Introduction à l’Eglise Catholique Anglicane

Voici une introduction à notre Eglise en français. Peut être ça pourrait intéresser ceux qui s’intéresse à une autre vue de l’anglicanisme.

Transcript in English

The history of Anglicanism is fairly well known, at least in its broad lines: the separation of Henri VIII from Rome because of his divorce, and then the influence of the German and Swiss Reformation during a century of great changes. For many French people, Anglicanism is synonymous with the Protestant Reformation. We live in an era when we label everything to organize and classify everything without really understanding the substance. The purpose of this little talk is to provoke thought.

It is for this reason that I want to put the label of “protestant” aside. At the same time, we see many positive aspects in this great movement of the Reformation, including the translation of the Scriptures and the liturgy into the language of the people, doing something against the scourge of clericalism and the racket of the poor by clerics. We find, next to iconoclastic destruction and fanaticism, a deeply pastoral concern. Times have moved on and the Anglican idea has undergone an evolution from “dialogue of the deaf” polemics toward a concept of rediscovery of the Church of the Fathers and a more biblical and liturgical concept. If we use the term “Catholic” to identify ourselves, it is not to make people believe wrongly that we are Roman Catholics in communion with the Pope and forming part of this institution as defined by its canon law. Roman Catholics themselves recognize the existence of the Orthodox and Old Catholic Churches with which they are more or less in dialogue.

It is thus that our Church has taken the name of “Anglican Catholic” since its organic foundation in 1977. We are moving away from the pre-imposed label of “Protestants” because we keep the priesthood and a liturgical and sacramental life. There are Anglicans who are Protestants, and who identify themselves with the thought of Calvin or other reformers of the sixteenth century. Some adhere strongly to “ultra-Augustinian” theology which insists strongly on predestination and a pessimistic concept of human nature. In contrast, the influence of the theological movement of the 17th and 18th centuries was very widespread. The distinctly Anglican theology of the 17th century sought to emphasise a hermeneutic of continuity, certainly a spirit which has strongly influenced the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, among many others, including Father Louis Bouyer.

Sometimes there is talk of an Elizabethan settlement that would have established a situation of pluralism in theology and practice in a monolithic national institution. Up to the end of the 19th century, conditions for remaining a good Anglican were fairly narrow. The dependence of the Church on the state has left its mark, and in several periods, there were ritualist and pietist movements that arose in reaction with regard to the latitudinarianism of the Establishment. We thus find the Methodist movement, very high-church in its theology and spirituality, and the Oxford movement at the beginning of the 19th century in the wake of Romanticism. The Catholic character we claim is the subject of a restoration or “reform of the reform”. These different tendencies within Anglicanism are extremely varied, between pure and hard Calvinism up to the anglo-papists most of whom are now part of the Ordinariates instituted by Benedict XVI in 2009.

Things moved on since the end of the Second World War and the “liberal” movement that aims to discard religious Christianity in favour of a humanistic , moral and social vision of the teaching of Christ. Here, this is the point of divergence of two opposing views of Christianity: mysticism and the contemplative life on one hand and a humanist and inclusive ideology on the other.

Christianity is characterized by a struggle between a sensual religiosity based on natural and pagan instincts of man and biblical monotheism that is intolerant of any deviation. One might think that the Church has been formed by the desire to make itself indispensable, the reason why Gnosticism was rejected in the early history of the Church. Indeed, the roots of our “crisis of faith” are found in the mists of centuries. Anglo-Catholicism as it has been formed in the wake of Romanticism could be compared by analogy to a sort of English Gallicanism. Gallicanism over the centuries before the French Revolution wanted to emphasise the local Church before the universal and Roman dimension.

Historically, the theological movements in Anglicanism have their parallel in the Church of France in the 17th to 19th centuries: Jansenism, various spiritual movements, Romanticism after the Revolution, the Curé d’Ars, Dom Guéranger, Father Lacordaire and the reconstruction. I see more than a simple coincidence. Anglo-Catholicism has always been characterized by the eccentricity of its protagonists and a highly pronounced aesthetic sense. Like classical Gallicanism, Anglo-Catholicism appealed to Catholicism (without any other qualification) through the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church (before the schism between Constantinople and Rome in 1054). Like the Roman Church and the Eastern Churches, we have retained the priesthood and the episcopate.
The doctrine of Anglo-Catholicism found its influences simply in historical Catholicism, which does not exclude the influence of the Conciliar ecclesiology of Orthodoxy and Old Catholicism. Generally, we Anglo-Catholics accept the Pope of Rome as a bishop with primacy of honour. We reject the developments from about the 13th century which consist of making the authority of the Pope an absolute. We therefore reject the infallibility and primacy of jurisdiction defined in 1870. We identify with the universal Church by the idea according to which the whole Church still subsists in each local episcopal Church and in the Eucharist celebrated by him or by his priests. The unity of the Church is sacramental before being institutional and canonical.

There is an important point to discuss, Apostolicæ Curae of Pope Leo XIII saying that Anglicanism is deprived of a valid priesthood because of the formulation of new rites. The same year, in 1896, the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury, Frederick Temple, and of York, William D Maclagan, gave a response, Saepius Officio, affirming the uninterrupted succession of apostolic Anglican bishops from the Church before the Reformation or the schism of Henry VIII. This document gives a warning, saying that some criteria by which one would assert the invalidity of our priesthood would render the Roman Catholic rites just as fragile. In our days, there are extreme Roman Catholic traditionalists who apply Apostolicæ Curae to the rites of Archbishop Bugnini promulgated by Paul VI! Their argument is false, but eminently logical. The same logic would lead to a reassessment of this condemnation in the light of developments in sacramental theology and ecclesiology. Apostolicæ Curae can no longer stand up to theological examination.

I no longer belong to the Church of England in which I was baptised and confirmed, but to the Anglican Catholic Church. This is a community which broke away from the Anglican Communion and the Lambeth Conference. We are spread out worldwide, in the Caribbean, Central America, South and North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. We have a small diocese in the United Kingdom. In 1984, the historical Anglican Church of India was received and it is constituted as the second province. It is very difficult to give credible and accurate statistics. We are rather numerous in Africa and the United States, but still marginal in England, Canada, and Australia. Our break from the Anglican Communion Lambeth is above all caused by the decision to proceed with the ordination of women to the Episcopate and the priesthood. A large meeting of approximately two thousand Anglicans, clerics and laity, in the United States in 1977 resolved the movement of separation and self-definition by the Affirmation of Saint-Louis, a doctrinal position. This new institution took the name of Anglican Catholic Church in 1977 and its first bishops were consecrated by the retired Bishop of Springfield (Illinois) Albert Chambers.

We have a single diocese in England, founded in 1992, the year when the Church of England ordained the first women. We need to get a good understanding of this problem. We above all have the desire for unity of faith and practice with Rome and the Eastern and historical Churches. We are not convinced that the ideology behind ordinations of women is well thought-out or healthy! Our first Bishop was Leslie Hamlett, a former Anglican priest in the north of England, who left our Church in 1997 to found another community. Over several years, this diocese had a priest at its head who served as Vicar General under the jurisdiction of an American bishop. Finally, the diocese returned to a more stable situation and elected Father Damien Mead to be our new Bishop. The diocese is organised into two deaneries, north and south. The Bishop is assisted by a council, of which I am a member, and we have a diocesan Synod each year in England.

Unlike the Traditional Anglican Communion, our Church has never given an affirmative answer to the Ordinariate project of Benedict XVI. Personally, I left the TAC in 2013 after the downfall of Archbishop Hepworth to join the Anglican Catholic Church. My Metropolitan Archbishop in the United States had taken a sober position in 2009. The terms clearly enunciated by Anglicanorum coetibus reveal a pastoral approach, but one that is based on the concept of individual conversion before the integration of people in a community where some Anglican customs are respected. The facts since around 2012 confirm this interpretation. From the point of view of Rome, Anglicanorum coetibus is generous.

What answer do we give? Rome has spoken for years about ecumenism, but the reality of its praxis reveals a very conservative Roman ecclesiology. Apostolicae Curae is central, therefore each priest is reordained, not even sub conditione. We are still at the end of the 19th century, just with a little more refinement and courtesy. They did not receive communities like the uniate Churches, but people. Even bishops are received as laity before being reordained. What emerged from the Vatican effectively cancelled all developments concerning the office of the Pope, and the encyclical Ut unum sint of John Paul II. Claptrap, or what?

The project of the TAC was to seek unity with Rome and the Orthodox Churches without “conversion” or submission, or an evolution of the office of the Pope, which would be compatible with the ecclesiology of the undivided Church. Anglicanorum coetibus is addressed to Anglicans who are “anglo-papists” by sensitivity, and not to the other notions of Anglo-Catholicism.

Our Church believes that it is fully Catholic without asking for anything from Rome. Conversion to Roman Catholicism is not necessary. We pray constantly for the unity of Christians and of all the Apostolic Churches with the successor of Saint Peter as primate of honour. Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus – this traditional principle attributed to St Vincent of Lerins guides our fidelity, even if it can be understood according to several meanings. It is a start but not the end.

Finally, our Church is in a category called Continuing Anglican Churches, or Continuum. This concept directly implies the notion of continuity and not of rupture. Evolving in time is good and necessary, but in continuity with Tradition. We have many sensitivities in common with the Roman Catholic traditionalists, alienated by the reforms of the 1960’s and an interpretation of Vatican II that is too “rupturist”. When I was in the TAC and there was a question that I be part of a group received by Rome, I was continually asked questions by the media and traditionalist organizations. Cemeteries are full of indispensable people! I returned to obscurity, which made me ask a lot of existential questions and at the level of my vocation. My life is that much quieter, but I have to take new initiatives in my priestly ministry.

The Continuum has suffered a lot from fragmentation (especially at the end of the 1990’s), just like the groups of Roman Catholic traditionalists. We needed to arrive at a new generation of bishops made of trained, thoughtful men, characterized by a serious spirit that inspires the trust of the faithful and priests. There is a large number of small marginal groups, but there is a small number of firmly established Churches with legitimacy of foundation. Our Church goes back to the succession of Bishop Chambers in 1977.
Which liturgy? In Anglo-Catholicism since the 19th century, it has been found that the Prayer Book contained an extremely stripped-down rite of Mass, the reason for its enrichment from Roman, oriental or pre-Reformation English sources. Liturgical diversity has been tolerated in Anglicanism since the end of the 19th century, and even before in the different regions of the world which were formerly part of the British Empire. The offices of Mattins and Evensong present fewer difficulties, especially in the very rich musical tradition of English cathedrals. The Mass has especially been enriched from the Tridentine Roman rite and its translation into classical English.

A few have had the idea of reviving the liturgical tradition in England just before the Reformation, the famous liturgy of Salisbury, of Sarum. This rite in Latin (two English translations exist) is descended directly from the traditions of Normandy Rouen, Bayeux, Coutances, etc. It is my option personally, which my Bishop graciously tolerates. I celebrate in English when people are present, but I have not found a very satisfactory solution for celebration in French. Adapting Anglicanism for a French ministry is not easy without going into too many problems caused by liturgical arbitrariness.

How would Anglicanism be of interest to the French? Two things essentially, a eminently liturgical approach to Christian spirituality with a social doctrine in favour of the needy and the poor. Anglo-Catholicism was not historically reactionary in its social and political ideas. We live in an era which inspires fear, division and hatred. Anglicanism can invite to a spirit of dialogue and understanding. Anglicanism is demanding spiritually and intellectually, inviting its faithful to rise over the primary levels of life to make true progress towards knowledge and wisdom. We are not merchants of endless exorcisms and quackery, and we are not progressives or fanatical reactionaries. We seek a more peaceful vision, higher and more human.

Our future? I am still concerned about it. We don’t have financial resources. Every priest has to earn his own way, which can be a good thing. At the same time, we need places of worship and references which enable people to find us. Each is left to himself and each has to manage. We can hold out a hand of friendship and Christian love toward those who are seeking an alternative, something different. I am not here to express polemics against the Churches in place where the faithful have found their happiness. I am not interested in marketing with those who have nothing to do with the Church and who life their life with other values. The presence of the Lord invites through silence and beauty …

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