Robin Davies: A Prayer Book Catholic view of the Ordinariate

27 04 2011

Robin Davies is chairman of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, treasurer of the Anglican Association and former Editorial Secretary of the Anglican Society. He writes in the Easter 2011 edition of The Church Observer [PDF], the journal of The Church Union.

No one who has had any involvement in the ecclesiastical trench warfare that has characterised the Church of England for as long as one can remember can have anything but sympathy for those who have had enough and accepted Pope Benedict’s initiative. Nor can one not warm to the enthusiasm with which they embark on their new pilgrimage. Christianity in this country is under threat from militant secularism and it is doubtful if the Church of England has the cohesiveness essential to resist it. In contrast we see in Rome a body which, partly through the semi-independent organizations, some lay-led such as Focalare and some priestly such as Opus Dei, has provided itself with a means of revitalisation.

But the admiration many feel for the present pope and his predecessor cannot hide the inadequacies of the scheme provided. The inherent difficulty is that it does not meet the long-established criterion of ‘united but not absorbed’. Absorption is precisely what is on offer. Those joining become Roman Catholics accepting all their teaching. What this means is the subject of the Anglican Association booklet ‘Is the Ordinariate for you?’ Its only gesture to ex-Anglicans is to allow them to join as a group and to preserve certain (largely undefined) elements of ‘the Anglican Patrimony’- the only part of which to be defined is about married clergy.

What is ‘Anglican Patrimony’? The Anglo-Catholic movement has always had two distinctive strands, the English or Prayer Book Catholic, loyal to the Prayer Book (once represented by the Alcuin Club and the Anglican Society) and the ‘Anglo-Papalist’ (see ‘Anglican Papalism’ by Michael Yelton Canterbury Press 2005) looking to Rome seeing its membership as being of two provinces of the Western Church from which we were in schism and to which we should return, hence a predisposition to follow the lead of Rome in matters such as liturgy. It is difficult to see what Anglican Patrimony means to them apart from perhaps a liking for Choral Evensong, their liturgy and spirituality being barely distinguishable from those of their Roman brethren.

So what do they think they are taking with them to Rome except their wives? More to the point what does Rome think they are bringing? Then there are issues of practicality. Will congregations wish to become Roman Catholics and leave their buildings when they could have converted at any time in the past, particularly after the events of 1992/4?

If the answer is because there is now no hope of the Church of England ever becoming sufficiently Catholic as a corporate body to become reconciled to the Holy See one can only marvel at their past self-delusion. And if the answer is the change in the nature of the episcopate one can point to the long history of selective adherence to the authority of bishops – at worst a sinister figure to be avoided as being in apostolic succession from Judas Iscariot, at best to be ignored.

The simple fact is that the great majority will not leave and what is needed is provision for them should the present plans go through as they stand. The Prayer Book Catholic has not hitherto felt the need for Roman approval seeing the Church of England (at least until 1992) as one local manifestation of the Universal Church.  It was as much Catholic as Rome or Orthodox as Constantinople because in the words of Dr Pusey (it had) ‘from the Reformation held implicitly, in purpose of heart, all which the ancient Church ever held.’

What components might the English Catholic believe should be included in the Anglican Patrimony? In liturgy, the Prayer Book of Cranmer in its various editions (especially the latest in England, that of 1928/1966) particularly the Collects and Evensong, the psalms of Coverdale and the Authorised or Revised Standard Versions of the Bible; but also the Coverdale translation of the Gregorian Canon and its own martyrology to include King Charles and William Laud In spirituality, the monastic tradition and the writings of George Herbert and William Law. In history, the cult of King Charles the Martyr and the spirit of the Oxford Movement.

In music the hymns of Wesley, Cathedral chant and the anthems of Stainer In architecture, the work of Sir Ninian Comper. And what of doctrine? At the Central Hall Westminster Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher said on 30th January 1951 that Anglicans possess “the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds and those Creeds we hold without addition or diminution”. That has often been taken as a basic summary leaving only the question of how this is interpreted for today without a magisterium with a teaching authority.

From the English Catholic side came several distinguished writers in whose works one might find the answers – Vernon Staley and CB Moss in the past; Raymond Chapman and Arthur Middleton in more recent years. One book from the American continuing church movement is particularly worthy of note: ‘Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice’ by Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church. One of the few Roman Catholic writers to explore Anglicanism is Aidan Nicholls OP [sic], author of ‘the Panther and the Hind’. (1993)

His hope was for ‘an Anglican Uniate community … with its own canonical structure, liturgical books, parishes and means of priestly formation (which would) enrich Roman Catholicism with its own theological patrimony … and fulfil the role of bridge-church between Canterbury and Rome.’

Is this the Ordinariate? Uniatism means compatibility with Rome not absorption by it. Indeed Fr Nichols has recently said he ‘would have preferred the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Ceotibus [sic] had gone further than the Personal Ordinariate structure it calls for and instead created the Western equivalent of a Catholic Eastern Church.’ (Canadian Catholic News 18.3.11). Those particularly honoured by the Oxford Movement appealed always to the doctrine and practice of the Undivided Universal Church. As Lancelot Andrewes put it, ‘One canon… two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of the Fathers in that period … determine the boundary of our faith.’ Slightly later,  in the words of a biographer, Archbishop Laud saw the Eastern Church as ‘truly Catholic in faith and works, retaining undoubtedly the apostolic tradition and ministry, and yet independent of Rome.’ Deposed of his see by Protestant King Billy and his Dutch army, Thomas Ken, Non-Juring Bishop of Bath and Wells,  wrote in his will that he died ‘in the Holy Catholick and Apostolic Faith professed by the whole Church, before the disunion of East and West; more particularly I die in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan Innovations … ’

A desire to be independent of Rome did not mean a lack of interest in Christian unity. English Catholics sought reunion first with the Old Catholics, (achieved with the 1931 Bonn Agreement) and then the Orthodox receiving some encouragement in the interwar period from both Constantinople and individual Orthodox churches who acknowledged the validity of Anglican orders.

In those halcyon days when the limits of Biblical revision were the Revised Standard Version, when in the words of the founder of the Anglican Society Adeane Byard ‘the Prayer Book was the standard we all deviated from’ and South Bank religion was still a gleam in Screwtape’s eye. Perhaps that was not totally self-delusional. Indeed bodies such as the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association and the Anglo-Orthodox Society continued to believe in the compatibility of Traditional Anglicanism and Orthodoxy at least until 1992.

However more recent controversies suggest that the diversity of belief (or lack of it) and practice is such that the Church of England is more an ecclesiastical National Trust than a church and the Anglican Communion is certainly not a communion in the theological meaning of the word. Are these liturgical elements suggested for the Anglican Patrimony mere ‘romanticism and nostalgia for the past’ to quote Pope Benedict (in ‘the Spirit of the Liturgy’ Ignatius Press 2000)?

Certainly, he for one does not seem to think so having re-authorised the Old Roman Rite as the Extraordinary Form in the hope of seeing its wider use and encouraging such bodies as the Fraternity of St. Peter who adhere to it exclusively. It is after all both in the tradition of both the Western and Eastern Churches for worship to be at least partly in a distinctive language.

And certainly Rome cannot be against ‘Tudor (or liturgical) English’ in principle because in 1980 Pope John Paul II promulgated the Pastoral Provision allowing the establishment of Anglican Use parishes in the United States its liturgical manual, the Book of Divine Worship, (Newman House Press 2003) included both a modern and a traditional language rite. Neither is the Pope any keener on that other fruit of the Vatican II liturgical reforms, the westward position, commending a critique of this practice (‘Turning to the Lord’ by Uwe Lang. Ignatius Press 2004)

The Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger often wrote of the battle against relativism, indifference and unbelief, of the battle for Europe’s soul. (Such as in ‘Without roots’ Basic Books 2006) Should we not accept the loss of our cherished traditions to join in this battle? Yet it is not an easy thing to abandon the faith that forged the English speaking world and produced such cultural treasures as the King James Bible, some great church music and the literature of writers such as William Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy Sayers. Nor is it entirely up to us to accept Rome’s post-Reformation accretions to the core of the faith such as the Marian dogmas.

Cardinal Kaspar’s address to the last Lambeth Conference asking what kind of Anglicanism we wanted to offer the universal Church was directed alas at an audience that was not listening. Neither does it seem was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for had it done so it would have produced a scheme which could have been so much better.


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