The Anglican Solution: "A product of serene confidence of this Pope" – Hepworth

Today’s edition of “The Australian” carries several stories about the Anglican Solution.

In “Anglicans warned about joining Catholic Church in anger and haste”, Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, gives the wise advice:

[P]eople of either church “should not seek to leave and join the other church because of a particular issue that they may disagree with, but rather express a total acceptance of all that the particular church they are joining stands for. Anger and being disgruntled are not good qualities to bring to a church fellowship.”

Single issues (such as women’s ordination and blessing of same sex unions) ought to represent no more than a “catalyst” in one’s growing enlightenment about the nature of the ecclesial communion to which one belongs, and that it is time to be moving on on one’s journey. But in the final analysis, one should seek membership in an ecclesial communion out of true love for that communion, not hatred or anger for the communion one has left.

The Archbishop also apparently expressed doubt that many Anglicans would join the Catholic Church

“as Anglicans have concerns regarding Papal authority and infallibility, the power of bishops, the lack of a voice for the laity, celibacy as a prescribed format for priesthood, marriage after divorce, understandings regarding the mass” among other things.”

Well, that is no different from saying that most Anglicans are protestants. And he could have added “concerns regarding birth control and abortion” to that list. But some Anglicans are Catholics, at least in spirit, who accept all these doctrines, and so it makes sense for them to seek communion with the Catholic Church. Mind you, for just the same reason, it would be unlikely that there will be much pressure for a “Lutheran Solution” along the same lines as the proposed “Anglican Solution”.

But I am puzzled at Herft’s idea that

the decision by Rome to allow married Anglicans to serve as priests “does raise questions for Rome regarding the celibacy rule”.

Why? Does he not understand that the very basis of the “Anglican Solution” is a respect for differing customs among the various Catholic traditions? The celibacy rule has served the Latin Church astoundingly well over the centuries. It is our particular culture, which will not be threatened by our communion with other Catholic traditions of the West any more than it is challenged by the Catholic traditions of the East. This is how the Catholic Church envisages “unity in diversity”: the unicity is in our doctrine, the diversity is in our customs.

In another article in The Australian (“More roads lead to Rome as divine divide diminishes”), Christopher Pearson interviews Archbishop John Hepworth. He makes the comment that while Anglican Catholics will have a married priesthood:

On the other hand, Anglican Catholics are going to have to relearn the value of the celibate vocation. The TAC already has a number of celibate bishops and celibate communities of priests and nuns, so perhaps the lesson has begun to be learned.

He also comments that :

the ecumenical movement with its dreams of Christian unity has burned out in its first exciting stage, when people believed that churches would indeed find unity and do it soon. Instead they have found friendship and common endeavour but little organic unity. In that climate Rome has been reconsidering the nature and extent of its ecumenical activity.

In fact, what is being reconsidered is, I believe, the methodology of church unity. The methodology of bi-lateral dialgues between Rome and the Protestant communities which has been practieced since the Second Vatican Council has led to a greater understanding of each other’s faith, but not one of these dialogues has actually led to anything as simple as a game-plan for the restoration of visible unity, let alone visible unity as such. There are many protestants who are getting impatient with this situation. Generally this impatience is expressed along the lines of a demand that Catholics allow open communion at the Eucharist with protestants. But the announcement of the “Anglican Solution” this week shows that the Catholic Church is also getting impatient with the dialogical method. As Rev. Dr Charles Sherlock commented in the article mentioned above, “now a single model is to apply across the board”. And that model is NOT a compromise union arising out of dialogue on doctrine, but a complete acceptance of the Catholic faith while retaining the particular diverse customs of the reuniting bodies on both sides.

Thus, Pearson’s question about “How will the Orthodox react to the new arrangements?” is quite approriate. Hepworth’s answer is interesting – although he is wildly wrong about the immanence of the restoration of unity between Rome and Moscow:

Already there are stories circulating that the Patriarch of Moscow has urged his ecumenical negotiators in the Vatican to hurry in order that the Anglicans do not get too far ahead. They’re probably apocryphal, but we do know that the Russian Orthodox Church is very close to achieving unity with Rome. It is the largest of the Orthodox churches of the East. We also know that the Orthodox are watching the Anglican process very closely to try to assess the extent to which Rome is serious about tolerating many different traditions of Christianity within the scope of the Catholic Church. I have had conversations with members of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church about the parallels between their conversations with Rome and ours. Christian unity throughout the world is at a very similar moment. Conversation and co-operation are beginning to evolve into forms of organic unity that still protect diverse Christian traditions of worship and spirituality.

That’s what this is all about, actually. It is, as Hepworth himself states:

“a product of the serene confidence of this Pope, someone who passionately believes that unifying the Christian world is something demanded by God.”

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7 Responses to The Anglican Solution: "A product of serene confidence of this Pope" – Hepworth

  1. I think Herft is right, of course, and I do wonder how many Anglo-Catholics are prepared to assent to Roman Catholic doctrine. In my own discussions with them from time to time, I have uncovered quite a lot of diversity even on such central matters as the Lord’s Supper.

    I also agree that the real significance of this development is what it tells us about changing attitudes in Rome towards ecumenical endeavours. I think you are right, David, there is now going to be a ‘hardening’, if I may put it that way, on the Roman side. How will that effect your work, I wonder?

    And yes, I think Hepworth is way off line with his remarks about the Russian Orthodox, unless the new patriarch is going to surprise everyone, not least his own flock, where deep anti-Papal sentiments exist.

    Btw, over at Bishop Chislett’s blog there is a very interesting post containing some comments by Newman about a similar proposal in the mid 19th C. Although I think he was wrong on many of the large issues, Newman may have been quite prescient on the matter of how Rome would mop up the orthodox remnants of Protestantism left out in the cold by liberalism.

    • Schütz says:

      [The post on Bishop Chislett’s blog to which Mark refers is: (nb. please always give links to anything you mention on the Internet in these comments pages, please).]

      Yes, Newman does seem to have forseen the present situation. The difficulties have not, of course, completely gone away!

      As for a “hardening” of Rome’s position, I think I would prefer it to be called a “concretisation” of the ecumenical goal. Of course, concrete starts off soft, but then becomes rock solid – which may be an image of “binding” from one point of view, but from another is also an image to say that at the outset, it is pliable and soft enough to be molded to the necessary conditions and then “hardens” enough to provide a solid foundation for the future!

      That is how I would see my own work. How can we provide a situation that is “fluid” enough to allow “concrete” advances in Christian unity, but “solid” enough to support a real future for the unity that is thereby achieved. Before concrete is poured, the right mold (or model) has to be put in place first. The final result is dependant upon this. When the mold is removed, the thing has to still hold together.

    • Tony Bartel says:

      “I think Herft is right, of course, and I do wonder how many Anglo-Catholics are prepared to assent to Roman Catholic doctrine. In my own discussions with them from time to time, I have uncovered quite a lot of diversity even on such central matters as the Lord’s Supper.”
      The term Anglo Catholic is quite diverse and would include the following range of people (who I have tried to describe sympathetically from their own perspective):

      1) The High Church – those who have a sacramental theology, who like liturgical worship done decently and in good order, who have a sentimental attachment to Anglicanism, and who believe that episcopacy is of the bene esse (well being) and not the esse (being) of the Church. Those in this camp would not often call themselves Anglo-Catholics, but would be seen as such by some outside the Anglican Church. Many laity would belong to this camp (outside the Diocese of Sydney of course). Members of this group are unlikely to go to Rome.

      2) Prayer Book Catholics – this was the style of Anglicanism that was characterised by the Diocese of Adelaide up until recent times. It insisted on the catholicity of the Anglican reformation and formularies. The 39 Articles, for example, are read in the light of Catholic theology. Liturgically this style was represented by Percy Dearmer who sought to resurrect old English traditions for use in conjunction with the Book of Common Prayer – disdainfully referred to be some as British Museum religion – but in my humble opinion capable of genuine beauty. Theologically this tradition is represented by EJ Bicknell and CB Moss. They would say that historically the Anglican Church is thoroughly Catholic in itself and does not need communion with the Bishop of Rome to make it such. Members of this group are historically unlikely “to Pope” as they would term a conversion to Rome. However, some would be so dismayed by the current state of the Anglican Communion that they would be tempted. In America some from this group have gone to continuing Anglican bodies or to Western rite Orthodoxy (or just to good old fashioned Orthodoxy itself).

      3) The Catholic school – Anglicans who either celebrate the Mass with the Roman Missal in an Anglican style or with Anglican books in a Roman style. This group has longed for unity with the Holy See for a long time and is doctrinally indistinct from the Catholic Church. A majority of members of the Society of the Holy Cross would be in this category. It is not strong in Australia, but would have approximately a thousand priest and thousands of laity in England. This is the group which is most likely to accept the Holy Father’s invitation with alacrity.

      4) Affirming Catholics – liberal Anglicans who attempt to engage the Catholic tradition, but from the perspective of modernity. + Rowan Williams is in this category. Again this group is unlikely to convert.

      Members of category 3 are the ones who have requested this Apostolic Constitution – for example, through the flying Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough in the Church of England, as well as through the Traditional Anglican Communion. As noted this group is not strong in Australia, but has traction in the Church of England. It was shocked by the disdain that it experienced during the English General Synod debate on the ordination of women to the Episcopate. Having been assured for years that they were loyal members of the Church of England, and having seen themselves as such, they were basically told that their dream of a Third Province in the Church of England would not be accepted, that there would be no statutory provision for them (that is real protection of their conscientious position) and that they would only receive the protection of a Code of Practice (which would force them serve under the oversight of female bishops who would delegate some of their functions to male bishops.

      Should category 3 respond in significant numbers, and I think it will in England, both in terms of clergy and laity, then it will have a dramatic effect on the Church of England. Female bishops will become even more of a take it or leave it option and what is left of the catholic movement in the C of E will have the heart torn out of it.

      I think that those who will take up the offer have something to offer the Catholic Church in return (while undeniably they will receive much as well). It will be interesting to watch this development unfold.

      On a personal note, when I was an Anglican I oscillated between category 2 & 3. I obviously ended up in category 2 and from there went to good old fashioned Byzantine Orthodoxy :-)

      • As another ex-Anglican, I broadly agree with your analysis, Tony, except for two things: in my experience high church folk were not obsessed with self-definition and were not quite so keen to be seen as anglo-catholic (but that may have been a diocesan culture thing); and secondly, it was precisely among the Anglicans whom you denominate as “3) the Catholic school” that the doctrinal variations that I have encountered exist. I put this doen to the fact that Anglicanism has not really had a body of doctrine for centuries, so they are quite eclectic.

        Interestingly, the Anglican diocese nearest me has apparently gone to the Anglican version of the Roman Missal and is subject to the influence of the Society of the Holy Cross.

        • Kiran says:

          I remember feeling squeezed. On the one hand, I didn’t agree with most of the people who I regularly worshipped with on two issues (homosexuality and abortion and I think I had a slightly higher view of the Real Presence, but that wasn’t crucial), and on the other, my own Bishop didn’t think anything happened during the service, and I was a Christian because I believed in the Real Presence. I wanted God to be there, here and now, and I was (and am to a large extent) quite materialistic.

  2. Kiran says:

    Conversion is a process. I can remember back to the time when I decided to give Rome a go, and I hadn’t accepted some very fundamental doctrines (I probably shouldn’t elaborate, for fear of giving scandal). But by the time I was confirmed, I saw that some of my positions didn’t add up, and that all that the Church holds does add up. I have accepted all that the Church teaches that which was taught to me explicitly, and that which I haven’t yet come to know implicitly in accepting Christian tradition as a whole. I don’t know why we should require Anglicans to already know and accept every individual doctrine of the Faith before they start the process. By the way, quite a number of Anglicans are better-catechized and more doctrinally aware and learned than most Catholics.

    • Schütz says:

      Yes, Kiran. As Newman said (quoted by Bishop Chislett): “And thus I reconcile myself to many, many things, and put them into God’s hands.” That has certainly been my experience.

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