Friday, 10 June 2011

A destructive contribution

Having obtained a copy of the pamphlet from the Anglican Association, "Is the Ordinariate for you?" a few months ago, I expected to find in it a full and fair discussion of the tangled historical context, the complex theological issues and the practical dilemmas which now face Anglicans who are being drawn to a consideration of the Personal Ordinariate.

Instead, I was soon perplexed by both the booklet's  polemical, dismissive and minimising tone and by its failure to put forward any alternative strategy to the approach to unity outlined by Pope Benedict in Anglicanorum Coetibus - in short by its air of general destructiveness. If this booklet is a defence of anything (and I'm not really sure it is), it is a defence of an Anglicanism which would not only be  unrecognisable and unacceptable to most Anglo-Catholics, but which also clearly no longer exists and which cannot  be revived.
It is subtitled "Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans....." but conspicuously fails to give either a balanced or a thoughtful analysis itself in a situation which cries out for a more eirenic and prayerful response. Thoughtful? It calls to mind Bl John Henry Newman's comment to Dr Pusey, "'you discharge your olive-branch as if from a catapult." The Church Union's Tufton Tract, 'The Catholic Church and England' (2010) by the then Bishop Edwin Barnes, though written for a different audience, is a far more realistic and fairer popular discussion of the real situation facing 'catholic' traditionalists.

I kept quiet about this publication at the time because it didn't seem a particularly good moment either to draw attention to the divisions among 'orthodox' Anglicans on the subject of the Ordinariate or to the grim prospects for those who seem to have make a conscious and final decision to remain within the (alas) increasingly insecure fold of the Church of England.
But I'm glad I wasn't the only one to be disturbed, saddened and even shocked by the publication (Shocked? Well, perhaps I should get out more).

Thanks to the Ordinariate Portal [here] for this piece by Fr Geoffrey Kirk, who, as usual, asks the necessary questions:

Geoffrey Kirk on the Anglican Association pamphlet

The Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk, sometime Secretary of Forward in Faith, reviews the pamphlet Is the Ordinariate for you? Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans, produced by the Anglican Association in this month’s New Directions.

"This well-produced pamphlet sets out, in its own words ‘to ensure that, if you are in the process of deciding whether you should accept the Roman Catholic faith, you should fully understand what such a decision will entail’. It is not a defence of Anglicanism (with which most of its authors are more or less radically disgruntled) but a dissuasive against Catholicism, which the same authors view with a detached and patrician disdain. They simply cannot credit that so many people buy such tosh.

‘Thoughtful Anglicans’ will be surprised less by the contents of this paper – with most of which they will be familiar from books and articles dating from the middle of the last century – than by its omissions. They will, perhaps, find this caricature of Catholic Faith not only dated but unrecognizable.

This is an account which majors on the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council and nowhere mentions the second. It quotes in full the Professio Fidei Tridentina of 1565 (the so-called Creed of Pope Paul IV), and does not even acknowledge the existence of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1994.

This might be thought to be slovenly were it not for the nagging suspicion that it is deliberate. Rome, for the authors of this pamphlet, is not the Scarlet Woman (who might at least be challenging or interesting), but a comfortable old Aunt Sally at whom can be shied all the old reliable brickbats.

It is hard to see how any of this will be helpful to ‘thoughtful Anglicans’, for it signally fails to address the very questions they might be asking: questions which are as much about the Churches of the Reformation as they are about the Church of the Counter-Reformation.

Papal infallibility is no greater issue for many than Synodical infallibility (and perhaps less so, since the one is defined and limited, the other still untrammelled and expansionist). Appeals to the authority of the undivided Church sound hollow indeed when unilateral changes are made to the orders of that Church – changes which the Roman Pontiff asserts to be beyond his competence and authority.

In short this is a sad little book, which reeks of past controversies and offers little if anything to the crisis of the times. If Victor Meldrew were a churchman, this is the pamphlet he would write."

Fr Kirk is right. The arguments contained in the booklet are arguments not merely against joining the Ordinariate, but probably against western Catholicism as such, and can serve only to confirm many of us in our long-held belief that there is no future for Anglo-Catholics apart from in full communion with the Apostolic See of Peter, a designation, we should note, which the booklet itself seeks to deny.

The booklet itself is available from the Anglican Association [here]

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