Andy Hawes offers the rationale behind the Anglican Association’s new pamphlet

It was said in the last century that the ‘average Englishman did not have any strong religious views save one; that he was not a Roman Catholic!’ The Anglican Association has been accused by some of stirring up ‘anti-papist sentiment’ and of producing a document for ‘protestant public schoolboys’. This little essay may have thrown cold water over some suffering from ‘Rome fever’ but it certainly does not merit such a strong and unreasonable response.

It does what it says on the tin – it provides a robust Anglican critique of Roman Catholicism. What else would one expect from an organization called the ‘Anglican Association’? It is certainly not ‘propaganda’ and is available only to those who request it, and is designed to meet a pastoral need arising from the widespread confusion that at present exists regarding the emerging situations in both the Church of England and the newly established Ordinariate.

Truth and unity

The essay has been accused of being ‘out of date’. This is largely due to being heavily reliant on C.B. Moss’s The Christian Faith, first published in 1943 and then in 1957 (a debt readily acknowledged). This book did, of course, predate the Second Vatican Council and the convergence of liturgical practice that was the achievement of the ecumenical liturgical movement of the Sixties and Seventies. It was also ignorant of the ARCIC discussions. The essay has been careful to bear all this in mind and provides the reader with copious references to late twentieth-century and early twentyfirst-century theological commentary. The truth is that despite the progress made in ARCIC, and the very similar liturgical language and practice of modern Anglican and Roman Catholic parishes, the ARCIC process has been torpedoed by the unilateral actions of the Anglican Communion without any of the problems tackled in the essay being resolved. That is the tragic reality in which we live, and it serves God or man no good whatsoever to ignore the real divisions that exist. As Forward in Faith’s mission statement states, ‘truth and unity’ belong together.

Not the sole arbiter

The classical Anglican ‘theological method’ which the essay represents is one that looks to Scripture and the belief and practice of the undivided Church as providing the limits of Orthodoxy. Indeed many of the questions raised about Roman Catholic Doctrine on the primacy of Peter, the Immaculate Conception and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist would be echoed by Orthodox theologians. They would agree with members of the Anglican Association that the Roman Catholic Church is not the sole source or arbiter of the ‘Catholic Faith’.

It is one of the ironies of this situation that in the same way Pope Benedict looks over the shoulder of the Ordinariate to the search for a means of reunion with the Orthodox Church (this is seen particularly in the prohibition of married priests becoming bishops), the Anglican Church has always looked over Rome to Constantinople and has, historically, always had much more fruitful dialogue with Orthodoxy because of its reliance on the same theological foundations.

A different ecclesial culture

The scope of the essay confines itself to the doctrines that are expressed in the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. It does not raise any of the other areas that those exploring full communion with Rome ought to consider. These might include a reflection on the very different ecclesial culture of the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglican convert moves from a Church established by law to a Faith protected by law. The Second Vatican Council did much to respond to the clarion call to end ‘clericalism, legalism and triumphalism’ but much remains which is ‘foreign’ to those formed by the parishes of the Church of England.

At the time of writing there is still much unknown about the life of the Ordinariate – what will be the Anglican Patrimony as expressed in its liturgy and common life that will emerge? How will it be led to play a part in the Apostolic ministry of the Church? Will it survive as a recognizable ecclesial entity? In the same way it is not at all clear if the final solution of the General Synod will be the expulsion of those who are orthodox within the Church of England. These are uncertain times and within them any clear thinking is to be welcomed and valued. This essay in its direct and open style is certainly that!

Process of discernment

The essay is intended to be a contribution in the process of discernment for those who are seeking a way to live an orthodox life in contemporary England. It is intended to be helpful and pastoral to those who are struggling to find a next step. It is not in any way critical of those who have become Roman Catholics or those who are intending to. Recent experience should remind all readers of this magazine that no one can gainsay the work of the Holy Spirit and there are several members of the Ordinariate who only a few years ago would have shared the reservations of the Anglican Association. It is the clear responsibility of us all to be prayerful, attentive to God’s Word and preserve the ‘unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace’. Let us pray that all we decide to do and be will further God’s Kingdom and give him the Glory. ND