"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The New Apostolic Constitution from the Vatican on "Anglican Ordinariates"

The Vatican's new Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, has now been released (it may be seen by clicking the title to this post). And for those Anglicans who have longed for immediate, full, visible union with the See of Rome this is a generous offer. The Constitution and its supporting document make it clear that these Ordinariates will have many of the characteristics of dioceses. And for former Anglicans who are looking for the long-term preservation of some aspects of the "Anglican patrimony" inside the Roman Catholic Church this is certainly a step in the right direction.

It is not clear to me precisely how much of the "Anglican patrimony" is going to be preserved with the Roman Catholic Church beyond liturgical elements, however. Paragraph III of the Constitution states, "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." But aside from worship expressions informed by the traditional Books of Common Prayer, how much more of the Anglican heritage will be preserved? The new plan holds out the same possibility of married presbyters ordained out of the ranks of converted Anglican clergy that has long been provided by the "Pastoral Provision" in the U.S., of course, but certainly there is more to being Anglican than the BCP and married priests. How much more will Anglican converts take with them into the RCC? Time will tell, I suppose.

It is interesting that an explanatory statement by a scholar in Rome originally appended to the end of the Constitution on the Vatican's web site states in part, "4. the ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896." Hence, there will apparently be no "conditional ordinations" allowing former Anglican ministers to believe they had previously been validly ordained as priests by an Anglican bishop. Their future ordinations as Roman Catholic priests will be their first and only priestly ordination. (I am not sure exactly how authoritative this appended statement by Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., of the Pontifical Gregorian University is, but the fact that the Vatican at first attached it to the Constitution on its own website surely invests it with more significance than the opinions of a random blogger such as myself. I notice that by Tuesday morning, however, it seems to have disappeared from the Vatican web site. The news organization Zenit refers to it as the Vatican's "official commentary" on the Constitution. Fr. Ghirlanda's commentary may still be read at http://www.zenit.org/article-27492?l=english )

But for me the crucial statement in the Constitution is paragraph I, §5: "The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate." This is, of course, precisely what one would expect from the Vatican. Pope Benedict and the Roman hierarchy are men of integrity who take doctrine seriously. Certainly no one would expect them to allow Anglican converts to pick and choose which elements of Rome's definitive teachings they will adhere to and which they won't. I am very glad the Constitution makes it clear that one will be accepting the entire package in taking up this offer. If you reject something the Catechism teaches you will not be in conformity with "the authoritative expression" of the Catholic faith. Period. No "cafeteria Catholicism" will be fostered by this new scheme. Bravo!

Of course, if I believed the full contents of The Catechism of the Catholic Church to be true I would already have become a Roman Catholic long ago. If I were convinced that Rome's understanding of the Faith is entirely correct, I would not hold back a single minute from being received into full commuion with the bishop of Rome. I certainly would not have delayed my submission simply in hopes that one day a Pope would create an administrative apparatus expanding the Pastoral Provision and making it easier to set up Anglican Use parishes under the jurisdiction of former Anglican hierarchs as Ordinaries.

Of course, personally I do not believe the Roman Catechism accurately teaches all the elements of the Catholic faith. After almost twenty years of serious study and prayerful contemplation, my own convictions are firm on certain points. I do not believe, for example, that Rome's teaching on the jurisdiction of the Papacy is correct (CCC, paras. 882-883), nor do I adhere to Rome's teaching on infallibility (CCC, paras. 889-892) or the Immaculate Conception (CCC, paras. 491-2). And there are other elements of Rome's doctrine about which I have considerable reservations. So I, for one, cannot in good conscience submit to the Roman Pontiff and avail myself of Pope Benedict's gracious offer. But I am happy for those friends who have longed for their path into full communion with the See of Peter to be made straight. May God bless your journey, dear brothers and sisters. You will be missed.


Blogger Thomas said...

Hullo Fr. Foster. I understand this is quite a request, but I wonder if you could go over some of your reasoning regarding the Immaculate Conception. I wonder in particular, whether your primary complaint is with the truth of the doctrine itself, or with the Church for binding belief in it on all the Faithful.

3:16 AM  
Blogger ejwilson said...

So if I understand you correctly, you agree with EVERYTHING the Catholic Church except on the Papacy, Papal Infallibility, and the Immaculate Conception, but you would rather stay in communion with the Anglicans with whom you disagree with a great deal?

I will withhold from speculating about your motives, but it seems to me quite peculiar that in spite of this preponderance of evidence, you are remaining steadfast in your support for the Anglican Communion

10:37 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

EJWilson, I'm not sure precisely who these Anglicans with whom I strongly disagree and yet with whom I remain in communion are. If you mean TEC, I am related to that body only by a very limited common link (for the present) to the Archbishop of Canterbury as head of the international Anglican Communion (though TEC's link to the Communion is very tenuous, indeed). That gosamer thread of linkage with TEC through Canterbury annoys me, I will admit, but it alone will not drive me away from Anglicanism. And I still have hopes that link may one day be severed completely by the termination of TEC's membership in international Anglican bodies.

As for the ACNA, I find myself in substantial agreement with the overwhelming majority of its members on all crucial matters. As someone with a deep respect for the ancient Fathers, I could sensibly be called a "Prayer Book Catholic," and yet I am also most definitely a child of the Reformation as well (I've even participated in a month-long "Footsteps of Luther" study tour of Germany--I'm probably the only priest in DioFW who can say that!). I rub elbows quite comfortably with a wide range of Anglicans. The only people inside ACNA I ever seem to bump up against in a negative way are the most died-in-the-wool Anglo-Papalists and the staunch J.C. Ryle-style ultra-Reformed types, and both of these groups are numerically rather small in my experience).

3:18 PM  
Blogger ejwilson said...

Thank you for your reply. Perhaps I could withdraw my presumption about your churchmanship (I assumed, for instance, that you held your bishop's views on women's ordination, which is not a consistent matter within ACNA). And, if you find TEC so repulsive, why move to yet another body that has ties with it? It doesn't seem that Canterbury is making moves to end its relationship with the TEC.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that you seem to agree with the Catholic Church on 99.99% of her teachings, save three issues. It's only natural to wonder how if someone is right nearly all of the time (as you seem to admit the Church is) you can say they're wrong? I'm not coming up with the words right now, but you see my point.

3:29 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

In the interest of clarity, there is in fact more to the CCC that I cannot affirm without reservation than just the three items I cited in the primary essay above. Some teachings, like Rome's teachings on Purgatory and Transubstantiation--I have significant reservations about (my own views on the Real Presence conforms to Article XXVIII of the 39 Art. of Rel.). Then are other Roman teachings that I am unsure about, and hence could not affirm at the present time. So in truth I probably agree with 90% of what is in the CCC, but I suspect a great many Christians in many other denominations could say the same. God bless!

6:38 PM  
Blogger Doni M said...

As an Anglican who became Catholic, I'll put in my two cents in support of Fr. Foster NOT becoming a Catholic. (Note, by the term "Catholic" I refer to what is commonly called "Roman Catholic".)

If, indeed, anyone, including Fr. Foster, is opposed to the papacy, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and Papal Infallibilty, then he should NOT become Catholic. And in fact, he could not even be received into the Catholic Church unless he stated that he accepted ALL the Catholic Church teaches (which includes those three items). When I was received on April 11, I very clearly remember Fr. Schilken asking that question of us (after the catechumens were baptized but before all of us were confirmed), and all of us saying "I do." And we spent months preparing for that "I do."

So, basically, if Fr. Foster isn't ready to do that, the Catholic Church isn't where he needs to be right now. He would not in good conscience be able to, and he shouldn't. No one should become Catholic unless they are willing to submit to 100% of the teachings of the Catholic Church. (99.99% doesn't cut it.)

7:11 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Thanks, Doni. That is, of course, my feeling entirely. On several of the matters that have divided our communions for 450+ years I hold positions contrary to those of Rome (but well within the main stream of Anglican understanding). Hence, I am staying where I am for the foreseeable future.

God bless.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Of course I agree that one should not (and, in fact, could not) be received into the Church without first submitting to Her teachings. And I have read that it is not just those you mentioned explicitly, but many other teachings you disagree with.

I would like to ask again, though, what your specific problems are with the Immaculate Conception. Of all the Church's teachings which Protestantism has historically denied, the Immaculate Conception seems the least troublesome to me, and I wonder what your perspective on the doctrine is.

10:50 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

As this is "the second time of the asking" for you on IC, Thomas, I promise to write up a proper response for you and post it as a separate blog entry this weekend. In answering that question I would, in fact, touch on several important issues that dictate I not be received into the Roman Catholic Church. Such a discussion probably does merit inclusion on this blog as its own post.

But the long in the short of it: I agree with Art. VI "that whatsoever is not read [in Holy Scripture], nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." I also do not believe that any teaching should be considered a DOGMATIC component of the Catholic Faith which we cannot be certain was the teaching of the undivided ancient Church and in which both East and West have not consistently concurred since ancient times. Immaculate Conception, IMHO, comes up short on each of these counts. In the form that was dogmatized by a purportedly infallible papal bull in 1854 the Immaculate Conception is, I believe, simply a codification of a uniquely medieval, Western development. As such I do not believe IC "must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful" (to use Pius IX's words in the 1854 bull Ineffabilis).

You might be able to guess that I disagree with John Henry Newman's thesis in "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine," a thesis which I believe anyone who would take the medieval developments of the IC, papal infallibility, Purgatory, and the specific Roman teaching on Transubstantiation to be DOGMA [rather than merely pious beliefs of the faithful] must accept. More later. I promise! Thanks for stopping by.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1938 a Roman Catholic priest named C. Hoare published a book called Continuity which was described in one review as ‘one of the most brilliant and convincing refutations of Anglican claims that we have ever seen.’ C. B. Moss, noted Anglo-Catholic divine responded first in the Church Times and then later more fully in Hoary Fallacies: A Reply to Continuity by the Reverend C. Hoare.

Dr. Moss concluded his rejoinder thusly:

“In conclusion, Anglicanism is that form of the Catholic religion which requires that all dogmas must be proved from scripture, rejects the Papal claims and the authority of the Councils of Trent and the Vatican, and has absorbed into its system the aspects of truth recovered by the Reformers, so that it combines the Catholic Creeds and sacraments with Evangelical freedom. And when we are asked where our Church was before the Reformation, we are fully entitled to make the traditional answer: Where was your face before it was washed?

These are some of the reasons why we could never be Romanists, even if the Anglican Communion did not exist.

1. The Papal claims to supremacy, infallibility, and universal ordinary jurisdiction by an alleged grant to St. Peter are false, and contrary to scripture, history and reason.

2. No man or body of men is infallible in the sense that they cannot err. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Mt. 16.17) only means that the Church cannot wholly fail.

3. The Pope is an irresponsible dictator, and there is no evidence that God intends his Church to be governed in a way which all civilized men reject in secular affairs.

4. The Council of Trent has made tradition a source of dogma equal to Scripture which gives the Pope power to enforce new dogmas whenever he wishes, as his decree enforcing the Immaculate Conception shows.

5. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin is contrary to scripture, universal tradition, and reason (for there is no evidence for it at all).

6. Transubstantiation and other speculations about the Eucharist cannot be proved by scripture.

7. There is no evidence for the existence of Purgatory; and indulgences, works of supererogation, and the treasury of merits are contrary to scripture and the teaching of the Fathers.

8. Our Lord commanded us to receive Communion in both kinds, but Rome forbids the laity to receive the cup.

9. Every local church has the right to manage its own affairs, as in ancient times, to make its own rules of discipline, and order its own rites and ceremonies within the limits of the Catholic faith and order. No local church has any divine right to rule the others.

10. Rome refuses to recognize modern critical methods, and to accept the principle of the equality of religions before the law.

(C. B. Moss: Defender of the Faith by L. W. Barnard (1967) pp. 136-7)

(St. Andrew's)

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the midst of a fascinating discussion of the Immaculate Conception, Bp.
Browne states,

"Finally, on the 8th of December, 1854, Pius IX, by the Bull
Ineffabilis, created this opinion into an Article of the Faith, without even
the pretence of consulting a General Council, consolidating and concentrating
in himself a power, in spiritualibus, which neither Hildebrand nor Innocent
had ever attempted to exercise, and accepting, or rather demanding, assent to
the most ultramontane theory of the papal authority. There the matter rests
at present, but the end is not yet.
Already the claim is advanced, that the Blessed Virgin merited this
grace of the immaculate conception, because of her holiness in a pre-existent
state. How long will it take to extend that pre-existence to eternity, and
then to argue from eternal existence, participation in the Divine Nature?"
(Edward Harold Browne *An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion:
Historical and Doctrinal* pp. 855-6)

P.S. Perhaps we are already there. One pious Roman soul inflamed with an
intense love for the Mother of God exclaims and asks aloud,


The four current Marian dogmas (her divine maternity, defined in 431;
perpetual virginity in 649; Immaculate Conception in 1854; and Bodily
Assumption in 1950) relate organically to the others...
Because she is Theotokos, Mother of God, it is fitting that she be
perpetually virgin...
... because she was preserved from original sin, it is fitting that she
be preserved from the final effects of sin, namely, the decay of the body.
... Vox Populi proposes that the dogma of Co-redeemer, Mediator and
Advocate would be a continuation of the Dogma Mother of the Church, answering
the questions, What is she doing in heaven, body and soul? If she is Queen of
Heaven and Earth, how does she exercise her reign?


All of this might leave the Bible-loving Anglican scratching his head in perplexity and wonder.

(St. Andrew's)

11:21 AM  
Blogger Doni M said...

I don't have any desire to argue with Bill much with all these points, but I can't help but point out that this one is certainly out of date since Vatican II:

"8. Our Lord commanded us to receive Communion in both kinds, but Rome forbids the laity to receive the cup."

We do receive in both kinds (except, granted, right now Bishop Vann has asked for the parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth to NOT distribute in both kinds temporarily because of the H1N1 flu virus).

12:38 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Point taken, Doni. I am sure Bill+ knows that. The Browne text he quotes is a classic commentary on Anglicanism's 39 "Articles of Religion" from the mid-19th century.

Personally I have found both the Browne and Moss texts you cite to be extremely helpful, and I commend them both very highly to my readers. Thanks for bringing them up, Bill+.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

H. B. Swete, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, in his classic work *England versus Rome: A Brief Handbook of the Roman Catholic Controversy* concludes his careful discussion of the “immaculate conception” thusly,

3. Recent Decree of the Roman See.

Thus it was reserved for the nineteenth century to witness the erection by the Roman Church of this quasi-heretical opinion into an essential truth of the Catholic faith. Without any pretence of sanction from Holy Scripture, against the explicit testimonies of early Fathers, the decision of some of the chief mediaeval authorities, and the earnest expostulations of a large minority of living Roman Catholic* Bishops, the present Pope has bound upon the conscience of Roman Christendom a dogma which attributes to the human Mother of our Lord an honour hitherto believed to have been the peculiar property of the Incarnate Son.

* The adverse opinion of Thomas Aquinas, it seems, staggered more than one of the Bishops to whom Pius IX. applied for opinions on the propriety of decreeing the Immaculate Conception as de fide. See Dr Pusey's Eirenicon Appendix B. p. 396, and of. pp. 127—137. It appears that the Roman Catholic Bishops of France Germany and the United States were to a very considerable extent adverse to the measure, or lukewarm about it.


The entirety of Swete's discussion is must reading on the question.

This work is available online here,


(St. Andrew’s)

9:41 AM  
Blogger Robin_G_Jordan said...


Characterizing those who agree with J. C. Ryle as "ultra-Reformed" shows a lack of familiarity with Ryle's theology. Like Charles Simeon, Ryle was not a "systems man." His theological views were based upon what he understood the Scripture to say and not upon a particular theological system. Ryle, for example, does not teach double predestination in his writings as do the followers of Beza, Calvin's disciple. He found only support for the doctrine of "election to life" in the Bible and no reference to predestination to retrobation, as did Charles Simeon. Their position is also that of the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Ryle was certainly strongly opposed to what 19th century Evangelicals described as "Ritualism" and "Romanism." He found no support for doctrines and the practices of these two schools of thought in the Bible. (As Percy Dearmer, hmself an Anglo-Catholic, would observe much of what the Ritualists and the Romanists sought to introduce into the Church of England, had never been part of the doctrine and practices of the English Church before the Reformation.) He was convinced that acceptance of these doctrines and practices would weaken the Church of England. At the same time, he saw a place for what he called "old-fashioned High Churchmen" in the Church of England. See Peter Toon's "J. C. Ryle and Comprehensiveness": http://www.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_089_4_Toon.pdf

Many who identify themselves as "evangelicals" in the ACNA would have in the 19th century been regarded as "liberal Evangelicals" at best and even "Broad Churchmen." To characterize Anglicans like myself who subscribe to the teachings of the historic Anglican formularies--the Thirty-Nine Article, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal and the principles of classical Anglicanism as "ultra-Reformed" is a gross exaggeration of our theological views. It suggests that you in your own views stands far from those of the historic Anglican formularies and classical Anglicanism.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Charlie J. Ray said...

Anglo-Catholicism is cafeteria Catholicism. Interesting admission. At last an honest Anglo-Catholic!

7:34 AM  
Blogger Randy Foster said...

I appreciate the appelation "honest," Mr. Ray, but I have frequently heard it said by other, thoroughly Anglo-Catholic folks in my diocese that I don't qualify as an "Anglo-Catholic." (probably true, I admit.) And Mr. Jordan has steadfastly rejected my self-designation as a "High Church evangelical" on a recent comment stream here (though I am not willing to yield the field yet on that point). So perhaps I shall have to content myself with an expression I once read C.S. Lewis applied to himself: "An Anglican of the middling sort, neither particularly high nor particularly low." Fair enough, I suppose. Though I am a rather old-fashioned version of such a "middling sort." :-)

9:19 AM  
Blogger Thomist said...

I think it is important that Anglicans considering full union with the See of Peter spiritually prepare themselves by fully exploring the importance of the Eucharist. May I recommend Abbot Vonier's 'Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist' for those interested. It is not by coincidence that the liberal MP, Augustine Barrell recognised that for Catholics "it's the mass that counts".

Once living eucharistically becomes one's bedrock, other difficulties become insignificant. Unity with Christ Jesus in the Eucharist overcomes all disunity. As a Catholic, the generosity of Pope Benedict in allowing Anglican and Latin tradition to become one in the Eucharist fills me with great joy and reminds me of the writings of St. Augustine:

"The Eucharist is our daily bread. But let us so receive it as to be thereby refreshed, not in body merely but in mind. For the power which we know to be therein is the power of unity whereby we are brought into union with His body and become his members. Let us be what we receive. For then it will be truly our daily bread."

6:20 PM  

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