Vatican Prefers Tanks to Talks to Achieve Unity
August 21, 2012 20 Comments
Personally, I don’t agree with the premise held, but there are many of this opinion and it is worth sharing, and possibly debating further:
When the idea of an Anglican Ordinariate was announced in September 2009 in the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Timesof London ran the headline ‘Vatican Parks Tanks on Rowan’s Lawn’.
It seemed an apt image at the time, for all sorts of reasons: one was the spectacularly undiplomatic character of the act, which was opposed by some in the Vatican and by very senior English Roman Catholics; another was the personal affront to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, whose progressive leanings have never hidden a genuine admiration for the wider western catholic tradition of which his own Anglicanism is a part.
But the other implication of the image was one of a serious and lasting shift in power, a re-drawing of boundaries or movement of populations. Three years later it is more as though the Pope had, uninvited, sent over a Fiat cinquecento or two to pick up some stranded friends and their bags. As they leave the Lambeth Palace gates there is probably relief on both sides.
The agenda was ostensibly Christian unity; Anglicanorum Coetibus cited Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism to the effect that ‘such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalises the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature’. The tanks were there to unify the Church.
The Personal Ordinariates established this year in the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia have in fact been important mostly to individuals — a few thousand in total world-wide, a mixture of high-Church conservatives who found themselves ill-at-ease in Anglican Churches that now ordained women, and others of similar mind who had already left Anglicanism to form splinter groups driven by the same issue. A structure that provides them with a happier ecclesial home can be welcomed, even by those who differ from them.
However the stated aim of the Ordinariates, to accommodate whole groups of Anglicans who might come together as existing communities or structures with Anglican patrimony in tow, and thus to promote unity, is a failure. In just a few cases — ostensibly including one in Melbourne — congregations have moved en bloc; generally the new parishes of the Ordinariates will be precisely that, new bodies made up of disaffected individual Anglicans from various communities, gathered afresh around re-ordained clergy.
The Anglican parishes from which they came and even the ‘Traditional Anglican Communion’ itself remain, the structures of disunity as evident as ever, with a few extra cuts and bruises to boot.
As for Anglican patrimony, embodied in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it remains to be seen how much this really becomes part of the life of the Ordinariates. Anglicans of high-Church leanings had often abandoned that eucharistic liturgy for theological reasons, even before Anglicanism’s own version of Vatican II’s aggiornamento, and were often using more or less the whole Roman Rite.
When Anglicanorum Coetibus was issued, one bishop in the Church of England quipped that the likely departures would have to go out and buy copies of the BCP so as to have a patrimony to take with them.
So statistically at least, the impact of the departures on Anglicanism itself is minimal; Anglicans have more serious things to worry about than the outbound trickle of remaining opponents of women’s ordination. By implication, Roman Catholics might have even less reason to notice the new arrivals, given the scale involved.
Yet the appearance of a decent handful of new clergy not imported from far afield may be more significant. So far at least the Ordinariates are more about these than about parishes or groups of lay people.
The departing clergy now have some prospect of pursuing their vocations with more support and encouragement than they will recently have felt in an Anglicanism where they were a shrinking minority.
There have been costs to them. One will be somehow reconciling the immediate past of their sacramental ministries in Anglican orders, pursued even while publicly preparing to join and accept re-ordination in a body which still does not recognise that they had ever had any orders or sacraments at all.
This is not quite Newman’s profound journey of conscience.
There must also be some curiosity about future clergy; the fact that the Ordinariates can accept married men as candidates for ordination, for instance, could be of wider significance for a Roman Catholicism struggling to identify local vocations in English-speaking countries.
This story has underscored the unpromising future of ecumenism itself. Agencies such as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity do continue to work with Anglican bodies on bilateral dialogues, and many Anglican and Roman Catholic individuals and communities find their ways to bear common witness.
Yet the fact of the Ordinariates suggest that the real position of the Vatican on Christian unity is about absorption rather than convergence; the tanks, not the talks.
(HT: William Tighe)
See, to my mind, the whole venture (or perhaps better put: ecumenical work) is about unity. The question, I suppose, boils down to whether unity involves absorption - are you a part of, or are you not? It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the Ordinariate should continue in unity with the Catholic Church as some quasi-Anglican entity that maintains, or is allowed to maintain, its own independence. As matters currently stand, there is indeed room for diversity, but it comes under an authority, which is an affront to those rebellious and divisive Anglican tendencies that come far too easily. In this instance, I would in fact go as far as to suggest that ‘unity without absorption’ is no unity at all. Given that past behaviour and history of Anglican/Continuing Anglican division, demanding allegiance which requires full submission and obedience under the Ministry of Peter is a safeguard against who will/will not join (a sifting process), how they will be controlled, and the road forward. And I can see nothing wrong in that.
Moreover, the Ordinariate is but an invitation, and no one is holding a gun (or a tank) to another’s head. Anglicanorum Coetibus envisages former Anglicans coming along and finding their own special place in life of the Catholic Church.