DOUBTS have been raised about whether former Church of England clerics would have distinctive “transferrable skills” to bring to the Roman Catholic Church, if they ceased to be part of the Anglican Communion.
At a meeting on Saturday at Pusey House in Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker SSC, Principal of Pusey House, said that a group was gathering to reflect on what was the “distinct tradition” within the Anglican Church, fostered since the Reformation, which was “potentially capable of finding its way to enrich the life of the wider Catholic Church”.
Under the norms of Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum Coetibus, clergy trained in seminaries in the proposed Ordinariate (News, 23 October) would be tutored in “those aspects of Anglican patrimony that are of particular value” to the RC Church.
One speaker, Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge, and an Irish Roman Catholic, asked what “transferrable skills” Anglicans would bring. He said that what was distinctive was that they had been “shaped” by the Royal Supremacy, which had had a “moderating impact” on the differences in the Church of England between Catholics and Protestants.
“A fundamental part of the nature, identity, and patrimony of Anglicanism comes from the enforced co-existence of the Catholic dimension of Anglicanism within other more Protestant streams within an establishment,” Professor Duffy said. There would be “big problems imagining how it would retain its coherence and Anglican identity outside those constraints. . . Could choral evensong survive in a minority uniate Church . . . within Roman Catholicism?”
Canon Robin Ward, the Principal of St Stephen’s House, said that the Pope, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, had seen in Anglicanism “a significant Catholic potential — a self-renewing Catholic principle”. Part of the Pope’s motivation in Anglicanorum Coetibus was to find a “juridical and theological way” in which this worthwhile distinctiveness could make a contribution to the greater communion of the catholica.
Anglican moral theology within an Ordinariate would not provide different answers to contested questions (such as contraception, divorce, and homosexuality), but it could bring “the virtue of religion”, the way in which, in Anglicanism, worship, piety, and external religion were formed into a national “sacral landscape”. Anglicans could demonstrate that “a moral ethic based on custom does not mean disorder”.
The Revd Philip North, Team Rector of Old St Pancras, London, warned that the opportunities for mission would be reduced because “we have the furniture of the Church of England,” which occupied a legal and cultural role. This was part of the nation’s self-understanding, responsible for whole communities. “Is that patrimony importable?” he asked.
Clergy in the Ordinariate would have to be in secular employment because the Roman Catholic Church could not raise the money — £64,000 in his case in London — to keep them in a house and stipend. Fr North said that the Ordinariate could become irrelevant: “If we reach a point where staying is not an option, then traditional conversion is far more likely to offer the kind of enrichment and ministry that we know now.”