Saturday, 13 March 2010

(Anglican) Catholics or (Catholic) Anglicans?

The blog of the Oxford University Newman Society reports a visit to speak by the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, one of the "flying bishops" responsible for the care of Anglican parishes that do not accept the ministry of women priests. This does make interesting reading. One wonders whether such an event would have taken place before Anglicanorum Coetibus, and can recognise that the said Apostolic Constitution has made possible a greater openness in the relationship between Catholic minded Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Burnham, for example, appears to have spoken about an "Anglo-Papalist" position that had as its intent working within the Church of England to work towards the unification of the Church of England with the Holy See.

But the post on the Newman Society blog appears to recognise some of the difficulties with the idea of establishing an Anglican Ordinariate in England. The first is whether or not there is a sufficiently single identity among Anglo-Catholics to represent a corporate body that could be the basis of an Ordinariate. Bishop Burnham has seen it as part of his task to promote this unity in his work with parishes under his care; and the blog post's use of the word "idiosyncratic" (I assume taken from the discussion at their meeting - corrections in the comment box if I have misunderstood this) indicates something of the challenge of this. The second, and not unconnected difficulty, is that of identifying an Anglican patrimony that would be distinctive to the Ordinariate. As Bishop Burnham appears to have pointed out, many of the parishes under his care are already using the 1970 Roman Missal (and a pastoral letter on the Ebbsfleet website makes reference to "new texts" appearing, presumably a reference to the new English translations). The third difficulty emerges implicitly in Bishop Burnham's remarks. He observes that it would be typical of the parishes under his care for someone, if they could not attend their usual service on a Sunday, to not go to Church at all. The understanding of ecclesial communion that this reflects is not necessarily that which would be intended in establishing an Anglican Ordinariate. It is, so far as I can see, a question of whether the Ordinariate is seen by its potential members as a Catholic version of the "flying bishops" model, to be taken up if the Church of England does not make an acceptable provision to cope with women bishops; or whether it is seen as a genuine communion with the Holy See and with those other dioceses in communion with the Holy See.  This is a question going back to the intentions of what Bishop Burnham called the "Anglo-Papalist" position in the Church of England. The idea of an Ordinariate creates a possibility of a partial fulfilment of this intention through elements of corporate reunion, but it would be quite wrong to see such a partial fulfilment as an establishing of an "Anglo-Papalist" Ordinariate that can, in some way, keep its Anglican idea of ecclesial communion, what one might call a Catholic Anglicanism.

Whilst it is certainly appropriate to be welcoming towards those like Bishop Burnham who are considering their positions within the Church of England, and the invitation to speak to the Oxford University Newman Society is a good example of this in practice, I think it is important to recognise that an Anglican Ordinariate is about (Anglican) Catholicism and not (Catholic) Anglicanism.

No comments: