Lately there has been a lot of discussion on Facebook platforms about our identity as Catholics of Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church.
The most recent flurry was precipitated by Shane Schaetzel who changed the name of a private Facebook group entitled Ordinariate Catholics to Traditional English Catholics.
Shane accompanied the abrupt name change—which he admitted was meant to spark discussion–with this essay entitled On the Use of the Word “Anglican” in reference to the the Ordinariates.
The debate itself is over the use of the word “Anglican” within the Catholic ordinariates set up for former Anglicans. In short, some Catholics have no problem with using the word “Anglican” as a prefix to describe the type of liturgy and customs associated with such ordinariates. These Catholics include not only some within the ordinariates themselves, but a growing number of Catholics outside the ordinariates who simply use the word for descriptive purposes. Thus, the terms “Anglican Catholic” and “Anglican ordinariate” have become commonplace. Those championing for the use of the word “Anglican” say it’s just easy shorthand, for simplicity’s sake, with a few arguing that it’s part of the Anglican Patrimony to use the word. Those contending against the use of the word “Anglican” say it’s confusing because in the minds of most Catholics, and most Protestants for that matter, the word “Anglican” is historically married to the concept of English Protestantism.
It is a long essay, with a number of interesting points with some perhaps those more scholarly than I can contest. He concludes:
Former Anglicans: that is the key phrase, don’t you know? The operative word here is “former” not “Anglicans.” Members of the ordinariates are Catholics not Anglicans. A good number of them are former Anglicans, and a growing number of them are former Methodists (my own wife included). I suspect we may be seeing a few former African Methodists Episcopals too! Or at least, I hope so. We all have a common root, Sarum, which is very Catholic and profoundly English. It was Sarum, working through the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, combined with many other things, that led most of us back to Rome. What we have witnessed in our time is not the creation of a hybrid “Anglican Catholicism” but rather the rebirth of something very old, something bigger than Anglicanism, Methodism and other Protestant churches combined. It is the rebirth of ENGLISH CATHOLICISM, by way of the English ordinariates, in which I am pleased to call myself a Restored English Catholic who worships according to the Restored (or Traditional) English Mass!
I get it.
I am a Catholic. I am not an Anglican in the sense of being an official member of the Anglican Communion of Canterbury. There should be no confusion on that point among us and many of the arguments in this vein mix up categories in a way that drives me nuts. Of course we set out to ensure clarity that we are no longer members of any Anglican jurisdiction.
But I think this idea that we represent the revival of some kind of English Catholicism or even Traditional English Catholicism ignores the elements of post-Reformation Anglicanism that have been welcomed into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum coetibus.
III. Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.
Let me stress this:
“…to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”
The document does not say that we who came from the Anglican Communion (or indirectly like I did through a Continuing Anglican group) must shed everything from our Anglican tradition that did not come from pre-Reformation English Catholicism. While I think it can be instructive, edifying and wonderful to explore and revive aspects of English Catholic patrimony that cultivate our identity, deepen our conversion and help us evangelize, we do not have to do that by expunging the word “Anglican” from our vocabulary.
I remember reading a critical comment from a Catholic about the presence of the Comfortable Words in our liturgy because they represented a “Protestant” nod to the stress on Scripture by the Reformation crowd. Sigh.
Another way of describing ourselves that is prevalent in social media is to refer to ourselves as “Ordinariate” this or that, our liturgy as the “Ordinariate Mass” and so on.
That is similar to someone saying I am a “Diocesan Catholic.” It refers to a structure of the Church similar to a diocese and we Catholics of Anglican tradition are not the only ones to have one. The Military also have Ordinariates.
Many of us worried before coming into the Catholic Church that the offer by Pope Benedict XVI was “Bait and Switch” advertising to bring us in, then once Catholic force us to assimilate so that in a generation or two we would have lost any vestiges of the patrimony we brought into the Church.
The biggest push for this bleaching away of Anglican identity seems to be coming from our own members. I have always been of the position that we “use it or lose it” when it comes to our traditions. We will be bringing in, I hope, many people who do not have any link to Anglicanism of any kind, if our evangelization is effective. What do we assimilate people into? Do we assimilate them into a construct? Or do we assimilate them into an ethos that we were welcomed to bring with us into the Catholic Church?
Are our Ordinariates an example of realized ecumenism or not? Are they a recognition of Catholic faith and diversity of expression or not? Yes, this is something new and possibly confusing for some people, but let’s use these as teaching moments and stop being ashamed of the word Anglican when it comes to describing our tradition, our ethos, our identity as former Anglicans in full communion with the Catholic Church.