I have been disquieted by the condemnatory and dismissive language exchanged between this weblog and The Anglo-Catholic over the Roman offer to Anglicans and our different responses to it. I offer the following as an attempt to diminish animosity, dismiss red herrings and focus the discussion towards genuine areas of difference where constructive engagement is possible. I hope that this Eirenicon is not judged to be as Pusey's was by Newman, who said to Pusey, “you discharge your olive-branch as if from a catapult”!
The Question of Gradual Corporate or Immediate Individual Submission
It has been frequently argued on this weblog that those in the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) who accept the Roman Catholic Church's (RCC) position that it is the One True (or Truest?) Church sin by not immediately submitting to it as individuals, because this is the quickest way to their necessary incorporation into 'the Church'. Thus the search for gradual or slower corporate submission is effectively portrayed as proof of sinful hypocrisy. Allow me to quote a contrary argument put some time ago here.
“What about the insistence of the RCC that those who recognise it as the Catholic Church must join it? It is not as simple as it looks. The RCC deliberately seeks corporate reunion with separated churches and what it calls “ecclesial communities” based on theological dialogue meant to result in doctrinal convergence. Does anybody really think that the RCC is saying that if such dialogue was successful in any particular case, unless it was accompanied exactly simultaneously by corporate reunion, all members of the other body would be obliged under pain of mortal sin to immediately abandon and dismantle their church and be simply absorbed into the RCC? This is clearly not what is intended by the RCC, so it would seem that there is implicit allowance for a transitional period once doctrinal convergence is reached when members of the other body my remain in it, waiting for corporate re-union to be finalised.”
It is not unreasonable for the TAC and Forward in Faith (FiF) to go over to Rome in the mode which Rome has not only permitted but encouraged through prior and present ecumenical statements. The Roman principle of respecting patrimonies, found even in Aquinas, applies. Additionally, Rome does not posit that those who have accepted its authority (or never rejected it) but are not yet “received” are properly schismatic or heretical. They are simply seen as in an anomalous, temporary situation in terms of outward, institutional structures. This, as I understand it, is roughly how the Maronites are seen before their outward reunion with Rome, since it is said they never actually left communion with Rome by choice. Also, given that the RCIA programme for individuals also takes time, even if the prospective member has already announced their ex animo adherence, we can safely say that it is not the case that the RCC teaches that strictly immediate entry is morally required upon a person becoming aware of the obligation, but instead accepts the permissibility and prudence of a transitional period of varying length.
We should, I believe, give up this line of criticism and the false dilemma it proposes: “either you accept the RCC's teaching and so must submit right away individually not wait for the corporate solution, or you don't accept it and so entering the corporate way would be hypocrisy”.
The Question of Jurisdiction and Absorption
As long as a jurisdiction does not abandon its people but carries them with it in the main, voluntary sacrifice of independence of jurisdiction is not obviously sinful. Just because autonomy as a distinct particular Church with validity of jurisdiction is defensible, does not mean that it is mandatory. The Roman offer in Anglicanorum coetibus may not be generous enough, but accepting it is not necessarily a betrayal of identity in itself, as long as a denial of previous ecclesiality is not required as part of the “deal”. See below for more on this key point.
So, insofar as the TAC had legitimate jurisdiction as a particular Church, it's hierarchy was not strictly obliged to maintain this distinct, autonomous identity upon reunion or demand this as a conditio sine qua non. Again, this is so only as long as it persuades and carries its flock with it on the way. This is where many of us perceive a failure, at the very least, of communication.
The Question of Who Contributed to and was the Focus of the Ordinariate Offer
The TAC claims regarding their part in the lead up to the Roman offer have been made publicly over the years, including in the Australian national secular press. Therefore, if they were mythological, they would have been called such by Rome already. Dr Tighe accepts the reality of TAC efforts and dialogue with Rome, and has important CDF and TAC contacts. The reference to worker priests in the documents makes more sense in the TAC than the FiF context. However, repeated reference to the Anglican Communion also suggests that the TAC was not primarily in view. As for the more recent question of whether there is anything specific to the TAC being worked out, it is not appropriate for us to “dogmatically” affirm this cannot be happening. I have heard strong doubts expressed before this offer from Rome came that anything like it ever would, and even suggestions that the TAC has never really talked to Rome on a formal basis at all. That the offer Rome is making is entirely finalised seems unlikely due to both suggestions in the text itself and one other interesting occurrence. Apparently the explanation given by one Roman theologian of the Constitution, which contained the assertion that re-ordinations would be absolute, was originally situated on the official Vatican site along with the other material. Then it disappeared from here and was relegated to another site.
The Question of Doctrine, Education, and Consistency
Formerly the TAC said in its official magazine, the Messenger (April 2005 & June 2004) that the Catholic Church subsists in TAC as well as the RCC, and also said this regarding a proposal that was being drafted to put to Rome: “The second document is a formal proposal from the TAC to the Holy See for the TAC to become an "Anglican Rite Church "sui juris" in communion with the Holy See".
We have since moved to present terminology which speaks of the Catholic Church “in the third person” so to speak, and similar language in a press release asking for funds and describing signing of Catechism of the Catholic Church and positive RC reactions. We find therein wording such as this regarding union with the RCC: 'those who dreamed that at last Anglicans were to become “Anglican Catholics”'. And this, quoted as expressing the “same view”, from the RC press: “The TAC has some 400,000 members; if a majority of these are received into the Catholic Church”. And this, also from the RC press: “for the first time since the Reformation, hundreds of thousands of Protestants are now knocking at our door”. We have, therefore, an apparent acceptance by the TAC hierarchy that their previous status was actually schismatic, heretical and merely Protestant.
There has been little or no attempt as far as I can tell to explain to their people that TAC's own principles allow affirmation of all Roman dogma (which can be plausibly argued with certain necessary qualifications, in my opinion: see my relevant apologetics articles) such that no renunciation is being made by them. Nor has there been an attempt to show that both sides have moved toward the other (without renunciation of binding doctrine by either) so that it is not a mere “return” by a repentant TAC. Instead, we hear talk of a “failed experiment” about their own heritage, acquiescence in “return to the Catholic Church” language contained in the proposed Constitution, and no suggestion that the separation was a result of any Roman fault. Criticism of these inconsistencies and implicit renunciations (without explicit admission of such) is surely reasonable, is it not? Is not the manifest failure of persuasion of very many TAC laity and their feeling of being misinformed a problem?
The Question of Orders
Apostolicae Curae is not clearly infallible and binding de jure within the RCC, despite the Note appended to Ad Tuendam Fidem which implied this. We can say this because both Cardinal Cassidy and the then Cardinal Ratzinger made statements relativising its significance. The former apparently said to George Weigel in an interview (Witness to Hope, pp. 836, 944) that there was a perception that the three categories of teaching were well defined but that perhaps not as much care had been taken in enumerating the appropriate examples in each category. The latter implied that this Note was not meant to close the debate on these issues. RC reporter Bill Broderick quotes him in this passage: 'With respect to the force of his own commentary, Ratzinger recently acknowledged that it was not "given a binding force"; that it was simply "an aid for the understanding of the texts"; and that "no one need feel an authoritarian imposition or restriction by these texts."' Its binding character is also certainly not obvious de facto, as many RC theologians have denied and do deny its conclusions without rebuke.
So, the argument that TAC willingness to enter the RCC of itself necessitates renunciation of the validity of their orders is probably unfair.
But the argument that absolute ordination is not to be objected to because Anglicans don't intend to make RC priests anyway is nonsense. If the lack of intention to make Roman Catholic priests was enough to justify absolute ordination, then Eastern Orthodox (EO) ordinations would not be recognised by the RCC either. The intention for Anglican Churches as well as for those of the East has always been to make priests of the Catholic Church, however that is identified in detail, the same as those of Early and Mediaeval Church, as proven among Anglicans by the Preface to Ordinal and our perpetual reception of RC priests in their orders. There is no need to intend to make “Roman” priests, nor has any RC theologian of note ever claimed so.
The argument that absolute re-ordination rather than conditional ordination is necessary to “allay doubts” is even worse. Conditional ordination is specifically designed to allay doubts. The alternative is only ever to be used in the Western context if there is no doubt whatever that previous orders are invalid, since otherwise sacrilege (and scandal to TAC laity in this case) is risked, as repetition of ordination is intrinsically uncanonical and sacrilegious according to constant Catholic teaching.
A real dilemma surely exists here, does it not? If absolute reordination is accepted, this certifies in practice that the RCC is morally certain of invalidity. If the TAC continues to celebrate sacraments, this certifies that the TAC is morally certain of validity. Therefore, either re-union requires admission of invalidity by TAC (and thus either sacrilege in continuing 'false' sacraments and idolatry when Eucharistic adoration is practised, or cessation of sacramental life) OR re-union hides a fundamental disagreement, which even if it is not definitely dogmatic (see above), is of great significance and undermines the claim of substantial unity. Surely this dilemma must be resolved before honest reconciliation can ensue?
PS: The Accusation of Anglican Jansenism
We have been labelled “Anglican Jansenists” by those members of the TAC defending the Roman offer. This is a very strange criticism. We are not Jansenist in soteriology, as strict Augustinianism and Calvinism, which are virtually identical to Jansenism in many respects, are a distinctly minority opinion among our commenters and not adhered to by the editors of this weblog, as frequent discussions here have made clear. It is difficult to detect a genuinely distinctive Jansenist ecclesiology, but it is our ecclesiology which appear to be the main target here. If Jansenist ecclesiology is taken by our Anglo-papalist critics to mean something like Donatism or Novatianism, the counter-evidence is not hard to find. My recent post (which was approved before and after posting by fellow editors Fr Hart and Ed Pacht), Anglican Catholic Ecclesiology, denied Anglican exclusivism and affirmed full Roman ecclesiality and catholicity as well as the full orthodoxy of the RC/EO consensus.
This does mean the Branch Theory “accusation” against us is valid (which, by the way, is inconsistent with the previous criticism), but Branch Theory criticisms are usually made while ignoring the fact that E/W agreement against the Branch Theory is actually just a side-effect of essential disagreement about who is the One True Church. Unless a distinct Dogma of Absolute Manifest Unity (DOAMU) for the Church is the commonality, this is no real agreement at all. The problem its that the DOAMU (once it is realised that such a “dogma” is needed to exclude Anglicans) is often simply put forward unreflectively without addressing the evidence against it being in any way binding or even plausible. See here.
Is there not room for a less accusatory and contemptuous approach to our disagreements from here on in?