"The ongoing collapse of the Anglican Communion and the concurrent inability of conservative Anglicans outside that body to get their act together suggest that these groups may share a fatal flaw. Anglicanism may arguably be seen as a 450-year experiment to determine whether a separated part of the church can remain fully catholic, keeping its apostolic ministry and grounding its teaching and practice in Holy Scripture and the Sacraments, but replacing the authority structures of the main body of the Church with a sort of democracy in which no single leader has complete authority, and in which clergy and laity gathered together in Synods and Conventions take the place of Church Councils. A strong case can be made for the premise that the experiment is concluded, and it has failed."
My first point would be to say that the second half of the quotation applies equally to the Orthodox Church, except that we must replace the 450 year time span with a 2,000 year time span. By this reasoning, "A strong case can be made for the premise that the experiment called the Orthodox Church is concluded, and it has failed." They too have "a sort of democracy in which no single leader has complete authority," and that relies on cooperation and the Conciliar process to a degree impossible in the Roman Communion (no matter how much they may protest that it is possible).
My second point begins with a hypothetical question: What is wrong with a properly balanced kind of democracy? The objection may be made that it is all too often a bit messy. In the Church that means that pastors and teachers must always clean up doctrinal confusion; but, then again, is that not simply our calling anyway? Part of the work priests are ordained to do is to teach, and bishops are consecrated with the charge to banish strange doctrines. If we want to see an example of tidiness and efficiency we may look to the German government under Hitler, the trains that ran on time in Mussolini's Italy, and the Soviet or Chinese Communist methods for maintaining an orderly society. But, who wants that much efficiency?
In the Roman Catholic Church the authority of one man is not producing everything truly needed by faithful members. But, if we want to see where the efficiency of the Roman Catholic beauracracy was quite effective, we need only look to the clericalism that shielded pederast clergy, hiding their crimes and relocating them to inflict their brutality on fresh unsuspecting children. We need to see that the absolute authority of the papal office created this abuse over centuries in which required celibacy has forced them to accept a standard far lower than "the cream of the crop." The idea that this kind of system can be trusted to relay the guidance of the Holy Spirit is simply impossible to believe.
My third point would be to ask if indeed the stronger and well-established jurisdictions of the Continuning Church really share a fatal flaw with the apostate bodies in the Anglican Communion. I see very real evidence to the contrary among the legitimate Continuing Church bodies. It was rejection of heresy and apostasy that led the pioneers of the Continuing Church to produce the Affirmation of St. Louis, in which we have embraced a truly Catholic and Apostolic standard.
If the imperfections and sins of Continuing Anglicans are weighed against the imperfections and sins of the First Century Church, which required (as you may have read in scripture) more than a few corrective directives from St. Paul, it would appear that we are not better than that first generation of Christians; nor would I expect that a church full of sinners ever could be (including the Roman Catholics too). Perhaps the solution is to quit and join a Pentecostal church where only saints are allowed to be members -just ask them if you don't believe me; they are all saints.
But, to say that we share a fatal flaw that is only 450 years old, instead of the same fatal flaw that has "made many sinners" since the Fall of Adam, is outrageous. It suggests that this flaw was not to be found in any significant degree in the Roman Communion. I think that point need not be argued further.
This brings me to my fourth point: The principles that led our fathers to seek an obedient reform of a disobedient Church was no rebellion. It was faithfulness, a good response to consciences quickened by the word of God to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Furthermore, over the centuries the true effect of Anglican scholarship and the witness of our patrimony has helped Rome to correct its own abuses and its neglect in matters theological. Our own Fr. Matthew Kirby laid this out very well in one of the earliest posts on this blog. (Hit that link when you are done, and read it for yourself.)
My fifth point is that many of the problems of the Roman Catholic Church really are experiments that have failed, and failed big. Do we really need to ask why they have such few clergy that men like Cardinal Law shielded child abusers in recent times? In the Lutheran Augsburg Confession the same problem was clearly alluded to as common knowledge, and that was written in the 16th century. Do we really need to ask why they have such a problem of homosexuality, alcoholism and the drainage of good priests who simply leave the ministry? Is there not a glaring experiment of Rome's that has failed, but one they cannot admit to? What a burden it is to have to be an infallible Church; it prevents solutions to obvious problems if mistakes and errors of the past cannot be admitted to and repaired. It confuses every precedent with the Tradition itself.
I am not anti-Roman Catholic, and I know that we are no more perfect and holy than any other body of Christians seeking to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ. But, our own patrimony is not an experiment, rather a return to Catholic principles that had been abandoned by the Church of Rome. "Also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith." This was obvious to the English Reformers in the 16th century who saw it as their duty to have done with errors that obscured the Gosepl of Christ, and laid on men heavy burdens, grievous to be borne. Were those Reformers infallible? Of course not.
Neither is the "Successor of Peter."