Anglicans and Schism

If you are bored by the continuing posts on the Anglican schism, please change the channel. However, an interesting correspondence developed in the combox. I noted that ‘schism’ is defined in the catechism (para.2089) as ‘refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the church subject to him.”
Someone (I presume an Anglo Catholic) responded with this statement from the Traditional Anglican Communion bishops:

“We accept the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, which is a ministry of teaching and discerning the faith and a ‘perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity’ and understand this ministry is essential to the Church founded by Jesus Christ.”

The implication was that the TAC (and other Anglicans who would agree with this statement are therefore not in schism) Let’s stop for a moment and consider this. First of all, this statement, admirable as it is, is a construction of the TAC, not of the Catholic Church. They are telling us what they believe about the Pope. That’s all well and good, but it should not be assumed that this is the fullness of Catholic belief about the Pope, nor should it be mistaken for ‘submission to the Roman Pontiff.’

What does the statement actually say? It says ‘we accept the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter.’ Fine, but with Anglicans you always have to come back and ask, “But what does this actually mean?” Notice that they ‘accept the ministry of the Bishop of Rome’ and say that he has a teaching ministry and a ministry of discerning the faith.’ I’m afraid this falls rather short of the doctrine of infallibility doesn’t it? Neither does the statement show that the TAC are submitting to the infallible authority of the Roman Pontiff, or even that they want to. They simply ‘accept his ministry’. In other words, the whole thing is pretty guarded and is nothing like the personal and total submission which is required when one becomes a Catholic. 

I’m sorry to be the crazy uncle at this ecumenical party, but Catholics and Anglicans need to be very clear about the Anglican ethos. Anglicans are, by nature, geniuses at compromise. Their church is founded on the Elizabethan Settlement which basically says, “Everyone can believe pretty much what they like as long as nobody rocks the boat.” The way this has been lived out is that everyone says what they think the other side wants to hear in order to make everyone happy. The TAC are doing the same Anglican thing in their discussions with the Catholic Church.

Don’t get me wrong. I would be delighted as can be if Rome came up with some creative way to welcome our Anglican brothers and sisters in some sort of corporate scheme. I wish more Anglo Catholics would join the Catholic Church. We do need them and our church is poorer without them. However, we should also ask some pretty tough questions. We should understand the Anglican’s amazing ability to say one thing and mean another, and ask them the toughest and most obvious question of all: “If you want to be Catholic why not join your local RCIA?”

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  • veritas

    Fr Longenecker,Your statement that the Anglicans are "geniuses at compromise" is totally correct.In my Anglo-Catholic days I once or twice made the mistake of reading the original Oxford Anglican priests attempt to explain how the 39 Articles weren't really anti-Catholic.Now that really is a mind turner!!The 39 Articles are so anti-Catholic in many sections that they make modern anti-Catholic bias pale by ccomparison. Yet, the original Anglo-Catholics attempted to make the Articles compatible with Catholic doctrine by incredible word and context manipulation.You are SO right that in any negotiations or discussions with Anglicans, the Catholic Church will really have to "nail down" each and every clause of any agreement. There must be NO doubts left as to what doctrine is being taught and believed.

  • Éstiel

    I agree completely, Father. You are not merely identifying a nit to pick but getting to the heart of the matter. You say:"…the whole thing is pretty guarded and is nothing like the personal and total submission which is required when one becomes a Catholic."The whole problem for the Anglican is STILL the question of authority. To submit to the "ministry" of the Bishop of Rome is not to submit to the infallible authority of the Bishop of Rome. They can't bring themselves to do it, yet that is what is necessary.I suspect that the problem is with the English psyche's view of what virtue is in the first place. There is no place in that view for obedience. Even the TAC's attraction to Catholicism is rooted in rejection of the authority of the their own Anglican church. They are simply repeating their own history, not departing from it.Certainly, this description applies to many Catholics as well, but not to the extent of actually leaving the Church and creating schism (except for SSPX). The rebels in the Church simply remain there and create problems. Many WISH they would leave, and these are in such sympathy with the Anglo-Catholics that they do not see the motivation that underlies their perpetual discontent.The rebellious Anglicans have a different agenda. The TAC are not so much pro-Catholic as they are anti- Anglican. That's why they mysteriously continue to refuse to convert to that which they say they believe. They have no more wish to conform to the Catholic Church than they do to the Anglican. (Complaint about liturgy is ridiculous. If your immortal soul is at stake, "taste" is hardly a serious issue.)Deeply embedded in the Anglican psyche there lives and thrives the archetype of the romantic hero, for whom there is no greater virtue than the rejection of authority, and for whom there is no place in Christianity–which is the very antithesis of that ideal. For this archetype, the heroic life is the life of self-glorification rather than God-glorification. It is a life of perpetual leaving, rejecting, and overthrowing. Submission is the greatest evil.The narrow gate is hard for us all; for many–like the "pro" Catholic Anglican–it's impossible. It's the gate of repentance, self-denial, submission to God, conformity to Christ. The refusal to conform, to submit, the assertion of one's own righteousness in place of repentance cannot enter. Their hero remains the Lucifer figure of Paradise Lost and NOT the Christ figure of the Gospel. They are like the adulterer who leaves his wife to marry his mistress but then must leave her because she has become his wife. He does not see that his problem is not which woman to love, but that he is himself the object of his love.

  • Éstiel

    p.s.On re-reading my comment, I couldn't help but notice the similarity between the "adulterer" and the founder of the Church of England. He, too, attempted to disguise his disobedience by asserting that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (made possible by papal dispensation) was illicit–a usurpation of papal authority disguised as a virtuous obedience to a "higher" (his own) authority.A "genius for compromise" is utterly useless at the narrow gate.

  • Shaughn

    Fr. L,I was thinking and praying these last few days about the Prodigal Son, and auspiciously, it's the lesson for Trinity IX. I think it would be highly appropriate for everyone involved in this discussion to pray on this Gospel Lesson.Why?Roman Catholics are in very sore danger of being the Good Brother as this effort continues. I've seen too many folks huff and puff and say "those Anglicans should have to put away their wives," or other such bitter laments–nevermind that "putting their wife away" violates a canon of an ecumenical council. They should instead be rejoicing that wayward sons might be coming home with the Father's (B16's in this case) acceptance, on the Father's own terms. Let's be charitable to one another and see what happens.Peace.–S.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Shaughn, by all means let us be charitable, but charity is much more than merely being nice to one another. True charity goes hand in hand with truth and not only allow tough questions to be asked, but demands that they be asked.My tough question is this: what is it that keeps Anglo Catholics who say they are Catholic and that they want to be Catholic from doing so?

  • hamerus

    Bravo Fr. Longenecker!Contrary to being bored by your response to the Anglican schism, I am inspired. I am a recent convert to the Catholic Faith, having spent the previous twenty years in one of the "Traditional Anglican" groups (thirteen years in the ministry)and I can certainly relate to their 'genius of compromise.'One of our catch-phrases was "We are Catholic but not Roman, evangelical but not Protestant." We prided ourselves in being what we thought of as a bridge for those who could not quite accept Catholic teaching and those who did not wish to be labeled Protestant. My eyes were opened when one Catholic priest informed me that no one lived on a bridge. A bridge was simply a means of getting from one place to another. I too, have a problem with some of the trendy liturgies, but as you rightly point out, the Anglican issue of 'right liturgy' is simply a cop-out for refusal to accept the authority of the Church and submission to the Roman Pontiff. Keep up the good work and my God continue to bless you in your efforts.

  • Jeff Miller

    In some ways a statement like that from the TAC makes it even worse. It is one thing to reject the Pope's authority and thus not think you are under it. It is quite another to give some importance to the Pope's role while not being obedient to it even if seen as a "ministry". Yeah he has a ministry, but somehow we don't think he is allowed to be the one to pick bishops.The three branch theory was an interesting thought experiment at one time. In the past you could even fool yourself into believing it. But with the rapid breakdown of doctrine you now have even more than 3 branches within Anglicanism – the consequence of all Protestantism.But this whole "pope's ministry" thing is not even a thought experiment worth much effort.

  • John

    "If you want to be Catholic why not join your local RCIA?"Hammer, meet nail.When I crossed the Tiber a year and a half ago (coming from the Episcopal Church), I just up and enrolled in the RCIA class at what was to be my Catholic parish. When I hear about Anglicans "waiting" to be received "en masse" in some sort of Anglican welcoming party, I literally wonder the exact same question. Just get over your dadgum selves, go through RCIA and be done with it!

  • RC

    Well, yes. If the TAC bishops were to affirm the Catholic faith tout court now, they would be logically bound to resign as TAC clergy. It would hand a tool to any TAC members who oppose reconciliation with Rome.Since that would get in the way of their desire to lead TAC into the Church as a group, it's understandable that they hold off the full affirmation in their current collective statement.Anyway, the provisional statement doesn't matter as much as the final one, and the Church has dealt with cases of group reconciliations before. A TAC reconciliation probably has to deal with some messy personal issues, though: e.g., ex-Catholics among the married TAC clergy.

  • Christopher

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Christopher

    It's true, the Catholic Church acknowledged certain principles with the Anglican Use and basically made clear that every concession Anglicans could want was doable.But Father, do you really need to ask "who can tell us what they want that Rome has not already provided? What is it? Married clergy? Got it. Their own liturgy? Got it. Their own buildings? Got it"?Actually that's the whole point. In theory, yes they have everything they could possibly want. But in practice where exactly can I, a former Anglican who converted individually in Canada, go to attend a liturgy in accordance with my heritage and those generous concessions of the Church? Texas?Wow, what could possibly be holding up my Canadian acquaintances still in Anglican churches! They have everything they could possibly want……in Texas!The bottom line is that the TAC is taking the Church at her word: she's made clear that they can be received if they submit doctrinally and they can retain what is good in their tradition. The TAC has signed the Catechism and has begun using it to catechize their faithful on a local level; is the Catechism a masterwork of Anglican compromise?Finally, in spite of how some Anglicans might be aesthetes who view liturgy superficially, anyone who's paid attention to liturgical matters under Pope Benedict knows liturgy is far more important and essential than just a matter of "taste".

  • Fr Longenecker

    Christopher these are good points, and I know many converts from Anglicanism do suffer awful liturgy within their Catholic church. I sympathize

  • Gil Garza

    "If you want to be Catholic why not join your local RCIA?"According to the US National Statutes on the Catechumenate (30-37), no Christian should join RCIA or any parallel preparation program. RCIA is only for pagans. Treating Christians like catechumens is triumphalist and demeaning. According to the Statutes, Christians need only a period of instruction fitting their individual needs of formation, a brief period of probation within the community before being received which can take place at any Sunday Mass.Should an Anglican wish to be received into full communion she should seek private instruction at her local Catholic parish and NOT seek RCIA.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Gil, perhaps, and RCIA is not mandatory, but in practice most people who wish to come into full communion with the Catholic Church benefit from going through RCIA.

  • Shaughn

    As a (perhaps) minor detail, it's worth considering some of the language of the Tridentine Councils. I'm mostly going by Alcuin Reid's book, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, in which he describes some of the methodology used for local practice. Local traditions that were older than 200 years were allowed to continue, but elsewhere, the Ordo mass became the norm. Most of us are probably aware of the Milanese form still in use, for example. Several of the old and venerable rites allowed to continue were English–the Salisbury Rite which we call Sarum being the most widely known. An argument can easily be made that the Book of Common Prayer, in particular the 1549 strains that continue through the Scottish non-juring traditions, Oxford & Cambridge Movements and on into the American Prayerbook, are mostly preserving what was in the Sarum Mass. (There are all sorts of niggling details which we debate over, of course, but that's to be expected.)Liturgies which incorporate features of the Tridentine Mass (of which TAC's is one) are doing more or less what Trent wanted — they are preserving local custom where it is ancient, while blending in the official use elsewhere. This is especially true now that we're out of the weird era between Vatican II and the recent motu proprio allowing wider use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.Put simply, if the TAC can successfully argue that their liturgical tradition is sufficiently ancient (which I think they can), they should be able to keep most of their liturgy with any theological glitches edited out. In effect, what they're attempting to do is undo the unsavory bits of the English Reformation and keep the good parts to which their ancient heritage is entitled. It's not unreasonable, and it will serve to enrich the rest of Catholicism just as the Milanese Rites and the many sui juris rites.And these sorts of things help the body grow and might even cure it of some of the more problematic elemets, such as versus populum orientation of the altar, which, as Alcuin Reid repeatedly notes, was based on a fine blend of shoddy historical analysis and what C.S. Lewis describes as the liturgical fidget.If that's the way the TAC (of which I'm not a member) wishes to go, I can only pray for their success.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Shaughn, all that you ask is already possible through the Anglican Use Book of Worship. The best hope is that TAC will be accepted, their priests ordained and they be authorized to use the Book of Worship.

  • Shaughn

    Fr. L,Respectfully, I must disagree. As I've mentioned before, the Anglican Use is a mish-mash of the Novus Ordo and the 1979 American Edition of the BCP. Both of these (but especially the '79 BCP) are not without problems in ways that extend far beyond taste, which is why even Anglo-Catholics breathed a sigh of relief with the expansion of the Extraordinary form of the Mass. They have every reason to hope that whatever Benedict is working toward will not be as theologically problematic as the source material of the current Anglican Use Mass, which is a hefty part of why there are less than a dozen Anglican Use parishes.

  • Laura R.

    "I wish more Anglo Catholics would join the Catholic Church. We do need them and our church is poorer without them."A bit of what I consider very good news: the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, an Anglican order of sisters whose motherhouse is in Catonsville, Maryland, will be received into the Catholic Church in early September. They are traditionalist and decided that they could no longer remain in the Episcopal Church.

  • john

    I can't speak for the TAC folks but I can speak from where I come from. When I was in college I left the Catholic Church 1st for the Baptists and after reading some of the ECFs I joined the Episcopal Church. In the mid-90s I left them cause of what I saw happening there and joined the REC(Reformed Episcopal Church) which is now a part of the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America). I returned to the Catholic Church completely after their recent Convention when they refused to do away with Womens Ordination. I had two choices: 1.Remain in the ACNA and hope that WO would eventually be done away with or 2. Come back to the Catholic Church even though I had and still have doubts and issues with some Catholic Dogmas. I chose #2, I returned. I just hope and pray that God will give me the Grace to accept those Dogmas eventually.

  • veritas

    Shaun,I purchased a copy of the Book of Divine Worship and had it shipped to me here in Australia.I was very disappointed when I read it because of the reasons you have mentioned. It is a mish mash. Also it contains the very problem that helped make the Norvus Ordo so problematic for many ex-Anglicans. It contains far too many options for the liturgy. You may do this OR that occurs over and over. Not only that it allows a modern English alternative that is virtually Novus Ordo.It is NOT what most Anglo-Catholics would want!Having said this I will finish with two points:1. it is still the case that Anglicans who consider themselves Catholic need to convert to God's Catholic Church, reagrdless of disappointment with liturgies offered2. the Anglican Use priests do a wonderful job of celebrating the liturgy as beautifully as they can.

  • Nan

    Gil, in my Diocese, 20 years ago, they decided to hold group instruction for all Catechumens, Candidates and Confirmandi as that's how it had been done initially. There's at least one parish in which there isn't a formal program; it's a parish that many flee due to liturgical anomalies. I was flung into the middle of RCIA, not having been Confirmed; the benefits are many, including meeting others in situations similar to your own. In my group were the pagans that you mention, but I wasn't the only one with virtually no religious education despite having been Baptized in a Catholic Church or the only one not having been Confirmed. Some were Baptized Catholic but had no religious education whatsoever. Others were Protestant converts without a lot of knowledge of the Church. It was entirely appropriate to include all of us in the class. Confirmations of Catholics took place separately as they should be, but the rest, together with the group from a local Catholic University, were received into the Church at Easter Vigil.At the same time, if there's a reason to receive someone into the church at a different time, that happens too; I impulsively went to a daily Mass in early July, where I found the Auxiliary Bishop and a guy being confirmed and receiving his first communion before being deployed.john, that can be difficult; I realized several weeks before Confirmation that I needed to think about some things or maybe I had to re-think Confirmation. I spoke with a priest, generally, and let him know I had some ideas in my head that needed to go, but not exactly what. He told me to read Scripture and to pray. I would also recommend spending time with the Holy Eucharist. In an ideal world that would take place during Adoration, but if that isn't possible, all you need to do is find the Tabernacle when it's occupied.

  • Éstiel

    There is no one in my acquaintance, past or present, for whom beauty is more important than it is to me. I grieve for the Church when I have to participate in a liturgy that is banal and offensive. I have left in tears more than once.Nevertheless, I would rather be in the Real Presence on a dunghill than in the most beautiful church in the world where He is not.The Church is beginning to get over its infatuation with the zeitgeist. It always has and it always will–because He is there. It's not the first time we've been unfaithful to our Spouse, and it probably won't be the last. But as the gates of hell cannot prevail against us, neither can the arrogance of tyrants, nor can our own weakness and infidelity. He is our Spouse and He will not be unfaithful.Just as God is love, but love is not God, so truth is beauty, but beauty is not truth. I visited an Anglican service while in England once in an ancient church that had been stolen from the Church. It was very beautiful. It was also very empty, barren. I also went to Mass at the church nearest the hotel where I stayed. It was awful. The building was small, low-budget, and ugly. Kids screamed, people talked, and the priest wore running shoes beneath his vestments. Worse, his homily consisted of social justice platitudes to which no one listened, including me. But–I received Holy Communion from his ordained hands.God is not a mere expression of one of his attributes, and I pray that I never obsess with a pleasing arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic. That great and very grand ship is not preferable to the tiny, ugly, and crowded lifeboat.I hope I never fall victim to a belief that salvation comes via negotiation or compromise, or as a product of an endless dissection of trivia. Nor can it ever come en masse. No. It is a very private and totally personal encounter with Truth, which always demands complete, unconditional surrender.I don't think God is much interested in our opinions, our taste, our "heritage", or even our comprehension of whatever.

  • becky

    I wonder if we could not just leave things to Our Lord, as far as the Traditional Anglican Communion is concerned, in its approach to the Holy Father, and its application to open dialogue for unity. My prayer for us all is, that we heed the words of our Lord 'that they all may be one' in the meantime lets offer sincere prayers for the good of His Catholic (Universal) Church. I am so blessed that I have been privileged to be Catholic in the Anglican Communion of the One Holy Catholic Faith, as our Creed reminds me each time I recite it.

  • servingblogger

    Oh, Father Dwight, here you go again, banging on about our Anglican brothers and sisters, diminishing their good faith and efforts, and simply because you can see no further than submission to the Pope, which they are not able or not willing at this point to give. I am a Catholic, happy to be, but an constructively critical and dissenting on some points which in conscience I have come to a decision about and which differ from the 'official' teaching of the Pope and the Catholic Church. But, I am still Catholic, I believe, and plan to remain so. According to you, I am probably 'in schism' as well, but frankly I don't really care. And, I suspect, neither do the Anglicans that you bang on about. They are making their own way, and it should be respected and valued, and not diminished and belittled in the fashion to which you have become accustomed.My last post received a sarcastic retort from you, and I was disappointed, because you don't seem to want to engage seriously about the issues I was talking about, including the matter of Anglicans and their relationship to the Catholic Church. It appears to me that all you want to do is loudly proclaim your view of things and not listen to what others have to say, and not attempt to understand the variety of pilgrim ways that God calls people along. Your way or no way, it seems to me. You will claim that it is the way of The Church – but I wonder. I think The Church, and the Holy Father, a are more subtle, more discriminating, wiser than you. Well, you may have found where you want to be. I am happy for you. But, others are still finding their own way, and your constant diatribes about their unworthiness, their schismatic status, their duplicity and lack of truthfulness, really are not worthy of someone who is supposed to be a minister not only of the truth but also of charity and love.

  • torculus

    One can make excuses all one wants, but if one wants to become Catholic one need get busy and respond to God's call. After all, it is to Him we are responding and He calls everyone home to His Church. Visit a Catholic priest now. Why wait? Get on with it! Join the RCIA, attend Mass, pray, read your Catholic bible, pray, study the catechism, pray, consult with your sponsor, read the lives of the saints, read Pope Benedict's writings – oh, and pray!No earthly obstacle should deter nor detain you from becoming Catholic. I do not make that statement lightly. As a convert who alienated his family and friends by becoming Catholic, I can tell you that God is good and brings peace out of chaos. I am amazed at how my family came around and embraced my conversion. God does work miracles.Sure, the liturgy can be offered in a shoddy manner. Sure, you wonder how some men actually made it out of seminary (not soon enough to spare us their kookiness, unfortunately). And, one wonders why pushy lay people are permitted to twist and contort the liturgy to suit some misguided agenda. The church has always faced such abuses – and She endures because Christ promised it so. He raises up men like Pope Benedict XVI to renew and restore. And, in this day and age, God enables folk to engage others in the task of renewal through blogs like this one.Rome has things in hand. The TAC et al will have to be patient. Look how many centuries it took to heal the breach with the Chaldeans (Assyrians)? In the meantime, people of the TAC or Anglicans of any stripe should engage the process that is already in place. The Church baptizes and confirms one person at a time. If you really want to be Catholic, join the queue like all us converts have done thus far. If you know how to swim, don't wait to be ferried across the Tiber. Jump in now.

  • Fr Longenecker

    serving blogger, you clearly don't understand what a blog is. A blog is a form of personal publishing. It is not a forum or a discussion group. Those things exist elsewhere on the net. If you want discussion and dialogue and listening and sharing go on over there and be happy.If you want my opinion come to my blog and you're welcome. If you want to express you opinion about my opinion you're welcome to do that too. I keep my combox open.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Shaughn, For goodness sake! What do Anglo Catholics want then? Why won't anybody tell me?If the Book of Divine Worship is not Catholic enough for you, why don't you become Catholic and go to the EF or join the FSSP?What do you guys want? I'm mystified.

  • patrick

    I think a lot of Anglicans won't convert unless and until the liturgy is just as it is at St. Clement's Philly now, or at St. Mary the Virgin, NYC before Donald Garfield (who I think later became Catholic before his death?) became rector. Or perhaps, like the Episcopal parish one grew up in, whereever. Even if the Book of Divine Worship is transformed into something like the English Missal or the Anglican Missal, the liturgy will NEVER be just like that. Unless, of course, you are as wealthy as the Vanderbilts and the Morgans, and can subsidize the cost of the furnishings and the music program and the endowment yourself. Chances are, however, you are not. In your heart, you know that Anglo-Catholicism is dead and it is never going to get any better. Exhibit A of the spiritual deadness of Anglo-Catholicism is Canon Gordon Reid's reflections on the recent General Convention. While he seems to have a very attractive personality, his post, aside from his (accurate) attack on the hypocrisy of the Anglican evangelicals, is itself a confused and intellectually dishonest defense of Anglo-Catholicism in the Episcopal Church. It is a defense of theological doubt that should give any Catholic-minded Anglican great pause. Finally, please consider the following: is the Episcopal Church a church that you could honestly raise your children in? And, if you aren't a family man, for whatever reason, can you be really certain that the Episcopal Church is a church you can die in, with the assurance of the forgiveness of sins at the hour of death?

  • Éstiel

    Patrick,Your phrase "intellectual dishonesty" says it all, but applies to more than Canon Reid's reflections. The artificial history of Catholicism in England is a product of such dishonesty; further, the entire notion of Anglo-Catholicism is dishonest. It reminds me of the straw defense of some of my southern compatriots during the Civil Rights legislation: "inter-racial segregation."