In the post The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Papal Infallibility, and the TAC of January 15, 2010, published just prior to the public release of the full text of the Portsmouth Petition, I addressed the doctrinal status of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the Traditional Anglican Communion, noting that, in some quarters, there was a denial that action of the bishops constituted the unconditional acceptance of the doctrines contained therein (both on the part of the episcopate and certainly the Communion as a whole).
From one of the excerpts already released, it is known that our bishops have proposed the Catechism as “the most perfect expression of the Catholic faith in the world today,” a faith which they “aspire to hold and teach.” Some have tried to rationalize and “spin” this confession. Perhaps the curious phrase “the most perfect expression” provides some wiggle room? Certainly the TAC bishops could not have meant to accept the recent Marian dogmas or those of papal infallibility and universal jurisdiction?
I asserted that the text of the Portsmouth Letter, along with the solemn act of signing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, represented the unequivocal acceptance of the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the part of the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and further, given the teaching authority vested in the College by the TAC Concordat, that the Catechism must rightly be acknowledged as the official doctrinal statement of the entire Church.
Far from the admission of any wiggle room, the full text of the “Portsmouth Letter” makes absolutely clear that our bishops assent, not to the teaching of the Catechism generally, but to specific doctrines — indeed to those doctrines upon which all of the others hang. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is accepted without reservation. The ministry of the Successor of St. Peter is confessed in terms that would be familiar to a father of the First Vatican Council!
Not only did the TAC bishops assembled — unanimously — approve the text of the letter to the Holy See, the entire college signed their confession in a solemn act.
And from October 2007, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been, at least, the de facto official doctrine of the Traditional Anglican Communion.
In a dossier of materials related to the recent publication of its formal application for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution in the United Kingdom, Fr. Ian Gray, Vicar General of TTAC, has released the text of a letter written by Archbishop John Hepworth, to the clergy of the province. In this letter, the Primate makes very clear the doctrinal position of the TAC.
5. It would be very wise to become familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is the official doctrinal statement of our College of Bishops, and therefore of our Communion. We are not a Communion in which Synods vote on doctrine. The Church of England does quite enough of that.
In speaking with bishops and other clergy from provinces around the TAC, it is my understanding that neither my analysis nor the Primate's statement would be considered especially controversial. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has long been a de facto standard for teaching in the Communion, and its official adoption by the College of Bishops in Portsmouth did not come as a great surprise. This act has been accepted as definitive and it has been embraced by the clergy and faithful of many TAC provinces. Unfortunately, here in North America, due to an apparent hesitation on the part of some bishops to boldly propose the Catechism to their flocks, there is a somewhat lesser degree of unanimity on this point, but make no mistake about it: the Catechism of the Catholic Church is "the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith" in the Traditional Anglican Communion and no deacon, priest, or bishop has the right to teach anything which is contrary to the essential doctrines contained therein.
Going further, I would argue that, with the provinces of the TAC poised to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church under the Holy Father's recent Apostolic Constitution, it is entirely inadequate that a bishop himself simply refrain from teaching doctrines opposed to this agreed standard, but that the Holy See, the members of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and the entire Catholic faithful throughout the world must be assured of his faithfulness made manifest by a willingness to proclaim the fullness of truth as expressed in the Catechism. A bishop unwilling to openly embrace the Catechism of the Catholic Church is unfaithful to his solemn oath, either as sworn in Portsmouth in October of 2007 or subsequently at the moment of his episcopal consecration, unfit for his office, and should resign his see immediately.
It is only reasonable that those who now hold the office of teaching, governing, and sanctifying in the Traditional Anglican Communion be held to a rigorous standard. If a bishop is unwilling to defend the Magisterium of the Catholic Church in his present circumstances, how can Holy Church be assured that he will do so in the fullness of her communion?
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