In March, the Anglican Association published the pamphlet, Is the Ordinariate for You? Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans about the Ordinariate Proposals contained in and offered by “Anglicanorum Coetibus”.
It represents a missed opportunity to make a positive case for Anglicanism and especialy the Church of England – its belief, polity and patrimony – in the reality of a new situation which has utterly pervaded its life and direction from now on. Thankfully at ARCIC III, Anglicans and Catholics together, mandated by their respective authorities, are addressing these questions as, 50 or so years on, the dialogue towards unity has run so deep, that the true natures of our Chuches’ respective identities and different theological perspectives and beliefs are at last revealed. As Cardinal Kasper once observed, echoing the Decree on Ecumenism, now that we see more clearly where the other stands, and express more profoundly and clearly where we ourselves stand, the dialogue towards unity can begin again in earnest.
Sadly, given these immense and hopeful opportunities for reconciliation in visible unity – and common life and collaboration in the meantime -, Is the Ordinariate for You? has nothing to offer for the task in hand. Instead it is an exercise in presenting Catholicism and Anglicanism as rivals with competing claims. And in failing to make a positive case for Anglicanism, especially the assertion of an orthodox Classic Anglican theological position and a survey of its distinctive historic, religious, theological and litrugical patrimony, it can only define its Anglicanism in terms of the Catholicism it is rejecting.
This is fundamentally a Protestant starting point, but not one that members of the Free Churches and many Anglican Evangelicals now in the end share, ever since the age of ecumenism dawned. If this essay is the presentation by proud, confessing Anglicans that their Church is the best of all, then it falls short and deprives the other Churches ecumenically of a potentially valuable reflection. Instead, if it is the assertion of an old Anglican High Church conviction that the Anglican Church is “Catholic but Reformed”, it makes no other case than that it is actually “Reformed but with Catholic features”. Yet this sense of contrast and confrontation is not the spirit into which the Catholic Church enters into dialogue with the Anglican Communion in the present age, as both seek to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Church where they are (as the Pope once said of ecumenical work) and thus their deeper unity in Christ.
The integrity of Anglican church life and belief as they have now developed deserve a better Apologetic in the field of ecumenical encounter and dialogue than can be taken from the Anglican Association. Here is the Catholic League’s Ecumenical Response.