PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- Traditionalist Anglicans who remain in the Anglican Church rather than taking up Pope Benedict XVI's offer of an Anglican ordinariate are wasting their time and spiritual energy clinging to a dangerous illusion, said the Vatican's delegate for the Australian ordinariate.
Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott, a former Anglican, urged Anglicans at a Feb. 26 festival in Perth to take up the pope's offer of "peace."
"I would caution people who still claim to be Anglo-Catholics and yet are holding back," he told The Record, Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth, Feb. 26. "I'd say 'When are you going to face realities?' because there's no place for a classical Anglo-Catholic in the Anglican Communion anymore."
It's very hard to fault his logic. Yet no one should despair. It was always going to be the case (and for various reasons, all well-rehearsed on this blog and elsewhere) that not everyone who is sympathetic to the establishment of the Ordinariate was ever going to be able to join it in the "first wave."
As for those who seem at the moment to have rejected the Holy Father's offer, the passing of time will be both on the side of the Ordinariate and on that of the revisionist majority within western Anglicanism. It will soon dawn on those remaining "classical Anglo-Catholics" who are now reluctant to leave, that there can be no 'safe haven' for them within Anglican structures.
There is a very good reason for this. Anglican Catholics know - or at least they should by now - that they simply cannot rely on the empty promises made by those who are our synodical and episcopal opponents many of whom, as we have seen fairly close to home, equate our beliefs with those of racists, homophobes and anti-semites. [See here] Not that all our opponents are without generosity or sympathy to the Anglo-Catholic predicament but, as we are also aware, expressions of sympathy and promises of support without the concomitant ability to deliver on those promises can result in more uncertainty, anxiety and despair than that caused by outright opposition. For Anglo-Catholics in England and Wales, the last few years have been a triumph of unrealistic hope over bitter experience.
I would be genuinely interested in hearing from anyone who believes that there is now a long-term and orthodox future for Anglo-Catholics within the Anglican Communion - a future which includes both the essential witness to the unity of Catholic Christianity and progress towards the goal of full and visible unity.
Because on a practical level (on any coherent theological, ecclesiological, level, it's clearly all over) it seems to me that even if, in England, the 'SSWSH ' bishops achieve their goal of recognition as a "society" within a C of E rapidly moving towards the ordination of women to the episcopate (and at present, gaining that recognition seems most unlikely, unless some spectacular rabbits can be pulled from archiepiscopal hats) no one should be under any illusion that the war of attrition, "the long defeat" we have been fighting, will be over and done with. All the levers of power and influence (it's unfortunate to have speak in these terms, but nonetheless in a divided and politicised Church...) and of sacramental and pastoral oversight, including the authority to recommend ordinands for training, the kind of training or formation any candidates would receive, and the authority to nominate clergy to parishes, will all be (as they are now for all intents and purposes) in the hands of those whose beliefs are, at root, inimical to orthodox Catholic faith and practice. [More than that, the polity of modern Anglicanism itself, provincial autonomy coupled with 'synodical government and episcopal leadership,' has proved fatal, in today's western cultural setting, to the very survival of orthodoxy.] The question of who is in communion with whom will be unanswered (because it is essentially an unsolvable problem, in terms of a catholic ecclesiology, for those who remain.) Any truce will be temporary, then there will be only more of the same - a continuation of the unequal battle - but this time with less support, fewer resources and very little or no public understanding or sympathy.
Fortunately for all of us, the door of the Ordinariate will remain wide open. Unlike Anglicanism in its modern guise, Catholicism is proving itself to be a broad Church and is 'inclusive' in the true sense of possessing unity of faith whilst allowing a legitimate diversity in its expression. What more do we want?