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Unity efforts declared “on hold” in Canada

From St. Stephen’s News XXII 20

The Anglican Church and the Roman Church have been at each others throats for the best part of 1,500 years. It takes two to tango, as my wife likes to say, and no doubt both sides share a degree of blame for this unhappy state of affairs.

However there is no gainsaying that Rome bears the greater burden. Not least, over the past one and a half millennia, the Romans have launched at least four “hostile takeovers” of the Anglican Church.

Efforts to reconcile the two churches have signally failed, culminating with an exceedingly ugly brush off from Rome in 1896 with a “Papal Bull” entitled Apostolicæ Curæ which declared Anglican Holy Orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void.”

The “Bull” was highly dubious from a theological perspective—as the Anglican prelates of the day were swift to point out, replying to it in Latin decidedly more elegantly than that of the “Bull.”

But worse, the “Bull” was a manifestly political document. It was widely known that the Vatican was actually planning to recognize Anglican Orders until the Roman primate of England persuaded the Pope that such a move would spell the end of the Roman Church in England.

Apostolicæ Curæ created a vast gulf between the two churches that has proved exceedingly difficult to bridge. Some 30 years or so ago, however, the bishops of the world wide Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) initiated talks with Vatican officials with the aim of establishing intercommunion between the two churches.

Many Anglican clergy—myself, included—were highly doubtful about the endeavor’s prospects for success. The Vatican’s publication of its “Apostolic Constitution” last year appeared to confirm our fears. It was not an offer of intercommunion, but, rather, an invitation to submit to the Roman Church with all that that entails.

Even so, a number of TAC parishes—some here in America, apparently rather more in Canada and Australia—opted to apply to join the “Ordinariates” proposed by the Vatican in the Apostolic Constitution. In doing so they hoped to establish, so to speak, an Anglican Church under a Roman umbrella.

Now those hopes appear to have been cruelly dashed. TAC Primate Archbishop John Hepworth declared the venture “indefinitely on hold” following the announcement by Canadian Roman Archbishop Thomas Collins that his priests would be visiting every pro-Ordinariate Anglican parish in Canada to tell them effectively “to shut up shop.”

In a letter to Bishop Peter Wilkinson of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, Archbishop Hepworth denounced the Roman plans. He wrote:

“These priests are to announce, on behalf of Archbishop Collins, that the parishes will close forthwith, that the laity and clergy will attend a Catholic parish for from four to six months, that they will not receive the sacraments during this time, that they will be catechized adequately during this time since any catechesis from the Catechism of the Catholic Church done by the Traditional Anglican Communion is inadequate because only Catholics understand the Catechism, that the dossiers submitted by Traditional Anglican Communion clergy show an inadequate training since they have not attended Anglican Communion Theological Colleges, and therefore those selected by the Ordinary and approved by the [Vatican] will have to attend a Catholic Seminary for an as yet unspecified time, at the end of this process, new parishes for Anglicans along the lines of the Anglican Use in the United States may be established, but not necessarily in the former Traditional Anglican Communion churches, and that during this process the Traditional Anglican Communion must cede its property to the Ordinariate.”

Archbishop Hepworth went on:

“As a result, with my explicit consent and approval, albeit given with a full consideration of the likely impact on Ordinariate formation in every other part of the world, including Australia, Bishop Wilkinson is writing to Traditional Anglican Communion clergy in Canada informing them that the process of forming the Canadian Ordinariate will be placed on hold, and that the visits of Catholic clergy scheduled for May will not proceed …”

“It is just on thirty years since these Canadian Anglicans left the Anglican Church of Canada in support of Catholic teaching and the continuation of the ARCIC dream. After so many years of sacrificial work, the wanton destruction of their communities, the absolute disregard for their ecclesial integrity, and the brutish manner in which these edicts are being communicated, are powerful disincentives to unity.”

One cannot say for certain that America’s Roman authorities will impose similar conditions on U.S. Anglican parishes applying to join an Ordinariate here. But it seems hardly likely that they will be vastly different from those imposed in Canada.

This is not a time for skeptics to be saying: “I told you so.” We might have had no interest in swapping our Anglican heritage and identity for a Romanesque one, but a number of our friends were sincerely convinced that this was the best way to preserve and continue Anglicanism.

We might not agree with their theological reasoning, but we can at least feel the depth of their hurt and empathize with their sense of rejection. Above all, let us pray that something better comes out of this experience—not just for our Anglican brethren, but for our Roman friends as well. GPH✠

2 comments to Unity efforts declared “on hold” in Canada

  • Gerard Barry

    I am surprised that you haven’t revised your comments in the light of the facts. Nothing has been placed on hold. the parishes are being visited by mentor priests and the moves towards setting up the Ordinariate in Canada continue. There is a lot of mischief going on and it is silly to report it and then fail to correct the report.
    Also, you show a reamrkable lack of historical understanding to claim that the Anglican Church has a seperate history from the Church in general lasting for 1.500 years. The Anglican Church does not have its origins so much in the Celtic foundations, from which I assume you are attempting to draw your claim of 1,500 years of seperateness, as from the mission of St Alban – a mission of Pope Gregory the Great; if you would prefer, a Roman mission.
    The Ordinariates will happen and be an attempt to heal the schism of the last five centuries. I am sorry you don’t wish to be part of it, but at least try to keep the history straight. Oh, as an Englishman, I don’t take kindly to an American referring to me as a Roman. Then again, you also seem to think that Welsh pasties would be served at a celebration of Jolly Olde England: the Welsh won’t like that and, for that matter, what is a Welsh Pasty?

  • Fr Guy Hawtin

    Clearly Mr. Barry, you are no better versed in English church history than you are in the matter of Welsh pasties. Welsh pasties are made with leeks and corned beef, while the true Cornish pasty is made with beefsteak, swede, potatoes and onions. Both were eaten with relish throughout the British Isles when I lived there.

    An English equivalent is the Bedfordshire “Clanger” – a suet pudding with meat filling at one end and a fruit filling at the other – an elegant, efficient and ergonomic manner of serving main course and dessert. Lamentably, it seems to be a regional dish, but it merits wider recognition, both at home and abroad.

    That said, the “Italian Mission” sent by Pope Gregory the Great was actually led by a Benedictine monk called Augustine. Poor Alban had been martyred almost three centuries earlier during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (284 AD – 305 AD).

    The Bishop of Rouen (Gaul) consecrated Augustine bishop in 597 AD so he could serve as chaplain to Bertha, a Christian Frankish princess who was Queen of Kent. (Kent was the one remaining kingdom in England in which the British indigenous Celtic Church had not established at least a mission.) He didn’t receive the pallium, signifying his recognition as a bishop by Gregory, until four years later.

    Augustine arrived in Kent in 597 AD and died seven years later in 604 AD. His mission was confined entirely to Kent, largely because he and his successors treated the indigenous Celtic Church with contempt. It finally petered out with the death of his last Roman successor Honorius in 655 AD.

    In short, it was the Celtic Church, which had been established centuries before Augustine’s arrival, that was responsible for converting Britain to Christianity.

    Sorry about the “Roman” Mr. Barry. But in the matter of faith, while we are both catholics, you are a Roman, while, I, an Irishman, am an “Anglo.” We simply have to live with the affront to our national pride.

    With regard to the Ordinariates, the article I wrote was not a so much a news item as a message of sympathy to Anglicans who were hoping for something more from the Roman Church than they have so far received. If you are looking for news about the Ordinariates themselves, you’ll be much better informed visiting other sites, such as GPH✠