Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Canterbury-Rome Bypass

Before starting on the meat of this article I would like to say that I have not had access to the full text of the Apostolic Constitution, and so my comments are based on the press coverage and synopses that have been published in the last forty-eight hours. I would also like to add that the views herein expressed are my own, and not UECNA policy.

October 21st's announcement of a new deal for Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism was really no great surprise. It had been buzzed about for several months by the Vaticanistas that an official response to the approaches of Forward in Faith and the Traditional Anglican Communion was going to be forthcoming. I think most religious commentators had decided that the practical effect of the Roman response would amount to "Yeah - that and a subway token'll get you a ride down town!"

In spite of the hooplah, there is actually nothing here that is new. What is innovative is the way in which different provisions have been brought together to allow Anglo-Papalists to convert to Roman Catholicism and retain something of their liturgical inheritance within a quasi-diocesan structure.

The two major provisions that have been brought together are:

1. The "Pastoral Provision" promulgated in 1982 to allow groups of American Episcopalians - in this context former members of ECUSA, as it then was - to convert, and have their own liturgical use which retained elements of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and the Psalter from the 1928 BCP. Over the last 27 years this has led to the formation of approximately ten parishes, and a similar number of missions. These are served by former Anglican priests reordained in the Roman Church, and use a version of the 1979 BCP in which the Episcopalian Eucharistic Prayers have been replaced by those from the Roman Missal. A couple of these Anglican Use Roman Catholic parishes have been very successful, but it is not path that many traditionalist Anglicans have felt called to follow.

2. The examples of the "Military Ordinariate" or "Apostolic Administration" have been used to create the model for a special Ordinariate for the Anglican Use of the Latin Rite. The two models both contribute something. Military Ordinariates are effectively non-geographical dioceses for RC military personnel and their families. They were created because the Military has its own demands and culture. A parish of former Anglicans will similarly have its own culture and ethos which is not easily accomodated within the mainly Hispanic and Irish Catholic culture in the USA, or the Irish and Polish Catholic culture of the UK and Australia. The other model would be the Apostolic Administration of Campos, which placed a diocese that refused to impliment the Novus Ordo reform of the liturgy directly under Rome giving it a protected status under Roman Catholic Canon Law. In a similar way, the special Ordinariate for the Anglican Use will give it a protected status within the wider Latin Rite.

In bringing these two provisions together Pope Benedict XVI has created a mechanism whereby the Anglican Use is, to some degree, independent of the local RC Episcopate. It will therefore be free of the wider diocesan and cultural policy considerations that have often caused RC bishops to close down or refuse to create Anglican Use parishes. This will be particularly useful in England and Australia, where the Pastoral Provision has not previous been available. If one may take refuge in stereotypes for a moment, one cannot imagine bishops raised in the Low Church Irish Catholic culture of English-speaking Roman Catholicism being sympathetic to the Anglicized culture of a bunch of ex-TAC High Churchmen.

Apart from the Traditional Anglican Communion, I suspect that the beefed-up and internationalized "Pastoral Provision" will attract only Anglo-Papalists. These are Anglicans who are essentially RC in doctrine already, but who, for various reasons, have not yet swum the Tiber. For Anglo-Papalists, accepting the new arrangement is a golden opportunity for them to normalize their position by going into a part of the Roman Catholic Church that allows a liturgy with far more familiar elements in it - such as Evensong - than the standard Roman Rite.

For those who are already married bishops in the TAC there is also an outside chance that after reordination as Roman Catholic priests, they might be accorded the title of Monsignor. This has already happened in the case of the former Anglican Bishop of London, Msgr. Graham Leonard, who converted in the mid-1990s. It is also not too fanciful to imagine that they might be given faculties to confer confirmation, as is already the case with some RC priests. It is also just conceiveable that they might receive "ordinary jurisdiction" over the parishes of their former dioceses. Of the package that goes with being a bishop, they have lost only a funny hat, some jewelry and the authority to ordain.

Practically speaking, I think it is far more likely that Rome might ordain as bishops two or three celibate former Anglican priests reordained under Pastoral provision. These bishop will then become the ordinaries for the beefed-up Anglican Use. For those who were married former Anglican bishops, the likeliest outcome is that they will be reordained as Roman Catholic priests and given some sort of "Papal Attaboy" for converting in the cause of Christian Unity. I certainly do not expect to see Rome ordaining a married man to the Episcopate as that would put the cat among the pigeons with the Orthodox, who are also being courted by Benedict XVI.

However, for most Continuing Anglicans the new Apostolic Constitution will be simply an interesting development that demonstrates that Rome has given up on the Lambeth Communion. Sorry, Rowen! What it effectively grants is the opportunity to convert to a culturally sympathetic part of the Roman Catholic Church, because organic unity between Canterbury and the Papacy is no longer perceived as being possible. As a result there is no attempt to address the doctrinal issues that separate Catholic Anglicans and Roman Catholics in the Apostolic Constitution. I think the realists amoung us will see that it would be unrealistic to expect Rome to make any obvious doctrinal concessions to a disunited Lambeth Communion. After all, Rome cannot err in matters of faith - or so they believe!

The Catholic Anglicans and High Churchmen who make up the bulk of the continuum, when they discuss what it means to be "catholic," echo Bishop Thomas Ken's words by defining what Anglicans believe as "the Catholic faith professed before the disunion of East and West, free from all Papal additions and Puritan subtractions."

For most traditional Anglicans those "Papal additions" are areas of deep doctrinal disagreement with Roman Catholicism. At the very least, the areas of disagreement include,

1. The Supremacy, Universal Jurisdiction and Infallibility of the Pope

2. The status and scope of the Marian doctrines

3. The doctrine of the Eucharist

4. Certain disciplinary issues such as compulsory confession and clerical celibacy

Those of us who were reared in the older school of High Churchmanship would add

5. The doctrines of Justification and Sanctification

6. The Supremacy and Sufficiency of Scripture

7. The status of the Deutero-Canonical Books
So far as we know, none of these issues has been addressed in the new Apostolic Constitution.

As I stated above, what the new Apostolic Constitution seems to be offering is the opportunity to convert to Roman Catholicism, but retain a Romanised version of the 1979 BCP, and have one's own Rome appointed Anglican Use bishop. Whilst I can sincerely wish those who want to go that route "bon voyage," I cannot and will not go with them, because, in the end I prefer the Christianity of the Bible, the (traditional) Book of Common Prayer, and the Articles of Religion to that of Rome. I firmly believe that our Anglican Reformation brought us closer to the faith of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church, and that to embrace the errors of modern Rome is to depart from the faith delivered once for all to the saints.

So basically - "Thanks, but no thanks! - Oh, and by the way - nice try! But you haven't even chosen the right Prayer Book!"


  1. Well said!
    And well thought out your Grace.
    As for me, I have absolutely no interest in becoming a part of the Roman Catholic Church on any terms or conditions, loose or strict, now or ever.
    As you so aptly put it; "Thanks, but no Thanks"!

  2. Excellent post...may the Anglo-Papalists quickly find Tiber's shores!

  3. Your grace,

    In light of the recent English tour of the bones of Teresa of Avilla, might I be so bold as to add the the monstrous, grave-desecrating and corpse defiling, "Romish doctrine of relics," to the enumeration of stumbling blocks between formulary Anglicans our Roman (and Orthodox) cousins.

    Indeed, let us instead recall the practice of the primitive Church, which reverently GATHERED the remains of the martyred Polycarp, so that he might rest in peace, as the ancient funeral rites exhort, and even be honored at his resting place by pilgrims moved by the Spirit of love to do so.

    Let us but a stop to the superstitious and pagan practice of dismembering, trafficking, parading, and displaying bodily relics of the Saints; rather let them rest in peace in their home parish as was the original Christian, and still is, the Anglican way of things.

    Your servant in Christ,

    Death Bredon

  4. Peter:

    From my reads of AC-blogs, e.g FIF-leaning ones, the responses appear to be garnering support in the UK.

    Apparently, a significant gathering this very weekend.

    We'll have to watch as this develops.

    My take on B16's move is a slapdown to Cantaur, but weighing that. That's my sense of it.


  5. Te Deum laudamus...

    You wrote:

    Apart from the Traditional Anglican Communion, I suspect that the beefed-up and internationalized "Pastoral Provision" will attract only Anglo-Papalists.

    Of course!