Letter to the Editor
Ephriam Radner in his recent FIRST THINGS article correctly highlights the grave challenges facing a fragmented and fragmenting Anglicanism. The “paper church” that Blessed John Henry Newman identified in the nineteenth century is fraying in just the way that he predicted since it does not have a magisterium i.e. a central authoritative teaching office.
|Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman|
|The Rev. John Keble|
Radner rightly points to the fact that much
of Anglicanism in the developed West has adapted to and largely adopted the
‘spirit of the age’. The Church of England was always in danger of being
co-opted by the state – witness Keble’s
Assize Sermon which launched the Oxford Movement in response to state
interference in the structure of the Anglican Church.
The fruit of the Oxford Movement and the
recovery of the principles and authority of a unified sacramental Church can
now be safeguarded only in one way. Sadly, Dr. Radner failed to mention the development
that offers the last, best and now the only chance of preserving what is best
in Anglicanism from the endless fragmentation it is increasingly suffering.
This development is the simple yet profound
action initiated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 with his apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. This formidable move in response to requests
over twenty years from Anglican bishops, priests and laity offers a way for
Anglicans and other Protestants as well as unconfirmed Catholics to be received
into the full communion of the unified Catholic Church while retaining and
developing the Anglican patrimony of liturgy, music, patristic theology and
So far relatively small numbers have availed themselves of the offer, though over 1000 Anglican priests have been received from Anglicanism into the Catholic Church since 1990 and hundreds of lay people have been received since 2011 in the now permanently established Personal Ordinariates in the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA.
While Anglicans fall away in many directions
and communion with Canterbury erodes further, as Dr. Radner points out, the
many fragments of so-called “continuing Anglicanism” endlessly debate women’s
ordination, liturgy, gay marriage, who is or is not in communion with
Canterbury etc . . .
The Anglican 'Communion' . . . . ?
|Katharine Jefferts Schori presides over massive |
law suits in the USA as churches split from
the Episcopal Church into a variety of groups.
|African bishops bid farewell.|
There is now really only one theologically, liturgically and doctrinally consistent locus in which Anglicanism can survive and thrive free from secular domination, state interference and endless Protestant fragmentation due to the structural lack of authoritative decision-making.
We must return to the rock from whence we were hewn in repentance for rebellion against magisterial teaching but with acceptance of all that is best in Anglicanism for the good of the whole Church. This is an option that serious Anglicans cannot dismiss.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ORDINARIATES
|Groundbreaking for the Ordinariate Chancery in Houston by Msgr Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary for Canada & USA|
|Msgr Steenson & Cardinal Wuerl of Washington|
|Former Anglican bishops celebrate ordination in UK Ordinariate|
Ordinariate Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the UK.
|All Saints Sisters of the Poor (formerly Anglican) |
received into full communion in Maryland.
|The Canada-US Ordinariate now has more than 50 priests.|
Increasingly, serious Anglicans and others are understanding that the protests of the sixteenth century have been responded to positively within the Catholic Church – agreement on justification by faith, liturgy in the language of the people, reform of abuses in indulgence granting, allowances for married clergy, free access to the Scriptures in the vernacular, etc.
Those who are not prepared to accept the welcome home from Pope Benedict and now Pope’s Francis’s warm invitation to Christian unity and a share in the New Evangelization must seriously ask themselves why. In addition, they must ask themselves where else can the Anglican witness survive the divisiveness provoked by secularist and fundamentalist storms now and in the future.