Anglicans Return

ATHANASIUS CONTRA MUNDUM – There is some exciting news recently, as nearly 1,000 Anglican priests and some of their faithful will enter full communion with the Catholic Church. To facilitate this, the Holy Father is cardinal_newmanexpanding the already extent “Anglican Rite” to incorporate the Anglican Tradition.

Now this may give some traditional Catholics pause, but once we understand what this is, and what it represents historically it should pose for us but a few difficulties.

If one recalls correctly the history of the Church, the English Church had its own liturgy (Sarum Rite) and had for the most part its own ecclesiastical jurisdiction. For lack of a better term it was a western rite different from the Roman, much as the Ambrosian rite, or the Mozarabic rite in Spain. These rites enjoyed their own canonical status and their own rights and customs. If Henry VIII for example, had not left the Church to found his own sect, St. Pius V’s bull Quo Primum would have had no effect on the liturgical customs of England since those went back nearly 1000 years.

Thus to bring the Anglicans into the Church under their own rite with their own liturgy, provided they are re-ordained (or at least conditionally re-ordained where they can’t prove orders coming from valid Bishops today), is not an utter and complete novelty. It rather would restore a situation which was in place for a good part of the Church’s history.

NewmanNow if we look at more recent history, such as the union of Brest, what do we find? The formula for reunion between the Ukranian Orthodox and the Church was brought about by allowing them to retain all of their religious customs and rites, but requiring only professing all articles of the Catholic faith and being loyal to the Pope. The Clergy of the Eastern Rites which followed the Ukranians on the same model were allowed not only the traditions of the Eastern Church, but to retain the right of married clergy.

This presents one of the largest problems for establishing an Anglican Communion that accepts all Catholic teaching and Papal infallibility. It was not the tradition prior to 1531 to have married clergy, yet even amongst anglo-Catholics most clergy are married. This presents us with a problem. Does the Church acknowledge the tradition which persisted from St. Patrick and St. Augustine of Canterbury until 1531, in accord with the customs of the West, or does it follow the more recent custom since the revolt from the Catholic faith?

Cardinal Newman at work in his study.

Cardinal Newman at work in his study.

It seems to me that it makes the most sense that after those who wish to join now, the priests of the Anglican rite ought to be celibate, in accord with the millennial tradition of celibacy that persisted amongst English clergy, and also for greater conformity with the customs of the Roman Rite. This is also most beneficial for retaining that apostolic discipline, which in the west has realized itself in perpetual continency of the clergy in the Roman rite as well.

Now there is also an added benefit to this move, the vast majority of the clergy from the Anglican Church which will be coming home are high Church. This is one of the reasons the liberal stalwart of Westmisnter, Bishop Murphy-O’Connor, resisted such a move for so long. Since Newman’s time, the Anglican Church has suffered the full effects of modernism taken to its conclusions, nothing is true and tradition doesn’t matter. This is a blow to those in the Catholic Church who should like to see the same happen in the bride of Christ, who wish to have a man centered liturgy cut off from tradition.

p4_Cardinal Newman_1_One more thing useful thing has occurred as well. It is a blow to the Ecclesiology of those such as Cardinal Kasper, who claim that there is no ecumenism of return. He has been noted in the press in recent days only by his absence, because he can have no positive view of this development. All the more reason to welcome it.

However there is one thing which is disconcerting, especially as we witness further talks with the SSPX which may result in an apostolic administration of some sort. Those priests who have remained faithful to Rome, such as we see in the FSSP, ICKSP, and those many diocesan priests who have been scorned by the modernists for saying the Traditional Mass for years, they still have no apostolic administration of any sort, no bishops, and no priviledges which are now to be given to groups which were either schismatic, left the Church or persisted for hundreds of years out of full communion. What does that say about the virtue of fidelity? Not that this move should not be made to the Anglicans, because I think it ought, but that the same rights and priveledges to celebrate the sacraments of the Church’s immemorial tradition ought to be granted to those who have been faithful. Otherwise all one does is encourage disobedience.

Cardinal Newman's Coat of Arms

Cardinal Newman's Coat of Arms

Yet that has been the very thing encouraged by the Vatican for 50 years now. The faithful get punished, while the disobedient tacitly criticized, every once in a while publicly condemend (as we see with the SSPX), but privately tolerated and approved of. We see this as well with the Eastern Catholic clergy, who endured persecution and martyrdom to be Catholic and remain so, who for being faithful are ignored by Rome, while every move is made to pacify the Orthodox who have been out of communion for 1,000 years and hurled insults at Rome matched by only the worst schismatics of our day. What this move evinces is the need for interior unity in Rome both in terms of policy and in its behavior toward various groups in the Church.


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