Upcoming Events

Please see "Who is Who?" for further contact information!

Sunday 19th November 2017 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Second Sunday before Advent with parallel Children's Ministry followed by Coffee Hour
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

Sunday 26th November 2017 11:00
Sung Eucharist celebrating Christ the King with parallel Children's Ministry followed by Cool Drinks and Refreshments
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Ricky Yates

Become our fan at Facebook!

Or follow us on Twitter ;-)

Follow AnglicanPrague on Twitter

A response to the proposed apostolic constitution

The Papal Apostolic Constitution allowing groups of Anglicans or Ex-Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church


On Tuesday 20th October 2009, it was announced that Pope Benedict was establishing an Apostolic Constitution which would provide a canonical structure allowing groups of Anglicans and Ex-Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. There were two new concepts contained within this announcement. The first was that provision was being made for a whole group to become part of the Roman Catholic Church. Previously this has always been on an individual basis. The second was that such a group would be allowed to continue to maintain some form of Anglican identity.

This announcement was made both in Rome and, somewhat more surprisingly, at a joint press conference in London given by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The text of their joint press statement can be found here on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website.

At the time of this announcement, the text of the proposed Apostolic Constitution was not available. This was only published on Monday 9th November 2009 – the English version can be found here.

The joint press statement

One of the things that annoyed me and many others about the joint press statement was the Roman Catholic Church being described as purely the ‘Catholic Church’. The word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’. It is with that meaning that we declare when we recite the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”. The official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is that it alone is the ‘Catholic Church’ whereas Anglicans see themselves as being ‘…..part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’. The joint press statement could easily be seen as the Anglican Church agreeing with Roman Catholic ecclesiology which I’m sure was not the intention of Archbishop Rowan.

The timing of the announcement

It is quite clear to me that Archbishop Rowan had little forewarning of this announcement from Rome. Although the plans for the Apostolic Constitution had been underway since June or July this year, he was only told about it a few days before it was due to be announced. This can quite clearly be seen in the text of his letter to all Church of England Bishops and to the Primates of other Churches that form the Anglican Communion. You can find a link to this letter on the same page as the joint press statement on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website.

It is my belief that, in agreeing to a joint press statement and joint press conference with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Rowan was being extremely generous. One should never really question someone’s generosity but I would say that Archbishop Rowan was being generous almost to a fault.

The origin of the Apostolic Constitution

It is extremely important to note from where within the Roman Curia the Apostolic Constitution has originated. It is the work of the ‘Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’ rather than the ‘Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity’. The ‘Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’ was of course, previously known as ‘The Inquisition’ and used to be headed by the current Pope when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It would appear that the ‘Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity’, headed by the very ecumenically minded Cardinal Walter Kasper, has been completely sidelined and ignored in this whole matter.

It is quite clear that it will be the ‘Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’ that will take this whole matter forward. In the commentary that accompanied the publication of the text of the Apostolic Constitution there is the clear statement that, “The competence of erection has been given to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”. Not surprisingly, this rather interesting use of the English language has been the source of some amusement amongst various commentators!

How many Anglican clergy and congregations will take advantage of the Apostolic Constitution?

No one knows the answer to that question but, in my opinion, it will be very few. The Apostolic Constitution may well appeal to some groups of ex-Anglicans; i.e. those who for various reasons have already left the Churches that form the Anglican Communion. However, the largest of these groupings, the so-called ‘Traditional Anglican Communion’, who are one of the groups who have made approaches to Rome, are led by a twice-married former Roman Catholic priest, who would be totally ineligible to minister under the published terms of the Apostolic Constitution!

The main reason that I think very few Anglican clergy and congregations will take up the provision of the Apostolic Constitution is because the official Roman Catholic position with regard to Anglican orders and practice has not changed. Whilst the Roman Catholic hierarchy will acknowledge the validity of an Anglican baptism, they will not recognise the validity of anything else. Therefore, any lay people who go across to Rome will need to be re-confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church.

For priests and bishops the same will apply. Not only will they need to be re-confirmed but also have to be re-ordained. In other words, they will have to deny the validity of their entire past ministry. They will have to accept that every Eucharist they have ever celebrated was an invalid sacrament! Whilst the idea is allow whole groups to transfer, when it comes to clergy who are married, then the Constitution clearly states that each one will only be considered on an individual basis.

Even the concept of maintaining some form of Anglican identity will have little appeal. Mention is made of maintaining the use of some parts of the Anglican liturgy, provided that Rome has first given its theological approval. However, the very Anglo-Catholic congregations who just might be tempted by what is on offer are usually ones who already use the English RC Missal in total breach of Anglican Canon Law!

Mainstream Roman Catholic reaction

From what I know from past conversations with Roman Catholic laity, and from various things that I have heard in recent days, much of the mainstream Roman Catholic laity are not particularly happy about this Apostolic Constitution. Any survey of them will reveal a sizeable majority believing that their priests should be allowed to marry and that women should be ordained. Most do not believe that the Pope is infallible and you can clearly see by the average size of their families that most happily also ignore papal teaching on birth control. Therefore, they are not very keen to receive an influx of new members who will quite clearly take a far more conservative position, especially with regard to the ordination of women.

In Conclusion

When the dust settles, I fully believe that this whole matter will be ‘much ado about nothing’. Headlines declaring that at least 400,000 Anglicans will cross over to Rome are written by journalists who know little about Church affairs and are purely looking for a sensationalist story. The ‘competence of erection’ that has been given to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may well be remembered more for the interesting use of the English language than for any lasting change wrought on either Anglican Communion or the Roman Catholic Church.

Ricky Yates – 12th November 2009