All possible questions surrounding the Anglican Apostolic Constitution asked – but yet to be answered

In the last few days, I have been asked many questions about the announced “Apostolic Constitution” making it possible for groups of Anglicans to enter communion with the Holy See while retaining many of their current customs and spirituality. There are many questions and, until the Apostolic Constitution is released, few answers. Even when the official document is released, it may take years before we can see how the whole initiative pans out in practice.

With this in mind, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter provides a complete round up of just about every question that has been asked surrounding new provisions. So, for all the questions – but no answers! – see his article in the NCR here: What the Vatican’s welcome of Anglicans means.

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19 Responses to All possible questions surrounding the Anglican Apostolic Constitution asked – but yet to be answered

  1. Tony says:

    The fact that the detail is coming after the announcement (unusual for the Vatican?) and that one of the most central figures in the mission of unity for the church, +Kasper, was notably missing from proceedings and that Rowan Williams could hardly disguise his surprise at the announcement (‘I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage’*) could be an indication that this decision was done in relative haste by a Pontif known to do that sort of thing and pick up the pieces later (or leave it to others to do that)?

    * see

    • Schütz says:

      Actually, Tony, the word is quite different. If you read John Allen, anyway, and I reckon he is as trustworthy as anyone.

      The fact is that this was not a hasty decision. The Pope has been sitting on the TAC request for almost two years. The sudden announcement smacks more of the fact that there was going to be a leak, and for once the Vatican machine worked quickly and got in before the rumours.

      The very intention this time was not to leave pieces lying about. They have generally been quite successful at that. We have a fairly clear idea of what is being planned. There were bound to be a thousand questions, nonetheless, and I imagine that even the final document won’t sew these all up.

      As for Cardinal Kasper being left out, if you read Allen’s piece, you will find that the real question is not why the ecumenical people were left out but why the Congregation of Bishops wasn’t involved. Kasper was (apparently) out of town at the time of the press conference, so whether it was deliberate, I don’t know. I do think there is wisdom in not mixing this announcement up with his office, though, which must carry on the ever-more difficult task of continuing the dialogue – a difficulty that can hardly be said to have been caused by Rome.

      One comment I read somewhere this morning points out that, if the Anglicans had not gone ahead with women/homosexual bishops/priests, then this could have been an invitation to the entire Anglican family to come back into fellowship with Rome. Worth thinking about, that.

      • Tony says:

        I hope you’re right David.

        On the other point about ‘… if the Anglicans had not …’ seems to be directed at an organisation that operates like the CC. These were issues that were voted on and, you know how it is, giving adults the vote can be so darned uncontrolable!

        • Peregrinus says:

          Sure, they were voted on. But a community doesn’t escape resonsibilty for its decisions, and their consequences, by pointing out that they were arrived at by voting.

          (Rather the opposite, one would think. Catholics in disagreement with the official line on any issue do at least have the luxury of saying “it’s not my fault; I have no influence over this”. Anglicans cannot offer that line with quite so much justification.)

          t’s a bit of an oversimplifcation, but not too much of an oversimplification, to say that Rome is giving the Anglo-Catholics (some of) what the Church of England declined – yes, by a vote in Synod – to give them. And Rome waited for the C of E to address this question first, so there’s no question of anybody stealing a march on anybody else.

          • Tony says:


            I’m not suggesting that decisions are made through votes escape responsibility, it’s just that it’s a different mind set.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Don’t know if you’ve read the article to which David links, Tony, but John Allen suggests the complete opposite – the outline explanation of what is proposed comes before the detailed document, so that they can gauge reactions, see what questions people are asking, etc, and then ensure that those points are addressed in the final product – the Apostolic Constitution – when it is unveiled. And, he suggests, they may be doing this because they have learned lessons from their earlier problems.

      Why wasn’t Rowan Williams informed and involved at an earlier stage? I’m guessing, but probably because they knew he wouldn’t be happy with what they were doing, and the longer and more deeply he was involved with it, the more painful and embarrassing for him, and for all concerned.

      Remember, the bulk of people who take up this opportunity intitially (and, possibly, ever) are going to be already disaffected Anglicans – people who, like the TAC, have already given Canterbury the flick some time ago. It can’t be comfortable for Williams to be asked to be involved in creating a space for these people, since there existence at all is a standing indictment of his own inability to persuade the Anglican Communion to make a space for them.

      Thomson, to be honest, is a bit of a stirrer. At least this way Williams gets to put some polite distance between the Anglican Ordinariates and himself; he’s not (directly) responsible for the Catholic church doing this, and he hasn’t influenced the process. I think he’d be in quite a difficult position if he’d known about this for months past but said nothing, or had even had some influence on the development. As it he, he can simultaneously say that “I didn’t do this” while pointing out that Rome doing this was the foreseeable consequence of the CofE deciding not to do it when they turned down the proposal of a “traditional” (i.e. no women bishops) CofE province.

      • Tony says:

        Thomson, to be honest, is a bit of a stirrer.

        LOL, I’m sure your right about Thomson and I hope your right about the church (learning the lesson that is).

  2. fr john george says:

    nb in discussion of proposed apostolic constitution
    the trajectory is from 1980 decree on anglican usage-AC will modify or ad to this canonical platform

    [these docs are part of the canonical trajectory leading to proposed AC]


  3. Kiran says:

    I thought Allen’s initial reaction was a bit negative. This is a bit more balanced, and very clever too. I like his “reason why”. One thing we haven’t seen is a reaction from the English Catholic bishops. Surely, I would think, some of them (+Kieran Conroy comes to mind) would be hopping mad… On the other side, I would think William Oddie must feel a bit like Abraham….

    Me like Pope Benny’s style!

  4. Joshua says:

    Over at Fr Philip Neri Powell’s blog, he reveals that Abp diNoia had asked all his Dominican friends, priests and lay tertiaries, to pray the Dominican Litany for the intention that the Lord Cardinals would vote in favour of this project last year – and apparently, they did. So there’s some interesting background…

    He also mentions, BTW, that “The word is that they [the incoming Anglicans] will sign copies of the Catechism rather than just make a statement of faith as is the norm now for Anglican converts.”

    • Peregrinus says:

      As stated, this could be a tad misleading if it suggests that there is currently a special rule or practice for Anglican converts. There isn’t. Any baptised Christian being received into full communion makes a profession of faith by reciting (with the assembly) the Nicene Creed and then affirming that “I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” There’s no special rule for Anglicans.

      The suggestion that a special rule is to be introduced, and that it is to one considered to be more rigorous than the “ordinary” rule runs counter to what Brett Salkeld suggests in the post to which David refers above. (Though of course Salkeld could be wrong.) It would also be surprising, if it meant imposing extra hurdles or requirements in the way of Anglicans being received under this new dispensation. This is supposed to smooth the way into communion, not to impose addtional tests and requirements which other Christians don’t face.

      I’d also seriously question the particular test suggested. Hands up anyone who has read the Catechism cover to cover? No, thought not. Why, Rome has even brought out a Reader’s Digest condensed Catechism to meet the demand for something that you can read through. And what is the signficance and symbolism of getting somebody to sign a document which he or she hasn’t read? At the very least, the gesture is open to serious misinterpretation.

      • Joshua says:

        Yes, well, I get your point – the declaration that one believes all that the Church teaches is the standard. However, from comments elsewhere, it appears there may have to be some prior checking that the incoming Anglicans (like all who enter full communion) know what this means: Anglican grasp of doctrinal questions can betray a Protestant mindset of picking and choosing, rather than a Catholic assent to sentire cum Ecclesia. It is a matter of justice for the newcomers themselves – they have a right to know what it means for them. Becoming a Catholic must be a wholehearted assent, not just a making use of a convenient bolt hole.

        • Peregrinus says:

          It’s speculative, but could the “prior checking” focus on the leadership of the reconciling Anglican communities, in the expectation and faith that those leaders will continue to form their communities in Catholic belief, within the church?

          The notion of “signing the Catechism” makes a bit more sense if its done by bishops and priests. If I recall correctly, I read somewhere that the TAC bishops have already signed the Catechism – though I think that this was a gesture offered by them in support of their approach seeking communion, not something which Rome required or suggested.

  5. Joshua says:

    And over at the (rather harsh and extreme) Rorate Cæli blog, commenters apparently “in the know” (?) state that the liturgical book that has been in preparation for these incoming Anglicans for the past two years is the English Missal – which is basically the Traditional Latin Mass in Cranmerian English. Who’s to know if it is true? Only time will tell.

    • PM says:

      Interesting about the English Missal. I suspect there was a touch of lingering Irish sectarianism (and I speak as a descendant of Irish cradle Catholics) in the ICEL’s decision to ignore the 400-year Anglican experience of vernacular liturgy because it was too ‘elitist’. As Eammon Duffy has convincingly argued, Cranmer is for the most part a far better translator of the Roman Missal than the ICEL except when his prejudices about words such as ‘merit’ get in the way. Even the modern Anglican liturgies have made some attempt to preserve the cadences of the BCP – whereas we got banal, pelagianised anti-poetry.

      I must also admit some sympathy for Rowan Williams. he may be a bit wobbly on a few issues such as homosexuality, but on what Catholics at least used to call dogmatic theology he is very good.

  6. Joshua says:

    Yes, some have said that, after he retires, Rowan may well do a Blair and become a Catholic.

    I also agree with what you say about ICEL – however, in the admittedly non-ICEL English edition of the Divine Office, there is the most amazing piece of Anglicanism inserted into the intercessions of Vespers for Wednesday of Week 4 (see Volume III, page [450]), which isn’t in the Latin original at all:

    O Lord, the creator and redeemer of all mankind, we humbly pray for all men of every race in every kind of need: – make your ways known to them, and reveal your salvation to all nations. R/.
    May the whole Church be guided and governed by your Holy Spirit; – let all who call themselves Christians be led into the way of truth and hold the faith in unity of spirit. R/.
    We commend to your fatherly goodness all who are afflicted or distressed; – comfort and relieve them according to their needs…

    These three petitions are obviously a recasting of the 1662 BCP Collect for All Conditions of Men:

    O GOD, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men: that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholick Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those, who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [*especially those for whom our prayers are desired;] that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them, according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ his sake. Amen.

    (Recall that somewhere in the General Instruction to the Liturgy of the Hours it says that intercessions may be newly composed? well, about a quarter of the ones in the present books for the four week cycle aren’t versions of the Latin, but new compositions in English, which I have heard were made up by students at the English College!)

  7. fr john george says:

    demythologising the provision
    Myth #1 The Pope is sheep-stealing

    The Pope’s alleged “sheep-stealing” been the most popular subject within the secular media. To them, the Holy Father has launched a media campaign to kick the Anglican Communion while it’s down. The poor Archbishop of Canterbury is struggling to keep things together and then “Bamm!” the Pope surprises everyone with a bid for Anglican souls. However, we must remember that it was Anglicans who pursued the matter with the Holy Father—and we’re not talking about just one or two Anglicans. We are talking about thousands and thousands of Anglicans: bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. Anglican bishops from several nations have sent private letters to the Holy See. Much of this is confidential. They want a way out. They want to become Catholic. The Pope is responding to souls looking to him for guidance. The pope is not stealing sheep—He is holding out his pastoral staff to those sheep looking for protection.

    Myth #2 Rome is preparing the world for a general married priesthood

    The media also sunk its teeth into the fact that the new Anglican ordinariates would preserve the already recognized discipline of allowing married former-Anglican priests to be ordained as married Catholic priests. This is nothing new. Pope John Paul II approved this measure in 1980 as the “Pastoral Provision.” The new personal ordinariate structure does not change anything. In this regard, nothing is new. I have seen with my own eyes the CDF document from the mid-1980s penned by none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger himself. The document clearly states that the Pastoral Provision is approved so long as it does not undermine the Roman discipline of clerical celibacy. Since the man who wrote that statement …

    is now the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church, I doubt that he is prepping everyone for a change in clerical celibacy. Moreover, convert clergy from Anglicanism will be re-ordained, since Rome does not accept the validity of Anglican ordination.

    Myth #3 Rome has reconciled itself to the Protestant Reformation

    This myth is based on the liturgical norms accepted by Rome for use by Anglican converts. It goes like this: the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is a book of Protestant worship. Rome is now allowing use of its liturgies; therefore, Rome has capitulated to Protestantism. This argument fails to mention that then-Cardinal Ratzinger heavily oversaw the production of the Book of Divine Worship—the approved set of liturgies for Anglican convert parishes. Protestant elements were expunged (e.g. Thomas Cranmer’s consecration prayer), and good elements were retained. The Book of Divine Worship is a “sanitized” version of the Book of Common Prayer, and I suspect that future revisions will be even more traditional in their formulas.

    Myth #4 The Anglican Personal Ordinariates will be like Opus Dei (or it will be like the Eastern Catholic Churches)

    In canon law, Opus Dei is constituted as a personal prelature. A personal prelature is headed by a prelate (Bishop Javier Echevarria in the case of Opus Dei) and it does not have geographic limits (unlike a local diocese which does have geographic limits), but includes persons who are associated—this is why it’s called “personal.” Moreover, it envelops both clergy and laity. It’s not a religious “order” because it has a lay element.

    A personal ordinariate, on the other hand, is similar but different. It is headed by an ordinary (who can be either a bishop or priest). It too is “personal” meaning that it does not have geographic boundaries like a diocese does. It can also include both clergy and laity like a personal prelature. A personal ordinariate differs from a personal prelature in that an ordinariate is reckoned as a “particular church.” This means that these Anglican ordinariates will not be a ritual churches like the Eastern Catholic Churches (e.g. Maronite or Melkite). The Anglican personal ordinariates will remain under the Roman Rite as expression of its liturgical diversity.

    Myth #5 We already know everything about the Anglican personal ordinariates

    We do not know much at all about the Anglican personal ordinarates. All we have is the press release from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Here’s really all we know at this juncture: 1) The Pope wants this to happen fast; 2) The Pope is issuing an Apostolic Constitution soon; 3) The Apostolic Constitution will establish the canonical structure of personal ordinariates; 4) The Pope wishes to continue to allow married convert-clergy to serve as priests; 5) The Pope values the “Anglican patrimony” of music, liturgy, reverence, and architecture. This sums up about all we can know at this point.

    Here is what we do not know. First, is this a permanent or temporary solution to an ecumenical problem. Will the ordinariates be a ten year, twenty year, or one hundred year project? Related to this question is the concern for how future clergy would be educated and ordained. Would the seminarians training for the ordinariate attend a designated seminary? Moreover, who will serve as the “ordinaries” of the ordinariates if married priests cannot be bishops? Will former Anglican bishops be the first ones considered by the Holy See? What will happen to the current Anglican Use Catholic parishes? Will they be rolled into the new arrangement? And of particular interest to Anglicans, what will the liturgical norms look like? Can the current Book of Divine Worship be revised? The answers to these and other questions await the publication of the actual Apostolic Constitution.

    This move by the Holy Father is simply a continuation of his work with Anglicans in the 1980s and 1990s. He understands them, and he is responding to them. We do not even know how many Anglicans will respond to the ordinariate proposal. It could be giant wave of world-wide conversions…or a trickle. Let us pray for the tidal wave.

    As a former Anglican priest myself, I am profoundly grateful for our Holy Father’s generous proposal toward Anglicans, “that they all might be one” (Jn 17:21). My journey form Anglicanism to Catholicism has been difficult but it was at the same time a via mirabilis—a miraculous way, as John Henry Cardinal Newman described it. I know many Anglican friends who will take up the Holy Father on his offer. Sadly, I know that others who will not. Regardless of how the cards fall, Catholics should recognize that the Holy Father’s announcement stands in full agreement with the ecumenical agenda that he articulated when he became Pope. In conformity to the Sacred Heart of Christ, he seeks to reconcile all who call on the name of Christ. Let us continue to pray with the Holy Father and encourage those Anglicans who seek a new home.


    Taylor Marshall is a former Anglican priest and the author of The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. He is currently a Doctoral Student and Instructor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas.
    (please visit:

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