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’
- 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.
- 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