Tuesday, 7 December 2010

An interesting but flawed argument

There's an interesting post here entitled "Wounding and Grace: A Brief Appraisal of the Roman Catholic Ordinariate, Anglican Christianity, and Modern Ecumenism" by Jared C. Cramer. Read it all, because it throws light on the way Pope Benedict's Ordinariate initiative is being regarded in what has become - now at least - the North Atlantic Anglican mainstream.
The article attempts to explore the implications for ecumenism of what the author, an American Episcopal priest, evidently regards as the mistaken approach taken by those setting up (what he refers to as) the Roman Catholic Ordinariates.
In the course of his argument he makes the following statement:
"Instead, the Ordinariate represents the increasing tendency within modern Christianity to rest content with those who see things the same way as us. It is an approach that allows for some exceptions in Roman Catholic practice, but not in any actual development that acknowledges for the rest of the Roman Catholic Church that these Anglican practices may be a enriching to the whole. The Ordinariate merely winks at some Anglican peculiarities for the purpose of drawing together those who are like-minded on other things. It is not grounded in Christian ecclesiology, but rather is a path to draw together like minds. The Christian Gospel, of course, is about reconciling diverse minds and groups in a unified body."
Well, up to a point.  The author, like the Church in which he serves, fails to recognise that there are limits to legitimate diversity, and makes a clear attempt to alter the historical record. The ARCIC process, which he for the most part praises, proceeded on the basis of recognising those elements in traditional Christian doctrine, ecclesiology and moral theology which the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church had in common, and aimed to build upon them. The major problem with this approach was, of course, that half way through the process of dialogue, one side moved the goalposts. What had been held in common in terms of the apostolic ministry and certain matters of Christian ethics rapidly became sources of fresh disunity, not only between Rome and Canterbury, but also within the Anglican Communion itself, as traditional and scriptural understandings were questioned and rapidly overthrown, mostly not after a process of  considered theological discussion and discernment, but as a result of overtly political lobbying and less than scrupulous manoeuvrings within synodical bodies, and - as we know well - of a pattern of unrestrained provincial unilateralism.
The rest, as they say, is history; but it is against this background of ecumenical irresponsibility on the part of the Anglican provinces that Anglicanorum Coetibus must be seen and judged.
And we should not forget that.


  1. From Jared C Cramer about the Ordinariate;
    "It is an approach that allows for some exceptions in Roman Catholic practice, but not in any actual development that acknowledges for the rest of the Roman Catholic Church that these Anglican practices may be a enriching to the whole"

    Whatever may be the response of some in the Vatican and elsewhere to what has been termed the "Anglican patrimony", it is not true to categorize all RC opinion or appreciation in this way. I can speak for a good number of RC priests and students of my generation (I was ordained in 1975) who had great respect and appreciation for much that we found in Anglicanism in our seminary days. I was trained in Durham and was blessed to attend the university. I often attended evensong in the Cathedral and had some good Anglican theologians for lecturers. A number of seminarians, including myself, were in awe of Archbishop Michael Ramsey and made a special journey to get down to the Cathedral when we heard he was visiting. Four of us were stewards at the Ecumenical Church Leaders Conference in 1973 in Birmingham. I now have some aquaintances in the C of E and one or two I count as friends. We often meet on ecumenical pilgrimages. On my last visit to Walsingham I stayed at the Anglican guest house and was part of a mixed group of Anglicans and Catholics and I had the great pleasure of meeting Bishop Lindsay (who I bumped into in Lourdes not too long ago).

    The problem with writers like Cramer is that they fail to see how different people's reactions can be and how much different traditions are appreicated amongst us. I have no doubt that the Ordinariate is the work of the Holy Spirit and that much that remains good in Anglicanism can be part of our common treasure. I beleive the Pope is completely genuine in this and I know that many of my contemporaries will rejoice when the see the Ordinariate beginning to take shape.

  2. Father, thank you. That's helpful and very instructive. There is, of course, something of a polemical 'vested interest' for some Anglicans to cast a negative light on the Ordinariate, and I think that is precisely what is happening in this article.

  3. 'The major problem with this approach was, of course, that half way through the process of dialogue, one side moved the goalposts.'

    Michael, you need to be more honest about this. The goalposts were never unequivocally set by either side, and the CDF response to ARCIC I could equally be seen as a moving of the goalposts too (remembering that Cardinal Ratzinger was behind this...)

    There is no doubt that the issues you have with the Anglican Communion have set back dialogue with Rome, yet it remains to be seen whether Anglicanorum Coetibus is not itself a simliar setback.

    I read Fr Tomlinson's blog and I feel very deeply for the situation there, although again we only get one side of the conversation/war that is taking place. What he proposes is a real and eirenic solution to the building up of the communion that already exists, and is a communion in Christ - not apart from issues of doctrine or Church organisation, but over and above such issues as cause division in His Body.

    And don't take the PAB issue as an indication that no one in Wales either understands or is willing to speak up on the means of maximising our communion in disagreement. There are those few of us on either side of this divide who will continue to work for as much unity as we can evidence, for we are still united in Christ, whether we feel like it or not!


  4. Let me rephrase: "Half way through the process of dialogue one side decided that issues such as the ordination of women and a re-examination of the traditional theology of human sexuality would take precedence over moves towards unity, which could safely be deferred indefinitely." I'm not sure that's any better from a eirenic point of view.
    In terms of the CDF reaction to ARCIC, one wonders if the American Church had not acted unilaterally over WO, there would have been a greater wish to overcome their reservations about ARCIC's theological method. We'll never know.
    However, the concrete situation in which "traditionalists" find themselves in Wales and beyond is this: I acknowledge there is a great deal of sympathy and understanding going around, but absolutely no evidence of a willingness to address those ecclesiological and sacramental difficulties which sound the death knell for those of a traditional Catholic theology within the Anglican Communion. As the French say, Que faire?


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