Anglicanorum Coetibus and the reasons for conversion.

Heretic after all?

Anglicanorum Coetibus is in the meantime more than eight months old. I would have expected that this historical step toward the Anglican cultural tradition would have been welcomed with a great sigh of relief from many near converts, now free from shallow liturgy and liberal Bishops. Anglicanorum Coetibus also made clear that the door is open in liturgical, but not in doctrinal matters; in other words, that the Catholic Sunday Roast must be eaten with all the trimmings.

Eight months later, I do not feel encouraged. What I notice is as follows:

1) Inability to decide. I know that Anglicans have this down to a fine art, but conversion is a matter of absolutes, not of nuances and subtle distinguos. You either believe that there is Only One Church and the Anglicans are not part of it because the Only Church says so, or you don’t. In the first case there is no alternative to conversion; in the second, no need.

2) Inability of the laity to understand what conversion entails. Conversion means to believe everything which the Church believes, and to profess everything which the Church professes. This means to accept that they were wrong; that their ancestors were wrong; that they themselves were heretics who have now decided to come back to the Only Church. This seems to be a huge obstacle for many of them who seem to think that they can get in as Anglicans. They can’t. If you’re Catholic, Anglicans are heretics to you, full stop.

3) Inability of the clergy to do the same. For the clergy this implies in particular the obvious recognition that their supposed orders are and ever have been null and void. You can’t become Catholic without accepting Apostolicae Curae and the clergy are called to accept this clearly and to explain it (with due delicacy, but telling the whole truth) to their sheep.

4) Strong propensity to use Anglicanorum Coetibus as a negotiating tool with the hierarchy of the so-called church of England (which doesn’t listen to them anyway).

There will be, of course, laudable exceptions. At least, I hope so. But if you look around on the blogosphere what you’ll notice is the repeated complaint that the Anglican Synod is not helping them to stay, that compromises proposed by them have not been accepted, and the like.

Please, let us not kid ourselves. This is the language of one who is not preparing to go, but trying to stay.

I cannot avoid wondering: what would I do if I were an Anglican vicar persuaded that conversion is the way? I would prepare my sheep to the event. I would explain to them everything which such a conversion entails, including the difficult bits. I would tell them that in the end wrong is wrong, and right is right and that the truth will set them free. Most importantly, I would tell them that if conversion is right, the synod’s decisions are irrelevant.

In the several news from them I have read since October – the last one from Fr. Longenecker – I have never found one willing to explain these simple concepts. Not one. Whilst some people have certainly understood the implications, their way was rather the individual conversion. Conversely, my experience is that where the conversion of entire parishes/communities is concerned, the implications of the conversion are simply ignored and the conversion presented as the unavoidable alternative to the Synod not doing what they want.

Dissatisfaction with the Anglican hierarchy can’t even begin to be a reason for conversion. To say so is to threaten the synod to become Catholics whilst thinking, speaking and acting like Anglicans.

Still, the blogosphere is vast. I might be wrong on this.

Please inform me of any Anglican blog pointing out to the ugly truths of 2) and 3) above and making clear that conversion cannot depend on a synod’s decision. It would be so beautiful to see that Anglicanorum Coetibus does pave the way for sincere conversions rather than for Anglican poker games.


Posted on August 2, 2010, in Catholicism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I think this might be a “call my bluff” moment.

    • 🙂

      I think the Synod has called the bluff and will win the hand 😉

      They know many of these “pay attention or I’ll become a catholic”-vicars will soon be looking for an excuse to stay 😉

      If you want to swim you don’t care for the Synod, do you now?


  2. As far as the church of England is concerned, I have never understood how this idea could work. It may be a workable option for theTAC, who are completely separate from the CofE and who have themselves petitioned the Pope for his help, but for members of the Canterbury communion the practicalities are immense.

    Amongst a congregation of, say seventy or a hundred souls, there will be quite a few who will be resistant to the idea of being in communion with Rome. Just because their pastor wants to take advantage of the Pope’s offer does not mean that his entire parish will want to follow him. The church in which they worship will belong to the CofE, and those who want to stay will be entitled to keep their church and have a new vicar appointed for them. So where will the ones who want to be Catholics go?

    Any clergyman will have to be ordained as a Catholic priest. This ordination may be fast-tracked, but there will be an interval when his congregation do not have a priest while they wait for this. What undertakings will the laity have to make? Most of them will have been validly baptised but will they all have to be confirmed?

    The practicalities as far as places of worship and, more importantly, finance are so complicated that it gives me a headache just thinking about it! Who will pay the priest’s stipend and if he has a wife and children, will they be able to live on it?

    I don’t think Anglicanorum Coetibus will become a reality in England. Those who want to swim the Tiber will have to use the old route and do so individually and through personal conviction.

    • Misericordia,
      my own idea is as follows:

      1) these are protestant communities. They vote whether to convert. If the majority is for converting, they take the church and the bank account with them. I might be wrong.
      2) The vicar is paramount. He doesn’t say anything to his sheep because he still doesn’t know what deal he will personally get. My impression is that “real” conversions (I mean, born of a necessity to do what is right) are just not there. Wage, provision for the family, dwelling, pension, priest status; this is what keeps them occupied.
      3) This is a problem because the Church will not say to a vicar “come with us and you’ll become a priest” (a real one, I mean). He’ll have to first leave Anglicanism, then apply to enter a seminary (as an Anglican you can’t apply to anything within the Church), then if you are deemed sound, in case, become a priest. It’s very complicated. The Church will not say (and should not say) to a vicar “if you leave the Anglicans I guarantee to you X,Y and Z”
      4) In my eyes what the Churh should aim at is merely the people. Not the churches and bank accounts (which they are not going to get), nor the vicars (which is probably a good thing). They must have an offer out there which is attractive to sincere seekers. The offer will not bring them entire communities from the c of E, that much is clear. And if they came, I’d doubt their orthodoxy, they’d knock at Peter’s door just in the hope of getting a last-minute deal from the c of E after they’ve gone.
      They are used to ratting and re-ratting, we are talking Anglicans here; many of the priests who came over after 1992 have thought they were better off in the c of E in the end.

      I know it sounds cynical, but I think it sounds historically accurate, too

  3. Oh dear, Mundabor – very cynical, but probly accurate!

    I think,however, that any movement towards Anglicanorum Coetibus will come from the clergy rather than the laity and therefore the Ordinariates will be top heavy with clerics who will not have large (or any) congregations to whom they can minister. Pope Benedict has expressed a desire that they should bring their “Anglican Patrimony” with them and this would require that the ministers would need to see that this was done.

    I may be wrong, but I have the impression that the Pope considers these clergyman who are expressing a desire to be in communion with Rome to be theologically sound. I do not think they will have to be in seminary for long for that reason. I understood they would undertake a very short course before being ordained. This, of course will be another stumbling block as many (all?) of them consider they are validly ordained already and may demand “conditional” ordination. then they will throw a tantrum when this suggestion is rejected!

    • Misericordia,
      I must disagree on a couple of points.
      If these vicars consider themselves validly ordained, they are obviously not sound at all and AC makes it very clear that conversion means a change of thinking. I think this *is* a stumbling block. Even if I agree that any permanenece in a seminary will not be too long, they will have to strip themselves of their supposed priestly dignity in order to get in. They’ll get in as seminarians, not as “priests” making some specialisation course. They’ll be in seminary working toward ordination, not even conditional ordination as there can be no doubt that their order are invalid. This is, I believe, a rather nasty frog to swallow for every vicar.

      Than there is the problem of economic treatment. Unless they already already receive a pension (and I think that most of the convert vicars will come from there) they’ll just have a big uncertainty for them and their families. In some cases there might be a guarantee of a job in some civilian position, but these situations can only be limited. Then there is the problem of how to provide for the bigger families, the need for housing etc.

      I also see a third problem. The section of the anglican clergy more culturally near to conversion is the one most plagued by homosexuality. The Vatican has been very clear that no openly homosexual vicars can enter the seminary, nor those not outed but still clearly poofs. This exclude a biggish percentage of them anyway and after the problems with homosexuality-related minor abuse, I doubt that Rome will have any tolerance on that.

  4. It’s late. Please excuse typos, spelling and grammatical mistakes!

  5. Personally, I think Benedict’s battle plan is as follows:

    1) Create a cultural alternative to Anglicanism in their own countries. Show that Catholicism must not mean stupid sugary songs, shallow liturgy and socialist priests. This will have, I think, a devastating effect on Anglicanism not now, but in the generations to come; if Anglicanism is still alive of course.

    2) Create a ready-made homes for those communities who are already out of the Anglican communion and have been knocking at the door for some time. TAC is a point in case. They are culturally already prepared to become Catholic I think, much more honest in their attitude. They have been examining conversion for many years and are not waiting for any Synod’s decision.

    3) Originate a healthy trickle of sigle Anglican faithful wanting to become Catholic. They won’t be many, but they’ll be the light bearers for the generations to come.

    The idea of atracting entire c of E communities (let alone the buildings and the bank accounts) is in my eyes not realistic.


  6. Thanks Churchmouse, very interesting and in fact telling links.

    In my eyes the first link shows all the confusion of Anglo-Catholicism. Smells and bells and traditional liturgy, but women on the altar and separated church and still they say that they consider themselves part of the Only Church. It is like saying that I consider myself Napoleon.

    The second link shows the “right sort” of convert: the Cistercian monk. The man makes a very lucid analysis when he says that many so-called Anglo-Catholic do have theological differences and some of them are very “liberal” (see the “priestesses” in the first link).

    I found this part very funny: “Among traditional Anglo-Catholics, you will find those who believe in 3, 4, 7, 19, 20, and 21 councils as well as those who believe that no council taught infallibly”. Talk about self-service! 😉 And the man must know as he was one of them!

  7. The third link is, I find, very beautiful and honest. He also makes the rather strong remark that conversion should come from believing what the Church believes of herself, (not what the Anglicans believe she believes).

    Again, we see that a good conversion brings great peace of mind and clarity of vision. I find his words even more beautiful because he doesn’t hide the problems.

  8. Thanks, Mundabor, for reading them through! Yes, the idea was to offer several perspectives in different posts for both Catholics and Anglo-Catholics. There is much more here for Anglo-Catholics than meets the eye.

    Converting to the Catholic faith because one opposes some members of the priesthood and soon-to-be bishops, as right as that stance may be, is not necessarily synonymous with accepting all Catholic doctrine. And that is where Anglo-Catholics really need to do some research as well as pray in their discernment.

    I have no objection to Anglo-Catholics per se. I am married to one who will remain in the C of E; it was never a question. No Anglo-Catholic churches in our immediate vicinity, unfortunately.

    • What I fear will be happening in a couple of years’ time is a “I’ll show you”-mentality, whereby a number of Anglicans (some of them properly so-called anglo-Catholic) convert to catholics and lie to themselves about what it means in order to protest at the so-called c of E. As their vicars have never started telling them what it i sto convert, but rather have told them how the Anglicans “force” them to conversion, one can understand where they (erroneously) come from.

      This is why I think that every vicar who doesn’t start now to tell his people clearly what conversion means is not in good faith.


  9. Churchmouse,
    in the comments to the fourth link you seem to imagine a world where the Catholic Church ordains priestesses because the EU wants so. This will never, ever happen.

    Firstly, it will never happen because the Church will never allow secular governments to decide doctrinal matters, this is something they leave to the Anglicans. Therefore, the Church would return to be an underground movement rather than comply with government diktats in doctrinal matters. It would not be the first time, or the last, that governments want to re-shape the Church. I thas never worked, and it never will.

    Secondly, the EU will never even attempt such moves because Muslims do not have female clergy. I’d like to see the secular government daring to go against them.


  10. Mundabor — I am no stranger to reading that line of thought and, if I’m not mistaken, a Catholic reader who commented on my post said the same thing you wrote above.

    Now, think about the bishop you covered a few days ago. Think about the atheists whose one big target is the Catholic Church. Think about the fact that the Pope is quite elderly and, unless the world is very fortunate, may not have many years left at the helm. I’m not saying it will happen, but it may.

    • Churchmouse,
      you are confusing matters of bad stewardship with betrayal of the doctrine. The first has happened many times in the past and will happen, no doubt, in the future. The second has never happened and will never happen.

      Never has the Church changed doctrinal points. Never, ever. When I criticise the poor way the Popes present the doctrine (as I will do also in the future) I criticise them because they are mediocre in their defending of the truth, not because they have changed it.

      This is fundamental, huge difference between Catholicism and the ecclesial communities.


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