For myself, I've taken the opportunity to say a few words at all Masses this weekend to reassure people (whose views have been formed by some of the more irresponsible and ignorant media) that Pope Benedict has not actually poached the most unpleasant people from the CofE simply to reinforce his campaign to repress women, gays and decent human beings. Having listened to several of the speeches at the Forward in Faith conference yesterday, I was impressed that the overriding issue seemed to be the feeling that the ARCIC discussions should be allowed to be brought to fulfillment, at least with a section of the CofE, and that the Anglicans should be 'united but not absorbed' (or some similar phrase). That seems very reasonable. Since the Church has long lived with a multiplicity of customs, liturgies and histories in the East, it seems not unreasonable to allow the same to happen in the West when there is a good case for it. If the faith is the same, then there is no reason not to admit to Communion, allowing a generous difference when it comes to externals.
Looking around the blogs, I see that an abiding concern is whether the term 'Anglican' can be retained. It seems to have a serious resonance for many. I have a friend who is a Rumanian Catholic priest, which is to say, he follows the Eastern Rite. He has clearly described himself as an Orthodox Christian who is in communion with Peter. I think what he means is that all that is proper to the tradition of Rumanian Christianity he takes to himself, but also expresses it as a member of the Universal Church. In this sense, I can see no reason why a member of a future Ordinariate should not describe themselves as 'An Anglican who is in communion with Peter', as long as the description of 'Anglican' should not be taken as suggesting subscription to the 'historic formulas of the Church of England' including, of course, the 39 articles, nor communion with Canterbury, but rather, bringing with them, and indeed being prepared to share with co-religionists, the riches of that tradition that enlighten and deepen the faith we have in common. In fact, bringing with them the riches of the Ecclesia Anglicana that have existed for hundreds of years before the Reformation, and having gathered some more interesting stuff (Hooker, Lawes, and all that) along the way. I personally prefer the term 'Anglo Catholic', now properly understood as being parallel to Greek Catholic, Ruthenian Catholic, Armenian Catholic and the rest.
In the speeches at the Forward in Faith conference, there seemed to be a little uncertainty as to the nature of an Ordinariate. My understanding is that an ordinary is an ordinary; which is to say, the true ecclesiastical superior of a group of priests and their associated laity. The suggestion from the Vatican that the ordinary might be a priest rather than a bishop seemed to me not a restriction on the possible new Church, but rather the reverse. It meant that the Vatican was perfectly prepared to countenance that the chosen leader might be a married priest, if this was deemed desirable by the new Anglo-Catholics, though it was certainly prepared to provide a bishop, as long as the candidate were celibate. A parallel, though not an exact one, has been drawn with military ordinariates. In the Catholic Church, these function almost exactly as non-territorial dioceses; in some cases (Italy, for example) they train their own candidates for ordination who work and live exactly as in a diocese; in other military ordinariates, (such as the British), priests are supplied from dioceses, though while in the Ordinariate, they work with the Bishop of the Forces as their Ordinary. It would seem that Rome intends that Anglicans in Union with Peter should remain as a permanent body with their own ordinary, which is to say an ordinariate on the Italian model. The only difference from a 'normal' diocese is that this authority will be non-territorial; in other words, the bishop or prelate would have full authority over his priests and parishes under the Pope, and certainly much greater authority than the present flying bishops have over resolution A, B & C parishes. Bishop John Hind's worries, (as expressed yesterday) then, I think are groundless, that the new body would lack proper ecclesiality; there will be a bishop (or another prelate) working together with his priests for the salvation of the people entrusted to them. That is just what the Holy Father intends. That's Bishop Hind in the picture.
The speech by Bishop Nazir-Ali (though far from hostile) was more cautious than some of the others, and he expressed a concern that candidates for priesthood in the new arrangement would have to be trained in regular Roman Catholic seminaries with some optional extra classes in Anglican Catholicism. This is not what I understood to be being offered; providing numbers warrant it, there should be no reason why particular seminaries to train clergy for the Anglo-Catholic Ordinariate should not be set up. However, it would be my earnest wish that the training offered would be considerably better (and longer!) than that currently offered by the CofE. It ought in no way to be possible for a man to be ordained after two years' correspondence course in Openness, Wholeness, Counselling, and Aromatherapy. I exaggerate, of course, but only a little.
Another (quite understandable) anxiety concerns Apostolicæ Curæ and the decreed invalidity of orders. I have recently wondered whether there might not be another solution to this which does not yet seem to have been considered. In the case of marriage (like Orders, a sacrament for which the Lord has not himself prescribed matter and form), validity can be provided (and usually is) by repeating the ceremony, observing due form ('Convalidation'), but, when needs require it, it can be put right, in certain cases, by the process known as 'sanatio in radice'; a decree that the Church now supplies her consent to the original ceremony, thus rendering it valid.
The letter of Archbishop Benson, then of Canterbury, Sæpius Officio, (quoted yesterday by the Bishop of Chichester) began the Anglican response to Apostolicæ Curæ, and since then there have also been many other efforts to correct the deficits noted by that document (reinjection of Apostolic Succession from the Old Catholics &c). I have long argued (following the eminent Doctor Freddy Broomfield, RIP) that what made Anglican Orders invalid was not the individual specific lacks, which may or may not have been remedied, but the refusal of acknowledgement of validity by the Universal Church. Now, if the Church can retrospectively grant validity to a marriage (all other elements for validity being present), can she not do so for ordination? I am not asserting the possibility for this, merely asking the question. It might prove a great comfort to many who felt that they would have to deny their past ministry. It's a fudge, of course, but Anglicans like fudge.
Good stuff here on Fr Ray's blog