What is a “former Anglican”?

Fr. John D. Alexander is a rector in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island who blogs at Videtur Quod where he offers a close reading of the Vatican’s recent statements. In particular, Father Alexander wonders about the use of the term “former Anglican.” If you’re wondering what to make of all this Roman Catholic / Anglican news buzz, you might want to explore his questions.

Fr. John D. Alexander blogging at Videtur Quod:

“The background section then includes in its penultimate paragraph references to “many individual Anglicans (who) have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church…” “groups of Anglicans who have entered while preserving some “corporate” structure …” and “some individual parishes in the United States which maintained an Anglican identity when entering the Catholic Church …”

So the unavoidable question is this. Does the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] regard Anglicans who enter into full Communion with the Catholic Church as having ceased to be Anglican (and hence as having become “former Anglicans”)? If so, then what can it possibly mean to “maintain an Anglican identity when entering the Catholic Church”? In other words, if certain Anglican traditions and aspects of Anglican identity are “consistent with the Catholic faith” (seventh paragraph) then why speak of “former Anglicans” at all? Why not speak instead of “Anglicans in full communion with the Catholic Church”?

One approach to the paradox might be to distinguish between different meanings of the term “Anglican.” If by “Anglican” you mean someone in communion with Canterbury and not with Rome, then Anglicans have to become “former Anglicans.” If by “Anglican” you mean someone who adheres to certain traditions of Anglican worship and spirituality consistent with the Catholic faith, then it may be possible to speak of remaining Anglican and yet entering into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”

FWIW, CDF AKA Holy Office of the Inquisition.

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