Indeed, the Roman constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, appears to be the good faith effort of Pope Benedict XVI to answer a direct request that he inherited from the days of Pope John Paul II. It was in the 1990s that Forward in Faith/United Kingdom (FiF/UK) made the request that has resulted in the recent constitution. It was then that English Roman Catholic bishops seemed intent on obstructing any response from Rome to the request, which is why it has taken so long. As it stands, it is everything that Fr. William "Doc" Holiday said it is in these words, "[the See of Rome-which he called "Mother Church"] is in the business of allowing her children to exercise their unique gifts and talents as much as She is able." Indeed, to the extent that she is able, and no more than she is able, Rome is allowing former Anglicans "to exercise their unique gifts and talents" under the protection of Ordinariates.
The problem, and the target of our criticism, is that Archbishops Hepworth and Falk of the Traditional Anglican Communion and its American branch, the Anglican Church in America (TAC/ACA) have made public statements that stretch the constitution beyond its clear and obvious meaning, so as to raise false hopes. They have told their members, in effect, that it will fulfill what they have been promising for the last several years; not what it says, and not within the limits of what it says. Thier own promises contradict the content of Anglicanorum Coetibus (and they have also contradicted the content of the Norms).
After years of promising that Rome will grant a place for the complete Anglican package (at least most of what the TAC/ACA people are perceived by their leaders to like about the Anglican package), the new constitution has presented an emergency that must be dealt with. Credit for it must be taken, and with that credit false promises in line with all that has been advertised for years. Otherwise, people will see that Rome goes only so far, and no further. Worse, people will stop believing that they are being led into a perfect world, a world where they can be Anglicans with the Pope.
Our critics accuse us of saying that the constitution allows married clergy only once. What we said was that, inasmuch as the constitution allows nothing more than the existing Pastoral Provisions that make room for married clergy from among former Anglican clergy, it is designed to last one generation. Why? Because, it applies only to men who were first ordained outside of the entire Roman Communion. But, men who are members of the Ordinariate congregations will have to choose between marriage and a vocation to the priesthood, just like regular Roman Catholics (this has been stated very firmly and clearly in the constitution). And, as the Anglican Communion is only getting worse, the supply of desirable clergy from that quarter is certainly to be very short lived. After another generation, why would Rome want such men as the Episcopal priests of the future? Would you? So, it can last only one generation at most.
They insist that Anglican liturgy would be preserved. Really? Look at the "Anglican" Use Rite, and compare it to a classic Book of Common Prayer. Is that really Anglican liturgy? Certainly not. Anglican doctrine? On many essential matters there is no difference even now; but, on those matters where there is a difference (and you may read several of my essays of the "Classic Anglican" collection to appreciate that), forget it.
How do I know this? Simple. I actually read the constitution, and so did my associates.
A disservice to Rome
Misrepresenting the constitution in matters of doctrine, Canon Law regarding postulancy for Holy Orders, the Roman position on Anglican Orders, Sacraments of Initiation, and even matters of real property and its disposition, restates falsely matters of Roman doctrine and polity. In effect, instead of allowing the See of Rome to speak for itself, the misstatements speak for Rome without the consent of that ancient See. If people attempt to take advantage of what is actually offered in Anglicanorum Coetibus, only to be disappointed after the fact, they may resent Rome, and blame this Bait and Switch on the wrong party.
A disservice to would be Roman Catholics
Any Anglican who tells me that he wants to become a Roman Catholic can expect an argument, if he is willing to hear it, on why ours is the best and most truly Catholic Way to be a Christian. Regular readers of The Continuum are well aware of many of those arguments. Nonetheless, any individual genuinely persuaded, in his heart, to be a Roman Catholic has a dilemma if he waits one more minute. If he believes that the See of Rome is all that they teach (and, indeed, with them its a matter of doctrine that they perceive as infallible) it to be, then it must be a matter both of conviction and of conscience. For example, if Fr. "Doc" Holiday really believes the things he wrote, I fear for his soul should he die before obeying his conscience.
Those who really fall for...excuse me...believe the teaching of Rome about the See of Rome and its Bishop, are committing a mortal sin by not coming to Christ fully through his chosen vessel. What are they waiting for? In the case of the TAC/ACA people, they seem to be waiting for their Archbishop to say the time is right. I recommend that they ask their local Roman Catholic priests about it. While they wait for the perfect time, a time in which something more than the new constitution is offered just for the TAC/ACA people, than I must conclude two things. They do not really believe what Rome teaches, since they delay. Or, they are living contrary to their consciences with what they believe to be false sacraments in a body that does not possess the fullness of the Catholic Church-a mortal sin if done with that knowledge, according to Rome.
One of the apologists writing on behalf of the promises made by Abps. Falk and Hepworth has stated, "Like it or not, it seems clear to me that the Holy See's position - which I do not think they are likely to retreat from - is that notwithstanding the strengths or weaknesses of Leo XIII's Bull, Anglican orders, in the Roman Catholic context (though not in the Anglican context) are in need of a sort of completing through Roman Catholic ordination. "
"Completing?" What part of "Absloutely null and utterly void" does the fellow not understand? The Roman Catholic position makes it impossible for them to recognize Anglican orders (even though many of them know how silly that position is), requiring absolute ordination of the clergy who are allowed to receive ordination. And, for you laity, it requires that every member be confirmed by one of their priests or bishops-and no, you have never really had communion or absolution either. Anyone, no matter who he is, who denies that this is what they will require and what they teach, is either an ignoramus or a liar.
If you believe that you need to be in the Pope's Communion, do not wait. Every day you delay you are in danger. If, on the other hand, you are not in a hurry, it is because you do not believe it. If you do not believe it, you would be a bad Roman Catholic upon entering their Communion, coming with the "cafeteria" mentality.
A disservice to Anglicans
Finally, the TAC/ACA Archepiscopal spin is a disservice to everyone who has struggled to carry on the Faith so strongly Affirmed at St. Louis in 1977, because it threatens to further divide those of us who believe in that Affirmation, and its very existence prevents people from embracing the faith as Anglicans have received it. Furthermore, it threatens to lower our numbers at a time when we should be building our churches, and handing on the Anglican Way of being a Catholic Christian to a new generation.
Sending a message that we are second class Catholics, based on Rome's enormous and unsubstantiated claims, cannot aid church growth. Rejecting those doctrines in which true Reformation led our fathers back to a truer Catholic understanding, waters down the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and loads people with extra burdens. At a time when we are just getting up on our feet, we do not need Abp. Hepworth's Roman distraction. If he believes the claims of the Roman See, and if Abp. Falk and others believe it, what are they waiting for? But, please, let the people who are Anglican in their hearts, minds and convictions have done with this stuff once and for all. The way that was clear for the rest has become more clear; except for confusion tossed in the way.
But, we do not blame Rome and its constitution for the confusion.