For the last eleven months we have found numerous reasons to address the subject of Anglicanorum Coetibus and how it may affect the lives of many people who have no desire to be torn away from Continuing Anglicanism. Our analysis comes from careful research and our own educational backgrounds, by which we mean to clarify simply this: We know the meaning of this new Roman Catholic constitution. We have been able, therefore, accurately and honestly to correct the mistaken impressions and erroneous interpretations that some have applied to the text. Most of the writing on this particular subject has come from Rev. Canon Charles Nalls and me. Our qualifications for accurate interpretation of the Papal document should be a mystery to no one who has any knowledge of our respective histories.
Two convictions have under girded what we have written. One is that Continuing Anglicans have no need to become Roman Catholic, and that the new constitution does not present any great eschatological fulfillment of universal unity in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is nothing more than the newest terms by which former Anglicans may convert to Roman Catholicism. Indeed, it is not about unity, but about leaving one branch of the Church for another, and nothing more. It extends the Pastoral Provisions, but does not significantly alter their substance and rules.
In the months that followed the public announcement and presentation of Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Archbishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the Most Rev. John Hepworth, along with his trusting followers, including certain bishops of the American TAC branch, The Anglican Church in America (ACA), began to spin the meaning of the new constitution in order to fit it into an agenda of their own. The result was confusion, as they tried to turn Rome's new extension of the Pastoral Provisions into everything from inter-communion to a complete overhaul of Rome's longstanding beliefs and practices, including their (completely erroneous) condemnation of Anglican Orders. But, none of this radical revision is even implied by the contents of Anglicanorum Coetibus; at least not when read by those of us with the education it takes to understand what it says in light of their existing Canon Law. In fact, the constant references in the document to existing Canon Law renders the true meaning of the document not only clear, but obvious beyond a reasonable doubt.
Shortly after this all started, the blog that calls itself The Anglo-Catholic (which is about as Anglo as it is Baptist) featured a daily barrage of postings to misinform their readers along the lines of Hepworth's spin, sparing no opportunity to try their best to discredit us. In fact, their blog administrator, Mr. Campbell, wasted about two hours of my life (which, at my age, I want back) trying to persuade me, over the phone, that the Hepworth interpretation just had to be spot on.
Now, after several months, that blog, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, clearly reflects the fact that we were right all along about the Hepworth spin. However, they have increased their defense of Anglicanorum Coetibus itself, and of the premise that Anglicans should all take advantage of it, and so place themselves under the Pope. One of the most loyal Hepworthians has left their blog to create his own. What they disagree about is the Archbishop of the TAC.
The result is that both factions still see us as the enemy. If only our criticism was aimed at Rome itself, for creating their new constitution, their work would be easy. In fact, we have analyzed Anglicanorum Coetibus, but we have never damned Rome for creating it. It was designed, as was the Continuing Church, in response to the crisis in churches of the Anglican Communion. As such, it offers an alternative to people who are awaking to the fact that their church heritage was stolen away while they slumbered. The people in Forward in Faith (FiF) have, in their estimation, lost the battle. The Church of England, in their latest General Synod, have allowed the consecration of women to be "bishops," making the old problem of women priests unavoidable, while adding to its destructive effect (and I predict, in light of the political correctness that has made England safe for gun slinging criminals and soon to be "marital" homsex, but unsafe for the faithful, that the next "Archbishop" of Canterbury, once this latest change worms its way through the system, will be a woman). In this light, Rome becomes for them a real option.
But, for Continuing Anglicans, having seen the crisis in 1977 and having set up an Anglican alternative, Anglicanorum Coetibus is not, and never could have been, an answer to any crisis whatsoever. Indeed, it was not written for them, but in response to the needs of FiF people, and in anticipation of this year's latest twist and turn on the Canterbury Trail. Hepworth's attempt to fit the square peg of the new constitution into the round hole of the TAC's Romeward Bound advertising campaign, was an act of desperation. They did not consult him, and even announced it publicly; so, they almost exposed the emperor's newest apparel to scorn.
That Hepworth was aided in keeping up appearances early on, by overly polite FiF leaders, cannot be denied. They allowed him to take their stage for the longest brief comment in history. But, now that the cat is out of the bag, it should become clear that the effort to make Anglicanorum Coetibus into some wonderful magic kingdom for Continuing Anglicans, has served no good purpose for anyone. People who actually want to go to Rome, but who have been waiting for the TAC/ACA hierarchy to declare the pot of gold golden enough, have been stalled to no honest end.
Made to doubt the validity of their own sacraments, but not allowed into the Land of Promise, they have been forced to wonder as they wander, having no means to satisfy their consciences about the efficacy of the sacraments they either use, or pretend to use? not knowing what the case may be. People who have the good sense to stay loyal to their sincere Anglican convictions, and to what they saw in the Affirmation of St. Louis, have been condemned openly as standing in the way of some elusive and alleged "unity." They have been placed in this no man's land by despicable and heinous pastoral neglect, and condemned for their adherence to conscience and to truth. In the case of Canadian clergy, some have been fired and even excommunicated for asking honest questions in a fair and balanced manner.
To those who want to be clear in their minds and consciences about sacramental validity, either be Anglican Catholic or Roman Catholic. You ought not to deny your consciences the comfort they need. If you buy the propaganda of the Roman Catholic Church, well, at least you are remaining Christian; so, go if you must. If you do not buy it, then be reconciled fully to your fellow Continuing Anglicans. After all, it is logical and right to pursue an achievable goal of actual and practical unity.
I offer one caveat, however, to those who want to go to Rome. The acres look greener now; but the grass will look its true color after much time on the other side of the fence. It generally proves to be the case that converts to Rome have buyer's remorse after a few years.