Some of us say many things about the generosity of Rome by announcing and publishing the Apostolic Constitution, coming to the help of Anglican groups – the TAC, groups and individuals still in the Anglican Communion and former Anglican converts who hung on as best they could for years and want to recover their Anglican patrimony. We are indeed grateful to the Holy Father for his generous pastoral outreach.
But there is something missing. Pastoral generosity is not all. Throughout the centuries, the Church only does what is necessary for her own mission and prestige in the world. There’s nothing wrong with that. We go to work to earn money to finance our family and personal lives. We might get some job satisfaction, but we are basically doing it for ourselves. So is Rome. But this is not selfish on the part of the Pope. He is not doing it for personal gain, but for the sake of the Church's mission to glorify God and to sanctify / save mankind. What I mean is this act is not something condescending or done in a way calculated to fail. It is part of the Church's desire that all may be one as willed by Christ.
My previous article on the ‘mechanics’ of the Ordinariate brought out a consideration in the comments – the oldest one in the book for Catholic apologists. Will we be really and sincerely becoming Catholics, or are we going to be bringing Protestant baggage and trouble? If some are to be believed, it is impossible for us to be Catholics without being thoroughly brainwashed. It doesn’t suffice to accept the doctrines contained in the catechism (of which we have at least a reasonable knowledge, at least of the Compendium). It doesn’t suffice to accept the authority of the Pope and the authorities he will appoint to sanctify, teach and govern us. We have to be processed, broken down, made to be totally compliant. It is something irrational, but something that is present in all institutional religions. If you become Orthodox, you have to call yourself Vladimir or Alexis and grow a beard, and that’s not enough. It is said to be very difficult to convert to Judaism. Catholicism is supposed to be open to all, and it is – but there is always that minority that would close the doors and the windows, and may the stuffiness reign for evermore.
Without knowing the Holy Father’s mind, I have the distinct impression he saw the requests from Anglican and former Anglican groups as an opportunity. The then Fr Joseph Ratzinger also saw Vatican II as an opportunity to break down some of the clericalist stuffiness in the Roman Curia and the Church at large. The post-Tridentine era is over, and it is time for the Church to find a more balanced way forward. Certainly, there was the progressive and liberal backlash, and it is still there. The solution is not to go back to the 1950’s or the nineteenth century, but to forge a hermeneutic of continuity between old and new.
Pope Benedict XVI certainly sees enormous potential in the Anglican way, even though he is certainly aware of its theological and human weaknesses, its tendency to place expediency over truth. Perhaps he sees more in Anglican patrimony than we discern ourselves. We are being called to prosper and then share our patrimony with the rest of the Church. Do you realise, readers, that if Catholics want a traditional liturgy, they have to have it in Latin (except perhaps the readings)? Some Catholics prefer Latin, but most would like the liturgy in their own language, but not the desacralised liturgy they find in most parishes. They will discover that Anglican Catholicism will allow them to have both the traditional liturgy with its sacredness and understand what is said or sung without having to follow it in a little book. That is just an example. It is about the reform of the reform.
Maybe to some Anglicans, an Ordinariate would be like a wartime air raid shelter to avoid female bishops and the gays. But I am convinced that clergy and faithful in the Ordinariates would quickly discover the hundreds and thousands of other Catholics who have similar aspirations to be done with the stuffiness of the control freaks, so that they too can be liberated and allowed the sense of the sacred.
Perhaps some Anglicans would do better to go the old way. That will be for each person to decide, as many will be attracted to a ‘Roman’ culture or the relaxed and chatty atmosphere of the local parish. Fair enough. I believe in religious freedom and a choice in these matters. I think this is very much the kind of idea our German Pope seems to have in his Christian humanism and his nature as a loving father, just as he must have been with his university students.
There is also the consideration that the Church must find new ways to minister and survive. Parochial and diocesan Catholicism is almost over in many places. Churches are closing and people have voted with their feet. One of two things: Christianity is exposed as a myth and should be abandoned or the Church does not represent Christianity. That is the judgement of secular society, and we do well to ask ourselves why. Some Christians are now talking about cells and networks, perhaps a new way of conceiving the diocese and the parish. Could the Ordinariate be an experiment in a new way of doing Church?
Anglicanorum Coetibus is all about thinking outside the box and being innovative for the future of the Church.
Why is the cause of the Society of St Pius X with Rome not more advanced?
This is another question that supports my theory of the Pope seeing in us an opportunity. I remember Archbishop Hepworth saying to me in 2007 that the TAC would be sorted out long before the traditionalists. How could that be? The Pope had just issued Summorum Pontificum, and in January 2009 he lifted the excommunications from the SSPX Bishops. At that time, there were a few rumours in the Australian Catholic press about the TAC becoming a Personal Prelature, but it was no more than hype and hot air. The leaden cloak of silence returned, and Cardinal Kasper and his English secretary gloated over the baseless gossip.
How come the SSPX bishops and divines are still in dialogue - and words are becoming deeds for Anglicans? How is it that we 'Protestant rebels' are given preferential treatment to those who are the most conservative and conforming Catholics? Interestingly enough, I am not a Freemason or an Illuminatus, nor is anyone I know in the TAC! My grandfather was a Mason and a highly respected man in the north Yorkshire town of Pickering. As a former wartime Army officer and prisoner of war, a successful businessman and a Magistrate, he was awarded the OBE in the 1970's and opened the new Whitby road bridge. I never even saw his apron as a child!
There may be any number of reasons, and things need to be made clearer for the many Catholics attached to the extraordinary form who are in communion with Rome and have been for many years.
My conjecture is simply that traditionalist Catholics, especially the hard-line of the Society of St Pius X, have nothing new or ‘out-of-the-box’ to offer. They are not at this time an opportunity for something fresh and new. They simply wish to turn back the clock to the 8th October 1958, the day before Pius XII died.
There are some colourful conspiracy theory sites like this one and this one (especially the Daily Commentaries of "The Fathers") about Anglicans being involved in a plot since the days of Lord Halifax and that Eminence grise Cardinal Rompolla to invalidate the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. All that certainly may have us rolling on the floor laughing – unless we get to the thought behind it. For centuries, Catholics have been conditioned to defend the citadel, especially since the Reformation and the French Revolution.
Now if the Church can recover Tradition whilst keeping stuffiness and control freakery at arms length….. Pigs might fly, or the Holy Father might actually pull this one off.
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