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Anglican Rite?

It is worth adding some further reflections to the Vatican’s recent announcement of Anglican Personal Ordinariates. You may wish to read my post the end of the Anglican Communion first.

Firstly I want to highlight that, in my opinion, denominational boundaries are far far less significant than previously. Increasingly, it appears to me, denominational boundaries are no longer the primary “partitioning”. If one visualises denominational boundaries, for example, as vertical lines, then it seems to me that the horizontal lines are far more significant – where people receive support and encouragement from “evangelical”, or justice-focused, or environmentally-conscious, or contemplative, or liturgical – etc. And one finds those perspectives, with which one resonates, across denominations. The internet, of course, fits in with this “cafeteria style” spirituality.

Let us also not forget that, to most people on this planet, discussions about different denominations are as esoteric as debates about different perforation gauges on postage stamps. And we need to remember that these are people to whom we are called to bring the good news, and the way we live and model our unity and disunity will affect our ability to bring that good news.

Many have highlighted that some people genuinely will benefit from moving denominations. They will flourish, they will grow in holiness and be better suited in their new context to further God’s reign of love. We need to wish them Godspeed and encourage them. But there will be others who will essentially be as little suited in their new denomination as they were in their old – because of temperament or an inability to live within any constraints, be they Anglican on the one hand, or Roman Catholic on the other. [To be fair, those who encourage people to move denominations, with the understanding that some people suit one rather than another, tend to be of an Anglican perspective. To Roman Catholics, Anglicanism formally cannot even be categorised as a “church” but rather is referred to as an Ecclesial community]

Also let us not forget that the Anglican tradition has always been open to receiving members of the Roman Catholic denomination. In our own New Zealand Anglican binding liturgical formularies there is the allowance for communities to celebrate the whole Roman Catholic English (ICEL) Novus Ordo Mass as it is without alteration. The only concrete personal experience I have had since the Vatican announcement last week has been of a Roman Catholic priest seeking information on how to become a priest serving within Anglicanism (Note: Anglicans accept the validity of Roman Catholic orders and all other sacraments).


Anglican ecclesiology is essentially identical to Eastern Orthodox and Old Catholic ecclesiology in seeing the local Church centered on the bishop as “the catholic Church”, the full manifestation of the Body of Christ. This Episcopal or “Eucharistic Ecclesiology” (as it is often now termed) stands in contrast to Roman Catholic ecclesiology in which the local Church is a “particular Church” manifesting the universal, worldwide Church. In this Roman Catholic ecclesiology, such a local Church can only be considered “catholic” if it is a member, part, or portion of the universal Church, ie. in communion with Rome. Whereas the former approach sees each bishop as successor of Peter (where the bishop is there the catholic church is – Ignatius of Antioch et. al.), the latter has a universal bishop for the universal Church. It will be very interesting to see the document “The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium” when it is finally produced. (Please let me know when it does come out where one can find it online). One co-president of the commission, Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum, is well known for his exposition of “Eucharistic Ecclesiology.” The other, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was notable by his absence in the multiple press-conferences last week.

Many Roman Catholics are totally unaware that the Catholic Church has a great number of different rites (see here and here). In many of these rites priests are married. Since the 1980s there has been an “Anglican Use” within the Roman Rite. The pope granted some former Anglican and Episcopal clergy and their parishes the faculty of celebrating the sacramental rites according to slightly-altered Anglican forms. The new Apostolic Constitution, as I said, extends Anglican Use in an analogous way similar to what the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” did for the Latin Mass.

Within the Catholic Church anyone may attend any Catholic Church of any rite and receive the sacraments. It is no different than attending a different parish church in the same town. If you commit to a rite you can be married and ordained in that rite as a Catholic priest (if they have married priests). You would be “incardinated” in that rite. Eg. a Latin Catholic can join an Eastern rite, marry and be ordained. (Thanks for confirmation of this paragraph from Dr. William Ditewig).

The Vatican announcement came at the time the Church of England General Synod was working through issues about women bishops. It also came during the month-long meeting of Roman Catholic African bishops in Rome. Some Africans are seeking a relaxation of the Vatican’s celibacy rules. This is a no-go area for the current pope. While Anglican Use, with its non-celibate priests, is well-known in some countries, the African bishops were unaware of it. Its extension by the Apostolic Constitution caught them by surprise. Some suggest there was much muttering in the Vatican’s grand corridors. Others say that muttering is not only happening there.

It is my intention to continue this reflection in the future.

More on marriage and ordination

part 3 of this reflection is here

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10 thoughts on “Anglican Rite?”

  1. When the Roman Catholic Church left me (for that is what if felt like) I discovered that I was able to become a full and valued member of the Episcopal Church. After five years I still feel a joy and something akin to spiritual fresh air every time I walk into my home church here in Kentucky or into any of the other Episcopal churches I have visited around the US.
    I think the Pope was well-intentioned inviting Anglican clergy and lay people back into the Roman church but there is just too much fine print on the bottom of the invitation. And isn’t the devil always in the details?

  2. RE: Increasingly, it appears to me, denominational boundaries are no longer the primary “partitioning”. If one visualises denominational boundaries, for example, as vertical lines, then it seems to me that the horizontal lines are far more significant – where people receive support and encouragement.

    That has been my personal experience.

    In East-West inter-religious dialogue, I recall certain admonitions against any false irenicism, facile syncretism or insidious indifferentism. Sometimes, these dynamics seem to be no less in play as we pursue Christian unity, discerning what is truly essential or accidental.

    In my view, we can all aspire to finding the most nearly perfect articulation of truth in creed (dogma), most nearly perfect celebration of beauty in cult (ritual), most nearly perfect preservation of good in code (law) and most nearly perfect enjoyment of fellowship in community. However, we must also aspire to avoid the decay of dogma into dogmatism, ritual into ritualism, law into legalism and fellowship into institutionalism, and this includes an eschewal of any Petrine Ministry that would be so broadly conceived that it becomes a creeping infallibilism.

    To the extent that orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy, one measure of the church’s salvific efficacy would be the successful institutionalization of conversion: intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious. Any infantilization of the laity would militate against these Lonerganian conversions. To the extent most adults would still be relating to church doctrine and disciplines obligationally and not aspirationally, this would be a sure sign of such infantilization.

    I’m tossing out certain norms that come to mind and not evaluating any denominations in light of them. Gathering sociologic data and evaluating it for matters like this is way over my head. I do of course have a general impression and it is this: It seems to me that, even under the most ideal circumstances, it is too early on humankind’s journey to adjudicate this kind of stuff between denominations and traditions based even on clearly defined and widely accepted norms. So, even as we eschew any indifferentism, syncretism or false irenicism, it doesn’t mean, at the same time, that we must arrogate to ourselves any type of decisive judgment about who’s “got IT” and “who ain’t got IT” vis a vis denominations, which are means and not ends, anyway (HT Bosco). I for one ain’t got the foggiest notion and am in no position to foist such an opinion on anyone else. I am happy to just muddle along, singing our song, side by side. Although I’m Roman, I feel like Anglicans have a better polity, better disciplines and more but I don’t feel like we differ in essentials. So, I’m staying with my dysfunctional family as a member of the mostly loyal opposition.

  3. I should point out that not all RC’s agree with (then) Cardinal Ratzinger when he wrote that “Church does not have a plural” and the rest were ecclesial communities. I was one of those, and I know many more remain within the RC church.

  4. On the Anglican view of the catholic church:

    I have had the privilege of seeing an Anglican Confirmation liturgy for the first time a few weeks back.

    The language is “N., we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,bless, preserve, and keep you. Amen.”

    I am having trouble finding the Catholic version because of ICEL copyrights. But from my recollection it went something like “Do you believe everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches as true?”

    Certainly the Anglican way is much more welcoming and promotes (I believe) a much more full and accurate understanding of what it means to be the catholic church. As a protestant, it felt very welcoming to witness the confirmation service in the Episcopal church, whereas I felt like very much an outsider at the Roman Catholic confirmation.

  5. Indeed, I would third the idea of vertical/horizontal nature of difference. For about 4 years I’ve been attending an Anglican church, during which time I picked-up a fondness for liberal, and then Progressive, theology. I moved across country, and had a choice of Anglican or Presbyterian churches; being rural, it’s all a bit of a melting-pot but I note that the Anglican place is perhaps too traditionalist veering-on “stuffy” (actually uses the 1970 Liturgy some weeks not just the 1982, etc) and the Presbyterian place, which I suspected might be “stuffy”, is now running a Progressive evening course, _Living the Questions_! So absolutely yes, the theology cuts through the lines of tradition.

  6. As a former Catholic theologian – I found this to be a concise and cogent explanation of the situation at hand – and therefore very useful. I totally agree that denominational boundaries are not what they were once understood to mean. I would also concur that the average Roman Catholic is not aware of the Uniate Churches and their various rites, etc.

    Olga Rasmussen, D.Min.

  7. Just in passing:

    – Joel’s account is not of confirmation, but of reception of a person already episcopally-confirmed in another Church (he is quoting the TEC Book of Common Prayer).

    -On incardination, I am not sure all readers will quite get that it refers to the placing of a cleric under a specific jurisdiction, not a specific rite; the two may amount to the same thing of course.

  8. Bosco,

    Many thanks for the most sensible and historically truthful account I have seen so far. Anglican papalism really has accounted for a tiny fragment of people within the Church of England since the notion was first invented just over a hundred years ago. The game is now up, perhaps, for that narrow strand.

    For the rest of us, we have always held the Catholic Church, which we profess in the creed, to be more than simply a denominational franchise centred in Rome. The pattern of functionally autocephalous episcopacy within a loose whole served the Church well enough up to the time of Hildebrand, with his radically centralised reforms, and we see no reason to follow him in them. We simply adhere to the polity of the ancient Church, that’s all. It’s subtle, and hard to turn that into some kind of imperialistic war cry, but it’s not an ignoble vision of how to do Church.

    Very much looking forward to your next post

    as ever


  9. Hi Bosco,
    I have a question. The Celtic Church of Great Britain was that part of the Catholic Church (Rome) but only had a different rite?

    Rob McKay

    1. I think, if I understand your question correctly, Rob, that this depends on what lenses one wears when looking back at history. I can imagine a Roman Catholic viewpoint which would so describe the Christian Church which existed in parts of Great Britain and Ireland before the mission of Augustine (597). I think such viewpoints are anachronistic – church history, from my viewpoint, is far more complex and less homogenous. I don’t imagine that Eastern Orthodox view Celtic Christianity as Roman with a different rite. Also, I think we (in NZ, at least) romanticise “Celtic”, as if it is a positive form of Christianity later corrupted… Blessings.

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