Some online news outlet called The National Catholic Register has taken journalistic laziness to a new low, almost making an art form out of sloth. Their "correspondent" Steve Weatherbe, has stooped so low as to misinform his readers in a manner that could give the old Soviet TASS a good reputation by comparison. On March 7, (forgive me for not seeing this earlier, but I am mainly a parish priest who was "distracted" by the approach of Holy Week and Easter) he wrote:
ORLANDO, Fla. — The bishops of the Anglican Church in America have voted to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to bring their 3,000 members into the Catholic Church.
The unanimous vote of eight members of the House of Bishops, who met in Orlando, Fla., brings 120 parishes in four dioceses across the country into the Church.
Look who he quotes as a reliable source:
“We are returning to the Roman Catholic Church as community with a common past and a common future,” commented Christian Campbell, a Florida lay member of the Anglican Church in America and coordinator of a blog called TheAngloCatholic.com.
"Returning to the Roman Catholic Church," says Mr. Campbell? That is rather odd, inasmuch as most of the ACA members never were Roman Catholics in the first place. But, at last he admits that they (the ones who actually will go) are, in fact, becoming Roman Catholics, not some sort of "uniate" church. Or, does he know what he said?
Frankly, with sources for the report on the level of Mr. Campbell, and Fr. Dwight Longnecker, Mr. Weatherbe had his work cut out for him, that is, the need to get to the facts. It is not merely that these sources are incredibly biased, but that they have been known to say some of the most outrageous things in the past, and simply ought never to be regarded as experts.
Weatherbe goes on to say:
The Pope’s invitation opened the door for disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while retaining what the Pope terms their distinct “spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” including their liturgy, married priests and distinct parishes.
As we have reported to you more than once, absolutely none of these things, "their distinct 'spiritual and liturgical patrimony,' including their liturgy, married priests" has been guaranteed by the new constitution. Neither can the secure status of any parish be certain. In fact, we are still waiting for someone to point us to anything in the text of Anglicanorum Coetibus that identifies and promises protection for so much as one aspect of Anglican "distinct spiritual and liturgical patrimony." We know the Orlando boys are aware of our challenge, and they seem unable to meet it.
The "report" describes Abp. Hepworth thus: "Hepworth, a onetime Catholic seminarian." Seminarian? Try the word "priest," for he was a Roman Catholic priest; and that is why the text of the new constitution rules out the possibility that he will be able to serve as a priest ever again if he does finally make it back to Rome, even if he does so as an "Anglican(?)" archbishop.
Weatherbe reports that Hepworth "says there has been an Anglo-Catholic minority in the Anglican Church working for reunification for centuries." Centuries? The fact is, Anglicans as far back as Hooker have been willing to talk about reunion, but never before have they been willing to do so without any consideration whatsoever of theological discussion about differences. This is what we, at Touchstone, have long regarded as unprincipled ecumenism (the kind that made the ecumenism of the Charismatic movement so shallow, and unproductive). Ecumenism that begins without theological principle cannot, in the long run, teach people to adhere to any moral principles either.
Weatherbe goes on:
The ordination of women (which first took place in 1976 in the U.S.) provoked the breaking away of large numbers of Anglo-Catholics worldwide into several groups, the largest of which is the Traditional Anglican Communion led by Archbishop Hepworth.
Several groups? We started together, and the separate organization of the TAC/ACA represents disunity in and of itself. Again, fact checking is in order. Does Weatherbe buy the line that the TAC has 400,000 members (sometimes 700,000, depending on the weather)? The simple fact is, they are not verifiably the largest, and not as large as they were last year, and may never have exceeded something like 50,000.
For what follows, however, I cannot blame Mr. Weatherbe. In fact, what you are about to read is quite true:
“Doctrine was not a problem with those of us in the Anglo-Catholic tradition,” commented Archbishop Hepworth. But some of the people who joined the new Church did need persuading, he added...“The doctrinal test that Rome put to us was acceptance of the Catholic Catechism. We have accepted it,” said Hepworth.
What Anglo-Catholic tradition is he talking about? Obviously not the real one, inasmuch as the great Anglo-Catholic writers expressed in no uncertain terms the points at which they could not, in good conscience, agree with the See of Rome. They saw Catholic unity as a goal, both with Rome and with Orthodoxy; but, they never imagined that doctrinal issues were not important, or that they were all settled. Abp. Hepworth relies on the ignorance of those who would follow his lead in this matter, and he always has.
The report continues:
Moreover, the married priesthood is no “grandfather” institution. It will persist with new ordinations of married men, says Hepworth, though each married candidate for ordination must be approved on a per-case basis by Rome. “This is designed to last 300 years,” said the archbishop.
As we have seen, this comes from Anglicanorum Coetibus Article VI.
§ 2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.
The problem is, Article VI begins with the conditions for such:
VI. § 1. Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfill the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement In June are to be observed. Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can. 277, §1.
What part of "Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops" does Abp. Hepworth, Mr. Weatherbe, along with all the king's horses and all the king's men, fail to understand? And, concerning Hepworth himself, what part of "and who fulfill the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments" does he wish to dodge?
How can the next three hundred years promise to provide these few Tiber swimmers with a regular supply of convert clergy from the official Anglican Communion, and, eventually, who would want them anyway? For, like it or not, married men who, in the future, will be existing members of the Roman Catholic Church, even under an ordinariate, will not be considered at all, not even on a case by case basis (simply the old wording from the Pastoral Provisions, which always has been on a "case by case basis"). For even under the ordinariates, they will be in the Latin Rite.
“The Pope’s invitation just blew us away,” said Archbishop Falk. “It was so pastoral, so gracious and so charitable. Let’s go!”
Invitation? Pastoral? Gracious? Charitable? The request put the Pope on the spot, and anyone who actually reads Anglicanorum Coetibus will see that it is not an invitation at all. The entire constitution simply amounts to a set of conditions and rules for joining the RCC.
Now I remember why I was glad to get away from journalism, and back to parish work. Shoveling manure, even shoveling away just enough to keep at least some clean and clear spot, is thankless, tiring and hard work.