A Review of Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church: Reflections on Recent Developments, edited by Stephen Cavanaugh (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011). 255 pages.
This book is a collection of eleven essays, many of which originally appeared in the paper of the Anglican Use Society, Anglican Embers, which paper Mr. Cavanaugh has edited since 2007. In addition to the essays the book contains a preface, introduction, index, two documents relating to the Pastoral Provision from 1979 and 1980, and the 2009 papal constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus. The book does not include the very important practical norms and official commentary that accompanied Anglicanorum coetibus.
The essays are generally of good quality and cover several aspects of recent Anglican conversions to the Roman Church: the history of the Pastoral Provision and ‘Anglican Use’ movement, the evolving juridical status of former Anglicans within the Roman Communion, and the liturgical significance of Anglican worship. The essayists include Aidan Nichols, Peter Geldard (former head of the English Church Union), Australian bishop Peter J. Elliott, Hans-Jürgen Feulner, Linda Poindexter (wife of Admiral Poindexter and former Episcopalian clergyperson), and several members of the ‘Anglican Use’ movement. As is commonly the case with collections of this sort, the essays are rather disparate in subject, quality, and relevance to the core topics.
Readers at the outset should know that despite its title most of this book is not really about ‘Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church’, but rather concerns Roman Catholic provisions for Anglicans who want to become Roman Catholic. These two subjects are quite different. That Roman Catholics – even Roman Catholics who once were Anglicans – have difficulty thinking of Anglicans except as potential Roman Catholics, limits these essays. Two exceptions to this limitation are Feulner’s essay on liturgy (the longest in the book) and Brother John-Bede Pauley’s admirable essay on ‘The Monastic Quality of Anglicanism: Implications for Understanding the Anglican Patrimony’. Pauley’s essay is a variation on the ‘Anglicanism-is-Benedictine’ theme.
For ACC members the historical sections of the book have some curiosity value, as they give alternative glimpses of bits of our own history. After an Anglo-papalist group, led by Canon Albert duBois, returned from Rome in late 1977 with news of the possibilities of the Pastoral Provision, Bishop Albert Chambers, preparing for the Denver consecrations declined to listen long and said, ‘Your people don’t want to become Roman Catholics.’ (Page 17) The fact that only seven Anglican Use congregations formed and survived after 30 years of the Pastoral Provision suggests that Bishop Chambers understood the laity better than did clericalist Romanizers. As the historical account unfolds we encounter Leslie Hamlett as part of the duBois delegation to Rome, we see Father James Mote leading his congregation out of the Episcopal Church, and we see the first division in the Continuing Church coming from the duBois faction. Essayist C. David Burt has the grace to note that the original promoters of the Pastoral Provision were indeed our movement’s first splitters. One still wonders how splitting one ecclesial group into two and then reorganizing the pieces constitutes a triumph for Church unity. But such rearrangement of pieces is regularly presented as Unity. Burt is behind the times in seeing the Continuing Church as characterized by ‘splits within splits’ (p. 68). In fact the recent history of the Continuing Church shows coalescence and reunification, as people with indigestible theological views (including notably the Anglo-papalists) remove themselves from the equation.
Meanwhile, there still are Anglicans – real, classical, orthodox Anglicans – and eventually Rome might decide it wants to talk rather than proselytize. The admirable Aidan Nichols writes that it is up to the Continuing Churches and similar groups ‘to decide what it is they ask of Rome’ (p. 99). For the ACC the answer is simple: As a start we would appreciate having our letters answered, since three in a row were ignored. It takes two to talk.
– Mark Haverland