There has been much discussion on this blog about what the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus (AC) means for groups of Anglicans and individual Anglicans. A major contribution to this discussion has come from Brother Stephen Treat, O. Cist. In my opinion much of what he has written is questionable.
Let me begin by saying that I, like Brother Stephen, write as a “Roman Catholic”. I have an interest, though, but that interest has been limited to giving advice to the TAC on how best to proceed towards corporate reunion with the Holy See. My limited role is there for all to see in my new book, “Convinced by the Truth”.
The Primate of the TAC, together with Bishop Chislett, asked for and received my advice on how to proceed. They followed that advice and at the conclusion of the process the bishops and other leaders of the TAC were able to present to the Holy See their petition to “seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See”. The bishops then asked the Holy See for “guidance as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve”. This petition was presented to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in October 2007.
In the meantime other groups of Anglicans and individual Anglican bishops were also having discussions with the Holy See to see what might be able to be done to assist Anglican Catholics to be in Full Communion with the Catholic Church.
On the 16th of December 2009 Cardinal Levada wrote to Archbishop Hepworth officially providing him with a copy of Anglicanorum coetibus and the accompanying Complementary Norms, together with a commentary on both of the documents by Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda SJ (which had been published in L’Osservatore Romano on the 9-10 November 2009). In this letter the Cardinal said that the AC “constitutes the definitive response of the Holy See not only to your original request, but also to the many others of a similar nature which have been submitted over the last years”.
The Holy See, having responded, now awaits applications for ordinariates which do not appear ex nihilo as Brother Stephen suggests, but from real live groups of Anglicans as well as individual Anglicans asking for them. To date seven national bodies which are members of the TAC have applied for ordinariates.
In his commentary, “The Significance of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’”, Father Ghirlanda SJ emphasises that the Personal Ordinariates are meant for those of the “Anglican faithful who wish to enter, either corporately or individually, into full communion with the Catholic Church”. (Emphasis added)
Throughout his musings on AC, Brother Stephen limits groups of Anglicans to parochial groupings. There is no warrant for this. The term could just as easily include a diocese, national bodies comprised of a number of dioceses, or even an international body.
Brother Stephen refers to the undeniable fact that the AC does not provide for a body of Ordinaries across the world. This silence is said to be “instructive”. Instructive in what way? He then speculates that it is because the “ordinariates have not created a rite or sui juris church”. That there is a lacuna here is true. That it means what Brother Stephen says it means is conjecture. We must wait and see. This is simply not an issue before us. When the ordinariates have been set up and are functioning, such a structure may commend itself to the Holy See. Or it may not.
Brother Stephen goes on to make a number of assertions, none of which he substantiates. He refers to statements from people from various levels of authority who have been making “strong statements” interpreting the documents in a way that “seem[s] to attempt to force the hand of the Holy See”. He then says that the CDF and other structures have had to issue corrections. Whether Brother’s assertions are true or not, I cannot say. But we should not accept them as true absent any supporting documentation The unfortunate thing about saying things like this about unnamed persons is that people will assume it refers to this or that bishop of their acquaintance. And that is unfair.
And Cardinal Levada has left some things more open than Brother Stephen and others seem to allow. For example, with regard to the possibility of admitting already married men into the seminary to train for priesthood the Cardinal said this:
With regard to future seminarians, the Cardinal explains that it was considered purely speculative whether there might be some cases in which a dispensation from the celibacy rule might be petitioned. Objective criteria about any such possibilities (e.g. married seminarians already in preparation) are to be developed jointly by the Personal Ordinariate and the Episcopal Conference, and submitted for approval of the Holy See.
Brother Stephen tells Anglicans they have to just wait and adjust their expectations. He says, “the original petition to the Holy See essentially asked for a Uniate Church.” If he is referring to the TAC petition he is just plain wrong. As I have noted above, those TAC bishops confessed their faith and then asked Rome for guidance as to how their desire to find “a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See” could be achieved. That petition specified nothing. It asked for guidance.
If it is not the TAC petition, then to what petition does Brother Stephen refer? I do not know and am waiting to be told. Is there any other group whose bishops have signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church and are constitutionally organised as an ecclesial group? I have not heard of one.
Brother Stephen compounds his errors by saying this: “the Holy Father did create individual structures within local Episcopal conferences where the Anglican Patrimony would be protected and nurtured.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Ordinariates answer to the CDF and the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia according to their competences, not to the local Episcopal conference. Ordinaries have membership in the local Episcopal Conference, and everywhere the documents urge cooperation between the Ordinary and the local Latin bishop, and the bishops’ conference. But as Father Ghirlanda points out,
The Ordinary, to whom the pastoral care of the faithful who belong to the Ordinariate is entrusted, exercises ordinary vicarious authority (potestas ordinaria vicaria) in the name of the Roman Pontiff (Ap. Cons. V.b). He enjoys legitimate autonomy with respect to the jurisdiction of the Diocesan Bishops in which the faithful of the Ordinariate have their domicile and is, therefore, better able to ensure that those faithful are not simply assimilated into the local Dioceses in a way which would lead to the loss of the richness of their Anglican tradition – which would be an entire impoverishment of the entire Church. On the other hand, the Ordinary in the exercise of his vicarious authority must ensure the full integration of the Ordinariate into the life of the Catholic Church, making sure that it does not evolve into an isolated community.
That is to say, the balance between being fully integrated into the life of the Church and the safeguarding and nourishing of the Anglican tradition (which AC guarantees) is well met in the AC. Ordinariates are not a structure of bishops’ conferences (absorption). They are something similar to dioceses. Again Father Ghirlanda:
However, just as the Military Ordinariates are described in the Apostolic Constitution Spirituali militum cura as specific ecclesiastical jurisdictions which are similar to dioceses (Ap. Cons. I § 1), so also the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus describes Personal Ordinariates for the faithful coming from Anglicanism as juridically similar to dioceses (Ap. Cons. I § 3). (Emphasis added)
The right of an Ordinary of an Ordinariate to act while having regard for the views of the local Latin bishop is well described by Father Ghiranda:
Before establishing a personal parish the Ordinary must listen to the opinion of the Diocesan Bishop of the area (Ap. Cons. VIII § 1);
Brother Stephen says that the CDF will erect Ordinariates and people will make their profession of faith and enter. The CDF will only erect an Ordinariate where there is an established need for one. This will be done by the CDF by means of appointing an Ordinary and naming the place where the Ordinariate applies. So the process of erecting an Ordinariate is not a “creation ex nihilo” but rather a creation responding to an established and recognised need by real people.
Once the Ordinariate has been set up, the Ordinary then proceeds to incardinate clergy (according to the Constitution and the Complementary Norms) into the Ordinariate and receive the faithful either as groups or as individuals (Article 5 of the Complementary Norms). Those who have been either validly baptized, or validly baptized and confirmed will not receive those sacraments again (cf Canon 845). No doubt “groups” will make a corporate Profession of Faith and receive sacraments of initiation as appropriate. No doubt also the forms to be used will be those authorized by the CDF. Individuals coming as individuals will make an individual Profession of Faith.
The Holy Father has responded to requests and produced the AC. Groups and individuals will now respond by asking for an Ordinariate. Rome will respond to those requests as the Holy Father sees fit. The TAC has already made its profession of faith. But the reading down of the word “groups” to mean only “parochial groupings” or individuals without any greater corporate identity, and as if that identity will simply vanish into a new identity, is not warranted. It does not do justice to the fact that the Ordinariates will be erected to receive the Anglican faithful “either corporately or individually”.
That this is the case is, again, well described by Father Ghirlanda in his official commentary on “The Significance of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’”. In that commentary he says that “the safeguarding and nourishing of the Anglican Tradition is guaranteed” by, among other things,
… the fact that, out of respect for the synodal tradition of Anglicanism: a) the Ordinary will be appointed by the Roman Pontiff from a terna of names presented by the Governing Council (CN Art. 4 § 1); b) that the Pastoral Council will be obligatory (Ap. Cons. X § 2); c) that the Governing Council, composed of at least six priests, apart from fulfilling the duties established in the Code of Canon Law for the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors, will also exercise those duties specified in the Complementary Norms which include in some cases giving or withholding consent or of expressing a deliberative vote (Ap. Cons. X § 2; CN Art. 12). (Emphasis added)
And this is just one out seven different ways, identified by Father Ghirlanda, in which the Anglican identity will be safeguarded and nourished.
The same point was made by Father Andrew Cole SJ in his “Swimming the Tiber: The Background, Provisions and Eventual Implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus”, in the blog Thinking Faith: The Online Journal Of The British Jesuits.
Each Ordinariate will have a Governing Council, consisting of at least six priests, half of whom are elected by the priests of the Ordinariate, which will exercise within the Ordinariate the functions that the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors exercise in a Diocese (cf. canons 495-502), together with ‘those areas specified in the Complementary Norms’. Whereas the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors have only a consultative function, in that they advise the diocesan Bishop, the Governing Council will have a deliberative function in the Ordinariate; this is truly innovative, and is a reflection of the Anglican Communion’s tradition of synodal governance. Hence, it is the Governing Council which will, among other things, prepare the terna of names for submission to the Pope for the appointment of an Ordinary, and the Ordinary must have the Governing Council’s consent to admit a candidate to holy orders, to erect or suppress a personal parish or house of formation, and to approve a programme of formation for those preparing for ordination.
To be insisting, against a fair reading of all of the documents, that Anglicans will come into Ordinariates as individuals disconnected from their former communities, their history and tradition, will almost certainly mean that the Dioceses and parishes concerned would be forced to leave their buildings, money and other property behind. If Brother Stephen's advice were to be followed, there would be every risk of the Anglican people once again having to leave behind all their property, and just when they have labored so hard to start again. I cannot think that the AC would in any way require that. But a partial and restrictive reading of the documents might well force just such a melancholy outcome or worse, even make the establishing of Ordinariates even more difficult on the Anglican side.
To reiterate, the bishops of the TAC came to the Catholic Church as a group, Profession of Faith in hand, and asked the Church for guidance as to what they should do next. Other had also made approaches to Rome but without having signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the TAC bishops had. Rome responded and invited those who had approached them to make the next move.
As Cardinal Levada put it in his interview on Salt & Light:
We're in a phase now of discernment, I would say. The Anglicans that have come to us are discerning whether this seems to be right for them. This is a spiritual commitment that I think we have all looked forward to through the 45 years of ecumenical dialogue after the Second Vatican Council. I think the underlying idea is that, if people are ready, even in groups, not only as individuals, to celebrate and experience the unity that Christ wanted for His Church, that we should not create any obstacles for them, but rather try to open the doors as best we can.
In his address to the bishops of England and Wales at their ad limina visit earlier this year, Pope Benedict said:
Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue assume great importance in England and Wales, given the varied demographic profile of the population. As well as encouraging you in your important work in these areas, I would ask you to be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, so as to assist those groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church.
And finally, interested Anglicans do not need to be lectured on “waiting”. They have waited many, many years, and are still waiting patiently. And they have suffered much and continue to suffer. The end is in sight. But I would say to Brother Stephen and other Catholic commentators that we must all read the documents more carefully, more accurately, and more generously. Moreover, we must treat Anglicans seeking full communion with the Church as equals, not as children to be chided. I am also of the opinion that the criticism of Deborah Gyapong’s piece by Brother Stephen was quite unfair.
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