Tuesday, 24 November 2009

On the Apostolic Constitution

Dear Reader

It has become to concern me somewhat of late, the over spin and positive gloss that some Reverend Colleagues are placing on the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. The most recent example being a Pastoral Letter issued by +Louis Falk, head of the TAC in America, issued this past weekend (22/11/09).

Taking my life into my own hands possibly re ruffling a few feathers, but my thoughts below on +Louis Falks recent Pastoral Letter concerning the AC...


22 November 2009 – Sunday Next Before Advent

To all the Faithful of the Anglican Church in America


The great Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff has been quoted as remarking that genuine Christian unity would require humility on the part of many, and charity on the part of all. I suggest that to those two paramount Christian virtues we must add the more workaday quality of patience. It took 450 years to raise all the questions posed by the possibility of real and corporate unity between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. We will not have all the answers in 450 minutes.
Indeed, John Meyendorff is worth reading, but the Apostolic Constitution does not offer corporate reunion - it offers "corporate" (at best) conversion - this is not Communion it is absorption. It is not the reunification of the See of Canterbury with the Holy See, but the absorption of some Anglicans as Roman Catholics.

Yet with the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus we do now have the possibility of addressing those issues directly and in cooperation with each other. As most everyone knows by now, the Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, meeting in October of 2007 in Portsmouth, England, addressed a petition to the Holy See seeking to explore what would need to be done to achieve full, visible unity while maintaining the best characteristics of our beloved Anglican heritage. The Apostolic Constitution is meant to provide an approach to just that question. It is an extremely generous and pastoral document. Indeed, it explicitly address the desirability of preserving our Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony intact and undamaged after the ravages of such as Jenkings, Spong, Robinson and Schori.
The Apostolic Constitution provides "full, visible unity" in as much as a convert will become a Roman Catholic. That is Rome's understanding of "full, visible unity". Rome's answer is, "convert and you will achieve full, visible unity" with us. The "Anglican Patrimony" can only be cultural if people as converts take on Rome's doctrine, her thinking, her praxis... what is left to bring accept cultural appreciation if by converting you necessarily leave all else behind? The AC is an "accommodation" it is not the recognition of an inherent Catholicism in Anglicanism.

An initial set of Complementary Norms has been issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will be discussed in detail by representatives of that body and of the TAC College of Bishops within the near future. We are now asking members of the ACA (and other TAC provinces) to study the Norms and then pose such questions as may occur.
Complementary Norms can be discussed, this is stated in the Apostolic Constitution [Anglicanorum Coetibus Article II] suggesting that Ordinariates can have their own Norms in sympathy obviously with those already given together with the AC and normative Roman Canonical and doctrinal praxis. This is not to replace the Complementary Norms promulgated by the Holy Father and issued with the Apostolic Constitution. These other Norms will be supplementary to cover practical details, not policy.

Some already have, such as: Question: Will we be able to continue to have married priests indefinitely? Answer: Yes.
More accurate answer: not exactly. For as long as the applications of married candidates are reviewed by the Holy See and are successful, on a "case by case basis" - then "yes". However, as the AC makes it clear that Clerical Celibacy is to be regarded as the "norm" [Anglicanorum Coetibus Article VI:2], in reality, after the first generation, married applicants will be expected to become less, not more. But certainly the option for married candidates to apply will be "indefinite" in that, it is a provision of the promulgated Apostolic Constitution.

Question: Will those of us who were formerly Roman Catholics be excluded from the Anglican Ordinariates? Answer No.
More accurate answer: not exactly. Former Roman Catholic Clerics, who became Anglicans and now might seek to repent and return to the fold, could become lay members of the Ordinariate. The AC is clear that they will not be able to function as Sacred Ministers. Former lay Roman Catholics similarly returning to the fold will be eligible to fulfill their Catholic obligations as normal, which will include attendance at Mass in an Ordinariate. However, it should be remembered that Article 5 of the Complementary Norms states that "Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate."

Question: Will we lose control over our Church finances and property? Answer: No.) There will be more. These can be sent to your own Bishop, and he will see that they get to the appropriate TAC representatives. Your concerns, as well as your thoughts and prayers, are an essential element and a vital part of this process.
More accurate answer: we don't know. It stands to reason that if whole parishes sought to convert it would make sense for them to offer their property also to Rome. Roman Canon Law though is not straightforward about the ownership of property. Generally temporal assets are "given" to the Church whose own laws provide for their governance and administration. The principle is that the Faithful are expected to provide to the Church that which is necessary for the Church to serve them but it is the Church who possesses them and decides how they are used. It may be that as a "juridic person" current property might be given to the Ordinariates for particular "in house" governance, unless the Ordinariates provide for the retention of ownership of property by the Parishes as juridic entities (those supplemental, discussable "Norms"). It could be complicated and could be done, depends on how long people want to take to work it all out and how much of a concession Rome would give Canonically to such proposals. [Mug up on Book V. CCL]

Bishop Langberg has remarked that library shelves around the world are packed with books and papers on the topic of 'ecumenism'. Up to now it's all been theory; but with respect to the world's largest Communion of Christians, there has been no 'test case' or anything like it, trying to work out 'how it will work' on the ground. That opportunity has now been presented to us. In view of our Lord's prayer (John 17) that all his followers might be one, the fact places upon us, and upon our Roman Catholic counterparts, a very great responsibility along with the opportunity. The real-world answer to that practical question will be worked out in real life and in real time as we move forward.
Erm... but this isn't about "ecumenicsm" or "unity" it's about "conversion" so the books can stay on the shelf for further study, obviously. There is nothing to discuss or work out with your Roman "counterparts" (shouldn't that be brethren?) as you will share one doctrine and praxis i.e. Roman Catholic doctrine and Roman Catholic Canon Law and Roman Catholic praxis. There is nothing to discuss as Anglican Patrimony is seen as cultural, not theological.


This will require genuine good faith on all sides. That we come in good faith can be seen from the 'Portsmouth Letter'. That our Roman Catholic counterparts come likewise can be seen from Pope Benedict’s unprecedented offer of a parallel structure for Anglican Catholics, a 'House of our own' (as it were) within the 'compound of Catholicity'. Ecclesiastical life within the colony will evolve over time as adjustments are made. We trusted each other enough to begin our ecclesiastical journey together in the ACA with an original canonical structure based on what we had known in the past. We have adjusted that structure more than once as circumstances has show the wisdom of doing so. Christians of good will can and must continue that process together in unity as Jesus commanded us to do. He promised us the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and his promise remains true.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

+Louis W. Falk
President: House of Bishops.

Oh dear... +Louis doesn't write in terms of "conversion" but "unity" and unfortunately that is just not what is being offered by the AC.

Ex fide bona... mmm... we haven't seen the whole letter sent by the TAC Bishops to Rome, excerpts but not all of it (despite promises), and judging by the confusion on the ground, particularly amongst the laity, it would seem the Bishops have not exactly acted in "good faith" with their own people about their approach to Rome.

Something about this letter seems to convey a sense that things are up for discussion and mutual agreement - rather more than is actually the case. The Apostolic Constitution and its Complementary Norms, is what it is - it is not a proposal - it is "take it or leave it". Some finer points re the practicalities are open to discussion naturally, the supplemental Norms peculiar to each Ordinariate etc and perhaps how exactly the whole process of corporate conversion will begin.

Personally, if I were a member of the Roman Curia I would be a little put off by this last paragraph - a "parallel structure" if meaning a separate entity - is not what the AC offers.

The AC offers the structure of a "Personal Diocese" subject to the Holy Father (naturally) and the local Episcopal Conference. The Ordinary is a juridical entity but not with the same authority, quite, as a Roman Diocesan Bishop. His powers are limited to the Ordinariate and his influence will be also. While he may sit in the Episcopal Conference he will do so rather like a Provincial Religious Superior does, his contribution to the policy decision-making of the Bishops will be limited and generally confined to matters affecting his own particular remit, yet he will have to follow the policies of the Episcopal Conference and cannot function anywhere without their specific cooperation (he can't just erect Parishes where he likes but must consult etc).

+Louis seems to think the AC offers a "church within a church" - one presumes he knows it's not a Unitariate, but his language and thinking seem to betray a sense of that. That's not a true understanding however of the AC and I fear it will become a shock to many when they discover that the reality of the situation will not be quite as rosy as it was presented to them.

I repeat again - I'm not against the AC per se - if one wants to become a Roman Catholic and retain something of what one appreciates culturally about being Anglican - go! But what does bother me is the over positive spin being put all over it. It is a generous structure from a Roman/Anglican perspective in comparison to... well nothing else has been offered (in such detail) before. But it is not a reunion corporate or otherwise, it is an opportunity to become Roman Catholic - not remain Anglican Catholic and in communion with Rome - it is about becoming Roman Catholic and having some of your cake but not all of it. That I suppose is the measure of humility +Louis refers to. I think actually it's a self-deception, delusion even and one that might entice others to do something they actually don't want to do i.e. deny their Orders and their Sacraments. All that of course, (deliberately?) not referred to by this pastoral letter at all.

(P.S. I have actually met +Louis and thought him a marvelous "Catholic" Bishop - he has a "presence" and a humility about him which I was quite in awe of. I respect the man, but can't help but feel he hasn't really grasped what this is really all about... That's my personal opinion, not a judgment!)

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