I don't understand that at all.
So when I learn, from the Midwest Conservative Journal, via Mark Shea that a "delegation of Episcopal priests from Fort Worth paid a visit to Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann earlier this summer, asking for guidance on how their highly conservative diocese might come into "full communion" with the Catholic Church", I took a quick glance and they provide a detailed explanation of their position. Now, clearly this isn't a representative sample (otherwise it wouldn't be news), but as I feel it may be enlightening more generally, I shall post it here so it's easier for me to find, and if you find it enlightening, so much the better.
Update: Actually that doesn't help at all. Still, interesting.
EIGHT CRUCIAL FINDINGS
I. We believe the See of Peter is essential not optional
Unity with the Holy See is esse that is, essential for Catholic Christians (not bene esse, merely beneficial.) This is a concept which the Catholic Clergy in the Anglican Tradition have always believed (indeed it is one of the stated purposes of the SSC) but the rapid deterioration of the Anglican Communion makes it even more apparent now. The Prayer for Unity (John 17, that they all may be one) also compels us to pursue the possibility of reunion with Rome.
The very name of the first Pope, Peter, Petrus is the "rock" - and we have seen that it is the Petrine office which is important not the personality of an individual pontiff.
In April 2006 our Diocesan Bishop and several of the clergy made a pilgrimage to Rome. At that time we were blessed to have an informal visit with his Eminence, Bernard Cardinal Law. At that meeting, Cardinal Law indicated that the Catholic Church was aware of the current difficulties faced by Anglo Catholics (and particularly the Anglo Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth) at this time and said, in essence, for us to "make an offer" that is, make a Proposal on how we might respond to the crisis in our branch of Christendom. After this pilgrimage, we began meeting with the full knowledge and support of our Bishop. We came to realize that, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, it is up to us to make the initiative to return to the rock from whence we were hewn. In essence, that trip crystallized for us the need for perusing unity with the See of Peter now. Since that time we have studied, we have met, we have prayed, and now we come to the Church with our conclusions.
As Anglicans we realize that Henry VIII, the monarch who wrote "Defense of Seven Sacraments" and who was granted the title "Defender of the Faith", never intended to make any substantive or permanent changes in the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Reformation itself was intended to be for a limited time only, "a season", as the book of Ecclesiastes would say.
We believe that it is now time for a new Season. It is perhaps, time for a church of Reformation to die and a new unification among Christ’s people be born: Unification possible only under the Holy Father.
II. We believe a magisterium is needed desperately
"In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25) This describes the day to day ’on the ground" reality in the Anglican Communion. Anglican "comprehensiveness" has no boundaries and no real center. For example, during the Reformation period under Elizabeth I, 1533-1603, there was an attempt to synthesize the Catholic and Protestant factions in the Church of England, resulting in the so-called "Elizabethan Settlement". Concerning the Eucharist, it was held that belief in the Real Presence of Christ was acceptable as well as the belief that the Eucharist was only a memorial or "remembrance" of something long ago. In essence the Anglican faith is what the parish priest says it is, and this varies widely with many contradictions. The Pentecostal/Evangelical/Charismatic expressions are just as valid as the Anglo-Catholic teaching. In most parts of the country, the parish priest is completely on his own.
Formerly, a single prayer book (the 1662 Church of England Prayer Book was the pattern for all national prayer books) provided some glue, but with the proliferation of endless trial liturgies even that has disappeared.
The lack of a teaching office has resulted in communicating un-baptized persons, same-sex unions and liturgical chaos everywhere. There are no boundaries and it is all uncontrollable. This is not theory but day to day reality. Anglican "comprehensiveness" has no boundaries. Previously this absence of a center seemed to work when the various ecclesiastical parties (Low Church/Broad Church/High Church) largely worked within their own circles. Low Church people did not attend High Church parishes and vice versa.
In looking at the disarray in the larger communion it is apparent that the Archbishop of Canterbury is incapable of providing decisive leadership. If there is a future, particularly for Catholic minded Anglicans, it is clear that a magisterium is absolutely essential.
III. We believe the Catholic Faith is True
The Catholic Faith is given - it is true.
The Epistle to the Ephesians reminds us that as Christians we believe in "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism". At the celebration of every Mass and in the recitation of any Daily Office we profess in the Creed "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church". We have come to realize, to an extent even more fully than we had as Catholics in the Anglican Tradition, that our Blessed Lord has indeed founded only one true church: the Catholic Church.
Unlike so many forms of Protestantism, Catholic teaching does not change on a whim to suit the transient issues of the day. In addition, the Catholic Faith is not just one option among many. Anglican comprehensiveness with Catholics, Evangelicals and Liberals, all following their own paths, leads to the disintegration and disunion which we in the Diocese of Fort Worth find ourselves. The Protestant/Low Church teachings, the Liberals experiential teachings are just not true. The Catholic faith, the Catholic practice, the Catholic teaching - is true.
We know, and are living examples of the fact, that Catholic Witness has been present throughout the history of the Anglican Tradition. But it is now becoming weaker because of this idea, Catholic as one option among several. . . except here in Fort Worth, which is in so many ways unique (explored further in section VI).
IV. We believe the Anglican Communion shares the fatal flaws of The Episcopal Church
In our time of discernment, we have concluded that the difficulties we have faced in The Episcopal Church for the past thirty years will not be remedied by the Anglican Communion.
Those making this presentation have been members of The Episcopal Church since childhood. In this church we have been nourished by Catholic faith and practice. However, through the years we have witnessed the deterioration and marginalization of that Catholic faith. We believed that our call was to remain within our church as a remnant which could preserve the faith. Our expectation was that the Anglican Communion, in response to The Episcopal Church’s continuing "innovations", would provide the stability and witness necessary for us to continue. However, it is apparent that the Communion is incapable of providing this stability.
It is our conclusion that the Anglican Communion has the same fatal flaws as The Episcopal Church. Without a magisterium the latest "religion" will continue to replace the historic teachings of our Communion. This erosion of Catholic faith and practice is heightened by the governing polity of the Anglican Communion. Bishops are elected by priests and laity of a Diocese. As the liberalizing culture enters another portion of the world, the Diocese there is deeply affected by it. Those who can be elected are only those who reflect the cultural shift that has occurred in that Diocese. We have seen this in The Episcopal Church and we see it now in the Anglican Communion.
We know what happens in a church which lacks a magisterium and whose polity makes the continuing of a Catholic witness impossible. We have concluded the Anglican Communion provides not safe future for us. Our witness, rather than being honored, has been persecuted.
V. We believe our polity is in error
In the New Testament no congregation votes on its pastor! St. Paul would have been unelectable in all, except maybe Philippi! Without exception pastors are sent by higher authority.
It was not a convention of delegates, but only the remaining apostles that established the criteria for Judas’ replacement. St. John Chrysostom said that Peter had the authority to make the appointment but did not. Drawing lots put the choice in God’s hands.
In the United States, the democratic style of polity in The Episcopal Church, strongly resembling the legislative branch of the U.S. government (House of Bishops and House of Deputies, lay and ordained) has created doctrinal chaos. Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) the first American Episcopal bishop was fearful of having clergy and lay people voting on doctrinal matters. His fears were realized when an early General Convention put the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds up for grabs. The Nicene Creed was voted out, then back in; and then the Athanasian Creed lost the vote.
In regard to the ordination of women, the 1976 General Convention changed the matter of a sacrament, established by Christ himself, simply by voting. Bishop Robert Terwilliger, formerly Suffragan of the Diocese of Dallas called it "voting our collective ignorance"!
Candidates for bishop in the American Episcopal Church shamelessly campaign like the politicians they are. When elected they are indebted to the electors.
We are in desperate need of a polity modeled on the New Testament and the early church.
VI. We believe we are not the only ones
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth came into existence in 1983 when it was decided that the Diocese of Dallas, of which it represents the western 1/3 of that diocese, would divide. We believe the hand of God was present in this decision and that it was the work of the Holy Spirit to bring into existence a diocese where the overwhelming majority of clergy living and working in that part of the old Diocese of Dallas were Catholic minded clergy. We now see as truly profound this action of creating the Diocese of Fort Worth. It set up what has now culminated in a Diocese of the Episcopal Church where its clergy are overwhelmingly Catholic minded.
The Diocese of Fort Worth has been a leader in standing against the apostasy that has been taking place in the Episcopal Church over the last three decades. We have witnessed Episcopal diocese after diocese fall away from a traditional Biblical and Catholic practice of the faith. It has now become impossible for the Catholic minded people to exist and survive in the Episcopal Church. As a result of this, the Diocese of Fort Worth is working toward a realignment of itself into another Province of the Anglican Communion. We have chosen to join the Province of the Southern Cone in South America. We believe this arrangement is temporary. As the Anglican Communion attempts to reform itself, it is becoming more and more evident that this problematic at best.
The overwhelming majority of clergy currently active in the Diocese of Fort Worth are willing to work earnestly for what we consider to be the only solution, and that is full communion with the Holy See. The breakdown of numbers is as follows:
There are currently 60 active clergy
We believe 9 will opt to stay in The Episcopal Church
51 will remain in a temporarily realigned diocese with the Southern Cone
5 are not interested at this time in working for full communion
46 are truly interested. If we add our seminarians currently on the priesthood track and our retired clergy the number becomes 59.
Our best guess is that approximately 59 clergy are willing to pursue an active plan to bring the Diocese of Fort Worth or a significant portion of it into full communion with the Holy See, if this be God’s will.
We believe these numbers are the result of the Holy Spirit actively working among us since the formation of this diocese. We also recognize that it will take time to bring the laity on board with this proposal. While the clergy have come to recognize the truth which it held by the Holy See, we have much work to do with the laity.
This fact needs to be noted and is to be understood as a recognized part of our proposal.
We would also like to point out that of the 59 clergy, 20 are under the age of 40. These young clergy are committed to seeking the truth that the Holy See possesses. They have come to this realization independent of the four clergy who are represented in this presentation. We have noted over the last few years that God has been raising up phenomenal young men in our diocese for priesthood. We now realize and believe the purpose of this explosion of priestly vocations at this time is to further help us understand the direction we must take. They are committed to teaching the truth of the Catholic faith and they have many years of ministry to give to accomplish what God began with us in 1983. We have seen many pieces of a puzzle come together over the years. We believe all of this is truly the work of the Holy Spirit and we continue to pray for guidance, courage and faith.
Finally, the Diocese of Fort Worth is the only diocese in the Episcopal Church that is strong enough to pursue the Proposal outlined below. We have a critical mass of clergy who are willing to bring the laity to support this proposal. There are many Catholics in the Anglican Tradition outside of our Diocese that look to the Diocese of Fort Worth for leadership. We believe the time is ripe for significant history making action on the part of the Holy Spirit. We believe the time is right and this is why we have come forward with this presentation.
VII. We believe Pope Benedict XVI understands our plight
Through his writings and his actions we believe that Pope Benedict XVI is sympathetic to our plight.
It is our belief that Pope Benedict XVI desires to uphold the Catholic faith whenever and wherever he finds it; especially in a world dominated by the super-dogma of relativism. It is this new dogma, this new denomination which motivates those who seek to remove the Catholic witness from The Episcopal Church.
In October, 2003, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and other Episcopalians throughout the United States met in Plano, Texas for a conference titled, "A Place to Stand: A Call to Mission". That conference was called to unite further those who opposed the ordination of a partnered homosexual as a Bishop in The Episcopal Church.
The highpoint of that conference was a letter from then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It reads as follows:
From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Vatican, on behalf of Pope John Paul II
I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this City from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ’s Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that barely 120 years later, Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith to my own forebears in Germany.
The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is an unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcends the borders of any nation. With this is mind, I pray in particular that God’s will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.
With fraternal regards, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ
+Joseph Cardinal Ratszinger
Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
Furthermore, in April, 2006 the four priests making this presentation, with our Bishop and two other priests of our Diocese, met with Bernard Cardinal Law at his residence in Rome. At that meeting we discussed our plight with him. Cardinal Law told us two important things. With regard to union with Rome he said, "What was not possible twenty years ago may be possible today." And, with regard to our moving forward he said, "Make us an offer". He told us that it was inappropriate for the Catholic Church to make an offer to another Christian body, such as ours, in distress. Rather, such an offer needed to come from us.
Pondering the words of then Cardinal Ratzinger and those of Cardinal Law, we entered our period of prayer and discernment.
Those making this presentation believe the Holy Spirit has brought us to this moment. It is a time when we who have believed ourselves to be priests of the Catholic faith, seek to become more clearly what we have always been.
VIII. We believe there is a charism which the Anglican ethos has to offer to the Universal Church
The Catholic Faith, as it has been lived in the Anglican Tradition, is a thing of great beauty. Why are we making a plea for it to continue? It is because the Catholic faith and practice, as lived out in the Anglican Tradition, is a unique charism well worth preserving.
Twentieth century Anglo Catholic authors like C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot and earlier Anglican theologians such as William Law ("Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life") and George Herbert ("The Country Parson") have enriched and enlightened countless souls. The religious life, the devotional societies, the guilds, the priestly fraternities (like the Catholic Clerical Union and the SSC) all speak to an expression of Catholic piety which continues to be attractive to people in the twenty-first century and are worthy of preserving for future generations. To take but one (local) example: the large number of young men offering themselves for ordination in this Diocese speaks to this expression’s ability to nurture vocations. Also the Catholic Liturgy in the Anglican Tradition is a thing of great elegance, holiness, of long antiquity and solemn reverence.
The icon presented to his Excellency Bishop Vann, an icon of both St. Gregory and St. Augustine, represents our desire to return hom to Rome our first and true spiritual home.
What is it that we can offer to the greater Church? We believe we can offer a Catholic expression which for too long has been separated from the Universal Church. This is a tradition of inspiring liturgy, devout spirituality, loving pastoral care and a living spirituality. We believe it has a special and unique witness to the Faith, which we humbly offer as a beautiful jewel in the Catholic crown.