Catholic identity–Anglican identity


The photo shows Deborah Gyapong, Christopher Mahon and Rev. Vicky Hedelius, director of Anglicans for Life Canada, at the annual Rose Dinner, in conjunction with Canada’s National March for Life last May.

Anglicans for Life Canada an outreach of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), a province of the Anglican Church in America, a body that has broken away from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episopal Church but is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury through is affiliation with the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON).   Part of our mission here at the Society is to build bridges with all people of good will who support Anglican patrimony, whether inside or outside the Catholic Church and the protection of human life at all stages from conception to natural death is one area of patrimony we cherish.

To the end of building bridges, Bill Tighe, a member of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society board, attended a recent joint-synod of four Continuing Anglican bodies in Atlantic Georgia.

Professor Tighe posted the following comment on this post by Christopher Mahon, who is also a board member.

He wrote, with my emphases:

Recently I attended, as an observer for the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, the “joint synods” meeting of four Continuing Anglican bodies in Atlanta, Georgia. I found in my interactions and conversations with laypeople attending the meeting – including one Jesuit-educated former Roman Catholic who, as he told me, upon walking in to a Continuing Anglican High Mass with his wife, thought “This is it!,” and never looked back – that almost all of them had never heard of the ACS [Anglicanorum  Coetibus Society], had no knowledge of “the Ordinariates,” and only a vague idea that that some “conservative Anglicans” had “become Roman Catholics,” as one of them put it to me. One delegate to the conference, in a polite dinner conversation with me, characterized the Ordinariates as deceptive (“a scam”), but it subsequently emerged in that conversation that he believed that their “official” name was “the Anglican Ordinariate” (of this or that) and his objection was to their appropriation of the name “Anglican;” an objection which is congruent with, and provides a rationale for, the Vatican’s discouragement of the use of the term “Anglican” in an Ordinariate context. At the clerical and Episcopal level I found more awareness of the Ordinariate phenomenon, but no real interest in it – nor in the parallel phenomenon of “Western-Rite Orthodoxy” – as personal preferences or options for any of them. Their almost exclusive focus was on fostering unity among Continuing Anglican groups, and not on outward ecumenical relations.


This whole shorthand of “Anglican Ordinariate” which I confess I use from time to time in some contexts, up against official discouragement of our use of that terminology has me thinking about the different ways we in the Ordinariates can look at our identity.

Legally or juridically our identity is Catholic with a Capital “C” and, to be more specific, we are Latin Catholics and part of the Western Church.

In order to be juridically Catholic and a member of the Catholic Church,  one must be in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter.  We are.

I used to think of myself as pretty Catholic in faith and practice when I was a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion but as my understanding of this juridical aspect of ecclesiology grew I came to understand the Catholic Church teaches there is a physical, institution in the world in which the the Body of Christ subsists, with a hierarchy and made up of sinners like you and me.  It’s not a free-floating mystical thing out there that has no relationship to the outward institution and, if one is truly to be Catholic, one must join it officially.

To be Catholic is to be a member of this outward, hierarchical institution with the Pope as its head. Yet I found this aspect of officially being received into the Catholic Church and thus into communion with the Pope was glossed over with some people from our parish  still saying, “Well, I’m already Catholic!”

No!  You were not! I was not!  You and I may have been catholic with a small “c,” but not Catholic with a capital “C.”

So, looked at from that point of view I can understand why the individual Bill Tighe spoke to, who took offense when he thought our official name is “Anglican Ordinariate,” thought this was a “misappropriation” of the name Anglican.

I get it.  And thus I think we in the Ordinariates should understand why the chancery has asked us not to use the word “Anglican” on posters or official publications and so on regarding Ordinariate activities.   But the search for some agreed on shorthand explanation of who we are continues.

But then, I was thinking, well, juridically from an Anglican perspective, what gives a Continuing Anglican the right to call themselves Anglican?  Doesn’t being Anglican have something to do with communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC)?   The ecclesiology is not the same in the Anglican world as it is for the Catholic Church—the ABC is not a Pope and does not have the same kind of jurisdiction over his bishops and flock as the Successor of Peter does, but in his own way, the ABC is a sign of unity for the Anglican Communion.   So, buddy-who-thought-our name-was-Anglican-Ordinariate and found that offensive might want to put himself in the shoes of say The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada, or even the GAFCON Anglicans who are in communion with the ABC but not with some of the more progressive national churches in the Canterbury Communion.   They may think Continuing Churches do not have the right to appropriate the word Anglican. I don’t know.

But then, acknowledging the importance of this juridical understanding of belonging and identity and the sensitivities that can flow from it, we also have to recognize our ethos, our culture, which stems from our Anglican patrimony, that led us to desire Catholic unity, and formed the basis of Anglicanorum coetibus,  Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution calling for the establishment of the Ordinariates.  That too is distinctly as much a part of our identity as our official Catholic identity.  Pope Benedict called that patrimony a “precious gift” and a “treasure to be shared” with the wider Church.

We must watch against talking at cross purposes—when one person is talking about their ethos, identity, culture—while the other is arguing about juridical identity.   And we must be aware of political sensitivities out there among other bodies.

But those sensitivities and political considerations must never become a blanket to smother our ethos, cultural identity and patrimony, which is Anglican.   This post by Fr. Hunwicke  in 2009 about Blessed John Henry Newman rather sums it up:

Today, I would remind you of Manning’s bad-tempered criticism of Newman; that with Newman, even after his reception into Full Communion, it was still the same old Anglican, Oxford, Patristic tone. We can do worse than recall this as we approach the beatification of that very great man. This may irritate some readers, but since this is my blog I will say it all the same: the whole point of Newman is that Manning was right; he never ceased to be an Anglican; that is to say, a superb exemplar of all that was best, God-given, grace-given, wholesome, and holy, in the life of the Provinces of Canterbury and York while in separation from the Voice of Peter. When he put off all that was schismatic, separatist, narrow, flawed, partial, heretical, in the ethos he imbibed from the Church of England, he was free to be more perfectly and fully Anglican than ever he had been before.

Because there is more to say about ‘Anglicanism’ than I said in yesterday’s post. An Anglicanism which purports to be a doctrinally distinctive, even a superior, form of Christianity: yes, it is a diabolical mirage. But in the unhappy centuries of our separation from Peter, grace was not stopped up. A tone emerged; a style, a way of doing theology, of living the Christian life, which in itself is by no means unCatholic; a sober tone, a careful tone, a tone which read deeply and with understanding in the Fathers and looked to Byzantium and beyond as well as to Rome.

I know I surprised some readers and enraged others not long ago by describing Benedict XVI as the first Anglican Pope. But I believe it is wonderfully providential that it falls to this man to raise his fellow-Anglican John Henry Newman to the Altars of the Church. Have you read the Ordinary Teaching that this pope gives week by week? His sympathetic exposition of the Fathers of East, West, Syria? When you read his own theologising, can you avoid a feeling (I can’t) that you are reading one of the Fathers; that you have picked up a volume of Migne … you aren’t quite sure whether it’s from the PG or the PL, and you’re even less certain which volume it might be, but anyway, that’s the corner of Bodley that you’re sitting in, and out of the window there’s Newman’s Church of S Mary, with his college of Oriel just beyond. And it is very easy to feel that it would be the most natural thing in the world to raise your head from your desk in the Patristics Room and see, in the chair opposite you, the diffident, erudite face of Professor Ratzinger, verifying a reference or two before hitching an ancient MA gown round his shoulders and scuttling through the traffic in the High back to his lodgings in Tom Quad.

Anglicanism as some self-important separatist codswallop that prides itself in its separation from the Successor of Peter: let’s flush it away fast. But then the cry can go up: “Anglicanism is dead! Long live Anglicanism!”


Your thoughts?


7 thoughts on “Catholic identity–Anglican identity

    • This comment seems to reflect a major misunderstanding of the canonical sense of the term “personal.” The opposite is “territorial” — the jurisdiction of a normal (territorial) diocese or parish extends to all those who live or are present within its geographical borders and don’t belong to another jurisdiction, whereas the jurisdiction of a “personal” entity extends to those who become members, regardless of where they are present. The term “personal” does not mean that the ordinariate belongs personally to the pope.



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