Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rome welcomes Anglo-Catholics into communion

Today's announcement in Rome can not be realistically described as a surprise. It has been rumored and predicted to a large degree all over the internet and in print for months and even years (including on this blog). However, this in no way detracts from its significance. What the Holy See did today was the equivalent of dropping an ecumenical bomb.

The exact mechanics of all this are still not clear but should be coming out in the near future. Some things are clear however, more clear indeed than they have been for years. Clarity has been established on a number of subjects.

1. Rome has run out of patience with the Anglican Communion. The old dream of Anglican Catholic corporate reunion is now dead. Any bloviating from Rowan Williams notwithstanding this is an earthquake that spells the end of the Anglican Catholic dialogue as it has been run for decades. No this does NOT mean Rome will no longer talk to the Anglican Communion. They will certainly do so. Just as they talk to Jews, Mohammedans and Buddhists. But the goal is no longer reunion. It will simply be mutual tolerance.

2. Conservative Anglo-Catholics now have a refuge from the lunacy in the Anglican Communion. This means the internal politics in that communion are now going to have to take into account the new reality. On which note I find it curious that the CofE made what some saw as the almost inexplicable decision within the last week or so to postpone the ordination of women bishops and reconsider the protections which they were going to offer to those who could not in conscience accept ministry from female clergy. Coincidence? We think not.

3. Likewise this is going to have effects and ramifications within the so called Anglican Continuum. It is no secret that the Anglo-Catholic component of the recently founded ACNA has been profoundly uncomfortable being in communion with female clergy and having a primate who supports W/O. Many of these have been in discussions with Met. +Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. This will add a new element to that already complicated scene.

4. The Roman Catholic Church is going to feel the effects of this as well. The TAC by its own (possibly inflated) estimate has around a half million members. That is more than many of the sui juris uniate Eastern churches in communion with Rome. While Rome has been very careful to avoid referring to this new arrangement as a separate church within the broader Papal communion, it looks like it is going to come very close to that in fact, if perhaps not name.

The potential absorption over the coming years of in excess of 500,000 High Church Anglicans is likely to have broad implications in everything from church discipline on clerical celibacy to liturgy. The Anglicans have a long history of a married clergy. How that is going to work out remains to be seen. They (the High Church wing) also have a liturgical tradition that at least since the disaster of the post Vatican II era is frankly more Catholic than anything Rome has seen in decades. I can not believe that Pope +Benedict, a renowned theologian who has written extensively on the important connection between liturgy and faith, did not have this in mind when preparing his invitation to traditional Anglo-Catholics.

I suspect that the only people who will be as unhappy as Rowan Williams over this will be many of the Roman Catholic bishops and 60's era guitar and folk Mass types, especially in English speaking countries.

For now, I am prepared to suspend my generally hostile sentiments towards uniatism. Since the Anglican Communion jumped off a theological cliff several decades ago when they started ordaining women, and appear to still be in free fall, I believe the Pope acted correctly from a Roman Catholic perspective. It is obvious to anyone with more than 2 brain cells firing off at the same time that the Anglican Communion is lost to the catholic tradition and thus no hope of corporate reunion can be rationally entertained. In the final analysis this is the requiem for the dream of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey of a full blown Anglo-Catholic reunion.

Memory Eternal.


Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

AMEN! As I posted on another blog, this is still an opportunity for the OCA to open up to a Western Rite as Antioch and ROCOR have. Not all AngloCatholics will be comfortable with Rome and may look to Orthodoxy for an open arm invitation. What happens in the Roman Church should be watched carefully and not make any missteps they might make but use what works.
I saw a photo of Archbishops Nichols and Williams - the look on the face of the ABC is one of shock and dazed and confused. Way to go Pope Benedict XVI!

Anonymous said...

Second the sentiment for OCA to open up the the Western Rite. I know very few Anglicans personally who are comfortable with papal dogmas, but many who still identify as little 'c' catholics.

Chris Jones said...

I'd be delighted if the OCA would allow Western Rite parishes, but I can't see how it would add anything to the mix that isn't already there. Anglo-Catholics who want to become Western-Rite Orthodox have long had the opportunity to do so under the omophorion of Antioch. The Antiochian Archdiocese has been very welcoming and very flexible towards prospective WR converts (some might say too much so), but comparatively few Episcopalians have shown much interest in it. Among the recent congregations to come into the WR Vicariate, most seem to have been from non-Episcopalian groups (Lutheran, CEEC, and continuing Anglicans).

I do not see why an OCA Western Rite would attract Anglo-Catholics in greater numbers than the Antiochian Western Rite has done in recent years.

Reactionary said...

the look on the face of the ABC is one of shock and dazed and confused.

I feel sorry for the man. He is a decent and kind individual but this was broadcast some time ago. Recall Rowan's cursory meeting with +Benedict, most of which was spent with Rowan on the receiving end of a theological dressing-down. At that point, his duty was to deal decisively with a renegade province and he refused to do so. To quote from the secular, "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood ..., etc."

I'll try to find an account of that meeting. I remember thinking at the time that in diplomat-churchspeak, Rowan was told to get his s*** together.

Mary said...

I think some hesitation of High Church Anglicans to join with the Western Rite Antiochian Archdiocese is twofold. The primary one being the ongoing financial/corruption scandals (or appearance thereof)and soap operas in the Antiochian archdiocese. I know that has certainly put a damper on any enthusiasm I might have in exploring the possibility of the Antiochian Archdiocese Western Rite.

Secondly, the impression I get (as an Episcopal Priest) is that a lot of Orthodox church members (lay and ordained) tend to look at the Western Rite with suspicion or as an novelty. (And everyone knows how antithetical to "novelty" are Orthodox folk.

Thirdly, if and when I have to go knocking on Orthodoxy's door, I'm going to go over whole hogg, and not mess with the Western Rite. Just become a normative Orthodox liturgist.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Woopsies...I am the author of the previous comment. Somehow I was logged in as my wife.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I also think some reticence by disaffected Anglican clergy like myself from either going over to Rome or Orthodoxy has to do with the perception of how we would be treated if we went that route.

I know a few priests who have gone over to Rome and become Priests. Married clergy in the Catholic church have to put up with a lot of crap (pardon my language) like "Well, you're not really a real priest because your married." kind of stuff.

Likewise, on the Orthodox plain, Many branches of the American diaspora as I believe it is referred to, are completely around ethnic lines, and that gives us pause. "We don't want a non-Greek up around our (Greek Orthodox) altar!" kind of mentality.

Obviously I am making gross assertions and generalizations, but that is another element to consider when pondering a move from the Episcopal church elsewhere.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

LOL @ Archer! And here I was just thinking that I don't get a lot of female TEC clergy on my blog talking about converting to Orthodoxy. Alice Linsley was the only real exception.


Reactionary said...

Archer - Your concerns are valid. I don't have time now but at some point I'd like to PM you on how I ended up at an Antiochian parish. Such moves are not easy and I have had some serious struggles, but at this point God is blessing me with many good relationships with Arab brothers and sisters in Christ. I think you would find sufficient resources for clergy making that transition, if that is God's plan for you. Peace.

Reactionary said...

And just to clarify, I would not dare presume to 'recruit.' God will have you where He wills. But if you are interested, I can tell you about my experience making the move from a very staunchly WASP Episcopal church to a parish that's about 60% Arab/Arab-descended.

Chris Jones said...


The current unpleasantness in the Antiochian Archdiocese is indeed a problem. But, as a public matter, at least, it is relatively new. I don't think it will have affected how people view WR Orthodoxy until recently.

In fact, the Antiochian Western Rite, though still small, has been experiencing significant growth in the last few years. It's just not coming (for the most part) from the Episcopalians.

It is true that there are some Orthodox who view the Western Rite with suspicion. Despite their qualms, however, WR Orthodox folks are fully Orthodox and are in full communion with all canonical Orthodox Churches. Frankly I think a lot of the suspicion is simply because of unfamiliarity, because the WR is (relatively) new and still small. I suspect most Orthodox who actually experience WR liturgy (which is very much like Anglo-Catholic worship at its best) are okay with it.

if and when I have to go knocking on Orthodoxy's door, I'm going to go over whole hogg, and not mess with the Western Rite

Western-Rite Orthodoxy is the "whole hogg"; it is not "Orthodox lite." Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

Fr. J. said...


You make good points, with which I essentially agree. I might add some caveats.

1. Our relationship with the Anglicans wont actually change that much. Potential reunion with them essentially died in the 70's with WO of priests. I see nothing in the ordination of women as priests that is any more amenable than that of women as bishops. Still, our relationship is not of mere mutual tolerance. They are blood of our blood. A divorce has occurred in the family, but we are still family. They are Westerners steeped in Augustine. We will always have much to talk about a brothers in Christ.

2. I agree that this gives some Anglo-Catholics a leverage they did not previously have in the CofE and the ACNA. Still, with even some departures for Rome, their standing as Anglicans may still diminish in the long run. Ultimately, they will likely feel more at home in these ordinariates than among evangelical or liberal Anglicans. It is helpful to recall that a future reunion with Rome is a deep and enduring desire among conservative Anglo-Catholics.

3. I think the divides among the Continuum are already well formed along certain lines. Whereas in the past those differences were largely personality driven. However, in recent years as TAC made strides toward Rome, it both lost and gained some parishes and membership on that basis. So, there might not be as much of a shake up as one may think. The exception may be those Continuers lonely enough to be trying the ACNA but who may ultimately be frustrated there.

As far as changes to the Catholic Church, I dont see this as too problematic at least in the short run. .5 million Anglicans that look virtually like Latins and are frankly more similar to N.O. Catholics in their prayer than Tridentines and will not be all that noticeable. Face it, 10 thousand Greek Catholics stand out among us far more than a million Anglicans will. Ever notice how the Greek bishops were very noticeable at JPII's funeral? If any Anglicans were there, you wouldn't know it from the photos.

I am glad you have not resorted to slights against Eastern Catholics at this point. They so rarely get a fair shake from the Orthodox.

Lastly, I agree with Chris Jones on the Western Rite idea. Anglicans are westerners. They are essentially Latins in their theology and outlook. It is a far, far greater leap for them to look to the East. In this time of crisis, they will likely seek the comforts of the familiar. And while they have been anti-papal for 500 years, the past two decades have done much to undo that antipathy.

Another effect I see in the long run, is that these structures will provide greater surface area for seekers. These new Catholics will be greater ambassadors of the Church to Protestants with whom they share some sympathies and understanding. Cradle Catholics are usually terrible evangelizers. Just as Orthodox converts are better at making converts, so these new Catholics will be better at reaching out to those in need of a spiritual home.

I suspect these communities will be a kind of front porch of the Church offering shade, a rocker and lemonade to those who would not be ready immediately to enter the House.

Annie said...

My major issue with Orthodoxy, which I know I've commented about here before, is that I do not believe the entire western tradition is heretical. Despite assurances to the contrary from some, whenever I enter into serious discussions about conversion and coming into line with the substance of Orthodoxy, rejection of my western heritage is always on the table. I am treated as though I had barely been Christian up until the moment I encountered Orthdoxy. The appeal of what the Roman Church has done is clear enough: it communicates that the tradition that nurtured me as a catholic (small c) up until this point in my life is a valued part of the broader Christian tradition. That's in addition to the fact that my faith and spirituality are firmly rooted in Anglo-Catholic liturgy.

I don't know that this new option will bring me into the Roman church. Certain points of my theology are more in line with the Orthodox position. And yet, the message I get from the Orthodox seems pretty consistent. Eastern = True, Western = False. That I cannot live with.

Annie said...

I wanted to add that the Roman position still demands unity in terms of teaching, so it isn't as though they're telling me I can be Catholic without accepting Roman Catholic dogmas. They aren't. What they aren't telling me is that my tradition is completely bankrupt and I need to leave it behind in order to become a real Christian. I hope the difference is clear. I don't want it to sound like I'm not looking to really *convert*.

David said...

I am an Orthodox Christian and I agree with what Annie says. It has been my overwhelming experience that Most of Orthodoxy views anything western as heterodox. I have inquired with the Antiochians about a WR parish in the Sacramento area. Only once have I received a response to my inquiry and that was from a cleric that told me to shut up and accept what is true (the Eastern Rite) because the Western Rite is only a temporary concession. My former priest grew up in a Western Rite so he was all for it and he is OCA so perhaps there is hope.

The Archer of the Forest said...


If you wish to contact me privately (and I would like to hear from you), I sent you an e-mail to the address listed on your Blog profile wall.

-The Archer

Anonymous said...

Annie - Orthodox on the internet blogs (all 20 of them) seem to do their damnedest to make sure you receive confirmation of your concerns. Most Orthodox in the real world aren't actually like that: that I can say from generations of living in the Orthodox Church. Even better, find an Orthodox parish that venerates Western saints and go with God.

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John (Ad Orientem) said...

Jack Chic like comments and those who subscribe to that nonsense are not welcome on this blog.