Since the July votes of the General Synod with regard to the admission of women as bishops in the Church of England, Bishop Andrew has begun a series of three pastoral letters reflecting on the situation of Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England. The August letter was the first, the September letter has just been published and the October letter is still to come.
For Roman Catholic readers, I think that the September letter provides a very informative account of, and insight in to, the position of the Catholic wing of the Church of England at the present time. Do read the whole. There are a three rather lively points tucked away in the text. The first of these is an aside, whose brackets I retain below:
(It is hard to build a Catholic ecclesiology, incidentally, on a system which allows priests and deacons to vote down the attempts of archbishops and bishops in areas of Faith and Order. Are the procedures of General Synod in any sense ‘Catholic’?)Quite, and, one wonders whether or not this is really the core question, the question of authority with regard to the substance of belief and practice.
It is only in his last paragraph that Bishop Andrew Burnham refers to Anglicanorum Coetibus, and it is interesting to see how he understands the offer of Anglican ordinariates in the present situation of the Church of England:
Some of you will now be asking why I am picking at the carcase rather than just declaring it dead and moving on to embrace the offer of Pope Benedict XVI to Anglicans in Anglicanorum cœtibus. The Pope’s offer is not a bargain basement sale. It isn’t ‘clearance’ or ‘end of roll’ or ‘while stocks last’. Nor is it a rescue plan for shipwrecked Anglo-catholics. It is a way of pursuing the ecumenical journey to which we have been committed for a very long time and it must be considered in its own right. That I propose to do in a third Pastoral Letter in October, the third in a series of letters.I must admit to liking the turn of phrase "clearance", "end of roll" etc, and am very comfortable with the thought of Bishop Andrew expressing thinsgs in this way; I suspect that some Roman Catholics might think it a bit off hand. I do think that Bishop Andrew is absolutely right to separate the question of an ordinariate from that of departure from the Church of England prompted by decisions with regard to the question of women bishops (or with regard to any other specific, single issue, for that matter). From the Roman Catholic side, I think it is quite wrong to be looking forward to the establishment of an ordinariate simply in response to the ordination of women in the Church of England, and therefore to the welcoming at some point in the next one or two years of an "influx" of former Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church. Some media comment has referred to former Anglicans "joining" an ordinariate - but that, too, is not the situation. There is first of all the possibility of several ordinariates, and in the second place such ordinariates have to be set up as the former Anglican community enters the Roman Catholic Church.
The third lively point is also in the last paragraph of the letter, and it suggests a most interesting implication of the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain:
Meanwhile I think we continue to pray, reflect, and rest, and, of course, ponder and reflect during the visit of the Pope to England later in September, what we should now do, each one of us. Most of all, as the Holy Father comes among us as the leader of the Christian family, we pray for the coming of the Kingdom and the triumph of the Gospel over the forces of evil and indifference.H/T Luke Coppen.