Monday, April 21, 2008

They Did Sign It

I want to sort this out once and for all, and will do it in the words of Archbishop John Hepworth. It has been stated as much here already, but I want to repeat it: they did sign it.

The following comes from The Pennant, vol. 30, no. 1, parish magazine of St George's Church, Columbus, Ohio of February 2008. It purports to have been written by Archbishop Hepworth and I believe that it was, as it is consistent with what he told me privately prior to the October 2007 synod in Portsmouth.

I quote in part:

"On 9th October last I returned to Rome with Bishops Mercer and Wilkinson ... This time we met with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body appointed by the Holy See to receive applications for "Corporate Reunion" from churches that are not in Communion with the Holy See, and we carried a letter solemnly signed by the Bishops and Vicars General of the Traditional Anglican Communion during a Votive Mass for Unity in the venerable church of Saint Agatha in Portsmouth, England, where we had just completed a powerful Plenary Meeting. (My emphasis).

"May I share with you some of the letter's content and promise …

"On our acceptance of the catholic faith:

"We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church…" (My emphasis)

It can't be any clearer than that.

I am also in receipt of a private communication from someone who attended the synod, and whose honesty I have no reason to doubt. In part, this person said:

"Their signing the letter addressed to the Roman authorities and putting their signatures in the catechism was a public act during a public Mass in a church whose door was wide open. I have held the catechism book in my hands and have seen all the signatures in it." (Source's emphasis)

The logical conclusion that one must draw is that anyone who asserts that the bishops have not endorsed the CCC either does not know the truth or, if you will allow the euphemism, is being economical with it.


Anonymous said...

So my original point remains: how are we to understand and see this action? Following on from the previous post, at what point does this action of the TAC College of Bishops become a moral imperative upon the signatories? At what point for the clergy and laypeople in communion with these signatories?

I have mused on this before: TAC, the Catechism, and a question. I do not expect anyone to agree with me. Yet to my understanding it appears to be a question that is central for the TAC's self-identity at this moment! As you wrote: If I were to find myself in such accord, I could imagine no reason why I should not become a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Albion, no-one's denying that they signed a letter, or even that they signed a letter in which they endorsed the CCC by means of a carefully (if a trifle grammatically clumsy) qualifying superlative: 'the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time'. Unless I've been completely misreading recent contributions to the comboxes, however, what some people believe happened, and what patently didn't happen, is that they actually subscribed to a copy of the CCC. In short, they didn't sign it. They signed a letter in which they said it's the best complete statement of the faith to date. The letter didn't say it's perfect.

Albion Land said...


I will repeat what my eyewitness said: "I have held the catechism book in my hands and have seen all the signatures in it."

I think there is no doubt that the bishops intended to "subscribe" to the CCC, and that is certainly the impression that Archbishop Hepworth gave me when we spoke prior to October.

I know people have attempted here to parse the clumsily worded accolade as perhaps meaning something less than full subscription. I don't buy into that.

In the end, what matters to me is what the bishops of the TAC are communicating to their people. ACAMusician was told by her bishop that "The TAC College of Bishops did NOT in fact sign the Catechism. That was a piece of misinformation that was put out on Web to unnecessarily upset parishoners."

What, might I ask, should parishioners be upset about?

Anonymous said...

To step back for a few moments here, here are the issues which seem to me need clarification:

(1) What does the CCC explicitly say about papal supremacy -- universal ordinary jurisdiction and infallibility being the two most important elements thereof.

(2) Do the TAC bishops -- whether by signing the letter, the CCC, or both -- accept the CCC's teaching on papal supremacy?

(3) If so, does this acceptance:

(A) rise to a level where immediate union with the Roman church is a moral imperative (and all this jurisdiction and liturgical fussing about a way to avoid the immediate conversion and submission to Roman authority incumbent upon them by points (1) and (2)) --

(B) OR is it still morally and theologically possible that they do NOT accept papal supremacy, merely papal primacy (as is also accepted by many Orthodox)... and thus this meeting simply represents a way for them to show their earnest interest in eventual reunion without sacrificing traditional Anglican reservations about papal supremacy in the process?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, Albion. I'm not being completely clear, and it's my fault. What I meant to say is that Abp Hepworth's published statement doesn't say they signed the CCC. It says they signed a letter saying the CCC was the best thing currently in print (or words to that effect). As to what your personal eyewitness said, well, since I wasn't there, I can't say, but the words you quote from Abp Hepworth don't support it. Even if they did sign it, it would seem that they did under the qualification openly stated in the letter. It also appears that they didn't trot off to Rome with a signed CCC and hand it up and say 'We submit.' To the best of my knowledge and belief they're all still bishops, which is a sure sign that they haven't submitted, apparently lacking the vocation to the lay life. In all, I'm wasting a lot of breath saying, 'Let's not get excited. If Rome ever does us the courtesy of a reply, let's deal with it then.'

Anonymous said...

Dear Albion,

You already know who my Bishop is. Would you agree to send me a personal email with the name of your source?


Albion Land said...

Sorry, but I am not at liberty to divulge the identity of my source, who spoke to me on the clear condition of anonymity. However, as we have (what I consider to be an irrelevant distinction) between letter and book, I shall write to this person and ask for a clarification regarding that.

Albion Land said...


Very good presentation of the issues. I shall endeavor this afternoon to answer (1). As for (2) and (3), that is obviously for the TAC bishops to answer.

However, I would imagine the case to be, as you put it, one of representing "a way for them to show their earnest interest in eventual reunion without sacrificing traditional Anglican reservations about papal supremacy in the process."

Anonymous said...

Albion, you know I love you and you know I love this blog, but that doesn't stop me wondering about all this CCC excitement, nor yet the irrelevance of the distinction between signing a letter with a qualified endorsement of a book and signing the actual book, and as to whether it happened or not, that will be revealed and explained in the fulness of time. (So, mea culpa, I'll stop speculating.)

But as for this 'no Anglican in good conscience could agree to that' business--what percentage of the brick-like tome is it that we can't agree to?

Even if you subtract our good friends like Dr Tighe and Alice, and the triumphalist Roman visitors who appear to treat us like an anthropological curiosity, you'll have to admit that there are quite a few things on which the rest of us don't agree, even those who are, I expect, fully in communion with each other.

But I'm bold enough to assert that we all agree on one thing: we all love our Lord Jesus Christ, whose body on earth is sadly and scandalously broken. And if a few men of good will attempt to lead some of us to the healing of one of those wounds by seeking to hop into bed with 1.1 billion Christians with whom we might only agree on 99% of things, isn't that (like a bus load of lawyers driving over a cliff) at least a start?

Albion Land said...


I suspect your comment and the latest post on the blog passed each other in the ether without seeing each other, but your main question -- what percentage of the brick-like tome is it that we can't agree to -- is answered there, in part.

I would argue that no Anglican can agree with Paragraphs 882, 883, 884, nor implication of papal supremacy implied in Paragraph 886.

I would agree with you that the distinction between letter and book is, ultimately, irrelevant.

I am, however, concerned that there may be a move afoot to take the TAC where, perhaps, a sizeable minority of the TAC does not wish to travel. I am not a member of the TAC, so this is technically none of my business. But as a basic premiss of this blog is a commitment to ecumenism within the continuing Anglican movement, it very much matters who is part of that movement.

I share the sentiments of Fr Hart, which he has repeatedly expressed, that it would be a good thing if we speak with Rome (and with Constantinople) about moving toward communion with each other. But I do not, and cannot, support any effort that would constitute a denial of any of the basic tenets of the Anglican Way -- and the rejection of papal supremacy is right there at the top among those tenets.

Anonymous said...

While there's much more in the CCC than the Papal Claims which I could not sign off on (chiefly the muddled and misleading paragraphs on Justification), somebody needs to say simply that the CCC is a splendid document. It is a theogical masterpiece, an editorial work of art.
My own copy is well worn, and it is never far from my desk. I am simply in awe of the scholarly expertise which produced it. As an Anglican, I wish we could produce a document of equal caliber. But we all know that could never happen.
When I file my caveats regarding RC theology, there is a little bit of my brain which continues to wonder..........
Laurence K. Wells+

Albion Land said...

I agree with you, Fr Wells.

For the record, I am not a CCC-basher. In years past, when preparing a sermon and in doubt about a matter of theology, I would often turn to the CCC for guidance. I expect I will do so again.

I did so for the very reason to which you have alluded -- where does one find a comparable document of such breadth and depth within the corpus of Anglican theological literature?

poetreader said...

'the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time'

The careful and tentative wording of this statement cannot be simply dismissed. That would be dishonest. There is wiggle room because wiggle room is intended, and the RCC would certainly not accept this as complete submission to that document. It would be foolish for them to do so.

The Papal claims have not been and cannot be simply yielded as true. Frankly, while I respect what is being attempted, I find myself wondering what posessed our bishops (yes, I'm a member of TAC) to pursue these objectives in such a clumsy, and (yes, I'll say it) boneheaded fashion. The lack of transparency, verging on secrecy, that we;ve seen shows me that they knew this procedure would produce concern and opposition among the laity, since it gives the (false, as I assume) impression of a caving in to papal claims, something they assume rightly to be unacceptable to a large proportion of our people. They cannot but know that pursuing the action that appears to be implied woulf produce a radical division in the ACA. In fact, my read is that, if it were true that all of our bishops accepted the papal claims in their entirety, that would ultimately leave a large majority of ACA bishopless until some other arrangement could be found.

I do not believe this to be the case. I read the words that I see, and, if words mean anything at all, things have not progressed to that point.

Rome has not yet responded. This is not the time for panic or for precipitous action. When clergy make nuanced statements intending to be a part of a thinking aloud process, it is all too easy to take partial impressions of an incomplete motion, and raise a premature alarm.

I'm watchful. I am a little uneasy. But sudden reactions are almost always wrong. Can there be patience?


Anonymous said...

From the peanut gallery, this is how it strikes me. Seems to me that there are two basic possibilities (perhaps there are others I"ve missed), based on what we can suss out from outside the veil of "secrecy" which has been laid over all this.


I. The Anglocatholic Possibility

The TAC bishops view the restarting of talks with Rome (scuttled by the Canturbury Communion's abandonment of the apostolic succession and normative Christian theology and ethics) an important part of genuine Anglicanism's future.

Thus they have been in contact with Rome and -- to reassure Rome that Continuing Anglicans aren't either apostates or anti-catholic Protestants, as the majority of the Canturbury Communion is -- indicated their support for the CCC as, by and large, an articulation of what they themselves believe... though, not of course, without certain reservations.

Being Anglicans (even if anglocatholic ones) and not Roman Catholics, they reject the claims for papal "supremacy" which Rome has evolved -- opposed both by Eastern Christendom and by the Protestant West -- over the last millenium... and it's such issues which the projected dialog would have to address in the future.

Nevertheless, their meeting was intended as a demonstration both of a serious and good-faith interest in continuing these ecumenical discussions and as a signal that many of the issue which divide Rome from the Canturbury Communion are not issues dividing Rome from the "English catholics" of the TAC.


II. The Closet Roman Possibility

Given the failure of the Continuing church movement to hold itself together jurisdictional or to effectively grow or evangelize in many areas (particularly the U.S.), coupled with a history of episcopal squabbling and ineffectiveness, the T.A.C. bishops have decided that genuine anglocatholicism is doomed.

Accordingly, they have, in their own hearts, abandoned Anglicanism and converted to Roman Catholicism -- accepting not just those teachings and practices which (rooted in the patristic church) all non-rabidly-Protestant Anglicans accept, but accepting as well papal supremacy as well as the "endogmatization" of many pious beliefs and practices.

To signal this conversion they have met with and had "secret talks" with Rome over the past months or years, culminating in the signing of the CCC to indicate their full acceptance of all of Roman doctrine, practice and authority -- including the Roman teaching of papal supremacy. (Note the passages selected from the CCC in the more recent article).

But, aware of both of the ephemeral and unreliable nature of the "pastoral provision" for bringing in individual Anglican clergy or congregations, and aware too of the liturgical, aesthetic and even theological carnage caused by some aspects of Vatican I, they hope -- rather than simply moving to Roman Catholicism now -- to orchestrate a jurisdictional transition.

Moreover, aware that simple conversion would alienate many of their parishoners -- who are anglocatholics but not anglopapalists -- they are attempting to proceed circumspectly, hoping that a "Uniate" situation could be created by which the jurisdiction simply reaffiliates, drawing less attention to the acceptance of papal supremacy such a reaffiliation would (perhaps in the fine print) entail.



Now, if the situation is (I), then I don't see any problems. I do have to wonder about the "secrecy" which everyone is talking about -- not being a TAC member nor attending a TAC parish, I don't have any occasion to see it in person.

I don't see that anyone could object, at least in principle, to an anglocatholic desire to resume the sort of careful ecumenical talks which Canturbury used to take seriously (before deciding to jettison Anglican catholicism for protestantism, unitarianism and/or apostasy)... in which case, what's there to be secret about?


On the other hand, I've got some serious reservations about case (II).

First, it strikes me as theologically incoherent. If you accept Roman supremacy and the norms of the CCC, then you accept the teaching that (a) Anglican orders are invalid and (b) that no bishop not in formal communion with Rome is really a bishop.

Accordingly, such bishops would have to believe that they're not really ordained, nor that they're performing valid sacraments. To keep going through those motions is both to mock the sacraments, to deceive the laity, and to deprive them of the certainty of sacramental grace. It's comparable to a female priest being convinced that women cannot be ordained and that her own orders are invalid... and continuing to minister as a priest anyway.

If, on the other hand, they don't believe that -- if they do believe their orders and sacraments are valid -- then they don't actually accept Roman primacy nor all the teaching of the CCC.

I don't think you can have it both ways.


Further -- another element of case II -- I think a decision that "anglocatholicism is dead and the Continuing Church movement has failed" is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

If many or most of the leaders of the TAC really have decided to give up on Continuing Anglicanism and authentic anglocatholicism (and -- let me hasten to reiterate -- I present this merely as a hypothesis; I have no experiences to make me think this is actually the case), then I think a unilateral abandonment of the movement, in a way that may be likely both to alienate its own membership and to create further divisions (as some of its own clergy - not on board with the conversion to Rome - break away) is furthering that death. It's like saying "oh, I think the Continuing Church movement is dead... but let me stick another knife into it on my way out the door, just to make sure."


Similarly, I think it would be irresponsible to give up on Continuing Anglicanism without making every effort to really overcome the shameful divisions (jurisdictional and personal) which have been undermining it since even before St. Louis.

Yet if what's reported here and elsewhere from time to time is accurate, it doesn't seem that the TAC has really sat down and made much effort to do that. I get the sense (again, from the outside... so this may be inaccurate) that they've actually put far more effort into trying to create affiliations or connections with angloprotestants (CANA, REC, etc) and with Romans than they ever have with trying to work things out with the rest of the Continuum (e.g. the APCK, ACC, UEC axis). Sure, there have been some efforts, but have there been enough? Have serious efforts been made to approach the new APCK leadership for example, or was that written off before it even happened (i.e. by Bishop Florenza's move to the ACA)? Etc.



This last consideration leads me to wonder if perhaps it's not a case II situation after all.

I mean, suppose it really were Case I.

Then the best chance for a corporate approach to Rome and an eventual "uniate" status would be (IMHO) to gather as large and coherent a body as possible. To be able to say "we represent the united anglocatholic voice of basically all Anglican catholics in the world."

In which case, the proper way to approach the siutation (again IMHO) would be a two-pronged approach:

First, to try to re-start open talks with Rome on the particular issues which divide Rome from anglocatholicism (though not from anglopapalism)... i.e. papal supremacy. To address the questions of (i) the pope's claim to universal ordinary jurisdiction, (ii) his claim to infallibility, and (ii) the rejection of Anglican (chiefly Continuing Anglican) orders.

But, secondly, to put a great deal of effort and energy into reuniting the Continuing movement -- to get absolutely everyone on board who isn't an anti-Roman anti-catholic angloprotestant. I.e. the APCK, the ACC, the UEC, and perhaps a few other groups. (While letting those who are more angloprotestant, like the APA/REC, pursue their attempts at union with CANA and the other recent evangelical/angloprotestant bodies).

The sense behind such an approach would be that (A) they aren't, even in their hearts, Roman catholics -- not being anlgoPAPISTS but angloCATHOLICS -- and so there's no reason to dash to join Rome before the significant theological issues are fully and properly addressed and (B) thus it makes sense to try to create a large and stable body, including not just the inheritors of St. Louis but also all those who might, as the Canturbury Communion continues to disintegrate, join up so as to (C) maximize the chances that a genuine stable and enduring Anglican Uniate jurisdiction (with its own practices, seminaries, episcopate, etc) be established to preserve the anglocatholic heritage.


The fact that the TAC leadership seems (again, from what bits an observer can pick up) to be accelerating an approach to Rome, doing so with a degree of "secrecy" which has even its own membership wondering about just what's going on, and ignoring the rest of the Continuum as it does so, all seems to me to suggest (though certainly not definitively) that the process is being spearheaded by angloPAPALISTS who have no reservations about accepting papal SUPREMACY and are simply trying to bring their orders and parishes and people - and perhaps even jurisdiction - along with them, rather than simply openly announcing their conversion.



But, as I say, this is all speculation and from the peanut gallery -- I don't, like other posters here, have any information one way or the other... I simply present the above as a "diagnosis" of how all these continued rumors, confusion, and charges of secrecy strike an outside observer.



Fr. Robert Hart said...

...where does one find a comparable document of such breadth and depth within the corpus of Anglican theological literature?

To begin with, the ten volume work by Francis Hall, Dogmatic Theology.

On the main matter, we have been told Bishop Florenza denies the report, and another man saw many signatures in a book. These two accounts can be reconciled, since the man who saw the signatures may be mistaken as to details.

The only reason I have not picked up a phone and asked Bishop Florenza about this specific matter, is that the question would be, technically, an interview. They have made it clear they cannot give interviews about this for the time being.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

LP wrote:
If, on the other hand, they don't believe that -- if they do believe their orders and sacraments are valid -- then they don't actually accept Roman primacy nor all the teaching of the CCC...and (ii) the rejection of Anglican (chiefly Continuing Anglican) orders.

Contrary to what is generally perceived, the issue of Anglican orders and Rome is not really settled. The reality is that Rome has made no official statement about the orders we have, as we have them now, since they have not decided yet what to make of the Old Catholic Infusion of orders. And, if not for women's "ordination" the 1896 Bull would have been rescinded by Pope Paul VI in 1976 (and who can blame him for leaving it in place when some Anglicans were "ordaining" women? He was right, pastorally speaking, not to open that can of worms.)

Even those poorly read folks who believe the conclusion of Apostolicae Curae (a conclusion that has no support at all, since Rome has reversed its stand on every detail in that Bull that led to the conclusion), could not apply it to the orders we actually have. Neither does Ad Tuendam Fidem actually answer the matter; for what it really said (if read carefully) amounts to the simple fact that the 1896 Bull can be rescinded someday, for it is not on the level of dogma.

So,the question of our Anglican Orders is, in fact, not one that Rome has officially answered to its own satisfaction.

Frankly, I think they do not want to go there unless they have to.

Albion Land said...

Fr Hart,

It is interesting that you mention Francis Hall's Dogmatic Theology, as Archbishop Haverland has recommended that I begin my further education there, and is arranging all 10 volumes being sent to me.

As to the other matter, I have said all I intend to for now, except to reiterate what Archbishop Hepworth told me before Portsmouth -- that every bishop of the TAC would sign the CCC.

Anonymous said...

SO what is the answer?

If some want to be Roman
and some want their Deerfield Beach
and some want to be generic evangelicals
and some want to be Papists
and some want to be Puritans
Some want the 39 Articles,
some say they are not enough,
some think the Reformation ended 400 yrs ago some think it is still ongoing...

what is a poor layman to do?

Is this why we are Anglican: because we are all a anglin'?

Anonymous said...

I love Anglican Catholicism. Truly, it has been for me the source of living water in the barren, soul-withering wasteland of modern western "civilization". So, as a member of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada in the TAC, I remain devoted to "continuing" Anglicanism, believing that we are the true spiritual heirs of C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and Dorothy Sayers.

But, when I look around at the utter and increasing disarray of Anglicanism in every guise, I must resist a sense of overwhelming desperation. I recall lines from the "Skye Boat Song":

"Burned are our homes,
Exile and death,
Scattered the loyal men ..."

And I remember a conversation I had long ago with a Polish Catholic friend. When I told him I had difficulties with the papacy, he replied, with some sympathy, but gently repeating an observation his father had once made: "Look what happens when you don't have one!"

Do we need to look even beyond continuing Anglicanism to see the truth of this statement?

In Christ,

Millo Shaw

Fr. Robert Hart said...

When I told him I had difficulties with the papacy, he replied, with some sympathy, but gently repeating an observation his father had once made: "Look what happens when you don't have one!"

So, what happens when you do have one?

Here in the United States the experience of being a Roman Catholic and the experience of being an Episcopalian are very much the same. No, the RCs won't see women priests, but they will see many priests who wish women were "ordained," and say so. The liturgy is just as banal, and the preaching usually just as bad. The child abuse scandal, the shortage of clergy, the closing of churches because of said shortage- I don't see where having a papacy is a magic answer. The faith of the pope does not save souls in America.

I am glad that the pope is orthodox. Exactly what does that do for people over here?

John Dixon said...


i do not think there is any honest heir to CS Lewis and company that would sign the CCC.
While our house is in disarray and there has been much triumphalism and proclamation of the succession of Benedict to the throne of Peter this week Rome has a lot of problems as well. In fact they have all the same general problems- clergy that are homosexual, thieves, etc. Shrinking congregations, selling off churches, problematic seminaries and universities, cults, heresy, invented doctrine.
One has to admit when they do it, it is on such a grand scale!

poetreader said...

Hear, Hear, Father Bob!

Like Canterbury Anglicanism, the Roman Church in the US, Western Europe, and similar nations has ceased to be a safe place for Christians to find reliable orthodoxy. Maybe the Pope can turn the RCC around, maybe not. The fact is that events on the ground do not demonstrate any practical advantage to a strong papacy whatever.

It's not working and its dysfunction is really no less drastic than that of "mainstream" Anglicanism or, for that matter, loberal Protestantism.


Anonymous said...

But, when I look around at the utter and increasing disarray of Anglicanism in every guise

True, things are a mess right now. I think it's fair to say that Continuing Anglicanism really dropped the ball in its first few decades. Whether that was the fault of leadership, or haste, or its constituency, or the rest of the Anglican communion, or just bad luck, or a combination of them all, I dunno.

But expecting something as massive as a realignment in the 3rd largest Christian group in the world to happen overnight -- or even in a mere 1 or 2 generations -- is simply unreasonable. Part of that American "fast food" mentality.

I can certainly understand that those who, theologically, are really Roman Catholics (i.e. "anglopapists") and have no problems with papal claims to universal ordinary jurisdiction would see that going to Rome (Anglican liturgy in tow if possible) as preferable to trying to work through the current anglocatholic mess. Heck, if I believed Rome's claims for papal supremacy, I'd be in a Roman church now, not remaining out of communion with what I believed the true Church to be, even if it meant having to give up Anglican liturgy to do so.

But for those who are genuine anglocatholics, I think it's a bit unreasonable to expect a realignment to happen overnight -- or even in only 1-2 generations -- and a bit premature to be giving up on (or abandoning) anglocatholicism's hope for the future... which is the Continuing church movement. Even if that movement hasn't, overall, performed very well to date.


Fr. John said...

Fr. Hart is right about the American branch of the Roman church.

Why bother laundry listing the errors and abuses. Go to a Roman Mass and see for yourself.

I like the pope. He may be a great man, and maybe he will accomplish miracles, but jumping out of the Anglican frying pan into the Roman Catholic fire is a bad idea.

The American branch of the RC Church is hungering and thirsting to go down the same road as the Episcopal Church.

John Roddy+