[Update – this post was written prior to the apostolic constitution’s publication. After reading this post, you can go to the post written after its publication]
Those who have been putting a positive spin on the pope’s announcement of his way for groups of “Anglicans” to join the Roman Catholic Church highlight that this can only have happened building on the ecumenical dialogue of the past few decades. It is clear that the announcement highlights some strong similarities between Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. It is unlikely, for example, that this announcement will soon be followed by Benedict creating Salvation Army Ordinariates or even Baptist Ordinariates. That having been said, it is well to be reminded that the presence of Eastern Rites in union with Rome are more a stumbling block rather than encouraging of ecumenical relations between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Similarly, generally people have seen Benedict’s announcement as not forwarding ecumenism between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. Certainly the way that Cardinal Levada so very late informed the Archbishop of Canterbury of developments has been seen as a betrayal of trust, and many wonder why Rowan Williams involved himself in the announcement at all after that as it had absolutely no involvement by him prior to that. The absence of Cardinal Walter Kasper (President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) in all the media announcements spoke loudly. It is little wonder that there are rumours of his impending replacement. The process has also highlighted significant differences in approaches to governance. Some who have hitherto abhorred the infuriatingly, tediously slow, painstaking but open governance processes of Anglicanism have cause to rethink in seeing the alternative closed-door process followed by fait accompli announcements.
There has been a lot of confusion around the announcement. Roman Catholics are stressing that this announcement is in response to requests from Anglicans. A primary driver is said to be the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). For those who are unclear, let’s just clarify: Anglican means being in communion with the See of Canterbury, just as Roman Catholic means being in communion with the See of Rome. TAC is an independent body. It is not Anglican. If TAC joins the Roman Catholic Church there is no change to the situation within the Anglican Communion. TAC is also sometimes described as composed of “former Anglicans.” That may be true for many, but certainly not all of them. TAC also has many former Roman Catholics and in fact its primate, The Most Reverend John Hepworth, is a former Roman Catholic priest.
The rumours that the Vatican will allow the Traditional Anglican Communion tradition of divorce and remarriage and not need to follow Humanae Vitae are false. Roman Catholicism does not do cafeteria catholicism – especially not under Benedict XVI. Cradle Catholics might pick and choose what they will follow or believe, but if you join up – you accept the whole package. Including practising, preaching, and teaching the Vatican’s approach to contraception.
John Hepworth was a Roman Catholic priest who left that priesthood and got married. He joined the Anglican Church of Australia as a priest. Then he joined the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia and became a bishop. He has divorced his first wife and remarried. He has three children. He is now primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion. This is clearly the sort of group that gets heated about women in ministry (about which Jesus said nothing) and committed gay relationships (about which Jesus said nothing) but has no issues with divorce and remarriage (about which Jesus did teach). Far from being accepted as a priest (let alone an Ordinary – the technical term for a leader of an Ordinariate) in an Anglican Ordinariate, John Hepworth, as a divorced and remarried man, may find he is forbidden from receiving communion as a returning member of the Roman Catholic Church (this may be a sacrifice he is willing to make in his acceptance, once again, that this is the true faith – though how he understands the Vatican’s attitude to his marriages no interviewer appears to have thought of asking him). Alternatively the Vatican might not recognise either of his marriages and Hepworth may be left to decide between his priesthood and his family with three children. Many of his followers follow the logic that committed same-sex relationships are a threat to marriage, but I suspect that most of those would regard this as a bridge too far (Tiber or no Tiber) from someone who laments this as “a time when the family is under great stress.”
Regularly, estimates of the numbers who will join the RC Church are around half a million. TAC claims over 400,000 (it is a little hard to work out where these are, there are about 61 members in NZ with no buildings, there are several hundred in the UK – these have just accepted Benedict’s invitation). Some commentators note the string of Benedict’s poorly advised announcements, comments, and decisions and, with differing intensity, add the creation of Anglican Ordinariates to this list. We will have to wait and see if there is actually any weight behind the predictions and the effect that such an influx of conservative Christians (including clergy) will have on the increasingly liberal Roman Catholic communities especially in England and USA.
Predictions that at least a thousand priests would leave the Church of England over the ordination of women actually resulted in 480 taking up the financial offer involved. 80 of those later returned to the Church of England (I don’t know how many of those had the integrity to return their generous financial leaving gift). This time there will be no financial sweetener to leave. Many commentators are just assuming that stunning (neo-)gothic buildings are the property of their congregations and will go where the congregation goes. Yeah Right!
What about Roman Catholic priests who left priestly ministry to get married, have remained faithful to their marriage, and members of the Roman Catholic Church, have always wanted to be able to continue functioning as priests but have accepted their position within Roman Catholicism? Tough. There are over one hundred thousand of such priests not allowed to exercise their vocation and priesthood. Clearly they should have thought ahead, become Anglicans, then joined TAC – that might give them a chance now.
What about the difference in income between Roman Catholic priests and Anglican priests? Don’t go there. Nor to the difference in giving traditions between Anglican and Roman Catholic parishioners. (Remember Episcopalians are expected to tithe). Cheap labour has never been brought up as a reason for compulsory celibacy.
What about the camp culture in some Anglo-Catholicism? The RC Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are objectively disordered. On November 29, 2005, the Congregation for Catholic Education which oversees seminary formation affirmed, “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.” (no more jokes in the vestry – sorry sacristy – about the quality of the lace). As to transitory adolescence-like homosexual problems: “such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.” Furthermore, his spiritual director and confessor are duty-bound to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding toward ordination. The Vatican has made very clear – the ruling against ordaining men with any homosexual tendencies applies in all contexts. That includes Anglican Ordinariates. “Single” Anglican priests may well think twice before crossing this bridge let alone burning it.
A lot of Roman Catholic commentators appear to have little understanding that much of African Anglicanism is as anti-RC as it is anti-women in ministry/committed same sex relationships. These commentators think that those Africans unhappy with the Anglican Communion will naturally tend to take up Benedict’s offer. Nigerian Anglicans, one of the larger provinces, may have removed communion with the See of Canterbury from their Constitution, but I can assure you, you will not be hearing Hail Marys from their churches. These are part of the GAFCON movement which will be far more deeply affected by the unethical investment policies of the Sydney Anglican Diocese which financially underpins it and recently lost $160 million, than by the pope’s announcement. Remember Sydney requires its Anglican clergy to sign they will not follow such popish practices as wearing a chasuble or adding water to the wine.
Every Anglican priest who joins the RC Church will have to accept Apostolicae Curae that his priesthood was “absolutely null and utterly void.” He will have to accept that the deep reverence that he, as an Anglo-Catholic priest brought to his liturgical celebrations was play acting with fancy clothes on. He was deluded, and should he wish to function as a real priest, he will need to be ordained twice again.
For many Anglican priests and faithful joining an Anglican Ordinariate, this will be their first regular encounter with Anglican liturgy. These have been proudly and principally using the Roman Rite all their lives. Once in an Anglican Ordinariate, however, they abandon Anglican breadth, flexibility, and allowance for eccentricities. Anglican Ordinariates will follow Anglican liturgy slightly adapted. For ordinary Anglicans, this may be the final irony.
After reading this post, you can go to the post written after its publication
- Anglican Rite?
- Eucharistic Prayers in Common (Part 1)
- Anglicans and Roman Catholics
- An ANGLICAN Ordinariate
- “Anglican” personal prelature?