Friday, January 14, 2011

On the ordinariates

Every once in a while a story emanates from the church that attracts major attention from the secular press, which is vexing for those of us who are familiar with the general level of ecclesiastical savvy among non-specialist journalists. The Cunning Man famously opens with the narrator's attempts to recount in an interview the death of the celebrant of the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified at a church broadly sketched on St Mary Mag as Davies knew it while at UCC. (Curiously, in Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic, Canon Nahabedian accuses Davies of a technical bluff for depicting a "celebration of the Eucharist" on Good Friday, [Ross 2008:345] though he can hardly be unaware of the distinction obtaining having presided as rector of SMM for more than 25 years).

But in these last days it has been the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus that has caught so much attention. And a great deal of discussion and even rancour has been generated, much of which I think is, frankly, overblown.

First, let's talk about why people become Roman Catholics. There's really only one reason to do so: because you believe the claims the Roman Catholic Church makes for itself. The reaching of that conclusion entails certain implications if one is to proceed with integrity. And a certain ecclesiologically schizophrenic element of this genre has existed in Anglo-Catholicism since the days of Caldey Island. I think that some of the mudslinging then has been unfair: this really is the traditional Anglo-Papalist objective in execution.

At the same time, those who continue to hold the Saepius Officio line deserve respect for their position as well. The general scholarly consensus is that the arguments advanced by Apostolicae Curae tend equally to undermine's Rome's own position. So those who are not accepting the offer because they are not Roman Catholics conviction are doing the right thing too. You'll read suggestions that those Anglo-Catholics who don't take up the ordinariates might as well give up the game, but I think that rather the two schools of thought, the Newman and the Moss if you will, have coexisted for more or less the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England.

The Traditional Anglican Communion gets razzed on account of its size, but the boutique character of Anglicanism is common to the tradition as a whole. Anglicans incredulously tell stories of Roman Catholic Masses with attendances equal to the total Sunday haul in many Anglican places being taken off the timetable due to "not enough numbers." So it seems unfair to be too snarky on this point.

At the same time, there is an unfortunate tendency in some quarters to intemperate language about the ordinariates: some authors appear to suggest that their memers will be "Catholics but not Roman Catholics" but this is probably a bolder extrapolation from the principle of "unity without absorption" than is warranted, as the ordinariates are not sui juris churches, but particular churches of the Roman Rite with an authorized use.

Another facet also frequently missed by the press is the very different character of continuing Anglicanism in various countries. American Episcopalians sometimes deride the Anglican Church in America as one of a number of jurisdictions emerging from the fracturing of the original ACNA that came out of the St Louis Conference, whereas the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada has pretty consistently carried the torch up here, which is why those not swimming have had to scramble to make provision for their continued existance with the aid of sympathetic American prelates. The Christian Episcopal Church of Canada (derived from the Episcopal Synod of America - later FiFNA - via the Episcopal Missionary Church) at least claims online a small presence and a cathedral in Richmond, BC. Unanimity has not been approached as closely in the United States as in our dominion, but ordinariate bound ACAers are preceded by their forebears in the Pastoral Provision and will be accompanied by newly-departing Episcopalians. In Canada only St John the Evangelist, Calgary (for whom I weep and refuse to be comforted) has taken up the offer. I have not heard of anything else from any other of the few possible candidates, such as St Mary's, Fredericton, NB. Apart from whole parishes, Anglicans in the Toronto area are organizing with the assistance of the Church of the Good Shepherd, the Anglican Catholic parish in nearby Oshawa.

The TTAC presence in Britain is marginal compared to Forward in Faith, an inverse relationship from across the pond. The Church of Ireland (Traditional Rite) is of an entirely different character and Not Interested, Thank You. Australia, the primatial see, has been enthusiastic and has managed to get a faster response than Canada. Responses have emerged more slowly from the "Global South", such as the Anglican Church in India, in whose case there is the added confusion of having at least two or three jurisdictions going by that name.

Finally, the terms of the Apostolic Constitution itself are modest. Most significantly, there is no expansion of the exemption for married clergy than there already is: future ordinariate priests will be subject to Latin Rite discipline - the married priesthood is not part of the patrimony. Speculation has abounded over the forms of liturgy to be authorized, with the Sarum Missal in Latin and the "Knott" English Missal put forth as suggestions. It's worth noting that the Book of Divine Worship used by Anglican Use congregations in the US is basically 1979 plus Novus Ordo - hard to imagine the folks at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Ottawa using it. In any case ordinariate clergy will be permitted to celebrate the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite in addition to permissive use of the ordinariate liturgy, and the Missal of Blessed John XXIII is certainly closer to what you find in die-hard traditional AC parishes than the BDW. Indeed, I would have thought that most Anglo-Catholics regard the prayer book as a constraint - witness the energy traditionally invested by "Western Rite" clergy into wrapping the Missal around it - and having swum and been freed of this constraint would leap to the "real thing". So I think that most Anglo-Catholics who have not swum are not holding out for lack of provision for Anglican-style worship. The Western Rite Orthodox provisions allow for a liturgy closer in chronology to that used in pre-Pian Anglo-Catholic shacks, a normative married secular clergy, and the self-satisfaction of having renounced not only the Church of England's deformation from the bosom of Rome, but Rome's own sundering from the Universal Church! (Why go back to 1054/1066 when you can go back to AD33?)

So while the bull is an important development for those who will avail themselves of it, and undoubtedly will reflect well in the annals of the "pontificate of Christian Unity" along with overtures to the SSPX and Orthodox, I think it's significant enough on its own merits without having to make it into something its not - the end of the Anglo-Catholic movement, a borstal slap-up between Rome and Canterbury, or a major infiltration of traditionalists into the RCC (though in the last respect it is one part of a larger pendulum swing toward softening some of the liturgical iconoclasm of the 1970s, or as it is decried by panicky floppy-albed bloggers, "rolling back Vatican II"). It is no more and no less than the logical end of the aspirations consistently held by a considerable segment of the Anglo-Catholic movement, though not its entirety, and what it certainly is not is an occasion to be used as a bone of partisan or inter-tendency contention.

5 comments:

Barnabas said...

Well put Geoff.

I'd be interested in a thorough discussion of what oecumenism really means from the POV of previous pontificates in the light of the current one. I know, I know, Rome never changes, but, well...

Geoff said...

I would add that nowhere has there been more rancour than in intra-Continuum discourse. We apostate priestess-worshippers get off pretty lightly compared to the mudslinging between Roman- and "Original Province"- oriented Anglican Catholics.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. What I find galling is the inconstency one finds. Some Anglo-Catholics seem as giddy as schoolgirls that the Pope will now have them and have decided to look down on their former colleagues and parish-mates as heretics and schismatics. Meanwhile the Romans, who called Anglican heretics and schismatics mere months ago are welcoming these "orthodox" Catholic Christians into their fold so fast it makes one's head spin. Roman conservatives applaud the influx of these "orthodox" Christians as if their orthodoxy has always existed, even when they were heretics. However, the only real orthodoxy they applaud is opposition to ordained women. You rarely hear them talk about the Petrine theory or the various dogmas one would think were more important. The superfast conversion and ordinations to diaconate and priesthood of three "Flying Bishops" who had this plan in mind for some time, makes it clear that the Romans not only want to appear to be reconverting England, but stealing our best and brightest. Good luck with that-someone should let them in on the secret that these men were little known and less influential. Anglo-Catholics who have lived with women as priests in England, while pretending they didn't exist for twenty years now find that they have consciences. The possibility of women as bishops makes them more difficult to ignore, but must be a threat to bishops like the ones who have "poped", since their antagonism to women in ordained ministry has been well-known. It speaks well neither of Rome nor these individuals that so many rules could so quickly fall by the wayside to avoid the spectre of women with aithority. The ironies don't end there. The elephant in the room in Westminster Cathedral was the whole issue of how the Roman Church approaches and deals with issues of sexuality and gender. Not well. In view of your article below on GSA and the Roman attitude toward gay people, this becomes even more puzzling. No one doubts that a significant number of RC priests are gay and a large proportion of Anglo-Catholic ones as well as a number of laity. is it self-loathing that makes it easy to accept abuse by the RC Church by converting? Will Rome force them into closets the Anglican Church would not? Or does Rome look the other way and live with the hypocrisy of attacking gays and making the priesthood a comfortable place for them? Yet one hears homophobic rhetoric from conservative Romans who love the Ordinariate as well as some Anglo-Catholic converts. There is more than enough hypocrisy to go around. One wonders, when the bloom has faded, whether this new found liberation from women and liberalism may yet prove to be less than the nirvana some expect.

Barnabas said...

" but stealing our best and brightest."

Hardly.

" is it self-loathing that makes it easy to accept abuse by the RC Church by converting?"

In all likelihood.

Anonymous said...

I was being sarcastic when I said best and brightest.