Thursday, 4 November 2010

Our true home?

These comments were made in reponse to my last post. I think they are important enough (at least in the sense of being commonly put to Anglo-Catholics who are considering the Ordinariates) to warrant a fairly full reply.
"I find myself wondering what reasons Anglo-Catholics have for remaining in Anglicanism and not going over to Rome. Obviously, some people can be convinced of Catholic doctrines on soteriology but not agree with Catholic teaching on WO or sexuality or Papal authority, but for those who do agree with Rome on those things (and are thus comfortable with the Ordinariate), what kept you within the Anglican church until now? Or did you simply find yourselves there almost by accident of birth and upbringing, and only later realised that actually your true home was the RC Church?"
The arguments would have far greater force if Anglicanorum Coetibus were simply a matter of
"going over to Rome."  Clearly, the Ordinariates are about being in communion with the See of Peter (a long-standing goal of the Catholic movement within Anglicanism, a stated aim of SSC, the Church Union and much more recently of Forward in Faith), but they are far more than that; they are a way of continuing the Anglican tradition in unity with Rome herself.
This is what the Apostolic Constitution actually says:
"...the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."
So it's not just a matter of 'going over to Rome;' this is far more significant ecclesiologically and ecumenically than a series of individual or group conversions, explicitly giving the opportunity "to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church."
So the answer to the perhaps rather barbed question: 'what kept you within the Anglican church until now?' is a very straightforward one : this prospect was simply not available until now.

As to the issues of women's ordination and human sexuality, these are innovations within Anglicanism and, moreover, very recent innovations. I was ordained twenty-four years ago to serve in a Church which did not ordain women to the priesthood and was not bitterly divided on the subject of "gay rights." I was ordained in the aftermath of the visit to Britain of Pope John Paul II, and at the height of the ARCIC process which many of us hoped would lead to theological convergence and corporate reunion between Canterbury and Rome. However realistic in hindsight these hopes were, it was not traditional Anglo-Catholics who sabotaged that prospect of agreement by the introduction of new causes of bitter controversy.
So am I being told here that my conscience and my sense of what is proper to the Anglican tradition, and what is not, can be directed and determined (and presumably "undetermined" also)  by majority votes in, again, relatively recently constructed, quasi-parliamentary structures?
It is precisely WO, the departures from accepted Christian norms of moral theology, the experience of majoritarian forms of synodical government which have made these innovations possible, and the crisis of authority thereby caused within Anglicanism itself, which have led many of us to reconsider seriously the claims of the papacy and have given greater impetus to the search for union with the Successor of Peter. Essentially, these issues have re-opened the question as to the locus of authority within Anglicanism and have failed to produce a satisfactory answer that does justice to the Christian centuries.
I very much resent the implication (if there is one, that is) that I am not a true Anglican. I have never been an uncritical Anglican, but I suspect that would be true of many people from each of our diverse traditions, catholic, evangelical or liberal.  But "my true home," or whichever way it is expressed, has always been in the Roman Catholic Church only in the sense that up to now I have always believed it to be ultimately the true home of Anglicanism itself.

But I think the onus is not on Anglo-Catholics to prove their loyalty to Anglicanism, but those who now support innovation in apostolic order and moral theology. How can they square their present view with the following statement of the Anglican position made by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Geoffrey Fisher?

“The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.”

Perhaps it's not as easy as some think to accuse others, particularly the credally or ethically orthodox, either explicitly or implicitly, of being un-Anglican.

And if the argument is shifted to say that no Church's belief can be entirely static and that we have to make  allowance for 'development,' please tell me why an acceptance of women's ordination and the LGBT agenda is somehow legitimately "Anglican," and a growing acceptance of the need for papal authority is not. I'd love to hear the answer.


  1. Thank you for this article Father. I do wish people would stop saying "so you're going to Rome" as if it were just a matter of catching a plance or a ferry. I suspect that there are many like me who have been fighting with their conscience about the Ordinariate. Our heads tell us we should accept the offer by Pope Benedict with alacrity but our hearts are still entrenched in the Church of our birth and our ordination, a church we have tried to serve faithfully for a number of years. I think it is the shock that we have found that we are no longer wanted - as one individual said at a Deanery Synod to my wife: "why don't you lot b****r of to Rome, you are no longer wanted in the Church of England. Don't you get the message" Well truth to say we do get the message but it makes me very sad that Christians can speak and act in this sort of way about fellow Christians. There is nothing more illibreal than a liberal!!!!! As I said, we do get the message and we will indeed be *****ing of to Rome but we will do so, when the Ordinariate is ready and in our own time and not at the behest of others.

  2. I suspect Fr Mervyn that for many Anglicans today their church is more akin to a social club with 'a lovely woman' who does 'a wonderful job' but that's as far as it goes. Few can offer any more than that yet we are the ones told to b****r off!
    Excellent contribution as ever Fr Michael, thank you.

  3. Hello Father. Thankyou for the very considered response to my question. Please may I apologise if my question was considered 'barbed'. It wasn't intended to be so. I wrote from naivete. I have not been Christian very long (barely over a year) and although I was raised and confirmed in an Anglo-Catholic church in my teens, my experiences of Christianity (both good and bad) since then had been mostly congregational evangelical until I rejoined the Anglican Church. Recently, while studying the solas, I came to the conclusion that the Catholic doctrines on soteriology were correct, and thus started to take more interest in Anglo-Catholic perspectives. This naturally led me to ask myself whether I could remain comfortable staying within the Anglican church or whether I would eventually feel the need to 'go over to Rome'. It is my naivete that causes me to use this phrase, though I see from your response that it is a phrase often loaded with ill-intent - which I certainly never meant.

    I suppose what I was really trying to discover was whether there was something particular about an Ordinariate that was *better* than simply converting, and I see from your response that you believe there is. Admittedly, not being well-versed in ecclesiology, I'm not actually sure what it is referred to by : "the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion" which would be preserved in the Ordinariate (and which presumably are ... different... in the RC Church?)

    Again, please let me apologise for any antagonism you perceived in my original comment/question. It was entirely unintended. I am very much a supporter of the Ordinariate, and not because I want to 'get rid of' Anglo-Catholics from the church to which I belong. Quite the contrary!

  4. Tess, clearly it's my turn to apologise for my defensiveness. One of the worst aspects of the crisis we are in is the tendency to see criticism and opposition where there is none.
    The whole "patrimony" question, though, is one which has exercised many people since the Ordinariates were announced. There are certain specific areas such as elements in our liturgy and pastoral care which could be termed as specifically Anglican. 'Ethos' is obviously a very difficult thing to pin down, but we recognise it when we come across it. This is a link to an article written by a Dominican, Fr Aiden Nichols, which goes some way to explaining what we mean:
    as does his short but wider survey of Anglican history (from the outside) in his book, 'The Panther & the Hind' ( T&T Clark 1993)
    They are good starting points for working out where we are coming from, and which Anglican traditions could be successfully "repatriated" into the Universal Church. Hope that's of some use.


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