Friday, August 24, 2007

Is Anglicanism fit for Catholic [sic] Communion?

I found this book review of A Tactful God. Gregory Dix: Priest, Monk and Scholar, by Simon Bailey. I've not read the book (Heavens, I have a backlog of at least half a book case!) but given the Papalism of Dom Gregory Dix, there is a question that needs to be asked - Is Anglicanism fit for communion with the Holy See (hence the [sic] in the title)?

I see four issues that are related with the central question.

  • Desire: Does Anglicanism want to be in communion with the Holy See?

  • Necessity: Why should Anglicanism be in communion with the Holy See?

  • Change: What does Anglicanism need to do to be in communion with the Holy See?

  • Reciprocation: Why should the Holy See want to be in communion with Anglicanism?

Now, of course, the big problem with me posting these questions here is that I'm really not learned enough to answer them properly. I can only offer my take as a common or garden uneducated member of the laity. I'll try and perhaps if a better educated reader will comment and correct, that will be all to the good.

At the heart of all these questions is the reality that Anglicanism is fragmented into factions. If you ask whether Anglicans hold to any specific doctrine the answer will always be that there will be some that do, and some that don't and some that will question whether what doctrine that means in the first place - even the basic Christian beliefs are open to variety. There are priests who do not believe in the Virgin Birth, the Bodily Resurrection of the Lord, even God as a sentient and intelligent being. There are priests in the Anglican Church who hold to doctrines as diverse as The Rapture and Transubstantiation - there may even be priests who hold to both! Young Fogey has some insights into the various churchmanships that exist in the Anglican Communion.

This makes the questions much harder to answer, because really we need first to ask the question: what is Anglicanism? Here's one answer citing Archbishop Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church. I suppose the only real answer to this is that Anglicanism is the church in communion with or continuing the historical traditions of the Church of England. Even then I'm not happy with this because there are those who call themselves Anglican who really are not, and those who are refused to be recognised as Anglican even though they are. It's a pickle.

That's not to say that Anglicanism is peculiar in that it has members who claim to be Anglican and do not hold to the teaching of their church. After all, there are Roman Catholics who object to the teaching of the Holy See about contraception, those who refuse to leave Amnesty International on the grounds that AI is pro-abortion. And it is not just the Roman Catholics, but it is true all over the place that people are exercising private judgment, rather than follow the tenets of their religion.

What is peculiar is that Anglicanism has elected people of radically different theologies into positions of influence and teaching. Who else would have Bishops as diverse in thought as John Shelby Spong, Richard Chartres, David Silk, David Jenkins, George Carey? Could these Bishops sit down and agree on what constitutes the Christian Faith? Personally I have my doubts. Could this be done with the Sacred College of Cardinals? Well, in principal yes, at least Papal Infallibility means that there is a determinable point of unity, even if other members of the Church cannot agree to tht doctrine. In practice, well, it's more likely than in the Anglican Case.

However, if we accept that proper Anglicanism is actually contained within the Anglo-Catholic wing, then we have a better chance of some agreement of unity. Many would disagree with this on the grounds that they believe that Anglo-Catholics are not representative of the Anglican Communion. What marks proper Anglo-Catholicism out from Anglo-Protestantism and Anglo-Liberalism, is that Anglo-Catholicism has always sought out the Traditions of the Church and striven to be faithful to that Tradition, and that is Anglo-Catholicism's saving - it is more consistent to Christian doctrine than any other group in the Anglican Communion, and by rights has the true ownership of the label Anglicanism. Sit down Archbishop Haverland, Archbishop Hepworth, and the PEVs of the Church of England, to discuss the Christian Faith and there is likely to a greater concensus.

So I can only answer the questions in respect of the Anglo-Catholic Church, i.e. those who who hold to the Traditions of the Catholic Church. In this respect, I cannot describe "Affirming Catholics" as being Catholic since they have attempted to uphold erroneous teaching by moving the goalposts and redefined what "Catholic" means. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and I am sure that the true Anglican Church is actually much smaller than people think it to be.

Does Anglicanism want to be in Communion with the Holy See? I suspect that all Anglo-Catholics do want to be in Communion with Rome from the point of view of the Holy Mass, it is the circumstances of how that Communion is to be understood which are questionable. That the Holy See does not recognise Anglicanism as being a proper church is the first sticking point. Actually, who could really blame the Holy See? If His Holiness has looked in detail at the Anglican Communion then he's probably terribly confused as to what's going on. If he sees the AffCaths and their ridiculous warping of Catholicism, and the Evangelicals and their outright rejection of the Authority of the Church, then he's not going to regard seriously a little body of Traditional Anglicans, some inside and some outside the Anglican Communion claiming Catholicity in separation from Rome. That's if he has had the time. I don't relish the job of any Papal inquisitor into the state of Anglicanism.

However, Anglicanism has always seen itself as part of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which is why many "Anglicans" can be ruled out as being properly Anglican because of their rejection and redefinition of what "Holy", "Catholic" and "Apostolic", and therefore there should be a need within Anglicans to seek Communion with the Holy See. The costs need to be reviewed and weighed - and that's the key.

What would Communion with the Holy See bring to Anglicanism? I can imagine that it would be like blood rushing into a severed arm and breathe a new lease of life into those tired churchgoers who are disheartened by a rapidly secularising world. I do think that it would afford us some safety and a great deal more hope as we see the Church come together. A nearly 500 year old Schism would be at an end.

But at what cost? Well, here the trouble starts. We have the issue of the Mass, which surely won't be too big a problem. Lots of ACs subscribe to Transubstantiation, and I believe I'm right in thinking that the sizeable majority believe in the Real and Worshipful Presence of Christ in the Mass. The big bind is that of authority and Papal Infallibility.

Now this is what separates the Anglo-Catholics from the Anglo-Papalists. Respectable Anglo-Catholics such as Frs Hart and Kirby from The Continuum would certainly not accept unity on the terms of scrapping the Anglican way of doing Church in favour of the Roman Method. Similarly the famous Anglican way of thinking would soon be curtailed by the Roman hierarchy. We can see that in the life of Newman, who although a brilliant thinker and writer was also flawed in some of his reasoning (so was St Augustine, so was St Thomas Aquinas), but was also leant on by the Holy See in view of his writings. This Anglican way of thinking is what we can bring to the Holy See, just as the Celtic view of confession was adopted by the Magisterium. For such Anglo-Catholics, reunion with the Holy See would be seen to be a good thing, but not absolutely necessary.

To an Anglo-Catholic, the separation is painful but bearable, and many would see, for example the rejection of Anglican Orders (despite developments since 1893) as being only problematic for the Holy See. To an Anglo-Papalist, the separation needs to be ended, but only by corporate reunion, not individual secession. For either group, the ball is really in the court of the Holy See, though only the Anglo-Papalists will be fretting about it!

Does this answer the question: is Anglicanism fit for Communion with the Holy See?

With certain provisos, yes. First the Anglo-Catholic Churches must come together as one and speak out as one using that three-fold gift of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. They must proclaim their doctrine of the Real Presence loudly, that although there may be differences in understanding how the Presence is made Real, the basic fact that Our Lord is present grants the same effect of the Eucharist to all who receive it be they Anglican, Orthodox or Roman. Second they must clearly demonstrate that they ar distant and separate from the Protestantism and Liberalism which reject Traditional interpretation, and embrace fallacy in preference to Truth. Third, there should be a cessation of bitterness and snipery that seems so prevalent among Anglo-Catholics - it's forgivable seeing how we've been treated by the Anglican Communion, but unnecessary when we're trying to build up the Church.

I don't see what more we can do. As I said, it is really down to the Holy See to make the next move. We Anglo-Papalists don't want to be separate, but perhaps we're in too much of a minority to have as great an effect. However, even if communion with the Pope is not achieved, I still think that a greater sense of unity in the Continuum and the faithful Remnant in the C of E would be worth struggling for.


Young fogey emeritus said...

Thanks for the link and the mention.

Desire: Does Anglicanism want to be in communion with the Holy See?

Obviously most of it doesn't, from the non-papalist Anglo-Catholics to the Central Churchmen to the Evos (like the men overseas in charge of new arrangements in America) to of course the Anglo-Liberals running the Episcopal Church. Anglo-Papalism is almost uniquely English but of course most English Anglicans aren't Anglo-Papalists.

Why should Anglicanism be in communion with the Holy See?

Because the Holy See is Catholic.

Because regardless of the controversy over the origin (man-made rank, a good thing; or divinely instituted Vicar of Christ?) and scope of the papal office, the Pope is Anglicans' rightful patriarch and they were taken from him by force, by the king.

What does Anglicanism need to do to be in communion with the Holy See?

All become Anglo-Papalist, not even merely Catholic, in its beliefs.

Reciprocation: Why should the Holy See want to be in communion with Anglicanism?

Tolerant conservatism, Catholicism with an English heart even when it wears Italian finery. The thing I most keenly miss when it's not there. To me that's what the language of the Prayer Book and Anglican music stand for. It's as unknown in mainstream Roman Catholic circles, certainly in America (which doesn't want it), as Novus Ordo-using Anglo-Papalism is among Episcopalians.

Warwickensis said...

Thank you for your very helpful comments, Fogey, put more concisely than I was able. But then, perhaps I have inherited Fr. Vervoorst's old title of Confused Anglo-Papalist!

As you quite rightly say, not everyone who calls themselves Anglican is Papalist. That's like saying that not every Roman Catholic Bishop is Pope.

My main issue is demonstrating to the Holy See that there are folk under the Anglican Umbrella whose position has not wavered from their traditional beliefs.

If the old myth that Pope Paul VI was going to regularise Anglican Orders before the Episcopalians ruined everything by "ordaining" a woman is true, then we Papalists need to shout loudly.

poetreader said...

Both you and Fogey have already said extremely good things here, but I feel like cutting to the quick. As I see it, your questions are amenable to a series of short, simple, and blunt answers that IMHO are essential before any specifics are discussed.

Desire: Does Anglicanism want to be in communion with the Holy See?

Anglo-Catholics do. Others, likely not.

Necessity: Why should Anglicanism be in communion with the Holy See?

The answer is bluntly simple: Our Lord desires no less. "That they may all be one..." he prayed, Are we indeed Christian if our desire is less passionate than His? Unless we follow the lead of the more radical Protestants in denying the Christian status of the RCC, we are obligated to desire and to work for such unity, and are in sin otherwise.

Change: What does Anglicanism need to do to be in communion with the Holy See?

1. Pray. 2. Keep up every available line of communication. 3. Seek truth. Present it bluntly, even from a David vs Goliath stance to the RCC if that seem right. Change if the search leads to that necessity.

Reciprocation: Why should the Holy See want to be in communion with Anglicanism?

If they are serious in allowing those out of its fellowship to be considered Christians, then they have the same obligation we do -- seek unity or deny the Lord's will.


Warwickensis said...

Fr. Vervoorst of the Bob Catholic blog has posted a reply to this article

Since he has recently seceded to Rome, his answer is of course negative, which is quite reasonable really under the circumstances.

poetreader said...

I found Vervoorst's post interesting.

He said this: “Rome is Rome and needs no one” and I responded,

I’m sorry, friend, though I respect your integrity and your decision, I do not respect a remark like that. The Holy Father and the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitely recognize me, a baptized Anglican, as both Christian, and, in some sense, part of the Church. The very fact that that status exists in a state falling short of the unity Our Lord prayed for (as He and the Father are one!) means that BOTH of us lack the fulfilment of His prayer.

We need each other! That is all there is to it.

Vervoorst went on:

"I would add one: Identity. There is no one sense of what it means to be an Anglican which unifies Anglicanism."
to which I would respond, "Good!" There is a specific in which Roman Catholics can be distinguished from all other catholics. That is unnecessarily divisive. I am a catholic Christian and want no other firm identity.