Is Becoming Catholic for Anglicans Only About Ecclesiology?

This is an excerpt of a long piece by Joel Hodge, a lecturer in theology at the Australian Catholic University.  He writes:

In the midst of these issues, the first Anglican “ordinariate” in Australia has been viewed as meaning many “traditionalists” will seek admittance to avoid recent Anglican Church decisions.

But by no means will this be the intention of everyone who joins. Moreover, we should be equally clear that to become part of the ordinariate is not and should not be about signing up to a political agenda – about women or homosexuality or another issue – or affirming unreasonable discontent.

These issues are important, but first and foremost the ordinariate is about affirming the ‘catholic’ nature of the church. The Anglican Church itself has always valued this catholic nature. This catholic nature has traditionally been defined as a universality of local churches guided by God, visibly signified by unity around the office of St Peter.

"Moreover, we should be equally clear that to become part of the ordinariate is not and should not be about signing up to a political agenda – about women or homosexuality or another issue – or affirming unreasonable discontent."

Political agenda?


I know there was a lot of concern out there in Catholic circles that we from the Traditional Anglican Communion would be bringing our horrid Branch Theory ecclesiology with us.  We have been framed as anti-women and anti-gay as if the Catholic Church's teachings on Holy Orders and human sexuality (the whole shebang, including teachings on artificial contraception) are political issues rather than the teachings of the Catholic Church from the beginning.

These principles are not political; they are foundational to the common good.  Period.  They are not optional beliefs, any more than our understanding of ecclesiology.  But hey, you can talk about ecclesiology and since most people don't have a clue what the word means their eyes glaze over, unless you wake them up by saying "outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation" or quote Dominus Iesus about other churches being deficient.

I've been thinking these days that not only are we Catholics sometimes ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — you know that sin part– let's skip over that because people don't want to hear they are sinners — but also we are ashamed of our teachings on human sexuality.

People see how pro-life folks are framed and say, eww, I think I'll find something warm and fuzzy and non-controversial to say so I won't be a lightning rod for the intense animosity these people experience.

This is of great concern for me.  There is a kind of unity that puts unity and ecclesiology above all else.  You could see attempts in the Canterbury Communion to maintain communion irrespective of huge theological differences on everything from the Eucharist to the role of actively homosexual clergy and differences over the sacrament of marriage, or of sacraments and Apostolic succession altogether.

Unity for the sake of unity — unity that is not led by the Holy Spirit and wedded to the whole of the faith as handed down by the Apostles is something to be concerned about.  And if unity means shutting up about abortion or defending a male-only priesthood, well, too late, I'm Catholic now and I will not keep silent.

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

22 thoughts on “Is Becoming Catholic for Anglicans Only About Ecclesiology?”

  1. I think thr point he was making is the RC communion is not simply for those who have views on sexual matters more traditional than mainstream Anglicanism. You have to believe in Catholic sacramental system and the whole Roman communion thing. They are not merely for those wanting a return to more restrictive sexual morals. In other words, no right wing evangelicals, please he was saying. I dont think he has anything to worry about. Sydney style Anglicans aren't coming over and anglo catholicism is hardly the realm of the Jerry Faldwells, Bob Jones or other proponents of the christian police state. Keep in mind some of the protestant minded clergy in Africa had no problem defending the death penalty for gays. Not that they will be coming over, but he does not people who agree with such views in his church. Fundies make plenty of Catholics nervous. However, if he would take the time to understand people such as yourself better he would find out that he is not dealing with fanatical sexually repressed Calvinists who like ritual. Those coming into the RC communion would be better able to deal with their new brethren if some of those brethren would drop their bizzare prejudices and actuall try to see them as they actually are and understand where they are coming from. Sixteenth century Geneva defenders or the Christian taliban is hardly what the ordinariates ill be composed of. He obviously never went to any anglo catholic parish.

  2. "well, too late, I'm Catholic now and I will not keep silent.

    We are grateful for your presence as a Catholic in communion with Benedict XVI.

  3. As usual, Debra doesn't lecture us, she shares her concerns for a bit of uneasiness as we take very short steps. She keeps her defenses up for those who shout, "You can't be Catholic if you don't believe every bit of this before you dare to ask for admitance. We walk a well worn path and are happy to be on that path at last. Yet there are stones in the path and I have opened toed sanddles today. I am glad that I walk the same path as Debra, for I have a hunch that she is already much more of a True Catholic than many of the cradle Catholics who read the Anglo-Catholic. She is observant and is pointing out the sights that some of us fail to see along this path. I hope we stop for lunch pretty soon!
    Blessings, Tom

  4. This entire return in communion with Rome can only be good, for it is the opposite of schism and separation; it is a reason for great joy, because it is like a prayer unto itself, this act of unity.

    It is a step towards re-christianization of Europe.

  5. "well, too late, I'm Catholic now and I will not keep silent".

    Deborah – have you forgotten already! You were Catholic before you joined the Catholic Church under His Holiness Benedict XVI.
    I am not having a 'pop' at you, just asking you to remember many of us are Catholic in our Faith journey believeing as you do in what is written in the CCC, HolyScriptures and the Tradition of the Church as handed down by the Apostles, but have chosen to remain 'Anglican' Catholic.
    The strength of the Church Catholic lies in our common unity through baptism, is that not what our Lord meant 'that they all may be one'.
    I pray that you do not forget your Anglican experience, or that there are many in the Anglican Catholic tradition that still follow what you have to say and report.

  6. Thank you for this very thoughtful piece, Deborah. You have, as so often, put your finger on the real nexus of the problem for Anglicans. The lack of a teaching office expressed through the Magisterium is breaking up the Anglican "communion" into its constituent parts. The failure of the "Anglican Covenant" is a clear witness to this.

    As you point out, it is precisely openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in and through the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ that will lead people – Anglicans and others – into real communion. Increasingly, it is becoming clear to many that there is only one real choice for those who cannot accept either synodical decisions expressing liberal Protestant incoherence i.e. merely following the spirit of the age or a accepting a fundamentalism which is not open to Newman's understanding of the development of doctrine under the authority and guidance of the Petrine office.

    I am working on a piece on this topic for PEREGRINATIONS

    Many thanks for your insights.

  7. Sorry, my final sentences above should read:

    Increasingly, it is becoming clear to many that there is only one real choice for those who cannot accept synodical decisions expressing liberal Protestant incoherence i.e. merely following the spirit of the age. Neither can many Christians accept a rigid and heartless fundamentalist Christianity which is not open to Newman's concept of the development of doctrine under the authority and guidance of the Petrine office.

    1. "As I have already said, there are but two alternatives, the way to Rome, and the way to Atheism: Anglicanism is the halfway house on the one side, and Liberalism is the halfway house on the other." Bl. John Henry Newman

        1. Interestingly,S. Thomas More, wrote to Cromwell on 5th, March 1534,
          "As for general councils assembled lawfully…. the authority thereof ought to be taken for undoubtable, or else there is nothing, no certainty…….yet never thought I the pope above a general council."
          (Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, E.F. Rogers ,Princeton, 1947.

          1. More, of course, opined this before Vatican I resolved the question. "Interestingly," one can also find second and third century Fathers of the Church whose Christological views are not wholly congruent with Nicene orthodoxy. And the point is?

  8. "The lack of a teaching office expressed through the Magisterium is breaking up the Anglican "communion" into its constituent parts.

    "Who told you that,? The Canon of Faith as I was taught in the Anglican Church
    in the 40's & 50's Was the Revelation of Christ , once delivered to the saints. recorded in Scripture and Interpreted and completed by the Fathers in Council. This without addition or diminution!
    This is the basis of the Catholic Faith according to Traditional Anglicanism and the magisterium or teaching authority is the College of Bishops!
    The problem is those who will not teach and those who will not listen!

  9. Mr High Churchman probably mentioned to demonstrate thar pre-Reformation England did not hold modern views of papal authority, incuding a canonized saint and that if the Reformation was reversed in the C of E and was restored to its Catholuc roots, it would not agree with Rome on papal issues, some of which developments came after the split. As for 7. The Polish National do the same. Did any of those medieval councils do anything anyone remembers? The real effect seems to be not counting Trent and Vatican I. If you are not going ti agree with Rome on the number of councils, you have to have some criteria and that would be when there was a united Church still. Trent could be a western synod and not a council. That actually has been advanced as an idea for posible reunion.

    1. Well, it's a silly idea — and if one is going to adopt such a criterion there will not be "seven councils," either. The Copts and associated churches — the Oriental Orthodox — do not accept the last four of these mystic seven, and the "Assyrians" (once termed "Nestorians") only accept the first two. So, good-bye "seven councils?"

      And when was there ever "a united church" in an empirical sense? What about the Donatists? The Novatianists? The Catholic criterion of Church unity is union and communion with the See of Peter, the Orthodox criterion, professing the faith of the Orthodox Church in its fullness. It is emphativcally not an omnium-gatherum of those groups professing a sort of basic "mere Christianity" and possessing, or willing to adopt, an episcopal church order.

      And who is speaking of "restoring the Church of England to its Catholic roots" as though one were travelling back to the first third of the 16th Century? Anglicanorum coetibus suggests no such thing; rather, that involves "regrafting" separated Anglicans onto the living trunk which is the Catholic Church, and that involves those Anglicans accepting both the authority of the Catholic Church as such, and all those doctrines it has dogmatized since 1534.

  10. It may be a silly idea or not. That really does not concern. I was simply giving a possible explanation for why seven. I also never stated that AC suggested any sort of simulated time travel. We were discussing the views expressed by Mr High Churchman, remember. So the question I was answering had nothing to do with B16's initiative and everything to do with the rationale of a Catholic minded Anglican type who probably wont be taking up the Pope's offer. Please respond to what other's wrote and not to what you want to respond to and pretend your responding to that other person. An idea is not silly just because one does not agree with it. Discussion between Christians is best done debating others ideas without terms such stupid or silly. As you know I really dont concern myself with such questions. I was merely giving an explanation for such views. That omnium gatherum you speak of is a strictly western spin on Orthodox idea of the unity of the Church. It is what various strictly western groups have advanced. The whole question of what pre-Reformation England believed as a contrast to modern day Rome is of interest to those not being grafted onto the moden Roman church as you put it. Who ever said AC supported such an idea? Anglicans interested in reCatholizing the CofE but not liking the idea of being grafted onto the modern Roman church would. I am not trying to discourage anyone from joining the Ordinariate. Everyone has a reason for hanging around here, even those you dont agree with, and I dont see any trolls involved with this discussion.

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