Should I stay or should I go now?

As many consider whether or not they have a future within the CofE, Ed Tomlinson reminds us that our decisions must be based on solid doctrinal reasons rather than personal anxieties

Anglicanorum Coetibus is a turning point in church history and for Anglo-Catholicism in particular. Pope Benedict’s ‘bridge across the Tiber’ leaves little future integrity for Anglo-Papalism and demands candid self-examination from all others who claim the name ‘Catholic’ in an increasingly broken heterodox establishment.

Do we really want union with Rome, as SSC and other Societies have claimed? Or are we deeply Anglican, ‘Sacramental Congregationalists’, happy to pick and choose from Catholic teaching no matter what Anglicanism may throw at us? Lamentably the only other option, belief that the Church of England is itself Catholic, is now exposed as an impossible lie, only to be adopted by the total fantasist.

No wiggle room

Because the details of Anglicanorum Coetibus are now available we can each begin to form our own response. The details reveal an offer that is generous to the extreme as regards custom and traditions but which affords no wiggle room as regards doctrine. This leads to the million dollar question for Catholic Anglicans of this generation: ‘Can I accept this incredible offer and become a Roman Catholic with Anglican patrimony?’ or simply put, ‘should I stay or should I go?’

How we arrive at our answer will prove as important as the decision itself, for our reasoning reveals our spiritual health. To accept/refuse for solid reasons and with integrity will lead to peace of mind, but to base decisions on shoddy thinking, such as cowardice and personal comfort, will prove extraordinarily damaging.

The blogs are proving useful in focusing our attention. Firstly, they unite in acknowledging what a wellmeaning offer this is. Regardless of personal doubts, none can deny that

Anglicanorum Coetibus is presented in love. Secondly, the blogs have begun to tease out the nature of any objections arising. From an early vantage point these can be split into two distinct categories; niggling anxieties that should not affect ultimate decisions and doctrinal difference that certainly should!

Two categories

Fr. Hunwicke’s blog tackled the thorny issue of sex. Can we accept Humanae Vitae without fingers crossed behind backs? This will prove demanding to married people as Roman teaching on contraception requires an impressive ability to check biological clocks or an acceptance of larger families. No small matter for those whose income might be slashed by a decision to move.

Fr Pinnock lists further anxieties arising from the Anglican mind, not least the understandable concerns of the divorced and remarried, for whom conversion might lead to excommunication. This presents a pastoral hurdle for our leadership, who must be relieved that a solution may exist within a church that allows for annulment. Nevertheless such things cannot be promised nor demanded.

And there are implications for homosexuals in sexual relationships. Where the Anglican church moves in a tolerant direction, the Catholic church remains steadfast in asserting that same-sex genital activity is sinful. This presents a painful dilemma for those who relied on an Anglican tendency to turn a blind eye. And there are practical considerations. What will become of vicarages? Will the stipend run dry? The sacrifice demanded of clergy could be enormous; who will be there to assist, love and support when pressure seems overbearing?

It is my opinion that such issues, however demanding, should notdictate ultimate decisions. If ‘Rome is home’ in our heart then we must work to overcome the niggles. Accepting the primacy of Peter does not eradicate doubt, but it can lead to an acceptance of personal struggles and an agreement to tackle them on the other side of the Tiber by use of spiritual direction. Challenges are to be viewed as gifts for they require real obedience from us.

Accepting the struggle

Indeed would we even know what obedience was if we agreed with everything offered? Do not underestimate this point – part of the Anglican sickness is a self-referential autonomy that has no home in the ordinariate. We are used to dictating terms, selecting our personalized brand of Catholicism, but Anglicanorum Coetibus demands we surrender such hubris for good.

But that is not to say there aren’t bigger objections that necessitate refusal. Those who doubt the real presence or Assumption, those who balk at Papal infallibility and believe Roman Catholicism to be faulty, those who are not prepared to live in accordance with her teaching, those who desire autonomy, such people are clearly going to struggle with Anglicanorum Coetibus. Wherever their future lies – and in the present CofE it looks bleak – it is not here.

So should you stay or should you go? Well, if you love the Pope and embrace the Catechism then this is an offer par excellence! But it you are more traditionalist than papist, holding principled Protestant views, then think again. Best get on your knees and keep praying that Synod discovers a heart and brain, and finds a solution that is as gracious for you as Anglicanorum Coetibus is for those it is intended for. I only wish I had confidence in the Church of England to provide it. Over to you, General Synod! ND