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.