Let’s call the whole thing off !

Ernest Skublics, now of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, takes a firm line on the copyright of the word ‘Catholic’ and urges his fellow-Anglicans to end the fudge and confusion

What’s an Anglican- Catholic? What’s a French-Canadian, an English-Canadian, a Ukrainian-Canadian? Or, for that matter, a Ukrainian-Catholic?

You could say the first word in each of these hyphenated descriptors is the adjective, the second the noun. So, an Anglican Catholic is rather different from a Catholic Anglican.

Thirty or forty years ago we may have thought the two ways of coupling Anglican’ and ‘Catholic’ amounted to virtually the same thing. With the best of idealist intention we may have been fooling ourselves.

A Catholic Anglican was different from an Evangelical Anglican, because the emphasis, the churchmanship of his Anglicanism was more liturgical, his beliefs a bit more like those of Roman Catholics, but it wasn’t being in communion with any other body beyond the British Isles, or the rest of the Anglican Communion, least of all with the Bishop of Rome, that defined his ‘Catholicism’. He believed in the Branch Theory. There were Roman Catholics, Orthodox Catholics and Anglican Catholics.

Anglican and Ukranian

There is a certain parallel between the development of Anglican Catholicism and Ukrainian Catholicism, which is instructive. The Western, Roman or Latin Church and the Eastern or Greek Church were once in communion, but about a millennium ago drifted apart and fell out of communion with each other. You might say, the one trunk divided into two branches. And that was where the rot set in. Catholic Anglicans would recognise the same pattern in their separation from the rest of the Western, Roman or Latin Church.

But about four centuries ago a large part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, part of the Eastern or Greek communion of Churches, restored communion with the See of Rome, and thus became Ukrainian Catholics, carrying on with their traditions and liturgies much as they had before. They had been Ukrainian Orthodox, now they were Ukrainian Catholics. Of course, if you talk about Ukrainians as an ethnic group or a nation, you can distinguish Orthodox Ukrainians from Catholic Ukrainians, each sharing their Ukrainian nationality or ethnicity, the denomination being merely the adjective, ‘Ukrainian’ the common noun. And so, this brings us to the business of ‘AngloCatholicism’, with which we must, perhaps sadly or nostalgically, part ways. History has moved on. For Anglo-Catholicism falls within the category of ‘Catholic Anglicans’ rather than Anglican Catholics. After Anglicanorum coetibus a choice has to be made.

For if you can enter the Catholic Church, with all your Catholic Anglican patrimony, and you choose not to, you have made it clear that you are not Catholic, because that term designates not only the fullness of the Faith for all of humanity, but also an ecclesiology which makes this wholeness-in-unity the foundation of the being of the Church.

And then you are not a ‘Friend of the Ordinariate’ either.

No Plan B

The time for fudging is over; the time for Plan A and Plan B is over, the time for dragging out our wishful thinking, fantasizing about being able to remain in the Church of England and yet claiming to be Catholic is finished.

The Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith are not Plan B, and they are not a refuge from female bishops, for those who would rather be Anglicans. The Catholic Church is Plan A, and genuine conversion is recognising that it has always been Plan A. Those wishing by preference to remain Anglicans out of communion with the See of Peter have not really accepted the fullness of the Catholic Faith and therefore are not bona fide Catholics.

One thing seems certain to me, and this is that restoring eucharistic communion with and within the Catholic Church under the Bishop of Rome has nothing to do with women bishops, homosexual marriages, or whatever we approve or disapprove of as individuals, though these crises may have been historic graces to wake us up to the need to restore Catholic unity.

Asking to have communion restored is solely a question of having recognised the unique truth and fullest realisation of the Catholic Faith in the Catholic Church, and seeing that as the normative way of salvation in Christ. Hankering after some other separate Church, whether past, present or future, is surely incompatible with the Catholic Faith and the desire for the fullness of Truth. ND