and no more?
I'm not at all convinced that that is what submitting to further ordination does commit us to, but there is a lot of work which needs to be done within our tradition in order to allay quite understandable fears of this kind.
In the end, of course, these kind of  worries may be as much emotional as theological, making them so much more difficult to overcome. Given the fact that this will be an ongoing process over a period of years not months, what should we be doing in this regard?


  1. Not just ordination, though I accept that is on another level, but reception too which equally implies past error. Have our genuflections been simply idolatrous?

    I find the implication that Catholicism represents eternal truth hard to swallow, not only looking to the past but to the present. One of the more telling points is echoed in "Rowan's Rule" (p.77) which deals with 'the infallibility question'. The response is most telling; "... in fact it tended to be my Catholic friends who said, "We don't believe this either - just keep your fingers crossed"." I have heard that so many times from converts it leaves me wondering where true integrity lies.

  2. I had my last Holy Communion (and I can’t not call it that) in the C of E on the Sunday before Synod righted the Holy Ghost and said women could be priests. It was my last for a long time, for two or three years perhaps until a friend got ordained in the TAC. I used to go over it a lot in my mind. Was it only wine and wafer? Could it have been in any sense the Body and Blood? Orthodoxy, like Catholicism, demands the answers are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but reading your post brings back some very uncomfortable feelings. I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like from your side of the altar rail. You have all my prayers for the transition.

  3. Thank you for your kind comments, Father.


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