jQuery Slider

You are here

What is over? You may ask - Robert Hart

What is over? You may ask

Robert Hart on the future of the Ordinariate
Special to Virtueonline.org
May 16, 2011

It would be a fair question. What was I saying by stating that it is over?

Last week, the angry letter of Abp. Hepworth to Bp. Peter Elliot, concerning the situation in Canada, was the silent explosion inside the great dam. In Force Ten from Navarone, Robert Shaw (playing Gregory Peck-sort of) becomes quickly agitated when nothing appears to have happened, after risking his life to plant explosions in a dam. He demands to know, from Edward Fox (playing David Niven-sort of), why the damn dam did not blow up. "Wait for it," replies the calm explosive expert. As they watch, bit by bit, the dam leaks until it falls apart, and the flood breaks loose on a bridge down river (their intended target) destroying it entirely. The explosion was not noticeable from a distance, but after a few minutes it did its work.

Such an explosion occurred with the Hepworth letter. The proverbial it is over.

A comment was posted by one of our Continuum readers (who uses the handle AFS1970), part of which says: "Well it seems at the very least that the situation here in the US and the situation in Canada are different...Where the problem lies, and it appears that this is a big part of the Canada issue is that there are some who heard about Anglicanorum Coetibus, let others read it for them, then took those others at their word as to the contents of Rome's generous offer. For their part Rome seems quite surprised at what some folks think is in this offer."

I believe that diagnosis is right; but I would not apply it only to Canada. The same problem of misinformation aboutAnglicanourm Coetibus exists everywhere that the Hepworth spin has been sounded, and it is still fueled by those who will not stop repeating it. The problem, however, is not and never was the Roman offer of Ordinariates in and of itself. And, although we who write for The Continuum have made it clear over and over that the target of our criticism was the misinformation rather than the Roman constitution, it seems that the spin meisters and their trusting followers have yet to understand what we have been writing and posting since September 2009.

What the Hepworth letter reveals is the true meaning of Anglicanorum Coetibus, and the fact that Hepworth is only now admitting something of the reality. His pretense, that he is surprised and angry, does not outweigh the revelation that Anglicanorum Coetibus actually means what it says. Simply put, it is just as Archbishop Haverland (Metropolitan of the ACC-OP) said:

"This Constitution, as best one can judge from the Note, mainly will do two new things: First, it will extend internationally terms offered already to some in North American by the Pastoral Provision and by the Book of Divine Worship. The Pastoral Provision permits ordination as Roman Catholic priests for some married, formerly Anglican clergy who join the Roman Catholic Church, and this despite the general Roman demand for clerical celibacy. The Book of Divine Worship contains some liturgical forms which have sources in the Anglican tradition: the so-called Anglican Use."

On The Continuum we began to explain the details of what the new Roman Constitution actually says; and, it is exactly what Archbishop Haverland described. The reaction to our work was cries and howls of protest from Orlando, that is, from the Former Anglican blog (so dishonestly named The Anglo-Catholic), at the time used by Hepworth, and ACA bishops such as Falk and Campese when it suited them, and denounced by some when it did not suit them.

How could we say that this new constitution offered no new terms for Anglicans seeking to be "reunited" with Rome? How could we argue that the Hepworth-Falk-Campese spin is wrong, and that all that the new constitution describes is simply the same old Pastoral Provisions established by Pope John-Paul II years earlier, with nothing other than an ordinariate to take away the option of diocesan bishops to block those provisions? How could we dare to argue that Hepworth et al's promises were the product of their own fevered imaginations?

We made our argument because the language of that new constitution is perfectly clear to the educated reader. Furthermore, the references to Roman Catholic Canon Law contained within it remove any possibility of an alternate interpretation. The problem is that while Rome has simply made a little more room for their existing provisions, the Hepworth-Falk-Campese-Orlando bloggers version was as "creative" as a Rasil Bathrobe Sherlock Holmes movie (or was that Basil Rathbone?) or the Walt Disney version of Alice In Wonderland - that is, a version so corrupt that the author would never recognize it. The problem may be further complicated by any person, no matter how impressive his office, who claims to represent the Church of Rome by making his own personal promises of things that exceed the clear language in Anglicanorum Coetibus.

Singin' the One Trues Blues

Now, will some effort at establishing an Ordinariate in the United States come to a screeching halt? Will it even come to a screeching halt in Canada? Probably not. For some time to come the meetings and discussions will go on, inasmuch as the Roman Catholic denomination treats all other Christians as a mission field, to be converted to the Onest and Truest of the Two One True Churches - and more's the pity since that basic misunderstanding of who we are blocks any potential progress to genuine unity in God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The tragedy is that some modern Anglicans, who fancy themselves "Anglo-Catholic" in sort of the same way some mental patients may fancy themselves to be Napoleon, also think we should all surrender to Rome's enormous claims, and accept both its good points and its bad points (including a few theological errors) as infallible. In fact, as long as Rome and Orthodoxy treat us like a mission field, that is as people who need to be converted to one or the other of the Two One Trues, they forestall any serious discussion.

We do not need conversion to either of them. We would like for them both to discuss theology with us on a serious level, to lay down their outrageous exclusive claims, and join with us and with each other humbly, and to do so with a desire to know the truth of the Gospel. Until then, we are not interested in seeking communion with either of them on their unacceptable terms. The need for clear communication still exists, not a headlong rush to some poor substitute for realunity.

The big mismatch

One irony is that Anglicanorum Coetibus is not about unity at all, despite the Hepworth-Falk-Campese-Former Anglican hype, but about terms of conversion to Roman Catholicism. People convert to their church all the time, while people from their church join our church all the time too. None of that movement is the great grand Unity that allegedly fulfills the Lord's words in John 17 ("that they may all be one"). Some Anglicans go for the Pastoral Provisions and "Anglican" Use, namely Novus Ordo in Elizabethan English - which hardly amounts to "Anglican Patrimony."

Another very big irony is the huge mismatch. The whole idea of Roman gestures to Anglicans, which includes the entire Pastoral Provisions and Elizabethan Lingo Use (to be more accurate), along with its extension through Anglicanorum Cioetibus, was because of the apostasy and heresy of churches in the official Canterbury HQ'ed Anglican Communion. They have women clergy, same-sex blessings, unrecognizable "liturgy" and every wind of doctrine.

But, just what does any of that have to do with any church that professes the Affirmation of St. Louis? Continuing Anglicans do not need to flee anything. We did that in 1977. Application of Anglicanorum Coetibus to any church that claims, as the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) has always claimed, independence from that apostasy based on the stand taken at St. Louis in 1977, is an obvious mismatch. At best, it is like addressing the problem of slavery in Egypt to those who are already settling in the Promised Land.

If people want to go on with the Ordinariate idea, they are free to do so. But, it should not be about their muddled notion of "Anglican Patrimony." It should not be with unrealistic notions that Rome will compromise its position on sacraments (even though their official notion about Anglican Orders is flawed), or that the new "Apostolic Constitution" promises all sorts of goodies that exceed its provisions. It should be with an accurate view based on individual belief in the doctrines of Roman Catholicism. And, it is entirely immoral for any bishop or rector to pressure people into joining the RCC through an ordinariate on the utterly false claim that it is necessary, somehow, for unity.

Married former Anglican clergy will, after each waits a while, continue to be "ordained" as Roman Catholic priests. Yes, some of the RCC representatives probably do intend to protect the real estate currently owned by TAC parishes; but, once the real estate becomes the property of the dioceses, neither the parishes nor the ordinaries (excluding Diocesan Ordinaries) will be able to control their fate. Guarantees have been made, we are told, by people who simply will not have the power to keep their promises. But, they very well may want to do what they promise. Yes, a bit of ordinariate stuff will go on.

Nonetheless, Rome itself has laid its cards on the table all along. Hepworth claims that he is only now finding out how that applies to Canada. More revelations will "shock, shock" the spin meisters and upset the heretofore gullible; but, what actually can happen is simply the extension Rome meant to provide for. That is all. It is not worth all the shouting down under. The dam has suffered a terminal explosion, a mortal wound. The spin is what cannot go on once the water floods the bridge.

---Robert Hart is the rector of St. Benedict's Anglican Church (ACC-OP) in Chapel Hills, NC; a contributing editor of Touchstone magazine, and frequent writer for The Continuum blog.

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top