Saturday, 18 June 2011

David Carter reviews "Anglicans and Catholics in Communion"

David Carter is a distinguished British Methodist ecumenical scholar, a leading figure in Churches Together in England's Theology and Unity Group and also the British Catholic-Methodist dialogue committee. In the past he was Secretary of the Society for Ecumenical Studies and is currently a member of the editorial board of the UK Benedictine Catholic ecumenical journal, One in Christ.

As editor of the Newsletter of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary he is a notable reviewer of books with an ecumenical significance. He recently wrote the following assessment of the Catholic League's Messenger 292 (April-August 2010), Anglican & Catholics in Communion: Patrimony, Unity and Mission.

The League is grateful for this perspective from a disinterested and widely respected commentator on ecumenical developments and thinking. Some voices still question the Ordinariate's potential contribution to Christian Unity (even suggesting it could be harmful to it); others dismiss the idea that in England there can be such a thing as Anglican patrimony. Yet over the last year and a half it has been interesting to see how the imperatives we have promoted - Christian Unity and Re-evangelisation in Europe - and the cultural, spiritual, liturgical identity and responsiveness to society we have commended, features that an Anglican patrimony embodies, belong in the communion of the whole Church, not just within Anglicanism, have become the narrative others are now articulating.

If you would like to receive Anglicans & Catholics in Communion, a complimentary copy is available from the General Secretary, David Chapman, c/o St Paul's Bookshop, Morpeth Terrace, London SW1P 1EP, telephone 020 7828 5582. A donation to the Newman Fund (see the panel to the left) would be appreciated in return.

Anglicans and Catholics in Communion-Patrimony, Unity, Mission, edited by Mark Woodruff (The Messenger of the Catholic League, No 292, April-August 2010).

Mark Woodruff and the Catholic League are to be congratulated on this publication which is a valuable vade mecum for anyone wishing to understand the origins and basis of the Ordinariate as well as the hopes that may reasonably be entertained for it. Its canonical basis is clearly and succinctly outlined by Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda and its rationale explained in other essays with particular attention to the understanding of catholicity as explained in the Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II. Cardinal Levada explains that "when I say enrichment, I am not referring to any addition of essential elements of sanctification to the Catholic Church - Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine Founder". One might here slightly quibble with the cardinal. Surely, if the Church’s catholicity is wounded by virtue of the separation of any of the baptised from her, then, to a degree, so is her ability to offer the fullness of worship to Him, this being only complete when the entire family that the Son has gained for the Father is present "in one mind and heart together" (Acts 4:32)?
Fr Mark himself offers two excellent chapters, one on the question of the way in which Anglican orders can be "recognised or received" and one on hymnody as part of the Anglican patrimony to be shared with the rest of the Roman Catholic Church by members of the Ordinariate. One might just add here that, in a sense this is part of a wider heritage than purely Anglican since so many who have contributed to it have come from the free church traditions, Isaac Watts being the most prominent. One might add that though Charles Wesley would certainly wish to be remembered as an Anglican, it is Methodism that has preserved so much of his heritage.
Philip North contributes a particularly interesting chapter in which he asks how far Anglicans making the journey into Roman Catholic communion may be able, or not, to maintain the sort of ministry to the whole population of a parish that they currently exercise and value. This is an important missiological question and should not be overlooked by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference as they prepare the ground for the Ordinariate in England. John Hunwicke contributes a delightfully written essay entitled  Patrimony - What Patrimony? He argues that "we should be allowed to paddle around with our Anglican patrimony in the middle of the catholic mainstream" (my italics). He feels that much that traditionalist Anglo-Catholics value may be a timely gift to the Roman Catholic Church, stressing particularly that their concern for due awe and reverence in worship may fit precisely with the aims of Liturgiam Authenticam. I have some sympathy with this view, as I feel that in all the western Churches there is a need, particularly on the part of those ministers or lay preachers entrusted with the leadership of worship, to conduct it with dignity, to remember that it is not entertainment (a word I address particularly to the Free Churches) and to communicate a sense of awe and wonder particularly in preaching, praying and presidency at the eucharist. Fr John also stresses that the patrimony is essentially that of a tradition embodied in the people, the people in whom the anointing of the Spirit resides (1 John 2:20) and who have the sensus fidelium.
There are many other riches in this book which I heartily commend. Whatever the rest of us may feel about Anglicanorum Coetibus, I think we can all derive pleasure from two things. The first is that due provision has been made for a group of people who feel they must join the Roman Catholic Church but also take with them all that is compatible with that Church from their previous Anglican tradition. The other is to record the gracious words of Archbishop Rowan to the effect that he welcomes anything that allows the Anglican heritage to be more widely shared with the rest of Christendom.

David Carter.

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