Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shape Shifting and the Apostolic Constitution.

Published with permission of the author

Fr. David Marriott

One of the most widespread myths is that of the shape shifter: around the world, in many different faiths, and over many centuries, the myth has persisted. It is to us in Canada perhaps more obvious in the transformational stories of the North American aboriginal population: where a noted chief becomes an eagle, or a potent tribal symbol takes on human form. But the tradition is present in virutally all cutlures.

Examples from Wikipedia, where there is an extensive volume of information, concern one important aspect of shape-shifting: whether the transformation is voluntary. Circe transforms intruders to her island into swine, whereas Ged, in A Wizard of Earthsea, becomes a hawk to escape an evil wizard's stronghold. When a form is taken on involuntarily, the thematic effect is one of confinement and restraint; the person is bound to the new form. In extreme cases, such as petrifaction, the character is entirely disabled perhaps this might bring to mind Lot’s wife (Gen. 20.26)? Voluntary forms, on the other hand, are means of escape and liberation; even when the form is not undertaken to effect a literal escape, the abilities specific to the form, or the disguise afforded by it, allow the character to act in a manner previously impossible.

A question might be asked as to whether the phenomenom of shape shifting only applies to transformation of people into animals or objects and perhaps back again, or can it also apply to things, to inanimate objects, to thoughts and proposals: for if that is acceptable we in the TAC have seen an impressive exhibit of shape shifting in the recent discussions being held under the auspices of the College of Bishops. And the process continues.

The problem is ensconced in the intial hypothesis: that unity in the church refers to a numerical unity, rather than the organic unity implied by St. Paul in his illustration of the body of Christ: ‘Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.’ (1 Cor. 12.4-7) St. Paul ’s words are reflected in the Book of Common Prayer, in the prayer after Communion: ‘...and that we are living members of his mystical body, which is the blessed company of all faithful people.’

Contrast this apparent acceptance of difference in culture, in language, and in tradition, which may lead to a range of expression of faith in Jesus Christ, with the assertion made in the preamble to the ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’: ‘The Apostolic See has responded favorably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization.’

The hypothesis held as true by the Vatican is that Peter is the key to unity, and that this unity is expressed in numerical one-ness: and it is therefore mandatory for this numeric unity to be expressed and developed and that those holding this belief must find the belief acceptable and true. This may be so for those who have been indoctrinated with the teaching of the supremacy of the See of Peter, but for those who have not received any such instruction, and for whom the words of St. Paul are far more relevant, the very proclamation of the supremacy of Peter becomes a massive stumbling block in the way ahead.

The original concept of the approach to the Roman Catholic Church was as a successor to the Anglican Roman Catholic Joint Commission. This commission was established to explore and hopefully to develop common ground between the churches of Canterbury and Rome : on the Eucharist, the commission states in the 1971 ‘Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine’

  1. In the course of the Church's history several traditions have developed in expressing Christian understanding of the Eucharist. (For example, various names have become customary as descriptions of the Eucharist: Lord’s Supper, liturgy, holy mysteries, synaxis, mass, Holy Communion. The Eucharist has become the most universally accepted term.) An important stage in progress towards organic unity is a substantial consensus on the purpose and meaning of the Eucharist. Our intention has been to seek a deeper understanding of the reality of the Eucharist which is consonant with biblical teaching and with the tradition of our common inheritance, and to express in this document the consensus we have reached.
  2. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God has reconciled men to himself, and in Christ he offers unity to all mankind. By his word God calls us into a new relationship with himself as our Father and with one another as his children in a relationship inaugurated by baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit, nurtured and deepened through the Eucharist, and expressed in a confession of one faith and a common life of living service.

This extract, in common with the work undertaken by ARCIC until the Canterbury church caused discussions to be minimized due to the introduction of the ordination of women to holy orders, expresses the views held by many Anglicans, who whilst welcoming a closer relationship and possible unity with the Roman Catholic church, did not foresee the necessity for a full acceptance of the authority of the Roman Catholic church, and its emphasis on the numerical unity of the See of Peter. In fact, the first paragraph cited discusses the need for the growth toward the common ground which would then allow for greater organic unity: ‘Our intention has been to seek a deeper understanding of the reality of the Eucharist which is consonant with biblical teaching and with the tradition of our common inheritance’ – There is no mention here of the role of St Peter and his see: ‘the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches’ – which we now see in Anglicanorum Coetibus.

This is where the ‘shape shifting’ happens: many understood that the prospect was of a growth of understanding and mutual respect between the two churches, which would allow for the two to co-exist in harmony, two limbs of the body of Christ. And many of the members of the Anglican Catholic churches were glad to see this progress. But the shape shifter amended the hypothesis: and the result has been the far more drastic revisions anticipated in the Apostolic Constitution and the Complementary norms.

Shape shifting has also played a part in the linkage made between the conditions expressed in the Apostolic Constitution and the ‘Particular Ritual Churches’, often referred to as the uniate churches, such as the Russian Catholic, the Syrian, Greek, Egyptian, Armenian etc. It has been implied that this is similar to what is proposed for the TAC, whereas (Roman Catholic) Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne has clarified, ‘In full communion with the Successor of St Peter, members of each Personal Ordinariate will be gathered in distinctive communities that preserve elements of Anglican worship, spirituality and culture that are compatible with Catholic faith and morals. Members of an Ordinariate will be able to worship according to own liturgical “use”, while still being Catholics of the Roman Rite. So in the Ordinariate you will be “Roman Catholics” or “Latin Catholics”, part of the largest group in the Universal Church. At the same time, like the Eastern Rite Catholics, you will be the bearers of a distinctive and respected tradition. Your Ordinaries, bishops or priests, will work alongside bishops of the Roman Rite dioceses and the bishops of Eastern Rite eparchies and dioceses, finding their place within the Episcopal Conference in each nation or region.’ (Italics mine. DRM)

Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda SJ, Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University , discussing the significance of the Apostolic Constitution, writes, ‘These Personal Ordinariates cannot be considered as Particular Ritual Churches since the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church. The creation of a Ritual Church might have created ecumenical difficulties.’ (Vatican 11 September 2009). So, as Pilate said, ‘What is truth?’

Note that Fr. Ghirlanda also adds,

‘1.the Catechism of the Catholic Church will be considered the authentic expression of the faith of the members of the Ordinariate (Ap. Cons. I § 5);
2. a Personal Ordinariate will be erected by the Holy See within the territorial confines of an Episcopal Conference, after having consulted with that Episcopal Conference (Ap. Cons. I § 1);
3. the Ordinary will be a member of his respective Episcopal Conference and will be obliged to follow its directives, unless they are incompatible with the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (CN Art. 2);
4. the ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896. Given the entire Catholic Latin tradition and the tradition of the Oriental Catholic Churches, including the Orthodox tradition, the admission of married men to the episcopate is absolutely excluded (NC Art. 11 § 1);’

Archbishop Hepworth has alluded to the fact that some of these conditions may be amended and clarified during later discussion: but the fact remains that the church as we have known it will cease to exist, and will be replaced by something very different, where the concept of the organic unity as depicted by St. Paul has been replaced by the acceptance of the pre-eminence and numeric unity of the See of Peter.


St. Columba of Iona, June 9th 2010


John A. Hollister said...

"Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda ... writes, 'These Personal Ordinariates cannot be considered as Particular Ritual Churches since the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church. The creation of a Ritual Church might have created ecumenical difficulties.'"

As they say in the school yard, "Oh, yeah?" "Ecumenical difficulties" with whom? With the Lambeth Communion of Apostates?

No, the real story seems to be imbedded in the immediately previous clause: "[T]he Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church." Translated into plain English, that is: "You had the gall to leave the Latin Rite, and we've been waiting for the chance to punish you for that crime, so we'll make you crawl back into precisely the place from which you left."

There is certainly precedent for a group that left one Communion to return to a different part of that same Communion; the present place of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox, who after returning from Rome to Orthodoxy are now directly under the Ecumenical Patriarch (you know, "the Pope and Patriarch of Constantinople") instead of in the Patriarchy from which they left, shows that.

Also, that small-minded attitude ignores the little reality that it wasn't the Church of England that left the Church of Rome, but instead it was the Church of Rome that left the Church of England, but what are a few data between friends? "My mind is made up, so don't confuse me with facts" and all that.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Well said Fr Marriott, our sentiments exactly.

The transition will require total submission, and it will not be what was paraded.

It will have to be total absorbtion into the See of Peter for those individuals deciding to take the plunge.

David Gould said...

Bro. Stephen a former Anglican, now Roman Catholic Cistercian monk from Our Lady of Spring Bank monastery in the US paints a minimalist view of the ordinariate, emphasising personal convesrion rather than a Uniate Anglican Church.

Moreover he emphasises that this conversion reflects both the pastoral heart of the Roman Pontiff and the ecclesiastical reality that Roman Catholics do not accept the validity of orthodox Anglican orders or sacraments, and that we are not like the Orthodox Churches. Perhaps his words should be read for themselves. The whole article has been published in an exercise in freedom of speech by The "Anglo-Catholic" - and I think is a really useful addition to the debate. Please read it in full there:

He writes: "Some will say, “But we’re not converting, we’re entering Communion.” My reading of the documents says that conversion is what is being asked. It is being asked as pastorally as possible and with all due respect for the riches of the Anglican patrimony, but members of the Ordinariate are being asked to enter full, visible communion with the Universal Church from bodies that the Holy See does not recognize as properly constituted churches. To enter an Ordinariate is to believe that you are currently a member of a body that is defective in some way that the Catholic Church is not. True, this is a package tour with a protected enclave waiting on the other side with many familiar furnishings, but it remains a new ecclesiastical address and you can only get there by the narrow gate of conversion or, in the traditional idiom, which we current and former Anglicans love, by making your submission to the Holy See."

Anonymous said...

One notable example of "shape-shifting" is the amazing transformation of the story told by the TAC about just what is going to happen. Why it was just the other day, in March of this year, that the London Telegraph was writing in this mode:

"About 100 traditionalist Anglican parishes across the United States have decided to convert en masse to the Roman Catholic Church, it emerged yesterday.

By Simon Caldwell
Published: 6:53PM GMT 05 Mar 2010

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN AMERICA (ACA) will now enter the Catholic Church as a block, bringing in thousands of converts

They have voted to take up the offer made by Pope Benedict XVI in November that permits vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions, including married priests."

But now, when you read their various statements on blogs which are simultaneously official and unofficial (an example of shape-shifting in itself!), you learn that not all ACA parishes are about to decamp and become "Former Anglicans." Instead, as one of their bishops candidly admitted, it is up to each individual parish to make its own individual dicesion on the matter. Those who do not take such deliberate action will remain as they are, presumably right where they are. And at this point, the number of parishes which have acively embraced the Roman offer remains small. Barely 105 people bothered to attend the recent Anglican Use conference, and most of those were the usual cast of characters who swam the Tiber long since. To borrow a slogan from the days of my youth, "What If They Gave an Ordinariate and Nobody Came?" Or to borrow a line from the Gospels, "And with one consent they began to make excuses."

Instead of a grand march across the Tiber, whose waters have miraculosuly parted like the Red Sea before Moses, we get the picture of a not-very-amicable divorce taking place within the TAC, with epithets like "perjurious knaves" being hurled about.

Recently I had a Facebook exchange with a young man emerging from seminary, about to be ordered deacon in the ACA, with full expectation of yet another ordination in the RC Church. When I inquired (with my wonted tact and delicacy) about the ethical awkwardness of such a procedure, he explained to me, ever so patiently, that the "absolute ordinations" spoken of emphatically by Cardinal Ghirlinda are really just conditional ordinations. This sort of schizophrenic reasoning surpasses anything in Alice in Wonderland. That makes stones into bread, serpents into fish. Truly this is shape shifting of an extraordinary sort.

Colin Chattan said...

Alas, the troubles of the TAC parishes that decide not to go over to Rome will not be over. For we will be left with either no bishops at all, or bishops who are hopelessly compromised because they believe that Anglicanism, apart from communion with the Bishop of Rome, does not have the full Catholic faith. We Anglicans usually start off already with an inferiority complex (either to Rome on the one hand, or the fierce "evangelicals" on the other); how can any Church flourish, or even survive, if it believes that it is, at best, a second rate version of Christianity, that it is, in the case of the TAC, nothing more than a vestibule or waiting room to get into the Roman Catholic Church (I believe Fr. Hart has already identified this problem)?

The promoters of "Anglicanorum Coetibus" refer to those of us who have determined not to subscribe as being in a state of "discernment" - just as the defenders of the Canterburian apostasy used to talk about the Church entering a period of "discernment" regarding WO and the normalization of homosexuality. I am reminded of the Monty Python sketch about the "Philosophers' Football Match" in which the eggheads wander over the pitch in deep contemplation until the light finally goes on in someone's head (is it Socrates?!?) and he kicks the ball. Thus it seems do the advocates of the AC see us who have refused initially to join them in the Elysian Fields.

I write this with shame and sorrow, for I initially enthusiastically drank the Kool-Aid. I finally, however, could not prevent myself from seeing the real significance of signing on to the AC, and from discerning the truth of my own motives, which turned out to be worldly and sinful (particularly the sin of despair - despair at the devastation that has befallen Anglicanism). I then realized that, whatever happens henceforward, inescapable tragedy has befallen the TAC. Once our bishops signed the Roman Catechism at Portsmouth they committed the TAC Churches to destruction, to the joy of our enemies and to the great sorrow of those of us who spent years building them up. I sincerely hope that those of our people who join Ordinariates will be happy and content and will grow in the faith, but I can't help but remember the last lines of Robert Southey's grim poem, "The Battle of Blenheim":

"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he,
"But 'twas a famous victory."

Michael said...

@LWK: You compare a story in the mainstream press with recent statements from the ACA.

Apples and oranges, so to speak.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Apples and oranges, so to speak.

Both are round, covered with skin, contain their seeds and grow on trees. I am sure we can think of more similarities.

Anonymous said...

Michael, you can do better than that. I clipped the article from "Christian Challenge" (hardly mainstream press),
Simon Caldwell of The Telegraph was just repeating the enormous figures being dispensed around the globe by the Patriarch of the Antipodes. The article was first brought to my attention by a fervent advocate of the whole Roman escapade, who certainly believed it and probably still does. Why don't you just say, "That was then, this is now," to to use a Nixonian expression, "Those facts are no longer operative."

Anonymous said...

Having conversed with my ACA Bishop before departing that confused body I am absolutely convinced that "compare{ing} a story in the mainstream press with recent statements from the ACA. " is a sound approach as neither is interested in reality and both operate on their own agendas.