14 December 2009

ARCIC and the Apostolic Constitution

Archbishop Rowan didn't - despite the claims of his critics - call the ecclesiology of Anglicanorum Coetibus eccentric. He suggested that there are others who might say it. A characteristically elegant dodge; not as crude as Cicero's favourite, praeteritio ("I forebear to say that my opponent is a proved embezzler and paederast; let me simply ..."). Is there a techical name in Rhetoric for "Others may say X "? Is it the same device as "You may say that, Matty; I couldn't possibly comment"?

His Grace has a point. The ecclesiology of AC does diverge from the norms to which we are accustomed and which he himself has lucidly expounded: that a "local church" is not a denomination or a province but bishop-and-presbytery-and-diaconate-and laos. Perhaps his words indicate that he is going to make one last herculean effort to secure just such an uneccentric provision for us from General Synod. If he is, all power to his elbow. If the Westminster monsignori do succeed in sabotaging the Holy Father's initiative, we could need something to fall back on. Mind you, I devoutly hope not ...

Where Rowan fails is in not taking account of some aspects of the exercise of Primacy. This was well set out in The Gift of Authority (ARCIC 1999). "We envisage a primacy that will even now help to uphold the legitimate diversity of traditions, strengthening and safeguarding them in fidelity to the Gospel ... This sort of primacy will already assist the Church on earth to be the authentic catholic Koinonia in which unity does not curtail diversity ... Such a universal primate ... will promote the common good in ways that are not constrained by sectional interests ..."

Such an understanding of primacy implies primatial intervention to protect diversity which is under threat. It indicates the strong hand of Peter stretching out to protect and uphold those who are threatened by local sectional interests which are powerful and even possibly menacing. It draws strength from the principle of Subsidiarity, which in the 1990s made the tortuous journey from papal encyclicals tp documents of the EU: the principle that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level. And AC is shot through and through with imaginative devices to ensure that the instruments of the Roman primacy support the tender shoots of an Ordinariate vis-a-vis strong established structures such as Episcopal conferences, their bureaucracies, and the diocesan bishops. Switching jargon, one could say that the primacy is putting itself alongside the Base Communities.

Ordinariates are to be set up by the CDF, not a Conference. They are subject to the senior dikastery, the CDF, not to a Conference. Ordinaries are answerable to the Sovereign Pontiff through the CDF. The Ordinariate's liturgy will have the approval of the Holy See. The jurisdiction of the Ordinary will not be a matter of bits and pieces "transferred" from diocesan bishops - the dramatically 'eccentric' idea which seems to be as far as General Synod can be persuaded to go. His jurisdiction will be vicarious: that is, it will be exercised in the name of the Roman Pontiff. Tangle with an Ordinary, you are tangling with the Pope. The Ordinary, with Rome's approval (a Conference does not even have to be informed), can erect institutes of consecrated life. He can erect personal parishes ... and note the proviso "after having heard the opinion of the diocesan Bishop". Of course an Ordinary will wish to work in the closest harmony and amity with his brother bishops. How could he not? Quite apart from the principle of the thing, he has so much to gain from it. But he does not, in the last resort, juridically need their agreement.

And an Ordinary will be selected from a terna - list of three name - submitted by the Ordinariate's own Council of Priests: not from a list submitted by the Papal Nuncio after extensive consultations among the members of an Episcopal Conference. This is probably the most revolutionary feature of the Holy Father's arrangements. It reverses the tendencies of the Pian Era: the period of centralisation which marked the pontificates of and between Pius IX and Pius XII. And the powers given to the Council of Priests mark a return in the direction of structures which are positively ante-Nicene.

It is the ministry of the Roman Church to uphold diversity. Roman Pontiffs have not always done that as robustly as they should; in North America they once were less forthright than they ought to have been in defending the patrimony of Eastern Catholic communities - or even the Poles - against local Irish and German diocesan bishops.

But this pope, as far as one can see, has got a well screwed on head.


Edwin said...

Well said, dear Father. You make any further comments from other scribblers such as me utterly redundant and totally otiose. Thank you. +Edwin

Little Black Sambo said...

Is the rhetorical device "occupatio"? (This suggestion comes from Fr Ogs, who is finding it impossible at the moment to get this blog to accept his comments.)

Joshua said...

One couldn't be any more Anglo-Papalist than to be, not merely in a diocese in communion with the Pope, but in an Ordinariate that is a vicariate of His Holiness himself: one suspects that one would name Benedict alone in the Canon... in a sense, one would be of the City though not in it.

Joshua said...

Perhaps this is Benedict's sense of humour coming through - cf. Article XXXVII, para. 3.

Scelata said...

"s there a techical name in Rhetoric for 'Others may say X '?"

Such expressions are commonly referred to as "weasel words."

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)