Geoffrey Kirk on the Anglican Association pamphlet

9 06 2011

The Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk, sometime Secretary of Forward in Faith, reviews the pamphlet Is the Ordinariate for you? Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans, produced by the Anglican Association in this month’s New Directions.

This well-produced pamphlet sets out, in its own words ‘to ensure that, if you are in the process of deciding whether you should accept the Roman Catholic faith, you should fully understand what such a decision will entail’. It is not a defence of Anglicanism (with which most of its authors are more or less radically disgruntled) but a dissuasive against Catholicism, which the same authors view with a detached and patrician disdain. They simply cannot credit that so many people buy such tosh.

‘Thoughtful Anglicans’ will be surprised less by the contents of this paper – with most of which they will be familiar from books and articles dating from the middle of the last century – than by its omissions. They will, perhaps, find this caricature of Catholic Faith not only dated but unrecognizable.

This is an account which majors on the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council and nowhere mentions the second. It quotes in full the Professio Fidei Tridentina of 1565 (the so-called Creed of Pope Paul IV), and does not even acknowledge the existence of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1994.

This might be thought to be slovenly were it not for the nagging suspicion that it is deliberate. Rome, for the authors of this pamphlet, is not the Scarlet Woman (who might at least be challenging or interesting), but a comfortable old Aunt Sally at whom can be shied all the old reliable brickbats.

It is hard to see how any of this will be helpful to ‘thoughtful Anglicans’, for it signally fails to address the very questions they might be asking: questions which are as much about the Churches of the Reformation as they are about the Church of the Counter-Reformation.

Papal infallibility is no greater issue for many than Synodical infallibility (and perhaps less so, since the one is defined and limited, the other still untrammelled and expansionist). Appeals to the authority of the undivided Church sound hollow indeed when unilateral changes are made to the orders of that Church – changes which the Roman Pontiff asserts to be beyond his competence and authority.

In short this is a sad little book, which reeks of past controversies and offers little if anything to the crisis of the times. If Victor Meldrew were a churchman, this is the pamphlet he would write.

Non-UK readers may wish to know who Victor Meldrew is. Click here.