Syncretism? Bait and switch? A look at reality in the Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Patrimony

Back in the days after Anglicanorum coetibus was published but before we had the certainty afforded by the establishment of the Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Patrimony, we encountered a range of perceptions about what exactly Pope Benedict XVI had done.  The uncertainty and differing perceptions caused splits in many of our parish communities.  Sadly, some of these perceptions still exist, despite the proof being in the pudding, as it were.

One perception is that the Ordinariates allow Protestant or non-Catholic elements into a kind of training-wheels, not-fully-Catholic structure that is meant to be temporary until those poor Anglicans who were used to their liturgy and hymns get fully brought up to speed on what it means to be a real Catholics like everyone else.  Another version is that the Ordinariates represent a Trojan Horse of heretical ideas.

Yet another variation is the Ordinariates have permitted “syncretism” in the Catholic Church, though even a cursory read of Anglicanorum coetibus with its subtitle: Providing For Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans Entering into Full Communion with the Catholic Church proves this is not true. Full Communion does not mean syncretism.  The notions are contradictory.

It says in §5 The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.  Syncretism is the combining of elements of another religion, such as Hinduism, or voodoo or Indigenous spirituality with the Catholicism in ways that undermine key doctrines such as the Trinity, or the Incarnation.  There are areas in the world where syncretism is a problem for Catholicism, but the Ordinariates are not one of them.

Another accusation among many in the Continuing Anglican world is that of “bait and switch”—that Anglicanorum coetibus promised to provide a generous accommodation to Anglican patrimony, but in reality it was the same-old, same-old Catholic triumphalism  that was going to homogenize anything distinctive out as soon as those lured into the fold are trapped inside.  This, too, has proven to be false.

After the historic 2007 petition from the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion signed at St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth, I remember something our then Bishop Peter Wilkinson said to me around this time.  Msgr. Wilkinson, who was one of the signatories of that petition accompanied the petition to Rome along with Msgr. Robert Mercer, former Anglican Bishop of Matubeleland and our former Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Bishop (ACCC) and Traditional Anglican Communion Archbishop John Hepworth.

In discussing the Catholic Deposit of Faith, then Bishop Wilkinson told me, “This is our Deposit of faith, too. We have no other Deposit of Faith.”

The text of the Portsmouth Petition is online here.

The key part of this document:

The Bishops and Vicars-General of this Communion, now meeting in Plenary Session in the Church of Saint Agatha, Portsmouth, England, on the Feast of Theresa of the Child Jesus and in the days following, have reached the following mind which they have asked their Primate and delegates to report to the Holy See:

  1. 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.  We accept that this ministry, in the words of the late John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint, is to “ensure the unity of all the Churches”.  We understand his words in the same Letter when he explains to the separated churches that the Bishop of Rome “when circumstances require it, speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him.  He can also – under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council – declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith.  By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves unity”.  We understand that, as bishops separated from communion with the Bishop of Rome, we are among those for whom Jesus prayed before his death “that they may be completely one”, and that we teach and define matters of faith and morals in a way that is, while still under the influence of Divine Grace, of necessity more tenuously connected to the teaching voice of catholic bishops throughout the world.
  2. We accept that the Church founded by Jesus Christ subsists most perfectly in the churches in communion with the See of Peter, to whom (after the repeated protestation of his love for Jesus) and to whose successors, our Divine Master gave the duty of feeding the lambs and the sheep of his flock.
  3. We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed together with this Letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold.
  4. Driven by these realizations, which we must now in good conscience bring to the attention of the Holy See, we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment.  We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve.

With profound expressions of regret for the divisions of Christ’s Church, and for our own failings that may have deepened and extended those divisions, and with the most affectionate regard for the Holy Father, who at key moments has strengthened us by his concern for our plight, and with great hope in the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, who can make pliable what has become rigid, we affix our signatures to this Letter and to the accompanying Catechism in the midst of the Holy Sacrifice and commend our cause to Your Excellencies,

Pope Benedict XVI responded most generously to this petition with an Apostolic Constitution that has a level of papal authority exceeding that of an encyclical.

We are Catholic.  Full stop.  We have been granted by papal authority permission to unpack the treasures of Anglican Patrimony that are consistent with Catholic faith within the Catholic Church.   Pope Francis has also contributed to recognition of our Catholicity and permanence by approving Divine Worship: the Missal.  We await the approval in Rome of our Divine Offices.

As our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters have told us, there will always be pressures to homogenize because the Roman Catholic Church is so much larger and more widespread.  But maintaining our Anglican traditions, our identity and our patrimony as full-fledged Catholics is something we are not only permitted to do, we are invited and encouraged to do as an example of reconciled diversity and Catholic unity.

UPDATE:   A reader points out the Traditional Anglican Communion was not the only group or individual to approach the Holy See, so I should not give the impression there was a direct causal link between the TAC petition and Anglicanorum coetibus, since it was one of many approaches over the years.   That is true.  My point, however, was on the stress that we hold the Catholic faith as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and it is my understanding —historians may correct me—that the fact the Apostolic Constitution requires us to accept the Catechism as “the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate” is a direct response to the TAC petition.





6 thoughts on “Syncretism? Bait and switch? A look at reality in the Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Patrimony

  1. This is a very good article. I generally agree with the sentiments expressed in it (as a former Episcopalian now Catholic). The only thing that the needs to be remembered though is that the Anglican Ordinariate does not have its own rite, but rather, is the Anglican Use of the Latin Rite. Thus, I’m all for preserving beautiful hymns, traditions, devotions from the Anglican patrimony. The only thing that concerns me is when some in the Ordinariate (key word some, not all) try to make the claim that the Traditional Latin Mass is somehow not appropriate for the Ordinariate. This is an unfortunate sentiment. Before the liturgy was vernacularized with the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy in England was always in Latin. During the persecution of Catholics in Elizabethan times and after, the martyrs such as St Edmund Campion said the mass as codified by the Council of Trent. In my opinion, these martyrs are indeed part of the Anglican patrimony. If the TLM was good for them, it’s good for the Ordinariate. Why couldn’t the Ordinariate say the Book of Divine Worship mass and the TLM side by side?


    • Taylor,

      You wrote: The only thing that concerns me is when some in the Ordinariate (key word some, not all) try to make the claim that the Traditional Latin Mass is somehow not appropriate for the Ordinariate.

      I have to agree with those who say this. Although the mass in much of England may have been in Latin, the Tridentine liturgy never saw the light of day in the Church of England or in any other province of the Anglican Communion because the Anglican Schism happened about half a century before the Tridentine reform. Thus, there is no way to argue that the Tridentine liturgy could be an element of the Anglican patrimony of the ordinaries.

      The liturgy in much of England prior to the Anglican Schism actually was the Sarum Use ( for Wikipedia article), first introduced in the eleventh century. The Sarum Use actually is closer to pre-Tridentine use of Rouen than to the pre-Tridentine Roman liturgy.



      • My discipline is history, not theology, so I would not comment on the appropriateness of rite. I will note that the Anglican church was in schism until Edward VI when it went into full on heretical protestant. Since the founding Church remnants went on to use the mass from Trent, it would appear that options are available as permitted by cannon law. I don’t know whether this would require a vote, a declaration based on senses fidem or some other process. Whatever the outcome, it should leave no doubt that the English rite is a full a member of the whole as the Latin, Greek, Melkite, etc.


  2. Pingback: Anglicanorum Coetibus Hermeneutics | New Goliards

  3. Pingback: On the Traditional Latin Mass and the Ordinariates | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  4. But most of TAC never entered the Church….
    And there is obvious mixing, dropping Cranmer’s words forfr words from the Mass, Lamb of God response, moving the Pax…none of this is bad but it is a form of syncretism.


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