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.