Call me a closet Protestant, attack me if you will, but there is one important hurdle that I don't think I'm ready or willing to jump in order to swallow whole the Apostolic Constitution, as some clergy and laity have evidently already done, and that is the absence of any recognition from Rome that Anglican orders may be valid.
The Holy Father's generosity is abundantly obvious to anybody who has read the document, and only serves to increase my fondness for a man I regard as my Pope and the legitimate successor of Peter. But generosity alone, however well intentioned, cannot completely plaster over the cracks of five hundred years of schism, and I am a little disappointed in those who rush to proclaim that it can.
My problem is this, and I'll phrase it as a question: Can those priests and bishops who have already accepted the AC in its entirety, and who desire to be reordained unconditionally as priests and bishops in the new Ordinariate, really do so with integrity? For I believe that to do so would be to turn their backs on me, and other faithful who have looked to them for guidance through our journey of faith, a journy that we have so far made together. To accept "conversion" to Catholicism, which is the faith they have been preaching from our pulpits for years, and to accept unconditional ordination, which is thereby to accept that their orders were invalid, is to say that every confession I have ever made, every Holy Communion I have ever received from their blessed hands, every confirmation and every Holy Matrimony was, all along, no more than a charade: "absolutely null and utterly void".
I hope you will pardon me for expecting something more from the phrase "Anglican patrimony" than merely the permission to use certain Elizabethan phrases in our Liturgy. To me, Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church means sanctioning our faith journey, which so far has been long, arduous and never for one moment without controversy or crisis. I do not want to beg the Holy See for permission to use, say, the English Missal, because I think it makes for a nice Sunday Service, but because the heroes of our Faith - Hope Patten, Frank Weston, Dom Gregory and countless others - have sanctified that particular Anglican liturgical text, and others besides, with their golden lips. To take those three as examples, Hope Patten restored Walsingham as England's Nazareth; one of the most inspired and successful initiatives of the Church of England in the 20th century. Frank Weston fought tooth and nail in Kikuyu against inter-Communion between Anglicans and Protestant non-Conformists, and he set thousands of hearts on fire at the Anglo-Catholic Congress of 1923 with his powerful words about Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament (do I even need to quote his?). Dom Gregory Dix "shaped" so much of our thoughts about the Liturgy and the Sacraments, and his influence extended far beyond the Anglican Communion. So convinced was he of the validity of Anglican Orders that he died almost with the defense of them on his lips. All of these men lived as believing Catholics, and died out of Communion with Rome, but the legacy of these "Saints" who will never be canonised is powerful, and their witness reaches beyond time from their shrines and speeches and touches every one of us who dares call himself a Catholic in the Anglican Communion.
So what am I to do? Accept that I am not Catholic and follow my Protestant ministers to the Ordinariate where we will suddenly and magically become Catholics? Should I forgot about those heroes I hold so dear, who I know can never be called Saints of the Catholic Church, but to whose memories I cling to so dearly, and whose example inspires me? Forgive me for what seems like ingratitude or a lack of understanding, but when someone makes a journey, you can only expect them to arrive at their destination with baggage!
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