Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Broken Jar – Healing the Western Church

At the Canadian Ordinariate Conference in March, Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP was enormously helpful in his patient and scholarly explanation of how the Church in England, and by extension the Anglican Communion, experienced trauma – the “breaking of the jar” – in the 16th century Western schism of the Church.  Now the difficult and groundbreaking effort of mending the jar has begun with the inauguration of ordinariates for Anglicans who represent one shard of the broken vessel. 


The inauguration in January of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK signifies, Fr. Nichols said, bringing the Anglican shard together with the Recusant shard –  those who maintained communion with the Western or Latin Rite of the Church from the 16th through the 20th century.


In his presentations at the conference and just before the celebration of the first-ever Anglican Use Mass in Canada by Fr. Phillips of San Antonio, the esteemed Dominican scholar and godfather of the Anglican Ordinariates laid out a magisterial view of how the coming together of Latin and Anglo Catholics in the UK is a landmark event embodying the grace of God in the restoration of Catholicism – an eschatalogical sign and foreshadowing of the Parousia, when all will be restored and united in God.

Using the image of the end of time and the fulfillment which is embodied in the Parousia, Fr. Nichols evoked and expanded upon the theme of healing at this historic gathering of Anglicans and Catholics from Canada, the UK, US and Australia.  Hosted by Archbishop Collins of Toronto, the meeting allowed time for reflection upon the unfolding process for the erection of North American ordinariates. 

While acknowledging the many and various reasons for this call of God to Anglicans articulated by Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Collins emphasized that Anglicanorum Coetibus is a response to requests made to the Holy See over the past 40 years by groups of Anglicans desiring to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church with essentials of their patrimony intact.  The groundbreaking Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, provides for just such a reception.  Aspects of the document were examined and the process laid out for individual reception of Anglicans within groups in Canada.

After careful instruction and examination of conscience, individuals will apply for reception as members of identifiable groups or parishes.  This process in Canada will continue in a material and programmatic way after May 31 when the initial number of groups and individuals has been determined. In the Fall, the first wave of groups will begin final preparation for reception.  Other groups and individuals will follow when they are ready.  It was emphasized that there is no “sell before date”, so the offer for entry into full communion will remain open indefinitely.  As one delegate put it, this constitution, the highest level of law in the Church, is for the ages.

Anglican deacons, priests and bishops will be individually assessed by the Holy See after submission of dossiers to determine what ministry they may be called to in the new ordinariates. Some married clergy may be ordained as deacons and some later as priests following their initial reception into ordinariates. Only celibate men will be considered for ordination as bishops in keeping with the universal practice of the Church in the East and West.

Fr. Nichols outlined the ecclesiology.  This representative group of Anglican Catholics coming back into full communion with the Latin (Roman) Church represents the totality of Anglicans and is a sign of restoration, healing and hope in the universal Church and so in the Kingdom of God. It is a healing for both parts of the Church and will stand as an encouragement to Lutherans and many other Christians who long to fulfill our Lord’s prayer “that they all may be one”.

Fr. Christopher Phillips, pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement, in his two presentations outlined how the Anglican Use parishes in the U.S. over the past 30 years, have shown that the Anglican patrimony once received into the Catholic Church finds its natural home and begins to flourish to the benefit of those coming into full communion and to the wider Catholic Church. The cross-pollination that is accomplished embellishes and strengthens the witness to Christ by the Church, even as it offers healing and so enlivens the wider society and culture.

This exciting new enterprise has been blessed in San Antonio and elsewhere with dynamic growth.  The Church of Our Lady of the Atonement (see website:   http://www.atonementonline.com/index.php?page=previous_postings&start=7 ) has grown exponentially, adding two schools to a parish which now contains hundreds of families.

Archbishop Collins concluded the conference, enthusiastically endorsing the development of a Canadian Ordinariate in close association with U.S. Anglican Use parishes as they move into the U.S. Ordinariate within the next year.  He described the gift that Anglican patrimony is to the wider Church and then laid out details for the first steps in implementation.  The three speakers then concluded the conference with a panel responding to questions.  The panel and the various presentations were recorded by Salt and Light TV and will be available from them soon.






In terms of the Anglican Church of Canada, two groups are hoping to be received into the Anglican Ordinariate upon its establishment by the CDF: the parish of St John the Evangelist, Calgary, and the first Toronto ordinariate group has just put up a website and will soon announce a location to begin meetings on Sunday afternoons.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Who is infallible anyway?

It is always surprising and very disappointing to hear lifelong Anglican Catholics on the BBC and in other media saying things like: “I can't join the Ordinariate because I don't think that one man - the Pope - can be infallible.”

Many people have uninformed opinions of the Catholic Church. This is often because of a handful of catch-phrases which they have heard from childhood but have never really examined in any serious way. Such an attitude is particularly serious when they claim to be Anglican Catholics, Christians or simply educated people.

It is not the pope on his own who claims to make statements for the life of the Church, statements that will keep the Church from falling into ultimate error. In fact, the pope makes only a very few ex cathedra i.e. formally infallible statements on behalf of the universal Church. Popes only do so after a long period of prayer and reflection in consultation with the Church worldwide and upon the very best advice available.
  
Sometimes it is helpful to consider the opposite case.  Consider what it would be like if there was no final authority to articulate the faith and morals of the Church. There would be people vying for position and promoting their own opinions against others, despite what many thought was the settled faith of the Church.

Yes, you've got it. That would be fissiparous, schismatic Protestantism with people hiving off in every direction according to their own fundamentalist or liberal whims; filling the airwaves with often half-baked opinions. Many are simply following winds of social fashion. In fact, this is very like the sad state of Anglicanism at present.

Unfortunate popular interpretations of the word "infallible" have given rise to many of the problems well intentioned non-Catholic Christians have. Many read into the term, as they define it, pride and control: "Who does the Pope think he is anyway?"

This is just the reverse of what the Petrine ministry of the Pope actually is. The ministry of the Holy Father is to articulate the mind of the Church in the area of faith and morals only after long and serious consideration of the essential matter. Knowing that certain moral, ethical and theological issues require people to make decisions, the Church, as the Body of Christ, makes clear its position so that people may inform their consciences. This is a service to the whole body and to humanity generally exercised by the earthly Vicar of Christ.  

Without such a ministry of oversight there is a cacophony of voices confusing the faithful and damaging the innocent and vulnerable. 

John Henry Newman, the great Anglican scholar who was reconciled to Rome in 1845, put it this way:

"And as to faith, my great principle was: 'securus judicat orbis terrarum.' [the judgement of the whole world is secure] So I say now -- and in all these questions of detail I say to myself, I believe whatever the Church teaches as the voice of God -- and this or that particular inclusively, if she teaches this -- it is this fides implicita which is our comfort in these irritating times. And I cannot go beyond this -- I see arguments here, arguments there -- I incline one way today another tomorrow -- on the whole I more than incline in one direction -- but I do not dogmatise....I have only an opinion at best (not faith) that the Pope is infallible."     Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman, W.P. Ward, p.234

Certainly no individual is perfect, pope or other. However, the doctrine of infallibility has little to do with the personal qualities of individuals. It merely states that the Holy Spirit will not allow the Church, the beloved people of God, to fall into irretrievable error and so guides the bishops of the Church into truth. This truth is stated formally, when necessary, by the leading bishop and centre of unity, the Bishop of Rome, recognized since the time of the Apostles as the Church’s spokesman.

The pope and bishops are not individually perfect or infallible in the common sense of the word (e.g. the pope has his own confessor). Anyone can list the failings of certain popes just as we have good, bad and indifferent people in all areas of life. The failings of individual judges in the Justice System, for example, does not invalidate the Rule of Law or argue against the need for the Courts to make judgements and determine truth.

In the end it comes down to an understanding of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church, the bride of Christ. Either we believe that the Holy Spirit is active and guiding the largest number of Christians (Catholics) or we believe that, over time, billions have been misled and that God only speaks to individuals alone allowing them to come up with a countless host of contradictory opinions on faith and morals.

Because Christ loves the Church and is in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is essential that the discernment of his body be articulated under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Left to our own devices we would fall into confusion and sin.

It is really about what God thinks of the successor of St. Peter, not what we many think. After all, St. Peter is the one to whom Jesus said: “You are the rock and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This phrase has been interpreted in many ways but we cannot escape the fact that Jesus refers to the solidity of what Peter is and/or stands for. The office of Peter needs to be steady and to speak the truth . . . unquestionably and indefectibly, to use a preferred phrase of John Henry Newman. That is what the ministry of the Fisherman is, a humble service to the truth as it is discerned by the whole Church praying and working together.

So, if we accept this action of the Holy Spirit discerned by the whole people of God and articulated by our leader then we thank God for the ministry of unity which the Chair of St. Peter represents while its occupants articulate and define the faith of the Church developing over time within the Body of Christ.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Letter to Margaret - an Evangelical Anglican friend

This is an attempt to answer a question put to me by a long-time Anglican with an evangelical background. I believe her question reflects the feelings of many with personal faith who seek to relate to the Church as the Body of Christ but do not fully comprehend the essentially corporate nature of the one Church Catholic.

Margaret wrote the following to me after reading an article about the Ordinariate which attempted to express how ordinariates are open to all baptized Christians who are not already in full communion with the Holy See:

. . . the comments [made on the teaching of the Catholic Church] are far from supportive, they raise many obvious questions for which there seem to be no convincing answers . . . Jesus is my answer, He is my Saviour, my King of Kings and Lord of Lords, His Holy Spirit is ever present, He is my friend . . . what more could I ever need; is it too simple?

God bless,
Margaret 


My response was as follows:

Dear Margaret,

Of course, I couldn't agree more with you that Jesus, the risen Lord, is the answer to the human dilemma.  My pressing question is: What vehicle, what group will insure that his message and the communion which Jesus offers us will be carried forward for others?  

I certainly cannot do it on my own and I am required by his express command to share his story, his message and his good news.  It is not just for me.

Following are some thoughts I have been working on . . .

None of us came to an understanding of Jesus on our own.  Someone -- many people --  translated the scriptures, printed them, taught us the principles of Christ and their meaning as young people in a community of prayer (a church) and provided us with an understanding of Jesus, his mission and the way in which it can be carried to others.

Maintaining and passing on the message of Jesus implies the need for some organization.  To those who say that they do not like organized religion, Christianity or the Catholic Church, I can only say that they must then engage in some kind of unorganized religion (there are plenty of those ...  not to mention New Age and the occult) which attract many naive young people.  

The other alternative is to have your own private faith.  As someone put it: people who don't want the Catholic faith must want to be their own pope i.e. decide matters of faith on their own.  That may seem to serve the individual's perceived personal needs but their faith and understanding are still based upon what the they have received from others.  How will an individual pass the content of Christian faith on to children and others without sharing the duty and responsibility with others of like mind in some organized way?  

No matter how you look at it, some group or individual must interpret the Scripture and make decisions for the ordering of a community which celebrates, preserves and passes faith on to others.

Either of these two alternatives noted above is a recipe for disunity at least and probably will lead to disorder and the loss of any coherent message or vestige of Christian faith.  Such approaches certainly cannot maintain a Christian witness or community to carry Christ to  the world, to pass on the moral and ethical message of Jesus, or nurture the personal faith of people.  All of this requires an ordered community with worldwide authority in this global era.

It is not enough to say that I hold the Christian faith myself.  We are required by Jesus and by the very faith we profess in him to share our faith in communion with others (The Great Commission - Matthew 28).  That sharing implies a specific organization which Jesus commissioned and appointed his Apostles to oversee.  

This is the Christian faith, it cannot be possessed by any individual alone and is only really maintained by sharing it in a thoughtful and systematic (sacramental) way with the oversight of those who are ordained by the power of the Holy Spirit in a community.  This has to involve co-operation with others.  And so the question is: What group of people is it our call and duty as Christians to work with in the mission to which Jesus calls us? 

As John Donne, the great poet and dean of St. Paul's, London, put it in his Meditation XVII on 'The Church Catholic': 
"No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

The toll of the church bell was for Donne, as it is for us, a symbol of our unity in the Body of Christ which is made up of individuals who need one another and have a spiritual responsibility for one another and for future generations.  Such a responsibility to children and the future can only be worked out in a communion, in a body of people organized in some way. Every baptized person is a member of Christ's body and so has a responsibility to be in communion (imperfect as we all are) with one another in the communion of Christ which is only found in his Church because faith cannot be maintained and passed on by islands of humanity. Individual faith apart from a community means that the mission of Jesus ends with the individual and that is directly contrary to the purpose set forth by Jesus which is to share his life with everyone.

We need a community to interpret and sustain us and the message and mission of Jesus; to stand up to the demands of a secular world which does not want the message of Jesus (or thinks it knows better).  Which group of people, then, is best carrying forward that truth and which group does so in real communion with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a worldwide fellowship which Jesus instituted, commanded and sustains?  

Which group of people systematically educates children in this truth and provides for its transmission into the future?   Which community of people is divinely commissioned and graced by the Holy Spirit to do this around the world and which group has formulated in council and sustained the scriptures, teaching and sacraments through the centuries despite human error and folly?   Which group is on every continent and island offering self-sacrificing love for the orphans and the dispossessed as consecrated sisters and brothers, ministers of God's love?

I truly wish I could say that the Anglican Communion was, is, and will be part of that community.  I believe that it certainly was.  Is it now?  Will it be in the future?  

It seems clear to me that with the decision-making of the past thirty years, many of the synods of the Anglican Communion have largely abandoned the understanding of Jesus that I was raised with and still believe. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church" - The Apostles Creed.   

The Anglican Church of Canada and the US Episcopal Church and others in the Anglican Communion have said in recent years that they can change what the sacraments and the moral teachings have been since the time of the Apostles.  They have said, in effect: "we will change these as we like and we don't care what other Christians do" i.e. they make decisions following the secular spirit of age which are directly contrary to what the vast majority of Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians believe (90% of Christians around the world) about family, sexuality and church order.   We, they say, can decide whatever we wish by a majority vote in our meeting.  It reminds me of the old aphorism quoted by the constitutional scholar Senator Gratton O'Leary "Parliament can make a man a woman."  By this he illustrated the constitutional power of Parliament in the British system but also the foolishness of legislating what was contrary to Natural Law.  The result - Anglicans have come to different conclusions from country to country on a number of central issues and so now are out of communion even with each other.  

Does this matter?  Yes, because without communion the message of Jesus is compromised, confused or lost.  Children will not hear and respond to the message without a teacher and the teacher needs to be supported by a group, a group which in an organized way produces, teaches and distributes the bible and its moral and ethical code.  That is the only way it works in human life.  It isn't mine, I must pass it on with others.

Am I part of a community which will carry the mission and truth of Jesus forward?  That is the question we all have to ask if we want to serve the person and mission of Jesus.  Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that the Anglican Communion as a whole is no longer committed to this and to the unity with others for which Jesus prayed and to which he commands us.  At the same time, we have this gracious offer from Pope Benedict (Anglicanorum Coetibus) to welcome Anglicans into full communion with the universal Church.  This has been an answer to my prayer since I was a child.  I believe that the Catholic Church is the only body which can carry forward in a consistent and effective way the message that the majority of Christians hold dear.

Is the Church perfect?   Do I like what everyone says and does?  It is made up of imperfect human beings seeking communion with the Lord.  That is the answer for me.  It teaches that we are sinful and need constantly to seek forgiveness.  That is the truth.   But, the Catholic Church proclaims the same faith that the Apostles handed on.  The Catholic Church does all of those good things that I noted above in a greater and more extensive fashion than any group or individual.   

We cannot be Christians on our own. We only have faith because of and within a community which exists by Jesus own command and has persisted over time against all odds.   This reality can only describe the Catholic Church, the divinely graced  bearer of the good news; which isn't to say that sincere Protestants and others are not Christians.  However, Jesus prayed and we must take seriously his words: "that they all may be one . . . that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17: 21).  I have to take that seriously and respond to his call and invitation to be one with the universal Church not part of a group which is separated and continues to fragment and compromise the message of Jesus (Anglican or Protestant) or as an individual.   I see no alternative if I want to be faithful to the call of Jesus.  


. . . I am still working on these thoughts, Margaret.

It is a simple message as you say and I agree, but someone must deliver it and it can't be done alone.   The Ordinariate is a gift from the Lord for people like me.  Everyone must make his or her own decision, of course.  

I will get you a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church to consider.  This is what people in your community and elsewhere are studying and we will be doing so here.  It sets out the full Christian Faith in a Catholic perspective.  I do not disagree with any of it though, like everyone, I have my questions.  

What is the alternative?  For me the only way to remain a Christian and an Anglican is in communion with the wider Church.  I don't believe I can refuse this invitation and still be true to the Great Commission of Jesus (Matthew 28: 16 - 20). 

Much love in Christ,

Peregrinus


NOTE:  In August 2013, "Margaret" was received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church. She is a woman in her 90s who has followed Christ her entire life and now has come home in communion with the Holy See.  Thanks be to God for his grace and mercy and for her witness to the guiding power of the Holy Spirit.






Friday, 18 March 2011

An Ordinary Anglican

As I write this, a historic gathering of Anglican Catholics (traditionally called Anglo-Catholics) along with Latin Rite (Western Roman) Catholics and perhaps some Eastern Rite Catholics in communion with Rome, will be meeting at Queen of the Apostles Conference Centre near Toronto to consider the implications of Pope Benedict’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC) and the erection of a Canadian Anglican Ordinariate in full communion with Rome.

Why should ordinary Anglicans be interested?

Speakers at this Annunciation-tide conference are to include Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, the eminent scholar Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP from England and the long-serving Fr. Christopher Phillips, founding priest of the Anglican Use Catholic parish of Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio, Texas. 

Fr. Phillips and Fr. Nichols have prayed for, promoted and, yes, stumped for the new Anglican ordinariates for over 30 years since John Paul II established the Anglican Use Provision in the Catholic Church until now limited to the USA.

Beyond the conference, though, there are many ordinary Anglicans with persistent questions: What is an Anglican Catholic ordinariate? Where is the Anglican Ordinariate headed?

Anglicans are those who were born into, married into, or for a variety of personal, theological or aesthetic/cultural reasons gravitated to Anglican congregations, liturgy and ultimately membership (rough numbers: Africa: 36 million; UK: 30 million; Australia: 4 million; North America: 5 to 6 million). These people span an astonishing variety of perspectives and social attitudes, not to mention theological opinions, under the broadest tent in Christendom.

Is there really any such thing as an “ordinary Anglican” then? If you will entertain for a few minutes the various, though related, uses of the word ‘ordinary’ as an adjective and as a noun, we may see some important connections:

Ordinary:
* adjective - with no special or distinctive features; normal

* noun - one exercising authority by virtue of office and not by delegation (esp. of a judge or bishop)

With the recent refusal of Anglican bishops and primates from various countries to meet together and the now regular eruptions of radically secular pronouncements and actions by US Episcopal and Canadian Anglican bishops on sexuality, marriage, ordination, etc., there isn't any longer what most would consider normal or ordinary Anglicanism. So, with these ‘changes and chances of this mortal life’ are there any ordinary Anglicans?

First of all, there are roughly 36 million African Anglicans, not to mention the large majority of other Anglicans around the world, who consider themselves ordinary Anglicans. They largely believe in the same basic statements of faith and order that Anglicans and the vast majority of Christians have believed and continue to believe with respect to marriage, sexuality, ordination and sacramental life.

Secondly, there certainly will be ordinary Anglicans and an ordinary Anglicanism in one formal and important sense: The new Anglican Catholic ordinaries (noun) will exercise ordinary (adj.) authority for Anglicans establishing a norm for Anglicanism in communion with the universal Church Catholic based upon what Anglican churches have formally believed until the recent radical changes. These changes in policy relating to marriage and holy orders as well as moral and ethical norms have been voted for by trendy synods or imposed by avant guard bishops in the UK, USA, Canadian, NZ and Australian provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Following the election and installation of Gene Robinson, and openly homosexual man, as an Episcopal (Anglican) bishop in the USA, large numbers of congregations and some dioceses have split from the Episcopal (Anglican) Church. Some are seeking communion with Canterbury while others are independent further fragmenting Christian unity.
The current Anglican Communion (those with bishops in some form of communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury) has been and is now increasingly fractured with splits from the Primates' Council on down over issues of faith and morals. These schisms, along with widely varying practices from diocese to diocese and from country to country, have brought the very notion of Anglican unity or “communion” into question.

The so-called Anglican Continuum (Anglicans out of communion with Canterbury) is split along fraught political lines into a myriad of continuing ecclesial communities. These latter, largely conservative, bodies are tortuously gathered into often-tiny jurisdictions under numerous beleaguered archbishops and bishops with sometimes-uncertain episcopal orders and marital status.

So where does the ordinary Anglican turn? Well, 450 years of separation from the Church of the West in communion with Rome has given even divisiveness the appearance of tolerance and plurality. And yes, Anglicans have made a virtue out of compromise, something the English in particular have prided themselves on. But can this wide tent withstand the winds of secularism and militant Islam as well as having to deal with the instant communications of the digital universe? For example, everyone in Africa knows that as soon as another lesbian bishop is ordained in California, life for them will be very difficult in view of the prevailing mores of most African countries.

The point has come when the two or more parties see that what is ordinary for themselves and for generations of Anglicans is distinct from what other parties believe or are putting into practice by means of Anglican synods which simply vote with prevailing social trends. In this situation it is necessary to define what is to be ordinary practice and who will have ordinary jurisdiction. This means radical realignment for those who hold classical Anglican Catholic views. Much as European national boundaries were redefined in the 20th century or as power is shifting in the Arab and Islamic world at the moment, Anglicans must decide within which boundaries they will exist, under what canon law and within which ordinary jurisdiction.

In the Anglican situation, apart from the inevitable human political jousting, there are spiritual and theological principles at stake. The understanding amongst Catholic Anglicans is that belief in God is expressed within a Christian community and must be incarnated in that community’s relationship with the wider Church in some tangible ways. This relationship must be based upon agreed moral and theological principles. The question then arises: What will that relationship to the universal Church be for ordinary Anglican Christians in the 21st century?

Enter Pope Benedict XVI after decades of polite and often erudite conversations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in the various Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) gatherings. To cite one most recent instance, ARCIC has offered for consideration a statement about what the Anglican and Roman communions can jointly affirm about the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the one Church of Christ within which they both claim to share baptismal communion, if imperfect ecclesial communion. The Church of England, for one, has trouble endorsing the agreed statement of the ARCIC theologians.

With the advent of Benedict’s AC, however, the ecumenical ground has shifted and, in the words of one young Anglican Catholic, “An Apostolic Constitution is for the ages; it will be there for people to enter into full Catholic communion in 100 or 500 years.” Without overstating the case, AC is the game-changer and has opened a path on which it is impossible to determine how many Anglicans, lapsed Catholics, Lutherans and other Protestants along with many unchurched people will follow.

What is clear is that the Anglican ordinariates will establish a new norm. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is named in AC as the clear rule of faith. In terms of order and practice, the traditional Anglican liturgies along with the choral musical heritage and other aspects of Anglican patrimony will find a home within the embrace of the Holy See. Not only this, but “Ordinaries” i.e. bishops or married priests (as is the first Ordinary, Msgr. Keith Newton in the UK) have specific ordinary jurisdiction over regional groups of Anglican Catholics. These two factors offer a worldwide norm for ordinary Anglicans and others within gathered communities which look and feel Anglican while being in full communion with Rome and so are fully part of the universal Catholic Church.

These communities will, of course, feel very familiar to the Catholic-minded traditional Anglican but will have appeal to others who look for a cultural expression of faith which is not tied to the political machinations of special interest groups and the latest political wind. What many people of various stripes will find attractive is that these Anglican ordinariates will have a significant moral, doctrinal and historical continuity, which the fractured Anglican Communion and other spin-off bodies cannot offer.

There is a real sense in which this crossing of the Tiber is a homecoming. Anglicans used to speak of swimming the Tiber. Now, as some have said, a rather sturdy bridge has been built and all are welcome to cross in groups (coetibus) into full communion with the Holy See.

Latin Rite and other Catholics will be able to receive Holy Communion at any Anglican Ordinariate Eucharist. Those marrying or otherwise received as baptized members from other communities into an Ordinariate will be in full communion with over one billion Catholics around the world while maintaining distinctive cultural elements from the heritage of the Reformation and beyond.

Naturally this concerns liberal Anglicans who cannot, for a variety of reasons, accept the teaching of the Catholic Church even as they advocate an increasing number of changes to communal life within their decreasing portion of the ecclesial world. For them there never is nor can there ever be an ordinary Anglican. This is for the simple reason that, as they see it, Anglican life is an ever-changing reality with no agreed upon authority. They live in a constantly deconstructing universe always open to the zeitgeist.

The liberal Episcopal (Anglican) bishop of Massachusetts recently married two female clergy to each other in his cathedral in Boston because he has decided ‘ex cathedra’ that he would do so despite the formal opposition of a clear majority of Anglican bishops in the Anglican Communion. The centre cannot hold.

Whither ordinary Anglicanism? The secure structures of the Ordinariates, albeit very small initially, are being erected for those who are returning to communion with Rome from all over the English-speaking world and in other countries influenced by the English Reformation. Yes, returning not ‘defecting’ (the favourite word of the nervous British press). After all, Ecclesial Anglicana was in communion with Rome for 1000 years before the unfortunate disruption about 450 years ago.


The English Church has actually returned to full communion with Rome once since the initial split under Henry VIII. Cardinal Pole with Queen Mary formally rejoined the Church of England with Rome. After Elizabeth Tudor defected again from the Catholic Church, the C of E almost rejoined for a second time under the Stuart kings.

Despite the ‘Black Legend’ which seeks to vilify all English Catholics, the Anglican Catholic relationship is developing again into a different kind of marriage with much of the anti-Catholic prejudice of the past marginalized if not eradicated.

The current return of “groups of Anglicans” referred to in AC is a historic moment. It changes the direction of ecumenism generally and provides an ordinary way for Anglicans to be truly Anglican in every important and sustainable way while in communion with the universal Church. Along with the prayed for establishment of further unity with the Eastern churches this initial healing on the western side of the Body of Christ portends much hope. This is hope for the many who do not deny the need for development in the Church but insist, with John Henry Newman, that change must be accomplished in continuity with the faith of those who have gone before and according to agreed authoritative principles (see his theory of the Development of Doctrine).

Ordinary Anglicans, then, will find in the Ordinariates the language of the Book of Common Prayer, the creeds, music and other aspects of Anglican life preserved and developed within the unity for which our Lord prayed in his great high priestly prayer, ut unum sint (that they all may be one)  John 17:21.

Without prejudice, let us recognize that talks will continue between Catholics, the Anglican (Canterbury) Communion and all the other ecclesial communities. These are worthwhile and, in fact, an essential part of the new evangelism, not to mention just good neighbourliness. But let us be clear, the radical changes to the nature of faith and order through the decisions of regional synods and the unilateral actions of liberal Anglican and Episcopal bishops in North America, the UK, Australia and New Zealand are erecting a wall of separation with the Catholic Church that amounts to an ecclesial Berlin Wall. It may come down but it appears as though it will be there for some time. In the meantime, Anglicans and others seeking faith and freedom in the wider ecumenical Church will look for a way to escape the dictatorship of relativism.

They can do so, thanks to Pope Benedict, in the gathering of groups with their own distinct character, quality and language. The pattern established by AC for groups many believe is the forerunner of arrangements for other such ecumenical groups seeking to restore unity in the Body of Christ.
Lutherans meet with Pope Benedict

Some Lutherans in the US have already decided to come into full communion under the AC umbrella. In due course, these groups and their practices will become an ordinary part of the Church. Married Anglican priests in communion with Rome will be seen as ordinary Catholic priests in the Ordinariate. The English Missal (the Book of Common Prayer modified and adapted to Catholic norms used by Anglo-Catholics) slightly modified is likely to take its place with the revised Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary Form (traditional Latin form) of the Mass. Catholics generally will pay more attention to and respect the various rites, liturgies and patrimonies of the Melkite, Ukrainian, Antiochian and other smaller Catholic communities all in communion with the Holy Father, the ponitifex or bridgebuilder.

So what will be ordinary seems new at the moment. This new ordinary, however, unlike the novelties of the late 20th century is in continuity with what the Christian Faith has been since its beginnings and is in communion with the largest number of Christians in the world today as well as with those billions whose life and faith is found in that even wider communion which Chesterton referred to as the democracy of the dead. This is a development which has both deep roots and a future. As Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman might say, it is in accord with the principles of development which have their origins in the ordinary lives of the Apostles, Augustine, Jerome, Athanasius, Basil, Aquinas, Thomas More, Edmund Campion and the millions upon millions of Christians who have shaped the multiple cultural expressions of Catholic Christianity.

May they all pray for us as we give thanks for Anglicanorum Coetibus and look forward to its fruit for ordinary Anglicans and others who seek the unity for which our Lord prayed - ut unum sint (that they all may be one).


An Ordinary Anglican
Quinquagesima, March 6, 2011
Toronto, Canada