Monday, February 08, 2010


How not to buy a theological used car

by Fr. Laurence Wells

November 4, 2009, was the occasion when three documents were released together from the Holy See. These were (1) the papal document itself, known as Anglicanorum Coetibus, described in Vatican parlance as an “Apostolic Constitution; (2) a slightly longer and more detailed paper entitled “Complementary Norms for the Apostolic Constitution” signed by Cardinal William Levada; and finally (3) a much longer essay authored by Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, entitled “The Significance of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.” These documents not only escalate in length but also change markedly in tone. Those in our world of Anglicanism (either Canterburian or Continuing) who are interested or affected by the documents should carefully note that progression.

Even the most cautious observers (among whom I must surely be counted) of the whole movement within Anglicanism toward Rome must be impressed by the truly pastoral and affectionate tone of the first document. That is undeniable, but it does not tell the entire story. As almost everyone knows by now, the Holy Father authorized the creation of something called “Ordinariates,” these being trans-jurisdictional jurisdictions for Anglicans who desire to become Roman Catholics but do not wish to follow the usual and familiar procedures.

The second document, the “Complementary Norms,” is written crisply in the form of 14 Articles. One does not have to squint to see a certain tension emerging between the normal geographical dioceses of the Roman Catholic world and the non-geographical entities soon to come into existence. Art. 2 tells us that “the Ordinary [head of an Ordinariate, possibly a mere priest] follows the directives of the national Episcopal Conference,” followed by Art. 3 declaring that he “must maintain close ties of communion with the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Ordinariate is present.” Other articles make it clear that the formerly Anglican “Ordinaries” and even “lay faithful originally of the Anglican tradition” are to be kept on a short leash by Diocesan bishops and even local Pastors.

It is also amply clear that these Ordinariates may not include “those baptized as Catholics, unless they are members of a family belonging to an Ordinariate.” The Norms rather plainly anticipate a shrinking population, as those baptized in Anglican churches die off or scatter in today's mobile society. It is hard go see how this system could possibly survive more than a generation.

It is also emphasized (why was this necessary?) that “those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans, may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate.” Presumably clerics in this situation (which includes at least one of international prominence) would have to return to the regular diocesan obedience. But how would this work for a man who has become married? Rather pointed (do they have someone in mind?), it is declared that “Anglican clergy who are in irregular marriage situations may not be accepted for Holy Orders in the Ordinariate.”

Article 10 (one of the longer articles) is devoted to priestly formation. It emphasizes that candidates “will receive their theological [emphasis added] formation with other seminarians, i. e., seminarians not of Anglican background. However, “other aspects of priestly formation” may be received in a house of formation “established expressly for the purpose of transmitting Anglican patrimony.”

Here a distinction is laid down which has looming importance: whatever the Anglican patrimony is taken to be (and it is never defined, even vaguely), it is clearly not theological. The Australian Roman Catholic Bishop Peter J. Elliott spells this out with disarming honesty: “you will be gathered in distinctive communities that preserve elements of Anglican worship, spirituality, and culture that are compatible with Catholic faith and morals.” Plainly this is not Anglican faith and morals with Roman worship, spirituality and culture. You are welcome to pray in the language of Cranmer, sing the hymns of Charles Wesley, but the doctrines of Trent (filtered gently through the Catechism of the Catholic Church) firmly replaces the theology of Jewel, Whitgift, Hooker and Andrewes.

But the third and longest document makes everything even more clear. Its author, Fr Ghirlinda, is a distinguished canon lawyer whose responses back in 2002 to the pederasty crisis aroused the hackles of the New York Times and were firmly rebuffed by the American Roman Catholic bishops. He is now the head of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Lest anyone should try to plead that his opinions are only his (unlike the balmy spinnings of Bishop Elliott), it should be noted that his essay was released together with the Apostolic Constitution and the Complementary Norms. The three are presented together, with continuous pagination, on the Vatican website. That gives it a more than semi-official character. This is a document to be taken seriously and read at face value.

After a long introduction, the Canon Lawyer makes his points, dividing them into two balanced categories: On the one hand, “the safeguarding and nourishing of the Anglican tradition is guaranteed,” while on the other hand, “the integration of the Ordinariate into the life of the Catholic Church is assured.” (We might play on the distinction between guarantee and assurance. A Used Car Dealer gives me a “guarantee” that the car will run, but demands “assurance” that I will pay the full price.)

Seven guarantees are listed. The first is that some form of Anglican worship (this is far from clear) will be permitted, but only as a “concession.” Then we have a number of things, such as programs of formation for seminarians, the possibility of married Anglican “ministers” becoming Catholic priests (no such possibility for married Anglican laymen), the possibility of “personal parishes.” But in all these things, the operative verb is “may.” (Your car may run 500,000 miles, but then again, it might not.)

Then we come to the assurances, of which there are twelve. Nine of these stress the close working relationship between the Ordinariate and local Diocese. If this be autonomy, what would total submission look like?

The clincher comes in Assurance No. 4 (printed on page 15 of the 16 pages of the three documents). In the plainest and baldest language possible for a Canon Lawyer, we are told:

The ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII.

While we have been treated to the honeyed language concerning the lovely treasures of the Anglican patrimony (whatever they may be), finally near the end the kid glove comes off and the iron fist is made visible. This might have been the perfect moment in history for Rome to bury Apostolicae Curae, along with the Inquisition, the Syllabus of Errors, and many other skeletons in the Vatican closet. In recent years Rome has almost rehabilitated the character of Martin Luther and has praised the Augsburg Confession as a Catholic document. Pope John Paul II managed to pray with Buddhists at Assisi and publicly kissed the Koran. Pope Benedict XVI has publicly apologized to Muslims. But instead of burying Apostolicae Curae, it is trotted out on the Vatican website almost as part of the fixed deposit of faith.

The Holy Father is no slouch as a theologian. He could surely have wriggled out of this embarrassment by passing over the entire thing. Any scruples (some of which are indeed meritorious) could have been cured by Ordinations sub conditione. Many of those tempted and enticed by this generous offer may not have the sophistication to make the distinction between an “absolute” and a “conditional” ordination. The Former Anglicans who live in the vicinity of Disney World have labored mightily to convince themselves that the distinction is moot, at least for them. Evidently they had not read all the way to page 15 or else they do not understand blunt speech.

But Rome and the Jesuit Canon Lawyers who make the rules there know exactly what they mean when they say “absolute.” As far as they are concerned the wound of 1896 must not be allowed to heal. Anglicans not accepting the generous offer must remain on notice that their “orders” are forever invalid.

So we have a guarantee on paper that the used car will run, but the car dealer is assured that he will be paid in full regardless.
The Rev. Laurence K. Wells is Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Catholic Church in Orange Park, Florida


John A. Hollister said...

Orange Park has spoken, and very felicitously and charitably at that. (Truth about essential matters is never hostile in and of itself, it is merely informative, which is actually an act of love.) The matter is complete.

John A. Hollister+

RC Cola said...

Jesuits are about the craziest liberals out in the RCC these days. I don't think they'd like AC because it would allow an influx of (presumably) more orthodox Catholics into the RCC. For the past 50 years the Society of Jesus has been doing its best to undermine the Catholic Faith.

(Forgive the blanket criticism of the Jesuits, because there are still some extraordinarily great ones.)

Canon Tallis said...

If the pope is what the Romans say he is and supposedly believe, a change of tone from the first document to the third is without excuse. Father Wells is quite gracious in calling this "Guarantees and Assurances." I prefer the reality of "Bait and Switch."

Rome, as at the height of its pagan days, is all about power and little or nothing else. Its inability to reform itself on the basis of Scripture should be proven by now. What is there about St Peter's basilica that reminds anyone of the life and teaching of our Lord with the single exception that the Eucharist is celebrated there? This is not the church which presides in love and probably hasn't been since Damasus took the cathedra by violence and murder.

"manthe" life boats?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes RC Cola I must agree it is the Jesuits. Hey weren't they also behind Lincoln's assasination as well?

Tony Ridsdale

Fr. John said...

The language that describes the relationship between the ordinariates and the local dioceses is the most troubling.

This is going to be like the 18 year old kid who enlisted in the Army for a five year hitch based on the "promises" of the Army recruiting sergeant. Arriving at his first assignment out of boot camp he finds himself in the kitchen pealing potatoes. When he explains to the mess sergeant that he had a deal with Sergeant Schmidtlap back in Dubuque that he would be in "communications" and able to ultimately train as a radio announcer, everyone has a good laugh at the expense of the poor misled boy.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Hey weren't they also behind Lincoln's assasination as well?

Tony Ridsdale:

If that was attempt to mock RC Cola, I suggest that a serious engagement with his point would be the better way. It is easy to dismiss, too easy.

Joseph said...

This is sort of like Rite I in the 1979 Prayer Book. It was there to appease traditionalists but there was no intention to have Rite I used widely. It is rare to find an Episcopal Church that uses Rite I at their main service. They have a crack of dawn Rite I service for the blue hairs just waiting for them to die off. But everyone else is fed the Rite II.. just as will happen with the Anglican use in the Roman Church

Deacon Down Under said...

This is a fascinating revelation by Fr. Wells of the tonal and qualitative differences between the 3 key documents relating to the Roman offer to Anglicans. Thank you Father for the discernment.

The Roman Church in the US, Australia, and much of western Europe is dominated by liberals whose modernism is stamped with a heavy handed brand of authoritarianism. Those liberals with their love of Anglicana as expressed in the near dead ARCIC are the strongest proponents of Leo XIII's absolute condemnation of Anglican orders.

A review of Apostolic Curae should be a non-negotiable in any ecumenical dialogue between Anglican and Latin Catholics. Such a review needs to acknowledge that Catholicism with valid sacraments remained within Anglicanism. Sadly it has been lost within the Canterbury Communion but valid orders and the fullness of Anglican Christendom lives within continuing Anglican Churches .

Brian said...

This is a very apt analysis. The Former Anglicans can buy a theological lemon if they like, but I can't accept their claims that it's a Cadillac.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

Please forgive my presumptuousness for writing this, but I believe that when it comes to debates on any subject, there eventually comes a point beyond which any continuation is no longer fruitful. A tedious repetition starts to set in, and the focus changes away from the subject of the discussion to the leading personalities.

It seems to me that with this subject, this point is fast approaching, if it’s not already here. A leading personality of this blog seems to have earned a reputation among those who don’t share his opinions as a clericus noir.

Please allow me to paraphrase the advice of Rabbi Gamaliel:

“If Anglicanorum Coetibus be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God”.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Mark VA wrote:

Please allow me to paraphrase the advice of Rabbi Gamaliel:

“If Anglicanorum Coetibus be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God”.

For some individuals it may prove to be from God, some who need to leave the Episcopal Church for example. But, to try to sell it to people who adhere to the Affirmation of St. Louis, and who want to embrace the Catholic Faith in Anglicanism, it is completely pointless. Gamaliel's advice cannot stand in the way of responsible pastoral and theological examination.

I propose instead the words of St. Paul, "prove all things."

CanonJohn3+ said...

I am very surprised that no one has commented on this part of Fr Well's excellent article as it applies to Archbishop Hepworth.

"It is also emphasized (why was this necessary?) that “those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans, may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate.” Presumably clerics in this situation (which includes at least one of international prominence) would have to return to the regular diocesan obedience. But how would this work for a man who has become married? Rather pointed (do they have someone in mind?), it is declared that “Anglican clergy who are in irregular marriage situations may not be accepted for Holy Orders in the Ordinariate.” (end)

AB Hepworth is a former Roman Catholic priest who left for reasons unknown to me. Then I have heard that he was married & divorced once or twice.Yet he rose to become an Archbishop in the Continuum. In this regard some bishops of the Continuum are sadly no better than their counterparts in the Episcopal Church. How the Vatican applies the conditions of the Apostolic Constitution to AB Hepworth will tell us much about their ultimate intentions.

Fr John Westcott

Anonymous said...

I have been following all this and have read the pro's and con's of the AC for some time now. I have heard some say this is a magnanimous offer for those who want Roman Catholicism. AS one who does not want to be an RC I have seen little in it I think is charitable especially through the lens of the Norms. I'd like to offer this from Grafton's Lineage of the American Catholic Church about page 75 and deals with the Roman notion that there is no church in Briton and Augustines problem when he discovers he has landed in the middle of an orthodox church and other men's Bishoprics:

The Roman Mission of Canterbury :
Though St. Augustine is said to have worked a miracle in support of his views, the British Bishops declined to accept it as conclusive evidence, and postponed their decision to a future conference. Augustine then resolved to reduce his demands to the one point of keeping Easter, and their uniting under him as their Archbishop. A second conference was held." The Britons, before coming to it, are said to have consulted with a certain holy and discreet hermit, who said, "If Augustine is a man of God, follow him." "But how shall we know that?" replied they. "Our Lord saith," he replied, "take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. It is to be believed that he has taken upon himself the yoke of Christ, and that he offers the same to you. If he is stern and haughty, however, it appears that he is not of God, and we are not to regard his words."

The Bishops replied again, "How shall we learn even this ?" "Do you contrive," he replied, "that he may arrive first with his company at the place where the Synod is to be held, and if at your approach, he shall rise up to meet you, hear him submissively, being assured that he is the servant of God. But if he shall despise you and not rise up when you approach, let him also be despised by you." The old hermit's conduct reminds us of that of blessed St. Philip Neri, who, when asked to investigate the case of a nun said to be possessed of miraculous powers, walked to the convent, and having well soiled his boots by walking in the muddy roads, at the presentation of the nun to himself, requested her to pull them off. Accustomed to be treated with the reverence due to her supernatural powers, she declined to do so. The saint, returning to Rome, reported to the Pope, "No special humility, no miracle." The Bishops in our case, approaching the place of meeting, saw St. Augustine seated under the shade of a great oak tree. The British party consisted of seven monks from the convent at Bangor, who were also Bishops, and other ancient men, representatives of the old British Church. "Alas," says Bishop Browne, "Augustine retained his seat like a sovereign receiving a humble deputation from his subjects." The question was decided. Augustine was willing, he said, that if they would keep Easter at the due time, and unite under him as their Bishop, all other things would be tolerated. The British Bishops in their sturdy independence said they would not do any of these things. The conference thus failed...

This is very good advise on discernment.
I observe no humility whatsoever in "Totally Null and Void" or "Sacrament of Initiation" or in the way those at the self described Anglo Catholic Blog conduct themselves or in the way the ACA Bishops have conducted themselves including my own of whom I had a direct conversation with regarding the AC.

Moving on

Veri forian

RC Cola said...

Nice way to insinuate that I am a conspiracy theorist. What I said has nothing to do with conspiracy, but simple logic. viz.,

The Jesuits, by and large, are a liberal order.
Being liberals, they do not welcome an influx of (perceived) conservatives.
Therefore, the Jesuits working on this issue (i.e. Ghirlanda) have a vested interest in making sure that the influx of conservatives in minimized.

Take up issue with my thinking instead of making a false accusation. Why not take issue with stereotyping Jesuits, or making hasty generalizations?