I was surprised this post Anglican Identity; Catholic Identity did not elicit more discussion.
I continue to mull over the issue of identity since a friend of mine told me about a Facebook group called Anglican Catholicism.
Though I have only been a member for a few days, it seems to be made up of Anglicans, (Continuing Anglicans? Anglo-Catholics) who believe they have a Catholic identity.
That’s interesting, because I certainly thought that during the time I was a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion that I was an Anglican with a Catholic identity.
As a matter of fact, when I applied for a contract writing for Catholic papers in 2004, eight years before I was received into the Catholic Church, I told the editors on the panel that interviewed me that I was a member of a traditional Anglican church that was in informal talks with Rome about coming into communion. I told them I deeply respected Pope John Paul II and the teachings of the Catholic Church. “I’m more Catholic than 85 per cent of the people in the pews,” I said. The editors exchanged glances, and then asked me to wait a moment while they consulted. When they returned, they offered me the contract. I think though it was more on the strength of my journalistic credentials than my statement of faith, since I had spent 17 years with Canada’s public broadcaster, 12 as a television producer. Oh, this is another example of the positive impact ecumenism has had on my personal life!
I did not realize at that moment how much more I had to learn or how much more deeper conversion would be required of me to become officially Catholic, but this much was true. I really did believe in Real Presence, Transubstantiation. I believed in seven sacraments. I believed Holy Orders were for men only. As far as the Catholic faith went, I could check off most of the boxes. Many cradle Catholics scandalized me in their ignorance of their own faith. Studies have shown a majority believe the Blessed Sacrament is a symbol, not the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
I would sometimes gasp at the liturgical abuses I would witness when I attended a Roman Catholic Mass not because I was trained to be critical, but because of the contrast between the reverence with which our clergy treated the Blessed Sacrament and the casual way Our Lord was treated by some cradle Catholics.
When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Dominus Iesus I agreed with it. I was a Cardinal Ratzinger devotee from the moment I first read anything by him. Our parish was rooting for him in the conclave, by the way. Yet, I hear the priests of at least one Canadian diocese were sent a letter by their bishop telling them not to be too alarmed after he was elected pope!
I had much yet to learn about ecclesiology and the role of the papacy, but interestingly, what I learned and came to accept—a Vatican I definition of papal infallibility–has now been thrown into some question. I see a kind of creeping progressive ultramontanism afoot regarding Pope Francis that takes anything he says off the cuff on a plane or in an unrecorded interview with an atheist publisher as magisterial.
Those who were firmly loyal to Pope Benedict XVI and St. Pope John Paul II, who are now saying let’s be sure to interpret any new teaching in light of what the Church has always taught are being called dissidents by the new uber-papalists. Even inside the Catholic Church there is now a divide now among those who adhere to Pope Benedict’s idea of reform of the reform, or a view of the Second Vatican Council as “reform in a hermeneutic of continuity” with those who hold a “hermeneutic of rupture,” who see Vatican II as a welcome break from the strictures of the past. (Or traditionalists who see Vatican II as a rupture but in a bad way).
So, these days, what does it mean to have a Catholic identity? Is it loyalty to the Pope? Well, of course. He is the sign of unity in the Catholic Church, and it is his role to defend the deposit of faith. But what does adherence to the Catholic faith—what the Church has always taught–have to do with Catholic identity? For me, the importance of having a Catholic and Apostolic faith that can be traced back to the first eye-witnesses of Christ is everything. How dangerous is it spiritually to assume the role of being one’s own pope? Yet, just as I have been taught to interpret Scripture passages in light of the whole of Scripture, and in light of the Church’s Tradition, rather than proof-texting and basing my theology on a single verse, I will interpret papal documents in that same way, in light of the whole deposit of faith, and not in isolation as if they abrogate what has gone before.
I consider myself a Catholic with both a Catholic and an Anglican identity. I am juridically a member of the Roman Catholic Church, in communion with the Pope and under his jurisdiction. I believe everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true.
Yet my identity as a Catholic is suffused with distinctly Anglican accents in our worship, our hymns, our parish traditions such as Mothering Sunday with a blessed simnel cake, and our lively fellowship at breakfast—always quite sumptuous—after Mass.