In little more than a year, four former Church of England bishops have come into full communion with the Catholic Church, either through the ordinary Roman Catholic diocese or through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a Catholic diocese with Anglican traditions for the United Kingdom established under Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise, it’s that Anglicans–or just about anyone else–don’t understand how Roman Catholicism really works. To join the one true church, with its continuity of institution, history and doctrine is one thing. To meaningfully live out the Christian life in its deficient pastoral system and some of the internal conflicts that beset it is another matter altogether. Or, as one Scottish Baptist pastor put it, “To live in love with the saints above, that would be glory/To live and grow with the saints below, that’s another story.”
With two of these esteemed swimmers (Gavin Ashenden and Michael Nazir-Ali) the timing issue is critical. Given the erratic performance of the current Occupant of the See of Peter, this doesn’t strike me as a good time to become Roman Catholic in any capacity. The church is struggling with many core issues–its celibate priesthood, the homosexual ring(s) that have emerged in that priesthood, the siren call of worldly acceptance (which has always been a problem for the RCC) and so on. It’s really hard to know how things are to come out. I’m not even sure that the Ordinariate is going to endure once the Vatican figures out people are using it as a substitute for either TLM Catholicism, #straightouttairondale Catholicism, or both.
I think the best strategy is for Continuing Anglicanism to get its act together (something that it shows signs of doing,) get rid of “egos inflatable to any size,” and present itself as sort of a “Catholicism in exile” until things look clearer one way or another at Rome.