Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stepping down, stepping across

Fr. Samuel Edwards has just made this article available to all. It is so heartfelt that I felt the need to share it with each of you here. What a remarkable man.

The Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
December 27, AD2010

Dear Family, Parishioners, Colleagues, and Friends in Christ,

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was through the late Father Homer Rogers (d. 1980) of Saint Francis Church in Dallas that I was introduced to the idea that ultimately all love songs are about the soul’s quest for the vision of God in his Bride, the Church. In my case, the example of that genre that seems most applicable is “Bless the Broken Road,” best known through its performance by the country-crossover group Rascal Flatts. It reads,

I set out on a narrow way, many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent, just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost, and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there, you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
But now I'm just rolling home into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

( – Bobby C. Boyd, Jeff Hannah and Marcus Hummon,

There is an old Yiddish saying that translates, “Man plans: God laughs.” The journey that is life only rarely progresses according to the plan of the pilgrim. Instead, it is full of unexpected turns and vistas unlooked for, since it is directed by Another. Mine is no exception. As recently as two years ago, I had not thought that I would come to this moment, but now that it has arrived, it seems to me that all that has gone before has led directly to it.


As some of you already know, as some of you have been suspecting, as some of you have feared, as some of you have hoped, and perhaps as most of you until this moment have not been told, I shall be stepping down as Vicar of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Waynesville at the end of this month in order to prepare for coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. None of my congregation will be following me on this path: instead, Saint Peter’s will continue as an Anglican mission, still in the Anglican Church of America, but under the care of the Anglican Province of America until the finalization of a formal concordat between these two jurisdictions. A smooth transition of administration is already under way. My final celebration of the Eucharist at Saint Peter’s will take place, God willing, at 7 p.m. on December 29th. (This is the Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, a saint for whom I have always held a special regard: Indeed, my first offering of the Mass as a newly-ordained priest on May 16th, 1980 was a votive of Saint Thomas.)

It is my preference and my hope to be able to make the impending transition through the special structure – called an “ordinariate’ – which was provided for Anglicans by Pope Benedict XVI last year to enable those of us who will to enter the Catholic Church and to bring along with us those elements of our liturgical, theological, and pastoral heritage that are in conformity with the Church’s teaching. It is intended to be a means whereby these gifts may be contributed to the rich variety encompassed by that vast Communion, which (though most are not aware of the fact) consists of two dozen distinct ritual Churches united with Rome and with one another. However, the Ordinariate – the “bridge across the Tiber,” as some have called it – is only one means of accomplishing the end – the “how,” which is provisional, as contrasted with the “that,” which is settled. With or without an Ordinariate, the decision as to my course is firm. The only thing that I have not decided is whether to apply for ordination: On that matter, “my soul in silence waits.”

Having said all that, I still suspect that most of you are less interested in the “how” and the “that” than in the “why” of the matter, so it is mostly to that question that I will address myself.

When it comes to the question of entering into full communion, most people who are not Catholic – and, no doubt, some who are – tend to focus on what the newcomer has to (or what they fancy he has to) leave behind and not to notice what he gets to take with him. With that in mind, let me begin by saying that my taking this step cannot fairly be characterized as the rejection of anything that is good, or true, or beautiful in my Christian heritage and past history, whether personal or ecclesiastical. Instead, it involves my carrying it into what I have come to recognize as the one arena on this earth in which, by the grace of God, each and all of these blessings may most surely be moved toward the perfection that they will attain in heaven. To be sure, there will be baggage that I will have to leave behind on the platform, but that will be nothing that I ought to miss very much, if at all. If I had to – God being my helper – I’d leave it all behind but that does not seem to be required, especially on the terms offered by that kind and gentle soul who now occupies Peter’s Throne. Even if such a sacrifice were required, it would still be worth it to me in order to move closer to the heart of the “Great Belonging” of which we all in Christ are members.


My motto for this journey could be, “In my beginning is my end.” It has been, and remains, a pilgrimage from a Great into a Greater Belonging. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, “I am a part of all that I have met,” and it is a part of me.

I was baptized into the Great Belonging of Christ’s body in the Methodist Church, but that act did not make me a Methodist, but a catholic Christian. This is true in the case of all baptisms administered with water “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Methodism claims nothing less; the Catholic Church entirely agrees, for while she teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ “subsists” visibly and most fully in that body whose bishops are in full communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome, she does not thereby deny the reality of the Christian identity and commitment of those who are outside those limits, but instead invites them inside: “All my fresh springs are in thee.”)

As a young man, in order to remain, and more perfectly be, Methodist, I became an Anglican by confirmation in the Episcopal Church. Since I had learned that, so long as John and Charles Wesley lived, they refused to countenance the separation of their movement from the Church of England, I believed I was simply doing what they would have wanted.

As a middle-aged man, following years of “fighting the long defeat” of apostolic Christianity in the Episcopal Church and the official Anglican Communion and concluding that there was no lasting desire or intention in them to allow the survival, let alone the extension, of the catholic faith within them, I entered the Continuing Anglican movement in order to continue to be an Anglican.

My combined experience within both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Continuum has finally led me to the same conclusion so many of my friends, mentors, and colleagues reached long before I did, which is that nothing good about the Anglican Way ultimately can survive if it remains cut off from its fount and origin. The past four and one-half centuries of organic disunion have demonstrated to my own satisfaction that apart from its union with the main trunk, the Anglican branch of the Christian tree –finest and most humane product of the Reformation though it is – can only either (1) rot from the heart out, until merely the bark is left to give it shape until it is fragmented by external pressure, or (2) become fossilized, in which case it may be more solid but no less subject to fragmentation.


Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Experiments succeed whether they prove or disprove their hypothesis. So far as I can see, the Anglican experiment has succeeded in that it has disproved the hypothesis that catholic faith and practice can endure indefinitely apart from visible communion with that See of which Peter and Paul were co-founders.

This is coupled with the realization that – notwithstanding all the faults and sins of its members and even of its leaders (which it acknowledges) – for the last hundred years and more (while one by one the churches of the Reformation have succumbed, through surrender to or by retreat in the face of the spirit of the age) there has been in the world but one Christian communion which has consistently and proactively stood for divine truth and the dignity of man against every idolatrous tyranny which destroys and degrades him. This perception finds confirmation in the prophetic ministries of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, and – and with more besides – it has made clear to me beyond a reasonable doubt my own call into full communion with the Catholic Church.


I want it to be clearly understood that however much those things I have come to perceive as shortcomings in what I have passed through have propelled me along this path, of far greater importance to me is the fact that I have been drawn on by the fullness and the splendor of truth confessed by the Catholic Church. Of course, I am fully aware that such a statement might lead many to ask, “You mean, you really believe all that stuff?!”

If by “all that stuff,” the questioner means the authoritative teaching contained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the short answer is, “Yes, I do.” Do I comprehend every detail? No, at least not yet, but since faith is first a gift of God leading to and enabling a free decision to trust the Gift-giver, I am not required fully to understand in order to give full assent. Indeed, it is through my willing assent that I may hope at length to understand.

That the journey won’t end with this step is certain, because none of our journeys ends on this earth. There is a final step. In his time, at his command and in order to attain the final end for which I was made, the Lord Jesus Christ will summon me from this Militant to the Expectant portion of his Church, there to strive until all is subsumed into the Church Triumphant – the Greatest Belonging of all. And in that end will be my true beginning. T. S. Eliot says it well:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

– Four Quartets: “Little Gidding,” V.

Although this is all I feel led say on the subject at the moment (and, Lord knows, it is a lot), please don’t refrain from asking for clarification if you need it. And keep me in your prayers, whatever you do, as you shall be in mine. So shall we all at length find ourselves together “landed safe on Canaan’s side.” Then, after such sorrow, what joy, what light, what glory!
In Christ our Lord and our God,

Samuel L. Edwards

Waynesville, North Carolina
Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception through
the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
December 7-27, 2010

About Fr. Sam Edwards
Fr. Samuel L. Edwards is a native of Waynesville, North Carolina and recently has returned there. A graduate of Brevard College, The American University (Washington, DC), and Nashotah House Seminary (Wisconsin), he has served churches in north central Texas, southern Maryland and central Alabama. He also served for seven years as the Executive Director of Forward in Faith, North America, then the largest organization of traditional Anglicans in The Episcopal Church, during which he traveled and spoke widely, both in the United States and abroad. After 29 years in The Episcopal Church (23 of them as a member of the clergy), he became part of the Continuing Anglican movement in 2002. Presently he is a member of the Anglican Church in America’s Diocese of the Eastern United States and serves as Vicar of Saint Peter’s Church in Waynesville. Fr. Edwards’ ministry has a strong focus on teaching. He is the author of numerous articles on religious, social, historical and political topics, both in church publications and secular newspapers. He has also written two books (neither published as yet) – Constitution and Institution on the renewal of ecclesiology (the doctrine about the Church) and The Pondering Heart: A Rosary for all Christians. He is also engaged in a long and intermittent project of organizing his instructional material into another book with the working title, Faith and Life: Basics of Christian Teaching and Practice. At this writing, Fr. Edwards is a contender for a seat in the North Carolina General Assembly’s House of Representatives in the General Election of 2010. Fr. Edwards and his wife, Kay, have been married for over 30 years. They have two adopted children. David, the elder, is a Private in the North Carolina Army National Guard, currently serving in Iraq. Rachel, the younger, lives with her husband in Waynesville.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TAC Primate announced Clergy applications to Rome

The Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion has announced that more than 150 of the group's clergy are actively seeking to reunite with the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI's Anglican Ordinariate proposal.

“This is a moment to reflect on the prophetic wisdom of Pope Benedict,” wrote Primate John Hepworth, who heads up a group of 15 traditional Anglican provinces around the world. “It is a moment to thank him for his daring trust that Anglicans would respond. It is a time to intensify our prayers for him.”

In his pastoral statement, he noted some “exquisite difficulties” that had previously slowed implementation of “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” the Pope's November 2009 apostolic constitution which allows Anglican groups to petition the Holy See for large-scale reunion. However, the primate reported feeling “much more at ease with the implementation process” one year later.

In 1992, the local churches of the Traditional Anglican Communion separated from the global Anglican Communion, primarily over the issue of female ordination. Primate Hepworth indicated in his letter that the subsequent direction of the mainstream Anglican Communion had borne out their decision to separate, as well as many traditional Anglican clergy and bishops' decision to seek full communion with Rome.

Traditional Anglican Communion bishops in two countries – Canada and the United States – have already joined in preparations for reunion, about which Primate Hepworth said announcements would “soon be forthcoming.” In the United States, 51 priests and five bishops of the communion are seeking to join the ordinariate, along with three bishops and 43 of their clergy in Canada.

“In our own Communion,” he continued, “four further Provinces have already passed resolutions seeking the formation of an Ordinariate.”

These include England, where 24 Traditional Anglican Communion clergy “have indicated their firm intention to seek ordination and membership of the English Ordinariate.” Five bishops of the Church of England also announced in November that they were leaving the Church of England to join the country's first ordinariate, or jurisdiction.

Many Anglican groups' own ordination rites, like those of the mainstream Anglican Communion, are not recognized as valid, meaning that these groups' clergy must be ordained to serve as Catholic priests.

Bishop Robert Mercer, a retired Anglican bishop now belonging to the English branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion, announced his intention to join the English Ordinariate along with the other five departing Anglican leaders. Although many of the departing Anglican bishops can only serve as priests in the ordinariates, they may be able to maintain leadership roles.

In Primate Hepworth's country of Australia, at least 28 priests and three bishops intend to become Catholic under the terms of the apostolic constitution. One bishop in Puerto Rico and another in Central America have also requested the formation of Anglican ordinariates in these regions.

“I have been assured that Episcopal Delegates for a number of further regions will be named,” the primate announced, explaining that he would be visiting Japan, Latin America, India and Africa to discuss reunion with bishops and clergy there.

Not all of the clergy and laypersons of the traditional communion, which encompasses 15 provinces throughout the world, are currently planning to become Catholic through the ordinariate system. However, Primate Hepworth affirmed in his letter that full communion with the Catholic Church “is a matter of policy for the College of Bishops (of the Traditional Anglican Communion), as is the acceptance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

Nevertheless, he called for charity to prevail between those clergy and laypersons who would be seeking to become Catholic in the immediate future, and those who would not. “It is of utmost importance that those who are ready now should hold those who are not yet ready in the deepest bonds of prayer and Christian closeness. And vice versa.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Archbishop Wuerl named Apostolic Delegate to Anglicans in US

Doctrine Of The Faith Congregation Names Archbishop Wuerl To Guide Bringing Anglican Groups Into Catholic Church In U.S.

WASHINGTON(September 23, 2010)—The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has named Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington to guide the incorporation of Anglican groups into the Catholic Church in the United States.

In this position, he is a delegate of the congregation and heads the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee charged with assisting CDF in implementing the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. Pope Benedict XVI issued the document in November 2009 to provide for establishing personal ordinariates for Anglican groups who seek to enter corporately into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The personal ordinariate is a canonical structure similar to a diocese that covers the area of a bishops’ conference. This permits the incoming Anglicans to be part of the Catholic Church while maintaining aspects of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.

Other members of the ad hoc committee are Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts. The committee will be assisted by Father Scott Hurd, who was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1993, joined the Catholic Church in 1996, and was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in 2000. Father Hurd will assist Archbishop Wuerl as staff to the ad hoc committee and a liaison to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Interested Anglicans are asked to contact Archbishop Wuerl through the Washington Archdiocese.

The ad hoc committee has two tasks:

To facilitate the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States
To assess the level of interest in such an ordinariate in the United States.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pope Benedict’s UK Visit:

The following article was found in the National Review. There should be no question in anyone’s mind now the importance that Pope Benedict places on the Apostolic Constitution. Let us each pray that his office will soon name the needed Apostolic Delegate to each Ordinariate thus setting the ball in motion.


Pope Benedict’s UK Visit: The News Everybody Missed

September 20, 2010 12:41 P.M. By Raymond Arroyo

The Pope saved the most important news of his visit to the United Kingdom for the end. Most people didn’t even hear or see it. But I imagine Thomas More and John Henry Newman were smiling . . .

In November of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued an extraordinary invitation to Anglicans disaffected by the changes taking place in their communion. The failure to affirm traditional Christian orthodoxy, the ordination of gays, and the recent push to create female Anglican bishops have splintered the communion and caused heartbreak among both clergy and laity. Anglicans all over the world, parishes, and some dioceses had petitioned Rome to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. As a “pastoral response” the Pope released his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. It allows individual Anglicans, clergy, even whole dioceses to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining their traditions, devotions, and liturgical practices.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (according to a few Anglican officials I recently spoke with) felt “ambushed by the constitution” and was frustrated that there wasn’t more “consultation” before its release. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Archbishop of Canterbury at an ecumenical prayer service at Westminster Abbey last week, the Pope made the case for “Christian unity” while recalling the real world challenges that block the way. The Pope said “fidelity” which demands obedience to God’s “true word” was needed: “an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age.” The Pope was clearly referencing the recent actions by the Anglican church which had “accommodated the spirit of the age” and created lasting barriers to the goal of full unity. But the Pope was so genial, and his delivery so mild, that the tough talk received little coverage and was largely ignored.

Then came the last speech of the Pope’s visit, a meeting with his bishops of England, Scotland, and Wales. Near the end of the address, Pope Benedict made his intentions plain, and cast new light on all that he had said and done since his arrival in Britain. He told his bishops:

I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished.

In other words, the Pope sees his Anglican “fast pass” into the Catholic Church as the fruit of ecumenism — a chance for Anglicans to return to the faith of their fathers before the Reformation and to protect themselves from an insidious secularism that is plaguing society at large and their communion in particular.

With this understanding, the symbolic and stated message of Pope Benedict during his British sojourn comes into stark relief. His meeting with the Catholic and Anglican bishops at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 800 years (the first 70 Archbishops of Canterbury were Catholics), his visit to Westminster Abbey (built by the Catholic king, Henry III and home to Benedictine monks until the Reformation), his moving speech at Westminster Hall (where Catholic martyrs Thomas More, Edmund Campion, Bishop John Fisher, and others were condemned to death for their refusal to disavow their faith), and finally his beatification of the 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Newman suddenly all seems one piece. Benedict’s visit was a stand against relativism in the heart of Europe and a plea for Britain to return to herself — to return to her Catholic roots. In a visit worthy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, with precise language and symbols, communicated a message that will long be felt in England. It was a message controversial and reasonable, bold, and utterly faithful — a simple call, really: England, come home to what you were, and truly are.

Raymond Arroyo hosts The World Over on EWTN (http://ewtn.com/).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pope speaks out

The following well written article appeared in the London Daily Mail.


If only the Archbishop of Canterbury dared to speak with a fraction of Benedict's authority

Courage: The Pope was brave enough to say things the Archbishop probably agrees with but does not speak publicly about

By Stephen Glover
September 20, 2010

Only a few days ago we were being assured by many voices on the BBC that Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain might well turn out to be a damp squib.

It was widely predicted that few would turn out to see him.

Some even suggested that protests against the heinous crimes of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church might so dominate and disfigure his visit that there would be no room for the Pope to talk about anything else, or for us to listen.

In the event, the crowds were larger than had been forecast, if not as big as they were when the charismatic Pope John Paul II came to this country 28 years ago.

Particularly noticeable were the many enthusiastic young people among an estimated 80,000 congregation at a prayer vigil in Hyde Park in London on Saturday evening.

As for the protests about child abuse, they did not overwhelm the visit. Pope Benedict effectively admitted the guilt of the Roman Catholic Church.

At a mass in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, he moved some members of the congregation to tears when he appeared to liken the victims' suffering to Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

He spoke of the 'shame and humiliation' brought to the Church by the scandal.

This was a much more successful visit than the Roman Catholic hierarchy had dared to hope.

But I have a feeling it was more than that. In a manner wholly unlike our home-grown clerics, the Pope spoke to the soul of our country, affirming eternal moral verities which our own political and religious leaders normally prefer to avoid.

In essence, he has been asking us to examine what kind of country we want this to be.

He warned Britain not to lose sight of its Christian heritage in its 'multi-cultural' and 'aggressively secular' modern society.

Politicians should not try to 'silence' religion by discouraging public celebration of its most important festivals, notably Christmas.

Nor should they enact legislation which forces Christians to act against their consciences.

He reminded us that 'Britain stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God', and reflected how it was 'deeply moving to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives'.

The excesses of secularism and the perils of 'atheist extremism' were themes to which he returned again and again.

They will resonate with Catholics and non-Catholic Christians, and with many non-Christians of other faiths, and perhaps those with none.

Perhaps rather amusingly, yesterday evening at Birmingham Airport, David Cameron 'spun' the Pope's anti-secularist message to something closer to his 'Big Society'.

It is far, far more than that. Pope Benedict's declarations over the past few days have been remarkable and, in modern Britain, virtually unprecedented.

They were delivered in the calmest, meekest, least ranting way possible, and yet they carried a great authority that largely comes, I think, from the Pope's sense of holiness and evident goodness, as well as from the dignity of his office.

Even hard-hearted cynics and sceptics could not fail but listen.

Most extraordinary of all, here was a religious leader prepared to confront the modern secular world - and modern secular Britain - with the timeless values of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.

These values, said Pope Benedict in his final address yesterday, had been traduced by abusive priests who had seriously undermined the moral credibility of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is almost a shock to hear a religious leader speak in so blunt a way, so inured are we to our own religious leaders, particularly Church of England bishops, accommodating themselves to secular values.

I realise that any Pope has an in-built dominance which partly rests upon the bizarre doctrine of Papal infallibility.

An Archbishop of Canterbury is merely first among equals, and cannot summon up the authority of a Pope.

Yet wouldn't it be wonderful if Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, dared to speak with a fraction of the authority of the Pope?

The tragedy is that Dr Williams and Anglican bishops probably agree with almost everything Pope Benedict said about the dangers of secularism - and yet they do not have the courage, or whatever it takes, to say it.

And whereas the Pope speaks clearly in English, which is his third or fourth language, Dr Williams often speaks opaquely or in riddles in the language that is his own.

In his concluding address, Pope Benedict said that he had discovered 'how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the good news of Jesus Christ'.

He is right. And yet how often our national Church - the Church of England - fails to proclaim this good news.

In large parts of the Anglican Church there is a sense of defeatism in the face of the incoming tide of secularism, as congregations dwindle and parish churches close.

But look at the young people in Hyde Park or those lining Princes Street in Edinburgh or those standing outside Westminster Cathedral.

They yearn for the good news, and they invite moral certainty. Would it be too much to hope that Anglican bishops might learn something from the fearless commitment of the Pope?

I realise, of course, that there are some individual parishes, mostly Evangelical ones, in the Church of England which display much of the same fidelity to traditional Christian teaching.

And these, of course, are the very churches to which the young are flocking in droves.

By contrast, the 'atheist extremists' such as the biologist Richard Dawkins, the actor Stephen Fry, the lawyer Geoffrey Robinson and the writer Philip Pullman are nihilists who have nothing to offer by way of hope to the young or anyone else.

Atheism is a perfectly respectable intellectual position but these men (they are usually men) show nothing but mean-spiritedness sometimes bordering on lunacy when they called for the Pope to be banned from coming to this country or even, in Mr Dawkins's case, arrested for 'crimes against humanity'.

In truth they are driven by hatred of the Church. Mr Pullman actually says that he hopes 'the wretched organisation will vanish entirely'. It won't.

Their foaming and often unbalanced denunciations of the Pope reveal their fear. They fear him because he adheres so strongly to traditional Christian teaching and champions principles they abhor.

They fear him because the values he reiterates commend themselves to millions of people and, above all, to millions of young people.

They do not trouble to vent their spite and vitriol on the Archbishop of Canterbury because Dr Williams has been so cowed by the forces of secularism that he no longer poses any threat to their bleak vision.

How petty and irrelevant these extremist atheists appear in the context of the hopes inspired by the Pope.

In invoking the heritage of our Christian past, and suggesting we might still have a principled Christian future, Benedict XVI has achieved more than the Church of England over many years.

The lesson of the past few days is that Britain is not quite the deeply un-Christian country that the BBC and other parts of the media would have us believe


Holy Father in England

The Holy Father has completed his well received visit to the United Kingdom. During his address to the Catholic Bishops of England he placed emphasis on his desire to see the Apostolic Constitution concerning the movement of Anglicans back into the Catholic Church. It was quite clear that he desires this to be a smooth and unimpeded transition.

The full text of his address is included below.



VATICAN CITY, 19 SEP 2010 (VIS) - Today at 4.45 p.m. the Holy Father met with the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland in the chapel of Oscott College in Birmingham.

In his address to the group the Pope recalled how, during the recent "ad limina" visit of their respective episcopal conferences, particular attention had been given to "the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularised environment. In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ", he said. "You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next.

"As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected", he added, "be sure to present in its fullness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today's culture". In this context he encouraged the prelates to avail themselves of the recently-established Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation of countries of long-standing Christian tradition.

Turning his attention then to the financial crisis, Benedict XVI expressed the certainty that the bishops would call on British Catholics to show their "characteristic generosity" towards people in need. "Today's circumstances", he said, "provide a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living".

The Holy Father went on: "Another matter which has received much attention in recent months, and which seriously undermines the moral credibility of Church leaders, is the shameful abuse of children and young people by priests and religious. ... I know that you have taken serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise. You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened, and the often inadequate ways it was addressed in the past. Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less".

"If we are to be effective Christian leaders, we must live lives of the utmost integrity, humility and holiness", said the Pope. "I pray that among the graces of this visit will be a renewed dedication on the part of Christian leaders to the prophetic vocation they have received, and a new appreciation on the part of the people for the great gift of the ordained ministry. Prayer for vocations will then arise spontaneously, and we may be confident that the Lord will respond by sending labourers to bring in the plentiful harvest that He has prepared throughout the United Kingdom".

The Holy Father concluded by referring to "two specific matters that affect your episcopal ministry at this time. One is the imminent publication of the new translation of the Roman Missal. ... I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration".

The second matter to which the Pope referred concerned generosity "in implementing the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics", he said. "It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.

"Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished".

Before leaving Oscott College for Birmingham airport, the Holy Father greeted and blessed 130 British seminarians who were gathered there to see him.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

.R.R.Tolkien on the Eucharist

Many will have read this quote from one of Tolkien's letters before, but it doesn't hurt to read it again.

"The only cure for sagging of fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals. Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children - from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn - open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand - after which [our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.)"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

On the Gathering of Anglicans

On release of the TCA letter to Rome Archbishop Hepworth followed it with a pastoral letter titled "On the Gathering of Anglicans" that outlines clearly many of the aspects of the Apostolic Constitution.

“On the Gathering of Anglicans”

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus

A Pastoral Letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Traditional Anglican Communion

20th January 2010

My Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,

Introduction: the dreams of Christian unity

Few things could be expected to excite more controversy than the reunion of churches that have long been living in animosity.

Europe, and the world that Europe colonised, has been shaped in its languages, its politics, its law, as well as its religion, in large part by those animosities. The identity and culture of people and nations have been significantly shaped by religious conflict and division.

The healing of religious division has been one of the most welcome features of 20th century Christianity. The great conflicts of the last century between Christianity and communism, and between Christianity and Fascism, that turned that century into one of the most persecuting since the great persecutions of the Roman Empire, diminished the sense of division and emphasised the wisdom of unity.

In the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church embraced the vision of unity. For Anglicans, dramatic meetings occurred between Archbishops of Canterbury and Bishops of Rome. With great optimism the two churches embarked on theological examinations of the issues that had divided them for centuries and began what at first were tentative and awkward steps in cooperation. Even praying in each other’s churches demanded a confrontation with the habits and assumptions of generations.

At the same time, Christians in Europe and in the Third World began to experience the challenges of a militant and fundamentalist Islam. Confrontation and persecution began afresh.
In Europe and the developed world, a renewed interest in pagan and humanist philosophy, combined with a diminished sense of identity of Christians with their churches led to a dramatic diminishing of religious practice and belief.

It was against this background that the Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogue took place. At first optimistic, the dream of full organic unity – what Pope Paul VI described as the supreme grace of true and perfect unity in faith and communion – faded from reality.

I raise these issues because it is of great importance now that people in our Communion clearly understand why Archbishop Falk, Bishop Crawley of Canada and myself stood in St Peter’s Square, Rome some 17 years ago. We had spent the day with the Pontifical Council for Christian unity, briefing it on the developments within the Anglican Communion that had led to the formation of the Traditional Anglican Communion and of our yearning for the unity that was even then becoming improbable between the Anglican Communion and Rome. The publication by Pope Benedict XVI of the Apostolic Constitution is the culmination of the prayers, dreams and efforts of Traditional Anglican Communion bishops for a quarter of a century, and of the prayers, dreams and efforts of many other Anglicans around the world. In his recent letter to our bishops, Cardinal Levada spoke to us of the delicate process of discernment that will no doubt need to be embarked upon by many of our Anglican brothers and sisters, and no less of the many difficult practical issues that will need to be faced. I speak to you now, as the one whom my fellow bishops elected to carry through the work of unity between the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Holy See, to assist and deepen that delicate process of discernment.

Our Petition

As is normal in such circumstances, our petition to the Holy See has remained confidential until a formal response has been received. The letters to those who signed the petition mark that formal response. As a result, in order to deepen our understanding and promote discussion, I am releasing the petition with this pastoral letter.

The petition notes the history of recent Roman/Anglican conversations, and the extraordinary note of optimism in the 1960s. It then notes the abandonment by the Anglican Communion of those things held by Rome and Holy Orthodoxy as essential to Apostolic Faith. It then notes the development of the Anglican resistance and the faithfulness that began with the conference at St Louis. The teaching of the Affirmation of St Louis is set out, particularly as it relates to the sacramental life of the Church and the nature of the Church itself.

The petition particularly notes the words of the Affirmation where it states we declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and the visible unity with other
Christians who worship the Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity and who hold the Catholic and apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles.

Our Communion has always understood that those words apply most significantly to the Catholic Church. (I might add, lest there be any confusion, that I use the word Catholic Church as the formal entity headed by the Bishop of Rome, and which consists of a number of Rites, some in the East and some in the West, of which the Roman Rite is the most populous. In common conversation, of course, it is called the Roman Catholic Church in many parts of the world. In a part of the petition where we quote a Roman authority, the words Roman Catholic Church are actually used.)

The petition then notes the formation of the Traditional Anglican Communion and its spread. It indicates the way in which its growth has been shaped by the advice given at that first meeting 17 years ago in Rome. It notes the expansive process of consultation and synodical debate that had already taken place as a precondition for the petition being submitted.

Then comes the heart of the petition. Firstly, it knowledge the wide consultation with Roman Catholic people throughout the world. One observation was particularly influential in the 12 months during which the petition was being prepared. It accurately describes the founding purpose of our Communion, and then goes on to acknowledge the four great aspects of the Anglican heritage that we desire to be cherished in any unity:

Because the Lord has not yet returned in glory, the complete unity and communion of believers for which He prayed has not yet been achieved, but each believer and each church and ecclesial community, recognising the life-changing unity engendered by our shared baptism, is called to make Christian unity a lifelong commitment, just as we are called to spread the Gospel to the whole world.

Recognising that obligation, and with great confidence in the Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, a worldwide community of Anglican Christians has united under the name “The Traditional Anglican Communion” for three main purposes:

• To identify, reaffirm and consolidate in its community the elements of belief, sacraments, structure and conduct that mark the Church of Christ, which is one throughout the world:

• To seek as a body full and visible communion, particularly eucharistic communion, in Christ, with the Roman Catholic Church, in which it recognises the fullest subsistence of Christ’s one Church; and

• To achieve such communion while maintaining those revered traditions of spirituality, liturgy, discipline and theology that constitute the cherished and centuries-old heritage of Anglican communities throughout the world.

The Bishops and Vicars-General who assented to the petition and solemnly signed it on the altar then make four solemn declarations.

The first concerns the Ministry of the Bishop of Rome. The late Pope John Paul II wrote to the churches that are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome, setting out in fresh language and in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council the ministry exercised by that Bishop, and seeking the views of those churches on the way in which they could use his ministry of unity and authority. Unity and authority are the two qualities that have most eluded the churches of the Reformation. Anglican history is riddled with the problems caused by lack of authority. Recent Anglican history has seen the creation of one instrument of unity after another, but no one has discovered an instrument by which authentic teaching can be given to God’s Anglican people. The bishops in their petition described the limits on their exercise of authentic apostolic authority that is created by their lack of communion (especially Eucharistic communion) with catholic bishops throughout the world.

The second declaration concerns the nature of the Church. It is fundamental to the life of the church that its bishops and the churches they lead be in Eucharistic Communion with the See of Rome to which bishops of the ancient church looked as the instrument of unity and Catholic authenticity. At the same time, reflecting the Second Vatican Council, the bishops did not deny the unity that already exists among Christian communities. This petition is about more perfect unity – a unity so deep that the Eucharist can be shared.

The third declaration concerns the teaching of the Church as it has been received from Jesus through the Apostles and their writings, confirmed by the authentic tradition of the Church and proclaimed to the world at this time. The fullest statement of contemporary Christian belief, the bishops believe, is to be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is deeply biblical and patristic, and addresses matters that puzzle and confront Christians at the present moment. The bishops understand that not everything in the Catechism is of equal authority, and also understand that the faith must be proclaimed to every generation in language that accurately portrays what the Church has received. Therefore they acknowledge that the Catechism is the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time, and that they signed a copy on the altar as attesting to the faith they aspire to teach and hold. None of the bishops would claim to understand every aspect of the faith with perfection, and none would claim to teach perfectly at all times. But they do claim to aspire to teach and to hold the faith that is set forth in the Catechism.

The fourth declaration is in effect the actual petition. The Bishops state that we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment. We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve.

The petition concludes with an act of trust and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Response: the Apostolic Constitution

You may recall that Cardinal Levada wrote to me in July 2008 acknowledging that the situation within the Anglican Communion in general had become markedly more complex since the submission of our proposal. At the same time the Cardinal assured me of the serious attention which the congregation for the doctrine of the Faith was giving to the prospect of corporate unity raised in our petition.

An Apostolic Constitution is a document of the highest authority, making a permanent addition to the body of Canon Law. There is also a set of norms, which are in effect the regulations for implementing the Constitution. There is also provision for norms unique to each place where the Constitution is implemented.

It requires and deserves detailed and careful study. As with any body of law, the Constitution must be interpreted accurately and carefully.

Before discussing sections of this document, I would draw your attention to the title. It speaks of Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. There at the outset are the three critical factors: Anglicans, full communion, and Catholic Church

Section 1: the Church

Everything else flows from this section. Once we are clear about the Church that Jesus founded and left to us “until the end of time”, our duty becomes clear. False understandings of the nature of the Church have encouraged the endless creation of new “churches”.

In the second paragraph of the Constitution, there are three statements that set out the reason why the Pope felt bound to respond positively to the petitions of the Anglicans

• The first statement is that of the Church as a people gathered into the unity of God. It is the unity of the Trinity that is the unity of Christian people. Founded by Jesus Christ, the Church is an instrument of communion with God and of unity among all people. Unity is therefore of the sacred essence of our relationship with God. It is not in any way a political option that can be taken or left.

• The second statement is that every division among the baptised wounds the very nature of the Church itself and distorts its ability to fulfil its purpose. There is a telling quotation from the Second Vatican Council (reflecting Saint Paul at his most passionate) that disunity “openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.”

• The third statement reminds us all that at the most sacred part of his ministry, Jesus prayed to the Father for the unity of his followers.

In the light of this understanding of the Church, the Constitution goes on to speak deeply of the way in which our unity as Christians in the Church is manifested, particularly in the Breaking of Bread. It then speaks, and this is important for Anglicans, of the governments of the Church by the College of Bishops united with the head of the College, the Bishop of Rome.

It then speaks of the many elements of sanctification and of truth – note sanctification, not just truth – that are beyond those visible confines of the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome. And it states that these gifts which belong to the Church of Christ are forces “impelling” towards Catholic unity. In other words, where we have cherished our traditions and been faithful to the Gospel, we have created a force that drives the unity of the Church!

The gathering of all Christians into a single Eucharistic communion is the imperative of all unity. This section concludes, once again, with a reference to “Anglican faithful who desired to enter into full communion in a corporate manner”.

Section 2: “Ordinariates”

The instrument by which the Constitution creates communities of Anglicans in full communion with the Catholic Church is the “Ordinariate”. This is essentially a new structure created for this purpose, but with some affinity with structures created for military personnel. The integrity of Anglican communities is protected (among other things) by the fact that each of these structures is equivalent to a diocese. Each of these structures is ruled by an “ordinary”. Section 5 of the Constitution spells out the powers of the Ordinary. The Ordinary exercises these powers jointly with the local diocese in Bishop or Bishops. Not under or over, but jointly. In section 6, these powers are amplified. It is the Ordinary who accepts candidates for Holy Orders, including those who have exercised the Ministry of Deacon, Priest or Bishop as Anglicans. It is the Ordinary who can apply to ordain married men to the priesthood. It is the Ordinary who can receive clergy from other Rites of the Catholic Church. It is the Ordinary and the local Diocesan Bishop or Bishops who can create agreements for common pastoral and charitable activities with other local catholic clergy. It is the Ordinary who establishes seminary programs and houses of formation for the particular needs of students to be formed in the Anglican Patrimony. It is the Ordinary who can establish religious houses and other institutes of consecrated life.

The Ordinariates will have governing structures designed to replicate the structures of Anglican dioceses. The governing council, comparable to a standing committee, has the right to nominate the ordinary. This is a major change to the practice in the Western Church, a safeguard to Anglican identity, and an important part of Anglican ways. The election of a bishop has an important bearing on the pastoral relationship of a bishop and his people.

Finally it has provided that admission to an Ordinariate is by application in writing, or by receiving the sacraments of initiation (baptism and confirmation) within the Ordinariate.

The Standard of Belief

The wording of the Constitution is very significant. The Statements of Faith that have previously been used for people coming individually into communion with the Catholic Church have been replaced in this case by Catechism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.

This reflects the statement made by the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion in their petition. It is a deeply pastoral solution to the question of statements of faith. Many members of our community have been using the Catechism as a reference and a sourcebook for years. Its language is contemporary and its methodology, based on the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the liturgical Creeds, is already familiar to Anglicans.

Many of the things being denied at this moment in the world have been taken for granted for centuries. The nature of God, the revelation of God in Christ, the nature of holy scripture, the authority of Christian moral teaching about life and sexuality, the attack on the nature of marriage, and the widespread abandonment of holiness of life (especially among some of those consecrated to religious and priestly life), have all posed enormous problems for those who seek to teach and understand the Christian faith. The Catechism is a contemporary document addressing contemporary problems of contemporary unbelief.


The Constitution has a particularly beautiful passage when it speaks of the liturgy that will be practiced within the Anglican Ordinariates.

Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.

In the norms, it is further explained that clergy will have the right to celebrate not only the Anglican liturgy but also both current forms of the Roman rite. A great deal of work has already been concluded in the updating and expanding of Anglican service books. The calendar of saints for instance in the Prayer Book of 1662 has no additions since then, in spite of the manifest sanctity of so many Christians since that date. Much more work needs to be done and will be a very high priority for those engaged in implementing the Constitution.


Over the past several months a number of questions have been raised. Some of these have been raised in a spirit of controversy and denial of the actual provisions of the Constitution and its norms. I regret this.

Each of our communities, and each person within them, must address the very profound issues that the Constitution raises. These issues include their relationship to Christ in his Church, the needs of the church in our present world of intense difficulty for Christians, the long-standing policy concerning unity of the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has often been publicised in the official organs of our Communion, the state of global Anglicanism and the possibility of it returning to some resemblance of catholic order which might allow a person professing catholic faith to maintain with a clear conscience life within it. We also need to be aware of the very close way in which the Constitution addresses our petition. As I stated recently, we ought not to rush into a rash or hasty decision, but equally we ought not to delay what is clearly the will of Christ for his Church.

Does the Constitution adequately protect the heritage of Anglicans?

The structures proposed for Anglican Catholics are entrenched in canon law, are governed by Anglican pastors and Ordinaries, and protected by governing councils that have specific rights to give consent to the Ordinary and in some cases to determine matters of policy and to nominate the Ordinary. The clergy elect half the members of the governing councils.

Matters of the formation and admission of clergy, liturgical matters, the establishment and regulation of parishes, and the maintenance and deepening of Anglican spirituality, history, theology and pastoral practice are all within the competence of the Ordinariate.

The establishment and ongoing support of these structures has been left with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, where we have already found a warm and understanding reception.

The Ordinaries will meet as a college since they will visit Rome at five-year intervals as a distinct group to report on their progress, to find mutual support, and to pray at the tombs of the Apostles. I would hope that the Concordat of the Traditional Anglican Communion could be adapted to provide a meaningful structure that supports the Anglican Catholic Ordinaries.

What of those who are not yet ready to make this decision?

I have been discussing this question with national groups of our bishops and with some of those whom Catholic Bishops Conferences have appointed to liaise with us. There is no time limit on the acceptance of this Constitution. It is designed to have a lifetime of centuries. Some people are ready and anxious to move now; others are seeking more time for prayer and reflection. Others are confused by the surge of public argument about the Constitution. We are committed to the pastoral care of all our people, those who will quickly move into full communion and those who are not yet ready. We are already discussing the structures for this. The Traditional Anglican Communion will not disappear, but will endure for the same purpose that it was created to fulfil, and which is so clearly described in the text of our petition.

What of the re-ordination of clergy?

One of the most controversial aspects of the Anglican/Roman relations in the past century has been that of Anglican orders. Rome ruled in 1896 that Anglican orders were null and void.

The Anglican response at the time was a beautifully written argument. More significantly, Anglicans began to seek the involvement in their Episcopal and priestly ordinations of bishops whose orders Rome recognized. This was a tacit admission that there might be value in the Roman argument, while arguing against the Roman argument. A very Anglican position!

In more recent times, because of this involvement of others in Anglican ordinations, some Anglican clergy entering into full communion with the Catholic Church have been conditionally ordained rather than ordained absolutely. In very recent years, this practice has been abandoned and absolute re-ordination has been adopted.

There are several reasons for this. The first is the practical abandonment of apostolic practice and belief in the Anglican Communion in the matter of the sacrament of Holy Order. Not only the ordination of women to all three sacred orders, but the redefining of the Anglican understanding of itself as part of the “Church Catholic” that the ordination of women has necessitated, has introduced more than grave doubt about the validity of any Anglican Communion ordinations. It is now difficult to determine whether any particular Anglican Bishop has any intention to do as the Church has always done, when he (or she) specifically intends to do that which the Church has never done. The almost complete elimination of what was once a dominant Anglo-Catholicism from many provinces of the Anglican Communion has removed the clearest statement of Catholic belief about Holy Orders from the Anglican consciousness.

Our own Traditional Anglican Communion has been very careful to do the best that was available. At that original meeting in Rome, we were encouraged to use consecrating bishops from the Polish National Catholic Church. We already had, and we received an assurance that Rome recognised their orders. We have used Anglican Rites for ordination that have been submitted by Anglican authorities to Rome in the early days of ARCIC.

We have done our best, in the context of an ecclesial body actively seeking catholic unity. Our conversations about the situation regarding Orders that we have conferred are serious and continuing.

The following points are important:

• For some 30 years, Rome has required Anglican priests who are ordained as priests in full communion with the Catholic Church to date their ordination from the Anglican ordination.

• Re-ordination is an issue because the church requires absolute certainty in the matter of future sacramental life. I have been told that the TAC should understand this because we ourselves moved beyond the Anglican Communion in order to ensure the validity of sacramental life. Rome is now seeking the same assurance.

• The present Pope has written meaningfully of the situation of the sacramental life within churches separated from fullness of communion with the Catholic Church. There is no denial of the fact that God acted through our ministry to confer sacramental grace.

• There is quite deliberately not a judgement on the past, which is left to God and His Providence, but there is a demand for certainty in the future. It is my wish, and I believe the wishes of my fellow bishops, that every deacon and priest in our Communion has a certainty of validity that rests, not on the winning of a theological argument, not on the best that was available at the time, but on the indisputable certainty of Catholic practice. I have said to a number of priests that when they are saying Mass in the crypt of St Peter’s on the tombs of the Apostles, I want them to be able to look to one side and the other and to know with absolute certainty that their priesthood has the same objective reality as the priesthood of those on either side.

Finally, I commend this development to your prayers and the deepest parts of your conscience. I believe with all my heart that this is a work of God and an act of great generosity by Pope Benedict. The Anglican tradition that we treasure will only survive, I believe, across the generations yet to come if it discovers the protection of apostolic authority. It is my cherished wish that each of us can stand at the altar with our fellow Christians and receive the same Eucharistic Christ. That is the ultimate test of unity. In the centuries since the church in the West became fractured there has been no offer such as the one that is now before us. For Anglicans, Unity has been a dream beyond reach. Now it is a dream that can be fulfilled. I understood when I became a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion (in a dark period of my life when it became impossible to practice my priesthood in a diocese about to ordain women) that this was a Communion heading towards a goal. It had separated from the Anglican Communion. Instead of drifting at the whim of wave and wind, it had chosen to head towards the only realistic destination, that from which Anglicans had separated centuries before. I was grasped by that vision of those who founded this Communion. We are now in the waves just beyond the harbour entrance. Pray God that we have the courage to enter and make our homes there.

May God bless and cherish each one of you.

Archbishop John Hepworth


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TAC Letter to Rome

The following is the full text of the letter sent to the Holy See in October of 2007 requesting full corporate and sacramental communion with Rome.


From the Bishops and Vicars General of the Traditional Anglican Communion, gathered in Plenary Meeting at Portsmouth, England, in the Church of Saint Agatha, to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning their desire for unity with the See of Peter.

5th October 2007

Grace and peace in the Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour!

“A new hope arises that those who rejoice in the name of Christians, but are nevertheless separated from this apostolic see, hearing the voice of the divine Shepherd, may be able to make their way into the one Church of Christ….to seek and to follow that unity which Jesus Christ implored from his Heavenly father with such fervent prayers.”

In these words in his moto proprio, Superno De Nutu, the Blessed John XXIII, responded to the visit of Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher.

A few years later, in the Sistine Chapel, in March 1966, the next Bishop of Rome, Paul VI, told the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, that he should look on his journey as an approach to a home:

As you cross the threshold we want you especially to feel that you are not entering the house of a stranger but that this is your home, here you have a right to be.

The Holy Father warned of the difficulty of the task of bringing about the unity of “the Church of Rome and the Church of Canterbury”:

In the field of doctrine and ecclesiastical law, we are still respectively distinct and distant; for now it must be so, for the reverence due to truth and to freedom; until such time as we may merit the supreme grace of true and perfect unity in faith and communion.

The next day, at the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Without the Walls, the Holy Father placed his ring on the Archbishop’s finger. They had just signed the Joint Declaration that was intended to begin a dialogue that would lead to full communion between Anglicans and the See of Rome. The Pope used the phrases “our dear sister church” and “united but not absorbed’. These phrases inspired Anglicans who yearned for the reuniting of the Anglican Communion with the Holy See. They waited in prayerful optimism for the fulfillment of the work of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission. The Lambeth Conference of 1968 powerfully endorsed the approach to the Holy See of the Archbishop and the proposed work of the Commission. The Holy Father noted this acceptance in his homily at the Canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, when he reflected on the nature of the unity that he anticipated:

There will be no seeking to lessen the prestige and usage proper to the Anglican Church.

These words exchanged between Anglican bishops and the Holy See transformed centuries of profound mistrust and unconsummated dreams of unity.

And yet they were set against contemporary Anglican developments that were already separating the Anglicans who most cherished these new hopes from their churches.

The ordination of women to the diaconate and presbyterate, at first in North America, Hong Kong and New Zealand, and in more than half the churches of the Anglican Communion by the mid – 1990’s, created a crisis of conscience among those who termed themselves Anglican Catholics, and who held the faith of the Catholic Church on matters concerning Holy Order, the primacy of the Eucharist in the life of the Church, and the authority of the Bishop of Rome in teaching with divine authority concerning matters contested in the Church and the world.

The Holy See, in direct and frank communications with the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as - with increasing finality - in specifically addressing these innovations in its Apostolic Teaching, defined these Anglican innovations as “new and grave” obstacles to unity.

At St. Louis, just thirty years ago at this time, Anglican Catholics tormented in conscience as much by the disintegration of sacramental life in parish and diocese as by the slipping beyond reach of such recent expectations of unity, met and adopted the Affirmation. This was a confession of catholic faith, a determination to maintain the pursuit of unity, and a commitment to create an ecclesial structure sufficient to achieve these desires, while maintaining communion with those churches of the Anglican Communion that remained true to the commitments of only a few years before. It was explicit about unity:

We declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who "worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity," and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles.

It was just as explicit in its Eucharistic teaching:

… the Eucharist as the sacrifice which unites us to the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament in which He feeds us with His Body and Blood…

and about the sacramental life of the Church:

…the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance and Unction of the Sick, as objective and effective signs of the continued presence and saving activity of Christ our Lord among His people and as His covenanted means for conveying His grace.

And it speaks about the nature of the Church itself:

We gather as people called by God to be faithful and obedient to Him. As the Royal Priestly People of God, the Church is called to be, in fact, the manifestation of Christ in and to the world. True religion is revealed to man by God. We cannot decide what is truth, but rather (in obedience) ought to receive, accept, cherish, defend and teach what God has given us. The Church is created by God, and is beyond the ultimate control of man. The Church is the Body of Christ at work in the world. She is the society of the baptised called out from the world: In it, but not of it. As Christ's faithful Bride, she is different from the world and must not be influenced by it.

At almost the same time, the Holy See agreed to the creation of the Anglican Use, by which parishes composed of Anglicans reconciled to the Catholic Church could maintain an Anglican liturgical and communal existence. It sadly remained only a possibility in parts of the United States, and did not necessarily allow for the endurance of Anglican characteristics over time. Then, and again in the 1990’s, large numbers of Anglican clergy joined the Catholic Church without formal recognition of their Anglican heritage so recently acknowledged in Papal and Conciliar pronouncements.

Following the Congress of St Louis in 1977, the then Archbishop of Canterbury rejected the idea that the ecclesial communities (often small, remote from each other and whose very existence was bitterly contested by local and national Anglican churches) that emerged from the determination at St. Louis could be considered part of the Anglican Communion.

In spite of this, the Lambeth Conference in 1998 called for a new tolerance and understanding of Anglicans separated from Canterbury. In practice, it is our experience of the Anglican Communion at this time that the acceptance of the ordination of women in particular, and a strong conditionality on the acceptance of catholic order in general, has made full and organic unity between Canterbury and Rome a remote possibility within our lifetimes, in spite of the ongoing friendliness of Anglican – Roman Catholic relationships.

In 1990, a group of bishops representing churches of this “Anglican Diaspora” met in Victoria, British Columbia, and agreed to a Concordat establishing the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). The initial gathering represented churches in the Australia, Canada, Guatemala and the United States. The Concordat sought to establish a single College of Bishops of a single ecclesial communion of local and regional churches, expressly denying (in deliberate contrast to contemporary Anglican praxis) that these local churches have authority

…to derogate from Holy Scripture, or to determine unilaterally any question of Faith or Order, the authority for determining such residing in the College of Bishops of this Communion acting with such competent advice as may be available to it.

In 1991, leaders of the new Communion were invited to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Led by Archbishop Louis Falk, who had been elected the founding Primate, and accompanied among others by Father John Hepworth, who has since been elected Primate in succession to him, they met with the late Archbishop Pierre Duprey. At the conclusion of a day-long consultation, in which the desire to achieve unity with the Holy See was clearly expressed, the late Archbishop gave this advice: “You must learn to grow and show that you can grow; you must show us that you can develop good relationships with the local Catholic Church in the places where you both co-exist; and I beg you to not needlessly amplify your episcopate”.

Since that time, the TAC has accepted and sought to implement that advice.

A substantial part of the historic Anglican Church of India (consisting of bishops, clergy and people who had refused to join the Churches of North and South India in order to maintain an authentic sacramental life) was the first addition, just after the Concordat was ratified.

The TAC has Provinces, Dioceses, Parishes and Missionary Districts worldwide, and has a presence in Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Torres Strait, Great Britain, Ireland, several European countries, South Africa (including a substantial part of the Order of Ethiopia – the Church of Umzi Wase Tiyopiya), Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, DR Congo Cameroon, El Salvador, Columbia and Argentina.

The Communion exists only where there is a breakdown of sacramental life and order that endangers the spiritual welfare of faithful people. It has a firm policy of waiting until there is a locally expressed need that cannot be met by provisions made for conscience by local Anglican churches. Very few Anglican provinces have made such provision.

Warm and practical relationships have developed at the personal and parochial level in many places. The Servants of the Sacred Cross, a religious institute for women, approved by the Holy See, with both Traditional Anglican and Roman Catholic women members, has grown strongly and spread from North America to Australia. Other Institutes of Dedicated Life, reflecting the traditions of Anglican history, have been founded and grown with Roman Catholic co-operation and encouragement. Our ordinands in some places have been able to complete theological studies at Catholic Universities and theological institutes. Friendships have grown between our bishops and Roman Catholic bishops.

In these growing relationships, we have been sensitive to the fact that formal processes designed to achieve unity between Canterbury and Rome continue to exist, and our presence can be a source of friction between local Anglican and Catholic bishops, particularly where the Anglican bishop has initiated canonical and legal measures against those whose conscience has driven them towards us. This Communion has active Concordats of Communion with Forward in Faith (an ecclesial body whose membership is largely if tenuously within the Anglican Communion) in Britain, North America and Australia, allowing the fullest possible cooperation with those Anglicans whose faith matches our own, but who have managed to maintain an existence within the Anglican Communion. These Concordats are being actively contested in parts of the Anglican Communion, to the further straining of local ecumenical relationships, loyalties and friendships.

There are presently thirty-eight bishops actively holding Episcopal office in this Communion.

Since 1990, this Communion has sought to form its clergy and people in such a way that the College of Bishops could reach a decision to seek the further guidance of the Holy See in the fulfilment of its desire to come as an ecclesial community into communion with the See of Peter, with confidence that they have the support of their clergy and people.

In the past five years, the Diocesan and National Synods of the Communion have discussed and supported this desire of their bishops, often with a longing expressed with moving passion. We acknowledge that this testing of the depth of our support for unity with the Holy See has often attracted media interest, to the embarrassment of our Roman Catholic friends. We grieve for any hurt that our necessarily open processes have caused, at the same time asking for understanding in our desire not to place before the Holy See a proposal unsupported by our clergy and the leaders of our laity.

During that time, we have taken counsel from a number of Roman Catholics, many formerly Anglicans. In the course of that consultation, which was at once informal and rigorous, descriptions of our Communion have been written by our mentors in the context of our quest for unity. One in particular we have been moved to make our own, encapsulating as it does our desire to accept the catholic faith in all its fullness, while bringing that faith to reality in an ecclesial community faithful to our history and tradition:

Because the Lord has not yet returned in glory, the complete unity and communion of believers for which He prayed has not yet been achieved, but each believer and each church and ecclesial community, recognising the life-changing unity engendered by our shared baptism, is called to make Christian unity a lifelong commitment, just as we are called to spread the Gospel to the whole world.

Recognising that obligation, and with great confidence in the Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, a worldwide community of Anglican Christians has united under the name “The Traditional Anglican Communion” for three main purposes:

• To identify, reaffirm and consolidate in its community the elements of belief, sacraments, structure and conduct that mark the Church of Christ, which is one throughout the world:
• To seek as a body full and visible communion, particularly eucharistic communion, in Christ, with the Roman Catholic Church, in which it recognises the fullest subsistence of Christ’s one Church; and
• To achieve such communion while maintaining those revered traditions of spirituality, liturgy, discipline and theology that constitute the cherished and centuries-old heritage of Anglican communities throughout the world.

The Bishops and Vicars-General of this Communion, now meeting in Plenary Session in the Church of Saint Agatha, Portsmouth, England, on the Feast of Theresa of the Child Jesus and in the days following, have reached the following mind which they have asked their Primate and delegates to report to the Holy See:

1. We accept the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, which is a ministry of teaching and discerning the faith and a “perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity” and understand this ministry is essential to the Church founded by Jesus Christ. We accept that this ministry, in the words of the late John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint, is to “ensure the unity of all the Churches”. We understand his words in the same Letter when he explains to the separated churches that the Bishop of Rome “when circumstances require it, speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can also – under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council – declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith. By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves unity”. We understand that, as bishops separated from communion with the Bishop of Rome, we are among those for whom Jesus prayed before his death “that they may be completely one”, and that we teach and define matters of faith and morals in a way that is, while still under the influence of Divine Grace, of necessity more tenuously connected to the teaching voice of catholic bishops throughout the world.

2. We accept that the Church founded by Jesus Christ subsists most perfectly in the churches in communion with the See of Peter, to whom (after the repeated protestation of his love for Jesus) and to whose successors, our Divine Master gave the duty of feeding the lambs and the sheep of his flock.

3. We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed together with this Letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold.

4. Driven by these realizations, which we must now in good conscience bring to the attention of the Holy See, we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment. We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve.

With profound expressions of regret for the divisions of Christ’s Church, and for our own failings that may have deepened and extended those divisions, and with the most affectionate regard for the Holy Father, who at key moments has strengthened us by his concern for our plight, and with great hope in the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, who can make pliable what has become rigid, we affix our signatures to this Letter and to the accompanying Catechism in the midst of the Holy Sacrifice and commend our cause to Your Excellencies,


I certify that I have witnessed the signing of this Letter with the Catechism and its Compendium by each of those attending the Plenary Meeting of the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, having also witnessed each of the above bishops and Vicars General vote with unanimity to support the attached resolution taken after a day-long debate on 3rd October 2007.

Lay Canon Cheryl Woodman
Secretary to the College
5th October 2007

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The following article appeared in the current issue of The Next Conservatism. It is so spot on that we felt compelled to share it with you.

Come All Ye Faithful

Benedict’s Counter-Reformation


When my mother was a young woman, in the 1930s, Cousin Lily, then in her 80s, gave her some sound advice: “Wherever you go, join the Episcopal Church and you will meet all the best people in town.” “Best” in this instance referred not to the Book of Life but the Social Register. The staid, proper, elevated Episcopal Church, the Republican Party at prayer, was respectability’s keep.

Starting sometime in the 1960s, God’s frozen people melted, generating the mother of all theological mud puddles. From the abandonment of Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer to the introduction of priestesses in the 1970s and the ongoing election of homosexual bishops, the Episcopal Church forsook traditional Christian doctrine in favor of its own invented religion. Not surprisingly, this apostasy fractured both the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion. The upshot has been a variety of continuing churches that maintain historic ties to Anglicanism, multiple movements within the Episcopal Church to restore orthodoxy, and the breaking away of many Anglican churches in the Third World, where most Anglicans now live.

On Oct. 20, Rome parachuted into this dogfight like a division of Fallschirmjager. In a move that stunned the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglicanism’s titular leader, Pope Benedict XVI, opened the Roman Catholic Church’s door to Anglicans as Anglicans. He invited them to move in—individuals, parishes, whole dioceses—while retaining their Anglican identity. They could keep their Book of Common Prayer, their liturgies, their priests—even married ones.

Importantly, Anglican parishes affiliating with Rome would not come under the authority of local Roman Catholic bishops. In the U.S. and UK, most of those bishops are liberals. They dislike traditional Anglicans as much as they dislike traditional Roman Catholics and the Latin Mass. Given the chance, they would simply close down any Anglican parish that swam the Tiber, telling the congregation to go to Roman Catholic churches. This would leave most former Anglicans unchurched, as few could stomach the snakebelly-low post-Vatican II vernacular Roman Mass. To Anglicans, no sin is more grievous than bad taste.

Not to worry: Anglicans rallying to Rome will stay under their own bishops, or priests acting as bishops, known as “ordinaries.” Pope Benedict knows his American and British bishops all too well. His whole package is neatly wrapped up just in time for Christmas in an Apostolic Constitution, the most definitive form of papal legislation. The rough American equivalent would be a constitutional amendment. It’s not just a bon-bon.

How Anglicans will react to Rome’s offer has yet to be seen. Many details remain unclear. One problem is likely to be the doctrine of papal infallibility, a 19th-century Roman innovation. The Apostolic Constitution stipulates that Anglicans would have to accept “The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church as the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the ordinariate.” This could mean accepting papal infallibility as expressed in the catechism, and if Rome remains inflexible on that point, Pope Benedict’s initiative seems likely to fail.

But should it succeed, Rome’s offer has implications far beyond Anglicanism. Pope Benedict just might have taken the first step toward a second Counter-Reformation. The split within Anglicanism between those who believe the Christian faith was revealed and is to be received and those who think you just make it up to accord with the temper of the times is duplicated within virtually every other denomination.

The root cause is the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School, commonly known as political correctness. Following Antonio Gramsci’s plan for a “long march through the institutions,” cultural Marxists have penetrated every mainline church. Their driving force is political ideology, not theology. They view the church as just one more venue for radical politics.

Their goal is Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of all values,” where the old sins become virtues and the old virtues, sins. In churches where they take power, the Holy Trinity is replaced by a trio of bogeymen: racism, sexism, and homophobia. Every denomination so afflicted is bitterly split between remaining Christians and the politically correct. (No, you can’t be both, as Marxists would agree.)

What is now happening, and what Rome may have discerned, is that the people on each side of this division find they have more in common with those in other denominations who share their basic faith, Christianity or cultural Marxism, than with the people on the other side of that divide within their own churches. A potential is emerging for a vast realignment, one transcending the divisions that came out of the Reformation. That realignment, in which the remaining Christians in every church would gather in a single, new (small “c”) catholic church, needs a leader. Who better than Rome? Indeed, who other than Rome could possibly pull it off?

Seen in that light, the Pope’s offer to the Anglicans takes on broader meaning. Some observers have seen a parallel with the arrangement a number of Eastern Catholic Churches have had with Rome since 1595. Those Churches recognize their own liturgical rites, systems of canon law, and procedures for ordination. Immediately after the announcement of the constitution—before the document was published—Father Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican now Roman Catholic priest, wrote on the Inside Catholic website:

It has always been Benedict’s view that the way forward ecumenically is to replicate the existing structures that the Eastern Rite churches enjoy, and that this can be done with new flexibility and creativity.

He is willing to take risks to welcome those who follow the historic Christian faith, although separated from full communion with Rome. On the other hand, he sees those who prefer the modern gospel of relativism, sexual license, and a denial of the historic Christian faith that have taken over the mainstream Protestant churches. He knows there are plenty of them in the Catholic Church, and to them Benedict is quietly saying, “There’s the door.”

Yet what the Apostolic Constitution actually offers Anglicans is substantially less accommodating than Rome’s deal with the Eastern Rite churches. While Anglicans could keep their historic liturgical rite, Anglican churches affiliating with Rome would come under what are in effect non-geographical dioceses. That is a long way from the independence of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.

Here we come to the crux of the matter: is Rome’s offer final, or is it negotiable, an opening gambit? If it is final, it is not likely to draw many Anglicans and would have virtually no appeal to other Protestants. Papal infallibility alone might doom it, and as a vehicle for Christian unity, it would prove, well, fallible. But let us hopefully assume that the Apostolic Constitution is not Rome’s last offer, that something closer to the arrangement given to the Eastern Rite churches could prove acceptable to Rome.

What then? It is possible to visualize not only Anglicans but all Protestants, in a new Counter-Reformation, leaving behind the cultural Marxists in the husks of their denominational institutions and joining in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. They could do so while remaining what they are—Lutherans and Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists, even some evangelicals—just as Greek Catholics remain in their Eastern rite. To Rome, they would give formal allegiance, recognizing the Pope as the titular and symbolic head of the Church. What both would gain would be a reunion of Christendom in the West in a church free of cultural Marxism—no small thing.

It is obvious that we are talking about a big leap for the Protestants. While few still speak openly of the “tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities,” that attitude has shaped their histories. Interestingly, however, one of the more enthusiastic responses to the constitution came from the Methodists. A senior official told the Methodist Recorder that “[the constitution] may open up ways in which Methodism, whose origins were as a movement in the Church rather than a separate denomination, may find its place in future, as a Church, alongside others within the universal Church.”

Protestants’ usual Sunday services would have to alter little, if at all, except for communion services, which are infrequent. Less obvious, perhaps, is the height of the wall the Roman Catholic Church would have to vault. That barrier is built largely of beliefs that, in the Ultramontane years of the 19th century, were turned into formal doctrines. Neither Anglicans nor Protestants are likely to swear to any of them, although they ought to be willing to accept them as what they were before the 1800s, long-standing traditions that were widely believed. (Papal infallibility is an exception; it was an invention rammed through Vatican I in 1870.)

For Rome, there is a possible way around this wall rather than over it: status quo ante. Anglican and Protestant congregations and jurisdictions joining in full communion with Rome would not be required to accept as doctrine anything postdating their split from Rome. The Catholic Church would lead a second Counter-Reformation by backing away from some of the first.

Before the Council of Trent (1545-63), which begat the Counter-Reformation, Rome’s hand rested lightly on national churches. For example, we think of the Roman Catholic Church as having a single rite, after Trent the Tridentine Rite and following Vatican II the sad and dispiriting Novus Ordo. Before Trent, Rome allowed a vast variety of rites, as she would again. England alone had three major rites and a host of minor ones in a country of 4 million people. Rome saw no problem as long as the rites for communion services followed what Dom Gregory Dix called “the shape of the liturgy.” Anglicans might again chant in the litany, “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.”

Pre-Trent, the same decentralization reigned in other matters as well. Kings generally had a good deal of say in who became a bishop. The Church might “volunteer” to pay some form of tax to a needy monarch. (After all, Church lands might make up a third of his kingdom.) When, occasionally, a Pope would overreach, king and bishops would come together to oppose him.

If Rome’s ambitions for a reunited Western Church go beyond Anglicans, and the Vatican is willing to bend beyond what the Apostolic Constitution currently offers, it may be time for Vatican III. The goal of such a council would be twofold: to sweep away obstacles to Christian unity stemming from the Council of Trent and Vatican I and reverse the disastrous consequences of Vatican II, including the vandalization of the liturgy and abandonment of practices (such as fish on Friday) that buttressed Roman Catholic identity among laymen. Ultramontane doctrinal innovations would all have to be on the table; they might remain for Roman Catholics but would not be required of others seeking full communion with Rome.

Is all this just wishful thinking? The division between Christians and cultural Marxists in every denomination is certainly real: it screams from the religion page of every newspaper. With that division comes the potential for realignment and Christian reunion. Understanding the mind of the Curia is more difficult than penetrating North Korea, but Rome’s offer to the Anglicans suggests that Pope Benedict XVI is looking beyond the usual games. The ice has cracked, and a new spring may be coming.

Pope Benedict is a good German. Perhaps the question he could put to himself is this: who do I want to be, Kaiser Wilhelm II or Bismarck? Kaiser Wilhelm II was a bright and well-intentioned fellow. He was almost always right in what he wanted to do (including not going to war in 1914). But over and over he deferred to his advisers, who were almost always wrong. Bismarck, in contrast, knew exactly what he wanted—the reunification of Germany—and was both opportunistic and ruthless in making it happen. He brooked no opposition. As Kaiser Wilhem I once said, “Sometimes it is a hard thing, being a Kaiser under Bismarck.”

Now there’s a vision to gladden the heart: a German Pope proclaiming the reunion of the Western Church in the hall of mirrors at Versailles. Be a Bismarck, Benedict, be a Bismarck.
William S. Lind is author, with Paul Weyrich, of The Next Conservatism