For example, by distinguishing between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, a number of the Caroline Divines contended that while Rome had erred doctrinally, its errors did not touch the ecumenical Creeds or the basic nature of the Church in such a way to “un-Church” it. This was Archbishop Laud’s approach. Others argued that Rome had mistakenly and arrogantly elevated permissible but probably erroneous opinions to dogmatic level, but remained a part of the Catholic Church because it did not deny any true dogmas. Bishop Lancelot Andrewes took this tack with the matter of (hellish) purgatory. The Oxford Movement and its descendent Anglo-Catholicism, in the main, came gradually to the opinion that, while Roman dogmas might be capable of orthodox interpretation, their common interpretation and application within the Roman communion was often unorthodox and adverse to true Catholic principles. This approach also had 17th century antecedents, if I remember correctly.
None of these theories ever had binding authority, but what they held in common, that the RCC was part of the Catholic Church, was effectively authoritative, in that while recusant RCs were treated as schismatics within England, RC bishops have been persistently addressed or treated by Anglican bishops as fellow Catholic bishops elsewhere, and RCs were not officially treated as heretics or apostates anywhere by the C of E as a body. What all theories also have in common is that they see genuine problems with aspects of the “accepted” teaching of the Church of Rome but refuse to claim these problems are enough to excise it from THE Church. That the justification for this position varied in the specifics was partly due to differing evaluations of what Roman dogma actually was and meant (on both sides at times!), and partly due to subtle differences in ecclesiology. But underlying this was a settled perception that we were dealing, even in the midst of heated controversy, with fellow Catholics. This settled perception is an important datum, and one that should control our theological speculations. A general and consistent apprehension of a divine reality by a body of Catholics is perhaps even more important than the precise theological formulations relevant to it. That is, I think, what is often meant by the sensus fidelium.
Therefore, I was disturbed when I first read Bp Wright’s commentary (on his own jurisdiction’s website first) on the attempt at reunion with Rome by the TAC. This is the case even though I, like Bp Wright, would generally be classified as philo-Orthodox. I still possess the very “Eastern” Catechism co-authored by him when he was a part of our Church, commonly termed the “Wright-Price” Catechism, after its authors, and value it highly. (Its distinction between “capital-S” Saints and “small-s” saints, for example, is one of the best Catholic apologetics tools I have come across when dealing with that issue.) However, this recent essay appears not only to contradict the abovementioned sensus fidelium, but to possess a degree of internal incoherence in doing so. Allow me to juxtapose the relevant passages:
“In this way the Roman Church has long since abandoned the authentic Catholic Church and set up a Church with a ‘different mind’. Judged by the Tradition of the Catholic Church this is a departure into heresy.”
“Meanwhile it is spiritually dangerous to claim that the Roman Church and, for that matter, all Churches originating in the Western Patriarchate, are heretical and false Churches devoid of grace.”
It is perhaps possible to harmonise these two sections, but even if one strained to do so there would remain the problem that the essay then purports to support the latter statements about the true ecclesiality of the RCC by quoting the RCC’s own statements about the true ecclesiality of other groups.
The problem with the essay is not that it is philo-Orthodox, but that it chooses to flatter by imitation that part of Eastern Orthodoxy that delights in maximising differences between East and West, usually by carefully selecting the evidence on both sides and making sweeping generalisations. Fr Dragas’ essay, linked to by Bp Wright, is a fair example of this unfortunate tendency.
Fr Dragas goes to a lot of trouble to show that, despite the fact the filioque clause is never specifically or explicitly mentioned in the pro-Photian Council’s decree on the Creed, its condemnation as heretical in itself is implicit and binding at an ecumenical level because those Easterners who signed off on it knew what the decree was really on about. However, he also virtually admits that the papal delegates did not. And they could hardly do so, since, as admitted by all, even those in the West such as the Pope who resisted the interpolation did so while defending its orthodoxy and refusing to excommunicate the large tracts of the Western Church that used the filioque in the Creed. In other words, we are expected to accept that a Council with minimal Western participation, whose few Western participants would not have consented if they had known or believed the filioque doctrine common to many Western Fathers and Doctors was being condemned, and whose condemnations were (deliberately?) entirely without specific examples having been given so as to promote such clear understanding, is expressive of the Ecumenical will of the Universal Church in repudiating the filioque doctrine root and branch. Sorry, but this is less than persuasive.
As for the claims by certain of our commenters that the differences really are irreconcilable, I remain unconvinced. The particular example most relied upon is the difference between the Roman doctrine of Papal Supremacy and the Orthodox doctrine of Conciliar Supremacy. But are the respective positions really so different when commonly and justifiably attached qualifications are taken into account? Did not the ancient and Eastern Church place great store in papal ratification of Ecumenical Councils and address him as leader of the Church in more than just nominal, honorific terms? Does not the RCC continue to recognise as ecumenical a Council which briefly effectively excommunicated a living pope, the Fifth? Does it not recognise also the Sixth, which excommunicated a dead Pope? And a mediaeval one which effectively unpoped 3 rival claimants to the Roman See? In combination with traditional Roman claims that a Pope can be recognised and certified as self-excommunicate by the Church and that reception of Papal decrees at least has a part to play in recognising when papal infallibility has been truly utilised, surely these facts show that the RCC does not necessarily teach an absolute, untouchable, unrestrained and unqualified supremacy of the bishop of Rome over an Ecumenical Council or over the Church as a whole?
Is it not better to assume as a default position that God has in fact protected each of these great bodies from truly leaving the Catholic fold, sometimes almost in spite of themselves? Is this not often the case with God’s dealings with his people? So, the good bishop’s essay notwithstanding, I remain an ecumenically “maximalist” Anglican Catholic. Even a philo-Orthodox Anglo-Papist, if you will. :-)
 E.g., Bp Antonio de Dominis was received into the C of E in the early 17th Century without abjuration of his previous jurisdiction. Abp Wake’s discussions with the French RC bishops in the 18th Century also followed this pattern of mutual recognition. The reply of the English Archbishops to Apostolicae Curae, addressed to the Pope and all Catholic bishops did so as well.