Today as we rejoice in the Communion of the Saints of God, we might do well also to consider what Bishop Peter Elliott, Australian delegate for Anglicanorum Coetibus has to say in The Messenger about Communion, and our options as Catholic Anglicans.
…it is a matter of some urgency to clarify the options that confront traditional Anglo-Catholics at this time. At first sight there seem to be four options: 1. Rome, via the Ordinariate or by personal reconciliation; 2. Eastern Orthodoxy; 3. the Continuing Anglicans; and, 4. remaining in communion with Canterbury.
However these options fall into two groups. If you take either of the first two options, you are entering communion with traditional apostolic Churches which understand the Church in terms of communion. In the second two options you are either joining some form of independent association of continuing Anglicans or you are choosing to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The key word is “communion”. On that we can all agree. Across the four options, in varying degrees, this is a shared understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church. But communion as a visible reality depends on bishops.
He turns his searchlight on the option of hanging on at all costs; the option being encouraged, it seems, by the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid:
An ecclesiology of communion also throws light on the last option, that is, when some Anglo-Catholics choose, even reluctantly, to remain in communion with Canterbury, “come what may” as they say. Note that I only refer to convinced traditional Anglo-Catholics. I do not include those Anglicans who, in conscience, do not hold to the necessity of apostolic order as taught by the Tractarians and their successors, that is, that bishops are of the esse of the Church.
Hard questions can be asked. Could it be said that Anglo-Catholics who choose “to remain” have embraced congregationalism? Do they contradict their own Tractarian insistence on “our apostolic descent”? Are they now saying that the Church is a collection of local congregations of those who maintain Catholic doctrine and sacramental practices? In this perspective, each parish becomes a Church in itself. But how can that be? What would St Paul, St Ignatius of Antioch and all the Fathers of East and West, say about this?
The vicar and parishioners can dig in and hold on, but others may ask whether they are in “the trenches” — or just down a bunker? They can ignore the bishop and persistently regard their parish as a Church in itself, but whether they like it or not, official Anglicanism carefully maintains the forms of apostolic order. Inevitably the day will come when empirical reality conquers. The vicar will retire or die and. because this is pretend congregationalism, the parishioners know that they have no authority to provide a successor. Then the bishop they pretended did not exist, will act. He or she will send them a vicar not of their choosing or even close their church. Do not these sad projections expose the unreality of the fourth option –when chosen by traditional Anglo-Catholics?
I would encourage you to read Bishop Peter's entire piece: but here is how he speaks towards the end of it about the practical steps needed for those considering the Ordinariate:
The steps towards establishing Ordinariates in the United Kingdom, the US, Canada and Australia are well under way. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has recently approved programs of preparation for the laity and formation for the clergy who intend to be reconciled through the Ordinariate. Here the key resource is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Clergy will also need to familiarise themselves with the magisterial sources for systematic and moral theology and the Code of Canon Law. The “magisterium at your finger tips” may be found in an excellent series of paperback volumes, Precis of Official Catholic Teaching, obtainable from the United States. These handy books take us into the living teaching voice of the Popes and Councils. I also recommend the new United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.
To establish the Ordinariates, two stages are envisaged next year: 1. the reconciliation and ordination of clergy who have applied for Orders in the Ordinariate and been accepted, then 2. at a later date, the first reconciliations of the lay faithful. The clergy will therefore be in place to welcome and minister to former Anglicans in a community that maintains the familiar Anglican patrimony of worship, spirituality, scholarship and pastoral care. We saw how that patrimony has enriched English Catholicism during the magnificent papal visit to Scotland and England, particularly during the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman.
More concrete details will appear soon. I believe the model will be set by what proceeds in the United Kingdom in terms of a clear time line built around the two stages. However, at present it is important to keep informed, for example through circles such as the Friends of the Ordinariate.
Read the entire essay at The Messenger.