As we reported on March 3, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America, the US province of the Traditional Anglican Communion, convened in Orlando, Florida, voted unanimously to apply to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the erection of a personal ordinariate in the United States of America. Following this meeting, a brief press release was issued.
During this week's HOB conference call, it was decided that the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document should be released to address some of the major questions of clergy and faithful throughout the ACA.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ACA House of Bishop’s Endorsement of Apostolic Constitution
Regarding Communion with Rome
1. What did the House of Bishops actually decide?
On March 3, 2010, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America of the Traditional Anglican Communion made the decision formally to request the implementation of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States of America by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
2. Does this mean ACA parishes will be going immediately to Rome?
No. In fact, no one is "going to Rome." Once a US ordinariate (the structure defined in the Apostolic Constitution) has been established, each of the ACA dioceses and its constituent parishes will decide whether or not they wish to join the ordinariate. Establishing the ordinariate (the “implementation” requested by the Bishops) is thus the next step in an ongoing process, with discernment at each step.
3. What does the vote of the House of Bishops signify?
The House of Bishops requested the establishment of an Ordinariate in the US as prescribed in the Apostolic Constitution, so as to have an actual entity with which to interact, as we address relational details.
4. What about “Anglican Use” parishes in the Roman Catholic Church?
These are existing Roman Catholic parishes which have permission to use an Anglican liturgy. We will be working with them to seek guidance and identify issues in regard to the association with Rome. We anticipate that most, if not all, such parishes will join the ordinariate.
5. How does this affect Anglicans worldwide?
The Traditional Anglican Communion, with about half a million members in 44 countries, is not part of the Anglican Communion headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but is under the leadership of Archbishop John Hepworth of Australia. Our relationship with the Holy See under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution neither implies nor precludes similar relationships involving other Anglicans who are not part of the TAC.
6. Will the parishes of the ACA decide individually regarding following the national church in the final arrangements between the TAC and Rome?
Yes, and providing continued pastoral care and oversight to parishes which need time to discern their course of action is a high priority for the ACA Bishops.
7. What concerns have our members expressed in regard to establishing full communion with the Roman Catholic Church?
Our first desire Is to follow our Lord's will for His Church. We are seeking full sacramental unity with the Roman Catholic Church, not absorption. We wish to safeguard the unique gifts and charisms we have developed during our 450-year separation, so that they can enrich the whole church. Expressed in different ways by our members, the potential loss of these gifts is our single biggest concern.
8. Why Is losing Anglican identity such a concern?
There are 1 billion Roman Catholics and only about half a million of us worldwide. The fear of being “swallowed up” in such a case is understandable. Our determination to preserve those things which characterize us, and a clearly-stated similar intent expressed in the Apostolic Constitution, as well as in many Vatican statements issued during the last 50 years, make us confident that “united, but not absorbed” will be the guiding principle of our relationship.
9. How long has the TAC-Rome dialogue been going on?
About 20 years, with especially earnest effort in the last five years, first under Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, and most recently under Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Hepworth has been in the forefront of the recent dialogue, and in 2005, the US church endorsed his intent to present our 2007 petition for full communion with Rome.
10. What is the next step in the process?
Establishing an ordinariate and continuing dialogue with the Vatican concerning issues which have generated additional questions. The dialogue will include face-to-face meetings this year with Vatican representatives.
11. Was the Apostolic Constitution not sufficient for outlining the process?
The Apostolic Constitution is a general framework, applicable to a wide range of Anglican situations, and the dialogue in the next phase will address items that apply specifically to the Traditional Anglican Communion.
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In the wake of the March 3 announcement, the news media moved quickly — and often recklessly — to report on what they perceived to be a significant move forward in the implementation of the Holy Father's Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. A good example of this irresponsible exuberance is to be found in an article by Simon Caldwell that appears on The Catholic Herald web site under the headline "US Anglicans to convert to Rome en masse":
The Anglican Church in America (ACA) – a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion – will now enter the Catholic Church as a block, bringing in an estimated 5,200 converts along with their own bishops, clergy, buildings and even a cathedral.
Obviously Mr. Caldwell did not take the time to check his sources, for, if he did, he would have quickly realized that the development, while incredibly significant to the process, was neatly summarized by the March 3 press release — a press release that said nothing of the entire ACA immediately entering the Catholic Church as a block.
The simple fact of the matter is that all of the dioceses and parishes of the Anglican Church in America are not presently of the same mind with respect to their commitment to the immediate implementation of the Apostolic Constitution. While many are ready to proceed as soon as the CDF erects a personal ordinariate for the USA, others have reserved their final judgement until certain important practical concerns can be addressed. This diversity of opinion is reflected in the House of Bishops. The majority of the bishops are pledged to the implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus at the earliest possible moment, but others, presumably influenced by legitimate and difficult pastoral concerns, are more reserved. Nonetheless, in a spirit of collegiality, the entire HOB endorsed the erection of a personal ordinariate for the sake of those whose consciences and pastoral circumstances demand immediate action. Fr. Phillips has addressed the circumstances of the ACA relative to his own Anglican Use community:
Of course, our situation in the Anglican Use is somewhat different from that of the ACA. Our clergy and parishes are ready to act immediately because we are already in communion with the Holy See, whereas the Anglican bishops have a process to follow to reach that point with their parishes. For some of them, it will happen quickly; for others it will take longer. But we all agreed that having an Ordinariate “up and running” will allow them to enter it when each one is ready.
From the standpoint of ACA parishes and the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution, the FAQ makes two very important points:
As soon as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in consultation with the USCCB, erects a personal ordinariate for the United States of America, those dioceses and individual parishes that are prepared to move into the new structure will be free to do so at their own pace. This does not mean that there will be a mad rush as parishes unilaterally secede from their dioceses to join the personal ordinariate at the first available opportunity. The College of Bishops of the TAC, and all of the provincial synods of the Communion, have endorsed the notion of corporate reunion with the Holy See. It will be the duty of each diocesan bishop to lead his flock in order, and through the synodical procedures established by law, into the new personal ordinariate.
[It should be observed that it is clearly not within the competence of any diocesan or general synod to decide the fundamental question of whether the Church should enter into the full communion of the Holy See. The TAC Concordat makes it clear that such a decision falls exclusively to the College of Bishops as it is fundamentally a question of doctrine. There is a role for synodical action in the process, of course, but only insofar as the implementation of the bishops' decision is concerned.]
Ideally then, the bishop ordinary, faithful to the unanimous commitment of the TAC bishops as expressed in their Petition to the Holy See of October 2007, will purpose to lead his flock into the personal ordinariate, convene a diocesan synod that will assent in charity and filial obedience, and the local church will proceed in its integrity into the fullness of communion with the Universal Church. But, as the FAQ makes clear, should the bishop deem that pastoral circumstances prevent him from taking immediate positive action with respect to the personal ordinariate, or a diocesan synod presume to reject the course proposed by the TAC COB, individual parishes will not be held hostage to a failed synodical process. They will be free to apply to the personal ordinariate for admission individually.
The bishops are of one mind that regardless of how the process unfolds, they each have a sacred responsibility to minister to all of the Christian faithful committed to their care. No attempt will be made to pressure any parish to move into the personal ordinariate, and it is fully expected that some congregations will require an extended period of discernment. The bishops, either individually or collegially, will endeavor to guarantee pastoral care and oversight to all in a manner which is respectful of local circumstances and the consciences of those involved.
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The March 3, 2010 meeting of the ACA HOB does represent a significant step forward in the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution in the United States of America. Despite the reservations of a few bishops, respectful of the fact that a large part of the ACA is ready to proceed immediately, the bishops voted unanimously to request the erection of a personal ordinariate. This request is a joint request with our brothers in the Anglican Use/Pastoral Provision and it is hoped that the CDF will see fit to erect a personal ordinariate at the earliest possible moment. Those congregations of the ACA who have already discerned their future and are committed to entering the fullness of the Catholic Church in response to the Holy Father's most generous offer also have the assurance that the bishops will be respectful of their desire to proceed whilst others may require additional time to decide.
Our bishops have appealed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to provide the legal structure whereby we may finally return to the unity of the Catholic Church. The Catholic faithful in the ACA eagerly await the CDF's response. May it come quickly!
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