Fr. George Rutler (convert from Anglicanism) on new Anglican provision

On CNA Fr. George Rutler comments on the new Anglican provisions.  My emphases and comments:

October 20, 2009
Fr. Rutler discusses Vatican’s Anglican provision
By Fr. George Rutler *

Editor’s Note: Fr. George Rutler, a convert from Anglicanism, was asked by CNA what his reaction is to the Vatican’s new Anglican provision. Fr. Rutler’s reply follows.

It is a dramatic slap-down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and [this is important] the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism. Indeed, it is a final rejection of Anglicanism. It basically interprets Anglicanism as a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine and makes clear that it is not a historic "church" but rather an "ecclesial community” that strayed and now is invited to return to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.

The Vatican was careful to schedule simultaneously with the Vatican announcement, a press conference of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the deeply humiliated Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to enable the Anglicans to save some face by saying that this recognizes the spiritual patrimony of Anglicanism and that ecumenical dialogue goes ahead. [Hopefully, with a difference.] That is like George Washington at Yorktown saying that he recognizes the cultural contributions of Britain and hopes diplomatic relations flourish. The Apostolic Constitution is not a retraction of ecumenical desires, but rather is the fulfillment of ecumenical aspirations, albeit not the way most Anglican leaders had envisioned it.  [Right.  They are not recognized as equal on the playing field.  I wish this same approach would be taken with a certain non Christian group!]

The press, uninformed and always tabloid in matters of religion, will zoom in on the permission for married priests. They will miss the most important point: that this reiterates the Catholic Church’s insistence that Anglican Holy Orders are invalid, and perforce so is their Eucharist. [Right.  All their clerics coming into the Church as clerics must be at least provisionally/conditionally ordained.] These married Anglican priests have to be fully and validly ordained by a Catholic bishop. Following Orthodox custom, they are allowed to marry only before ordination and not after. And no married man may become a bishop. (Thus, any Anglican bishop joining one of these "ordinariates" would no longer be recognized as a bishop. Under special provision, Anglican bishops would have some right to pastoral authority, but would not be bishops.[This is why the distinction was made about "ordinaries".  Not all "ordinaries" are bishops.]

It remains to be seen how many Anglicans (Episcopalians in the USA) will be received into the Catholic Church under these provisions, but it is a final nail in the coffin of the rapidly disintegrating Anglicanism at least in the West [I hope we can get all their churches…. or at least swap some of ours for theirs.] and will radically challenge Anglicans in other parts of the world. Perhaps most importantly, it sets a precedent for reunion with Orthodox churches whose Holy Orders the Catholic Church already recognizes as valid. [And the SSPX.] I should not be surprised if the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury eventually is received into the Catholic Church, at least when he retires and gets a patent of nobility and a pension.

* Fr. George Rutler is pastor of The Church of Our Saviour in New York City and is a convert to Catholicism from the Anglican Communion.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    My favorite Fr. Rutler quote, in reply when he was asked what he had missed the most since leaving the Anglican church to become a (post Vatican II) Catholic: “The liturgy in English.”

  2. pattif says:

    I am struck by Fr. Rutler’s final sentence. One of the things I found most amazing about yesterday’s events was the fact that an Archbishop of Canterbury could put his signature to a statement containing the following phrase:

    “…the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.”

  3. TNCath says:

    This is, by far, the best explanation of Anglican provision I have read so far. Thanks for posting, Fr. Z., and thanks for the explanation, Father Rutler!

  4. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Z. commented: Right. They are not recognized as equal ont he playing field. I wish this same approach would be taken with a certain non Christian group!

    It was indeed an act of grave evangelical delinquency to have neglected the proselytism of our alleged “elder brothers in the Faith.” An apophthegmatic bon mot to be sure, but theologically mendacious. The Petrine ministry is charged first and foremost with the saving of souls. All souls.

  5. The Astronomer says:

    Back in the early 1990s, when Fr. Rutler was at the Church of St. Agnes in NYC, I had the honor of serving as his Master of Ceremonies when he celebrated the Traditional Mass of Pius V a couple of times a month. His celebrations of the traditional liturgy were always edifying to the maximum, as were his inspirational homilies. He would ALWAYS pack the Grand Ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel with his famous “Seven last words of Christ” on Good Friday. Ahhh, the good ‘ol days.

    I relish the thought of being able to attend a Mass celebrated by an Anglican convert priest, as I understand their de-Cranmerized English liturgy (with addition of the Roman Canon) is the closest thing we’re likely to see of an edifying vernacular Tridentine Mass. My local parish is stuck in 1977 and making known that your sympathies are with His Holiness Pope Benedict and the hermeneutic of continuity mark you down with our pastor as a ‘disgruntled troublemaker’ without sensitivity towards the ‘local faith community and it’s diversity.’

  6. Malta says:

    Well, begads! I just can’t imagine a structure set-up by a gout-footed, serial wife-killing, Campion-crushing, creep failing?

  7. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I share Fr. Z’s wishes regarding (at least the nicer) Episcopal meeting-halls. I would suggest that they be dedicated as churches of St. Charles Lwanga.

  8. chonak says:

    Would Rowan pope? That’s a surprising thought. Isn’t he a pro-WO evangelical?

  9. irishgirl says:

    Excellent and very concise words from Father Rutler!

    Yes, Fr. Z-I’d like to see some of those beautiful Anglican churches as our own-they’re often better looking that the suburban garages that pass for ‘Catholic’ ones!

    I also like Father Rutler’s last line about Archbishop Williams….

  10. Unity says:

    How will this effect our parishes within vicinity of these special ordinariates? Will the priests be “roaming” or something where our existing parishes will have to make provisions for them? Will this force greater compliance with Summorum in an unexpected way?

    Fr. R. answered my hope for this also involving the Orthodox unity within his view..

  11. re: Comment by Henry Edwards — 21 October 2009 @ 10:07 am

    “I used my thumb.”

  12. MikeJ9919 says:

    I doubt Rowan Williams would cross the Tiber. My understanding is that he’s in favor of women’s “ordination” and gay “marriage.” The only reason he hasn’t been more vocal about it is his position as Archbishop of Canterbury. He knows those two issues are tearing the Anglicans apart. But all things are possible with God. I’ll keep Williams (and all our Protestant brothers in Christ) in my prayers, hoping that the Lord’s Church can soon truly be one.

  13. kradcliffe says:

    I’m very excited to hear that so many faithful Christians will be “Coming Home.”

    But, surely there will be quite a few hold-outs who will cling to traditional Anglicanism and refuse to submit to the See of Peter?

  14. David2 says:

    Isn’t he a pro-WO evangelical?

    That’s half right. Rowan Williams is patron of something called “Affirming Catholicism”.

    “Affirming Catholicism” is described as the “liberal wing of Anglo Catholicism”, which holds that ordination of women and practising homosexuals / lesbians “is consistent with Anglo-Catholic belief and practice”.

    In other words, they love the smells n’ bells, and the pretty maniples, but they are seriously awry when it comes to doctrine. The closest thing you will get to the “Traditionalist Womanpriest Movement” – birettas and boyfriends, soutanes and stilletto heels, makeup and maniples!

    Williams once noted, that once the Anglicans accepted contraception, the arguments against same-sex unions lost credibility – essentially because they involved “picking and choosing” the natural law to suit the needs of the times.

    It appears that this sort of “Anglo-Catholic” lices the lace and incense, but throws huge chunks of Catholic doctrine out the window.

  15. Levavi says:

    What a wonderful analysis by Fr Rutler, whom I shall certainly look out for in future! I am a convert from Anglicanism, and I shudder to think I was ever part of it. Accident of birth, I felt, was not enough reason to stay in with them, and so I have been a Catholic for 10 years now. I do think there are mixed messages in the structure proposed, but hopefully the overall message will be loud and clear: either you are for the Church or against the Church. It seems a huge accommodation the Pope has made, and I am stunned by his generosity.

  16. Bryan says:

    I’m not stunned by his generosity.

    Did not Christ sup with sinners?

    Did he not tell the fallen woman “go and sin no more”

    Did he not welcome into his midst pharisees and publicans? Tax collectors?
    the lukewarm?

    Did he not choose, as the man who would lead His Church, the same man who denied

    Benedict is only doing what a good shepherd should. That he is as generous and
    gentle as he is, all the while refusing the dictates of formlessness and discontinuity,
    is living proof that the Holy Spirit was alive and well in April 2005.

    May he reign for many years to come. It’s been a whirlwind four and a half years.

    But, then, clarity of thought, clarity of teaching, clarity of action always seems
    like that. I dare say, for one who was pegged as a ‘transitional’ Pope after JP-II,
    he’s certainly made a mark far beyond the shortness of time he’s already been at the

    Again, long may he reign.

  17. Breck says:

    Fr.Z. What do you mean by “provisionally ordained”? I realize that there will be a problem in providing these new converts with an “Anglican Rite”
    Mass until convert Anglican “priests” can be retrained and ordained, but why not simply arrange for them to use the OF celebrated by a visiting
    priest? The introduction of “provisional ordination” could lead to some sticky situations. What would happen if a candidate so “ordained” went off the rails during his retraining? Would he be able to claim that he had received the indelible character of the priesthood? When I converted, I did not feel that I had any claim on the Catholic priesthood. I simply accepted that my Anglican “ordination” had been something different, and I was glad to start over as a Catholic layman.

  18. Sid says:

    I’m only sorry that another distinguished USA convert, Richard John Neuhaus, didn’t live to see this day.

    I agree that yesterday’s news is a “dramatic slap down” of Broad Church Liberal Anglicanism. Historically the Anglican church has been divided into four groups:
    (1) low church, the Evangelicals;
    (2) Latitudinarian/Broad Church (liberals);
    (3) High Church (the Via Media of Protestant theology and Catholic ceremony); and
    (4) the Anglo-Catholics (Andrewes, Donne, Herbert, Pusey, Charles Williams, T. S. Eliot, and C. S. Lewis)

    Now I think #4, Anglo-Catholics, in a few years, will be with Rome. I wonder if the Low Churchmen will stay?

  19. David2 says:

    Breck, I think that what Father means by “provisionally ordained” is conditional ordination under Can 845:

    Can. 845 §1. Since the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and orders imprint a character, they cannot be repeated.

    §2. If after completing a diligent inquiry a prudent doubt still exists whether the sacraments mentioned in §1

    were actually or validly conferred, they are to be conferred conditionally.

    Normally ex-anglicans are ordained in the usual manner. However, there was at least one instance in England where an Anglican Bishop had been ordained by an “old Catholic” Bishop and Cardinal Hume (in a somewhat controversial move), agreed to ordain him “conditionally” as a Catholic priest. Basically, it goes “if you are not already ordained, I now ordain you…”.

  20. RichR says:

    I hope we can get all their churches…. or at least swap some of ours for theirs.

    LOL!!!!! Fair trade!!!

  21. GOR says:

    As usual Fr. Rutler nails it and doesn’t mince words. Loved his analogy of Washington at Yorktown…!

  22. Sandy says:

    I love your idea, Father, about getting their churches or swapping. The churches I’m wishing for, that used to be ours!, are not in the U.S., however – the glorious ancient architecture found in Europe.

    Three cheers for Father Rutler!

  23. chatto says:

    Apparently some years ago, Her Majesty the Queen was on a tour of Ely Cathedral in the south of England, where the relics of Saint Etheldreda had been kept until Cranmer started running the show. However, one of the saint’s hands was diligently preserved by a recusant family, and are now enshrined in the nearby Catholic Church. HMQ happened to meet the priest of that church while on the tour, and innocently suggested it would be a nice gesture to return the relic to the cathedral, where it belonged. The priest responded by saying that it would be a nice gesture on the part of Her Majesty to return the cathedral to the Catholic Church, where it belonged. Sadly, this story probably isn’t true.

    Personally, as much as I’d love to ‘have York Minster back’, I’d prefer it if the congregation came along as well, not least because they can help us pay for the place (those olde churches are crazy expensive).

  24. Breck says:

    David2. Thanks for your suggestion, but I think that Fr.Z is talking about a different situation. He suggests that a man who has received Anglican orders and who wishes to convert with his flock be given a new classification of the Catholic priesthood (Provisional Ordination). My question concerns this man’s future, not his past. Will he be retrained according to the standards of the Catholic priesthood, or will he simply work for the rest of his life with what he has? If he is to be retrained, what will happen if he drops out? Is he a priest or not? If he completes the retraining, will he be ordained again? This hardly seems possible.
    If he is not to be retrained, why call it “provisional”?

  25. JPG says:

    As to obtaining Church buildings there are some wonderful Churches in the USA. Fr Rutler was once either Pastor or Vicar at Holy Redeemer in
    suburban Philadelphia a truly wonderful Gothic building at least on the outside likewise St Thomas on Fifth Ave in NYC or for that matter St Bart’s on Park avenue, all architecturally sound from a Catholic perspective.
    Fairfield , CT

  26. Tom Ryan says:

    Which non-Christian group are you referring to, Father?

    I can think of two

  27. Supertradmom says:

    When Rowan Williams made his comment last year agreeing that Britain should have sharia law,he lost any respect he had from serious Christians. Sadly, his comments, that he only found out about the press conference at the last minute, does not help communication. The bbc had two horribly anti-Catholic articles, showing Rome in the worst light, concerning this meeting and the Traditional Anglican groups. Father Rutler has wisdom and insight into this new development, which is excellent news for us all. I hope more priests weigh in on the discussion.

  28. chonak says:

    Breck writes: If he completes the retraining, will he be ordained again?

    According to the teaching in Apostolicae Curae, Anglican ordinations are not valid, so the Church considers these convert clergy as having not been ordained yet. So it is necessary that they be ordained before they can serve as Catholic clergy.

    Some prepare for ordination by studying for an advanced degree (for example, an S.T.L.). Some go through a program of private study specified by their bishop and supervised by a seminary professor. That typically takes about a year.

  29. Breck says:

    Chonak and David2. This is my last kick at the can. Neither of you is addressing the question of Fr.Z’s “provisional ordination” which he seems to suggest would be administered soon after conversion. What does Fr.Z mean? He does not seem to mean ordination after preparation, such as is described by Chonak. Nor does he mean conditional ordination, which is geared to the earlier status of the candidate. Since Fr.Z is not following this up, I appreciate your help, but I still don’t have an answer. Oh well, details to follow from Rome!

  30. Breck: I believe some Anglican priests who come over are conditionally ordained. I am sure the CDF sorts out who is who and what they need in the proper time and way.

  31. elwin says:

    In Theological Investigations, Joseph Ratzinger says priests ordained outside the context of the Catholic Church cannot be ordained validly no matter what the origin of the ordaining bishop’s orders. He says a bishop must intend to ordain for service to the Catholic Church. To my knowledge, most former Anglicans/Episcopalians are not ordained “conditionally”.

  32. robtbrown says:

    Well, begads! I just can’t imagine a structure set-up by a gout-footed, serial wife-killing, Campion-crushing, creep failing?
    Comment by Malta

    Edmund Campion was executed when Eliz I was on the throne.

  33. robtbrown says:

    In Theological Investigations, Joseph Ratzinger says priests ordained outside the context of the Catholic Church cannot be ordained validly no matter what the origin of the ordaining bishop’s orders. He says a bishop must intend to ordain for service to the Catholic Church. To my knowledge, most former Anglicans/Episcopalians are not ordained “conditionally”.
    Comment by elwin

    Did he say exactly that? According to what you have written, JRatzinger would not consider the Orthodox to have valid orders.

  34. robtbrown says:

    BTW, Fr Rutler was not only an Anglican, he was Anglican clergy.

    I think the same is true of Fr Stanley Klores of New Orleans.

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