The Newman Cause post takes issue with the Tablet's view that Anglicans should feel, and perhaps be made to feel, a sense of "conversion" in being received into the Roman Catholic Church, a sense of rejection of their past. Rather, the post suggests, the Anglican experience is more like that of Newman himself, who had no sense of leaving behind anything from his Anglican life. Instead, what happens is an experience of completion and fulfilment of that Anglican life.
‘Anglo-Catholicism’ is essentially interrogative. Can Anglicanism’s entanglement in the distortions of the Reformation be overcome, so as to vindicate its ‘Catholic credentials’? One remains an ‘Anglo-Catholic’ for as long as one believes that this question can be given an affirmative answer.
The Anglican communities addressed by the Apostolic Constitution have concluded that an affirmative answer is impossible. The Tablet’s desire to impose upon them a model of conversion as ‘transformation’ is irrelevant to their experience. It is Newman’s description of his conversion – ‘it was like coming into port after a rough sea’ – which will better capture these communities’ embrace of Roman Catholicism. For ‘Anglo-Catholics’ typically have the Catholic Faith; what they lack, until they become Roman Catholics, is the Church in which that Faith is truly at home. The Tablet’s own position inverts this progression, and this is why it misunderstands ‘Anglo-Catholicism’ and fears the Apostolic Constitution. The Tablet has the Catholic Church; what it is all too clearly unsure about is whether it wants the Catholic Faith.
As far as individual Anglican's is concerned, they may well find themselves in a position absolutely analagous to that in which Newman found himself, in which case the point being made by the Newman Cause post is quite correct. I do, however, have a couple of reasons for wondering whether, at the corporate level (parish or grouping such as Forward in Faith, Traditional Anglican Communion) the Anglo-Catholic of today really is in the same sort of position as was Newman.
Firstly, a lot of non-Catholic water has passed under the bridge of the Church of England during the years since Newman was alive. The longer the Anglo-Catholic groupings have accepted, or at least tolerated, the non-Catholic practices of women priests etc through participation in the rather artificial mechanisms of "guidance and oversight" from Catholic minded bishops who remain in some sort of essentially sociological communion with bishops who reject their Catholic beliefs; the more they have then come to live an inadequate idea of ecclesial communion that is not Catholic because it lacks reference to unity in belief and moral life. I happen to feel that a conversion (in the sense of move towards fulfilment) may be needed now that was not needed in Newman's time - a conversion in the sense of the ecclesial communion that will be lived in the Catholic Church from that which is lived in Anglicanism. It is not just a question of finding the Church in which the Anglo-Catholic beliefs are really at home; it is now also about having a proper sense of the idea of communion within that Church. The provisions of the Apostolic Constitution could, I think, address this issue more clearly.
And secondly, but not unrelated, is the response of some, notably in Forward in Faith, which suggests that they see the Apostolic Constitution as providing in the Roman Catholic Church exactly the kind of positioning that they have been seeking in the Anglican Church, but which it now looks as if they will not be given there. This seems to me to be a manifestation of an idea of ecclesial communion without reference to unity of belief, and so an inadequate manifestation of such a communion. The position of those in good standing with Anglo-Catholic groupings but whose life situations are at odds with Catholic moral teaching (I'm trying to be diplomatic here) suggests an inadequate living of ecclesial communion from the point of view of unity in moral life.
I think the proof of the pudding will be in the eating of it - as the Bishop of Fulham observed, many Anglo-Catholics may now find that their bluff has been called.
And, as a PS and recognising that I may well not find the time to do it, I think there is a dialogue to be had with the Newman Cause's observations with regard to the nature of dialogue!