The following paper was presented by Dr. William Tighe at the 2011 Anglican Use Conference, which took place at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington, Texas.
The Genesis of Anglicanorum Coetibus
The title which is given to my presentation in the conference program, “The History of the Movement,” is very convenient for my purposes, since it gives so very little away and allows me under its rubric to speak about almost whatever I please. In fact, what I will be (mostly) speaking about is the background and origins of Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC), its genesis in other words. And here I must make a disclaimer: a good deal of what I shall say involves speculation, informed speculation to be sure, but if a skeptic should dismiss it, or parts of it, as “guesswork” I would be hard-pressed to rebut him — but one reason for this is that some of the information on which I shall build my conclusions has reached me over the years with injunctions of confidentiality about its sources. Also, as much due to considerations of length and the avoidance of excessive complexity, as for any other reasons, I shall not discuss, except passingly, events subsequent to the appearance of AC in October/November 2009, and the thorny and contentious issues connected with its implementation.
How far back should such an account go? Should one treat the various phases and reports of the ARCIC process from 1970 (or 1967, if one includes the preliminaries) onwards, and the high expectations of an imminent “sacramental reconciliation” between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church that accompanied this process until well into the 1980s, or even later? I think not, except to note that for a brief time there seems to have been a real possibility that Rome would reconsider its 1896 condemnation of Anglican Orders in the bull Apostolicae Curae, a possibility dashed by the Anglicans’ acceptance of the pretended ordination of women. Should one discuss in detail the insistence on the part of the Roman authorities from 1973 onwards that the pretended ordination of women to the priesthood (and, later, episcopate) would form an insuperable obstacle to the realization of this goal? Not really, save to note two or three important aspects of this matter: first, that this “Roman caution” was for a long time expressed, however definitely, in a very low-key manner; secondly, that down at least to the end of the second phase of the ARCIC process around 2007 both the Anglicans and Catholics involved in the process seem to have colluded (at least corporately) in avoiding any discussion of the question of the pretended ordination of women itself or of its bearing on the ARCIC process, despite the fact that from the time of the end of the first round of that process in 1981 it appears to have been realized, and desired from the “Roman” side at least, that the issue would need to be addressed (even though ARCIC has never to this day addressed itself to the issue); and, thirdly, and (for my subject most importantly) that in its ecumenical dealings with the Anglican Communion Rome always regarded the Church of England as the “bellwether” Anglican church, that is, the one whose actions in Rome’s eyes represented the Anglican Communion as a whole. Thus, as regards the pretended ordination of women, while Rome stated as early as 1973 that the acceptance of this innovation would make the hopes with which the ARCIC process began incapable of realization, the fact that women were purportedly ordained to the priesthood by the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong in 1971, the Anglican churches of Canada and New Zealand in 1976, the Episcopal Church in 1977 (after earlier uncanonical ordinations in 1974 and 1975), and so forth, and even the first purported consecration of a woman as an Anglican bishop in 1989 in the Episcopal Church, seems to have left Rome “unfazed;” and even though Rome sought for the English bishops to make a “wide and generous response” to those Anglicans, especially clergymen, who would seek admission to, and frequently ordination in, the Catholic Church after the Church of England General Synod’s rather unexpected approval of the measure opening its priesthood to women in 1992, it seemed at first at least half inclined to believe that the ARCIC process could continue with “business as usual.”
It was only in July 2006, almost three years after the Episcopal Church’s consecration of a pseudogamously partnered man as Bishop of New Hampshire that Walter, Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), the Vatican’s “ecumenical office,” delivered an urgent address to the House of Bishops of the Church of England imploring them to proceed no further with measures allowing for the appointment of woman bishops, as such a measure would render impossible the realization of previous Anglican and Catholic ecumenical aspirations. (I shall return to this episode further on in this presentation.) Cardinal Kasper had a reputation, perhaps not undeserved, for being interested primarily in cultivating ecumenical relations with representatives of the historic Protestant churches, such as those that made up the Lutheran World Federation or the Anglican Communion, to give two examples, and rather less with conservative or dissident groups stemming from those traditions, and reacting to their perceived liberalism, such as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, or the various “jurisdictions” that make up “Continuing Anglicanism,” and this address to the Church of England’s bishops was almost the “last hurrah” of this type of Catholic ecumenism. Almost — for there was to be a last farewell to it at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
All this said, the remainder of my presentation shall tell “three stories:” the story of the Traditional Anglican Communion’s approaches to Rome; the story of England’s Forward-in-Faith organization and its dealings, or the dealings of some of its member bishops and clergy, with Rome; and, finally, and perhaps most significantly, the almost completely unpublicized story of the secret discussions between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome and some English Anglican bishops in 2008 and 2009.
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