The TAC and the Ordinariates: Reflections on a Recent Exchange

My thoughts have been solicited concerning the recent exchange on this blog between Christian Campbell and Fr. John Fleming.  I regret the tone of the exchange, and particularly the perhaps unintended suggestion in Fr. Fleming’s response that Christian may be less aware of some aspects of the “inwardness” of these matters than he is.  I must state my strong doubts about this, for Christian, like I myself, has followed these matters closely for a very long time, and also — in this also like myself — has wide-ranging contacts with both Catholics (in America, Australia, England and elsewhere) and Anglicans (in the TAC and the Church of England) who have been deeply involved in these matters.  It should be emphasized, however, that what I will write here is solely the product of my own reflections.

In the first place, I regret the ambiguities of the phrase “corporate reunion” which Fr. Fleming employed in the exchange when he wrote:

What Archbishop Hepworth’s Pastoral Statement exemplifies is the strong and continuing commitment of TAC bishops to cooperate with the Roman authorities to see Ordinariates implemented while at the same time being strong advocates for “corporate reunion” and being willing to argue for it.

As Anglicanorum Coetibus makes clear by the very use of the word coetus (a Latin noun of the fourth declension of which coetus is both the singular and plural form) or “groups,” the “corporate reunion” which it envisages is one of “groups” of Anglicans at a congregational level, and for “groups,” perhaps, of clergy.  It is most emphatically not a “corporate reunion” either of the TAC at a world-wide level with Rome, nor one of individual TAC provinces or dioceses.  Such forms of “corporate reunion” as these would presuppose Roman recognition of the general validity of “TAC Orders” and this has not happened and will not happen, as the fact that TAC clergy who enter the Catholic Church (as well as Church of England clergy associated with FIF/UK) will be confirmed upon reception and subsequently ordained unconditionally, not conditionally.  In other words, clergy belonging to TAC provinces and dioceses will be received as individuals, even if in groups of individuals, and, while congregations will be received, in many if not most cases, as a group, this reception will be by means of the Sacrament of Confirmation, for both laity and clergy.  I know of no basis in fact for the persistently circulating reports that somehow members of the TAC, both clerical and lay, will be able to slip into the Catholic Church without being confirmed. Wherever ordinariates are erected, they will not be TAC dioceses or, much less, provinces under another name.  I have every confidence that, as Fr. Fleming wrote, Bishop Elliott has been very open to hearing from Archbishop Hepworth and is working well with him and the TAC to bring about an Australian Ordinariate, and I reckon the same to be true of, e.g., Fr. Phillips and other Anglican Use clergy in the United States.  But until I hear to the contrary from these individuals, and others, I will continue to doubt whether they have become advocates of a form of “corporate reunion” specifically tailored to the TAC.

Next, I am puzzled by Archbishop Hepworth’s claim that,

Catholic officials have discovered, I believe, their need to acquire a better and more profound knowledge of contemporary Anglicanism.

Given the long history of Anglican/Catholic ecumenical interactions and, more specifically, of dealings between Rome and the TAC extending back to the early 1990s, I suspect that Rome does indeed have a “profound,” even a fairly “comprehensive” knowledge of “contemporary Anglicanism” — and indeed I may claim that I have added my own “mites” over the years to Rome’s “treasury of knowledge” of these matters, alongside those of many others — not least bishops and clergy of FIF/UK.  It is indeed sad to read the archbishop go on to state There have been times when we have felt excluded; and I can only hope that “felt excluded” is not a substitute for “did not get what we wanted from Rome,” for the issuance of Anglicanorum coetibus itself should have allayed such feelings, just as the imminent beginning of the erection of ordinariates should banish them altogether.

Finally, and in this matter departing from the postings which occasioned it, there is another “rumor” that needs to be addressed, and exorcised.  This concerns the situation of those Anglican clergymen who were once Catholics, and who by a positive act left the Catholic Church to become Anglicans.  I do not expect such individuals to be able to achieve or retain any clerical status or function within the Catholic Church — and much less to serve as Ordinaries. Men who left the Catholic Church as laymen and who were subsequently ordained in an Anglican church will not be eligible for ordination in the Catholic Church, and those who were Catholic priests before becoming Anglicans, if they left the Catholic priesthood to marry, and were formally laicized, will of necessity have to live as laicized Catholic priests once they return to the Church; and if they left, married and became Anglicans without being laicized will have to have their cases dealt with on an individual basis — but, certainly, if they wish to have their marriages sanctioned and validated in the Catholic Church, they, too, will have to live as laicized priests and not expect to exercise a presbyteral ministry.  There is a certain “grey area” here, but it is a narrow one.  Let me give two examples.  An Episcopalian priest of my acquaintance became a Catholic a year ago.  His parents were Episcopalians, but he was born abroad, and very weak and sickly, and he was baptized by a Catholic priest in case he should not live.  He is currently on the road to ordination in the Catholic Church.  Then there is the case of John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham in the Church of England, who will resign before the end of the year, be received into the Catholic Church very early next year and, together with two other bishops of the Church of England, be ordained to the Catholic priesthood before the end of January 2011.  His parents were non-practicing “lapsed” Catholics, but he was baptized in the Catholic Church shortly after his birth.  He had no contact with the Catholic Church as a child and young man, had a “Christian conversion” in an Anglican context as an undergraduate, and was confirmed, and later ordained, in the Church of England.  In neither one of these cases can the individual concerned be said to have “left” the Catholic Church, since they were not raised in it — but for those who were, the case for their future within the clergy of Catholic Church is not evident.  It is ridiculous to think or suppose that individuals who left the Catholic Church to marry and be ordained, or who, if already Catholic priests, left to be married, will be "rewarded" by being allowed to exercise a "vocation" denied to Catholics who remained faithfully within the Church.

Meanwhile in Ottawa: Confirmations!

Bishop Reid asks the candidates for confirmation to stand
Bishop Reid asks the candidates for confirmation to stand.

Another joyous occasion this week in the life of our parish.  Bishop Carl Reid confirmed four people this morning — three from our parish and one from our daughter parish in Spencerville, Ontario.

Our small building was packed.  Sorry, not all the pictures are in chronological order — communion happened after confirmation.

Bishop Carl also anointed the confirmands with rose-scented oil.

The celebrations the last couple of weeks have helped me shed an erroneous belief that has had me feeling a stalled or stuck.  It's this, which I have tended to hear mostly from Anglican converts to Rome who wish to come back when we are officially part of the Catholic Church: that we won't grow until we are part of the Catholic Church because we lack a certain legitimacy.

But not being officially part of the Catholic Church has certainly not stopped Pentecostals and other charismatics or evangelicals from spreading the Good News, so why should we suddenly fold-up shop while we wait?  So it's been good for me to see our clergy carrying on with baptizing and confirming, anointing the sick, preaching the Gospel, discipling new believers and deepening the faith of all of us.

It was so nice to hear how much one of the confirmands, who comes from an evangelical background, enjoyed her exposure to the Catechism in preparation, how much richer her understanding of her faith is now and how much she appreciates the continuity of our worship with that of the church from age to age from the very beginning.

Continue reading "Meanwhile in Ottawa: Confirmations!"