Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Reflection on the observations of the Bishop of Guildford

I apologise for this long post but I am not able to shorten it without compromising its integrity.
The post before this was the observations by Bishop Hill on the Apostolic Constitution of HH Pope Benedict XVI called Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC). Although the document by Bishop Hill is dated 22 November 2009 the first time I saw it was after it was pointed out to me on Monday 25 January 2010. I wonder how this passed me by. I also intended to write my own reflections on it but because of a full diary I did not have the time to do so till now.
I am grateful that a diocesan bishop in the CofE has taken the time to write his own observations on the AC. After reading the observations of Bishop Hill several times over I still am left with the impression that Bishop Hill does not understand/like this offer and in some places more than others this comes up very close to the surface.
From the title one expects the observations to fall into the two categories mentioned namely canonical (i.e. to do with Church law) and Liturgical (i.e. concerning the manner in which God is worshipped). The document treats much longer the canonical aspect then the liturgical one. It seems that the bishop would not like to deal with AC from a theological perspective and that is, I assume, as the introduction to the AC itself is very robust in that aspect. It came as a surprise to me, awaiting as I was Canonical and Liturgical observations, to read the first two paragraphs which seem to belong more to the gossipy genre of some aspects of the media carrying on the various things said about a divergence between the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity headed by Cardinal Kasper and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith led by Cardinal Levada. This seems unnecessary as:
a)     It does not bear on the AC
b)    The matter is more doctrinal then ecumenical as those to who it is addressed believe what Rome does
c)     It has no benefit for those of us who want further reflection on AC
d)    It also, in one part, seems to make an unfair statement
As regards point d I refer to the fact that Bishop Hill suggests that AC is not a substitute for that ‘serious dialogue’ which we know as ARCIC. Does this mean that AC is not also a serious dialogue between separated Christians? In fact is it not a serious response by the Pope to requests made by some Anglicans? Also, as Bishop Hill mentions it is imperative for those who AC does not apply to them to keep open a serious dialogue with other Christian Churches, but considering the changes that have happened since the sixties in the fact that some members of the Anglican Communion have departed from the Faith we previously held in common, is he still hoping realistically that there ever can be a complete communion of faith and sacramental life, short of a massive miracle? One also recalls that there is no full communion on these aspects in the Anglican Communion itself.
Cardinal Levada in announcing AC might have used the term ‘former Anglicans’ but on looking at AC itself the introductory paragraphs speak of ‘groups of Anglicans’ and ‘Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner’. I see no ‘ambiguity’ there.  It is sad that Bishop Hill insists on using it in his document in other places too indicating that in his mind one cannot have Anglicans in full communion with Rome but either Anglicans or not. This seems so mean compared to the generosity of Pope Benedict As regards numbers reported in the media of those who will respond favourably to AC one would have thought that Bishop Hill should know better about some media reports and also that this is not an issue of numbers, the Gospel speaks of ninety nine sheep and the Master going for the lost one, even one is important in his eyes.
Bishop Hill starts his canonical reflections by comparing an Ordinariate with a Diocese. The Ordinary has no delegated jurisdiction from the bishop of a local diocese but receives it directly from the Supreme Pontiff who holds immediate jurisdiction in the whole Catholic Church, and no Roman Catholic Bishop can be so if he is not in communion with the Bishop of Rome. So if Bishop Hill sees any parallel between that and the delegated jurisdiction as might be mentioned in the CofE the parallel is very week indeed. Bishop Hill I am sure is aware that the need for some Anglicans to look into ways of how to hold their place in the Church with integrity is only a direct result of the situation brought about by those who wanted and fought for recent innovations that are not consistent with the Faith of the Church Catholic. The Ordinary in his ordinariate exercises ordinary (that is full legal jurisdiction) vicarious (that is instead of the Pope who has universal jurisdiction) and personal (on the people who form the ordinariate rather than a geographical territory). All these are defined in Canon 368. This partly theological canon reflects the shift in conciliar ecclesiology from a Church as understood by the Code of 1917 as it sees a variety of communities in vital relationship with each other. (See also Canon 381)
Bishop Hill equates personal parishes with chaplaincies describing them as essentially ministering to a self-defined congregational group.  Apart from the fact that this is what some CofE parishes are doing with some exceptions for baptisms, weddings and funerals, nowhere does it say that a personal parish of the Ordinariate is not to engage in evangelisation or not allowed to be available to those who approach it. The Divine mandate of making disciples is not revoked by AC or its complimentary norms or by Canon 518. While John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Spirituali Militum Curae of 1986 (about military ordinariates) speaks of chaplains [num. VII] in AC it speaks of Pastors who are to work in mutual pastoral assistance together with the pastors of the local Diocese where the personal parish of the Ordinariate has been established. (VIII, 2). Working in co-operation is more effective. And whilst Spirituali Militium Curae speaks of who is a member of a chaplaincy within the Military Ordinariate there is no such descriptor in AC. This is new ground with all the exciting possibilities that it might bring. Although further clarification is needed on local co-operation the conclusion by Bishop Hill that parishes of the Ordinariate will be chaplaincies is not a given and in my opinion unlikely. I also wonder why Bishop Hill seems cautious about the co-operation between the Personal Ordinariate and the local Catholic Conference of Bishops, I always believed that co-operation between Christians is paramount and that is why so many are involved in local groups of Churches Together and what most, if not all, petitioning parishes have been doing with the Deanery Chapters and Synods etc.
However, when Bishop Hill speaks about these new personal parishes he speaks about them sharing a building with existing Roman Catholic Congregations. It seems that for him there is no goodwill in allowing CofE churches to share, or where congregations go in significant numbers to retain what they have been paying for for years. Is goodwill only for others?
Hill points out that English Roman Catholic Theologians have asked why it is the Catechism of the Catholic Church that people need to accept rather than the documents of Vatican II. Apart from the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church comprises the teachings of the documents of Vatican II, it would be good to know who these theologians are and why they ask the question. Surely this is a matter that will help those who seriously are engaging with this document, or is this just a repeat of the opening paragraph of Bishop Hills’ observations? Bishop Hill also points out that the Catechism includes topics of human sexuality with doctrine. As far as I see it belief is lived in all aspects of life and cannot be divorced from it as some suggest is happening in the CofE. But I am not sure what the Bishop is trying to say in that question and how it squares up with canonical observations. The same can be said about Hill’s worries with the financing of the Ordinariate.
Bishop Hill makes some liturgical observations. AC allows the clergy of the Ordinariate to use the Roman rite or other forms approved by the Holy See. The departure of the CofE from the common Usage of the Book of Common Prayer to more Latin shaped rites is a decision that the CofE has taken and is evidenced in the many borrowings of Common Worship from the Roman rite both in words and gestures. Maybe the treasures have been shared already. Whatever shape the liturgy takes I cannot see that it will be very different from what is going on already. Unlike the bishop I have no fear here; rites that were looked upon with horror by our Anglican forebears are now solidly part of the Common Worship family of liturgies.
Part of the shared treasure is not only the married clergy, music and spiritual writings that Bishop Hill rightly mentions but also the experience and enthusiasm of the clergy and laity who would seek admission to the ordinariate, a passion for order, for a gospel and mission shaped church that coupled with the same passion found among the Roman Catholic clergy and laity would surely be a strong witness and a catalyst for good in our nation.
I am grateful for the observations made by Bishop Hill and the thoughts they have stirred as I pray and reflect over AC.
I think I am right in saying that during that sad July session of General Synod in 2008 when the Bishop of Winchester proposed an amendment saying: “that those who dissent from as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans”, Bishop Hill voted against. Sadly in this case it makes it considerably difficult for me to engage with his observations.

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Thanks for commenting on the Bishop of Guildford's remarks. You give him more than his due. Poor man presides over a diocese which once had a good number of 'catholic' parishes, most of which were destroyed by his recent predecessors. (I know - I was Rector of one of them). The Bishop himself once was thought to belong to the Catholic wing of the C of E. Clearly he is wrestling not just with A.C but with his own conscience. He deserves our prayers- with encouragement he could be the first Diocesan in the C of E to accept the Holy Father's offer.