This is a subject that has been flogged to death
in the blogs from all points of view, whether from that
of Anglicans anticipating their entry into an Ordinariate
to be set up in their country by Rome or the existing structure
in England, or by those Anglicans who narrow down what they
understand to be Anglican patrimony to doctrinal issues
or Reformation formularies.
Our safest option is probably to put the word
patrimony in the plural, as Anglicanism
as a united spiritual entity is the Church of England by
law established. Many of us claiming Anglican patrimonies
of one kind or another are not formal members of the Church
of England or the various Anglican Churches
in the world recognised by the Lambeth Conference as members
of the Anglican Communion.
The experience of discussing this subject over
the past few years reveals the diversity of understanding
of what Anglican patrimony is between the extremes of the
various traditional churchmanships (Evangelical, Central, High, Anglo-Catholic
It strikes me that the notion of Anglican Patrimony
is what differentiates Catholic-minded Anglicans from both
American conservative Catholicism and its parallels in other
countries on one hand and the kind of traditionalist Catholicism
that refers to counter-reformation inspired Catholic norms
since the end of the nineteenth century as its point of
Anglican Patrimony is thus something different
from our ethnical origins, the Book of Common Prayer, the
various doctrinal formularies, historical writings, the
English choral tradition, small parishes in which people
know each other and the priest
knows everyone and so forth. It is within ourselves.
Our love of beauty and homeliness is not unique
to the Anglican way, as I have seen them also in French
country parishes. It is perhaps situated in a love of freedom
and relative autonomy, preferring a human face to the efficiency
of a machine or a smoothly running but impersonal bureaucracy.
Whether we find ourselves united in ordinariates
in canonical union with Rome
or forced to regroup as continuing Anglicans, we carry within
ourselves a different kind of spirituality than what we
will find in Catholic parishes or traditionalist chapels.
Perhaps what is within us is a kind of monastic spirituality
that has filtered down through the centuries and adapted
to the life of lay people and non-monastic priests. It is
certainly a pro aris et focis religion! We like to
be familiar with everything around us, and have a feeling
of stability in our homes and churches like the monk in
It was not by accident that Blessed John Henry
Newman joined the Oratory, which is a kind of monastery
for secular priests without vows and without methods of
training that involve the breaking of personalities to obtain
absolute obedience. Oratorian
life asks for the best of human nature and the capacity
for self-discipline and spirituality without the big stick.
Without having been an Anglican, St Philip Neri understood and embodied a different notion of Catholicism
that is close to Anglican Christian humanism and personalism.
In our era of totalitarianisms, ideologies and
nihilism, Christian humanism is hard to understand and accept,
yet it is probably the most precious gift to emerge from
the Renaissance and the Reformation, adding to the kind
of Catholic patrimony that transforms, transfigures and
brings spiritual happiness and joy. The success of the Ordinariates
will depend on the official Roman Church’s capacity to assimilate
it own humanism and love for the human person.