Unambiguously Anglo-Catholic

Posted on March 13, 2012

In my post “What of the TAC?” I pointed out what the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus obviously is not. It is not the recognition of a parallel and independent Church with whom the Holy See is entering into full communion. Indeed I was surprised to read at “The English Catholic” that I was perhaps one of the first to state this clearly, to dispel the myth, so to speak. AC is also not the creation of a new Uniate Church where the whole church en bloc would become Catholic. Nobody can seriously imagine the whole of Anglicanism wanting to become Catholic either en bloc or individually. And after reading of the meeting in Johannesburg two weeks ago, where the continuing TAC refers to itself as “unambiguously Anglican”, I doubt whether a Uniate status would have been acceptable to the whole of the TAC or even a majority. (Although I hope I can be forgiven for wondering what that demonstrative signing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by all the bishops and vicars general of the TAC was meant to signify.)

So what is Anglicanorum Coetibus, what is so new and revolutionary about it? Why should anyone want to take advantage of this offer of the Holy See?  The new thing is that the Roman Catholic Church has now unequivocally put its money where its mouth is. Following years of joint discussions with the Anglicans in the ARCIC process, Rome is now saying that there are many elements of Anglicanism which are completely compatible with the Catholic faith, not the least of these being the liturgy. Who would have imagined four hundred years ago that Cranmer’s prayers would ring out in the papal basilicas of Rome or Assisi? Just watch this video of the pilgrimage of Our Lady of the Atonement parish, San Antonio, to Italy last year, where the Prayer of Humble Access in the 1979 American Prayer Book version is prayed in a public mass at the tomb of Saint Francis. It warms the cockles of my heart every time I see it. 

Or imagine the 100 pilgrims from The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham saying the Prayer of General Thanksgiving at the Confessio in St. Peter’s in Rome. 

And this not only applies to liturgy. In the Apostolic Constitution specific mention is made of other elements of the Anglican patrimony, namely the spiritual and pastoral traditions, describing them “as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared”. Much thought has been and is being given to what this Anglican patrimony actually is. My “thesaurus” gives just a glimpse of these reflexions. 

If this is not revolutionary enough, Anglicanorum Coetibus provides a way for Anglican converts not merely to be swallowed up in the soup which is Catholicism but to shine out in a specifically Anglo-Catholic structure, the Personal Ordinariate, invented for this purpose.

Yes, Ordinariate members are Catholic but beyond this they are Anglo-Catholic, one might be tempted to coin the phrase “unambiguously Anglo-Catholic”!

The Ordinariate is not an escape from the Anglican Communion, it is not, as is so often written, for “disaffected” Anglicans or for misogynous traditionalists. The Ordinariate is for those Anglo-Catholics who have for as long as they can remember yearned for the dreams of Michael Ramsey and Paul VI to be fulfilled, for Rome and Canterbury to be reconciled, and who have realised, sometimes very painfully, that this is not going to happen in their lifetimes. It is for those for whom full communion with the See of Peter is a fundamental element of Christianity, the answer to Christ’s prayer “ut unum sint”, but who cherish their Anglicanness and are overjoyed at the Pope’s offer to combine the two....