Monday, November 09, 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus - Coterie, or Cotters?

Hi there faithful readers,

At last the details of Pope Benedict's offer to those of us Anglicans sufficiently dissident to be seeking membership of the Roman Church. So far I have only skimmed through the document. It looks, as we expected, generous and detailed and compassionate, just the sort of offer we would expect to come from 'Benedictus PP XVI'.

I like what I have read so far. For those seeking Roman jurisdiction over their spiritual life and membership of its church, both parochial and global, I suspect that "There ain't gonna be a better offer."

However, throughout there remains the condemnation of Anglican Orders. Nowhere is it suggested that our present orders are in order. True the possibility that we acted as if they were in order, conducted our lives and ministry as if they were in order, and believed - and may still believe, perhaps - that they were in order, is to be taken into account in a future examination of our vocation to Roman Orders. However the truth of the matter is that at the moment we enter membership of the Roman Catholic church we have had no orders whatsoever of any validity, no valid episcopate, no valid presbyterate, not even a valid diaconate. Moreover, we are required to believe that we were mistaken in believing that we had them.

So then, nothing changes except the way in which groups of former Anglicans can be gathered together to worship in their own version of the Roman way, and a specialist ministry proved for them.

There is a lesson for the Church of England in particular. These provisions in Anglicanorum Coetibus form a very useful template for Anglicans who choose to remain Anglican and for Anglicans in general. They form the kind of provision for which Forward in Faith, the Third Province Movement and such organisations have been campaigning for some years and for which the provision and experience of PEVs gives support for its usefulness in maintaining a degree of unity within one fold.

Either way the numbers are likely to be small in the Church of England. About a third of Church of England members expressed disquiet or opposition to the decision to go ahead with the ordination of women in 1992. They are almost certain to stay, nearly all that is. A few hundred clergy resigned their offices, rather less left the Church of England. There were six hundred or so priests, I gather, at the recent Forward in Faith Assembly. Even if all availed themselves of this opportunity, the numbers of clergy so doing who are at present in full time ministry would be a small percentage indeed, despite the noise so many make!

So to the semantics which give an interesting side light on the situation. Coetibus in classical Latin referred to an group which came together, an Assembly in other word. Just the word for the job, assuming the meaning hasn't varied.

If my reasoning is right, and my knowledge of Latin is severely Classical in outline, then we have some words in the English language derived from it - Coterie - do we want to belong to a coterie, cosy is the adjective usually placed before this word? "Cottage" comes from it ... and I am not going down that route. Cottage is the home of a "cotter" an Anglo-Saxon who held a cottage and land in return for property. Not a bad description in some ways!

Best wishes all round,

Fr Ted