The Vatican now has the Apostolic Constitution providing for personal ordinariates for anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church online.

From the introductory press release:

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which is published today introduces a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow the above mentioned groups to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. At the same time, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is publishing a set of Complementary Norms which will guide the implementation of this provision.

This Apostolic Constitution opens a new avenue for the promotion of Christian unity while, at the same time, granting legitimate diversity in the expression of our common faith. It represents not an initiative on the part of the Holy See, but a generous response from the Holy Father to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups. The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church.

And from the document proper:

In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favorably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization.

The Church, a people gathered into the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, as “a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people.” Every division among the baptized in Jesus Christ wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists; in fact, “such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature.” Precisely for this reason, before shedding his blood for the salvation of the world, the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for the unity of his disciples.

It is the Holy Spirit, the principle of unity, which establishes the Church as a communion. He is the principle of the unity of the faithful in the teaching of the Apostles, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer. The Church, however, analogous to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, is not only an invisible spiritual communion, but is also visible; in fact, “the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality formed from a two-fold element, human and divine.” The communion of the baptized in the teaching of the Apostles and in the breaking of the eucharistic bread is visibly manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety, of the celebration of all of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and of the governance of the College of Bishops united with its head, the Roman Pontiff.

This single Church of Christ, which we profess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic “subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside her visible confines. Since these are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.” . . .

The Sub Tuum blog is following this topic closely [update and links] (as are many other blogs, of course).

It will be interesting to see the extent to which this will prompt various Anglican groups to think carefully about the nature of the Church and various ecclesial bodies.

The ecclesiological principles concisely stated in the first four paragraphs provide, precisely because of their brevity, a useful basis for discussion with Anglicans of various persuasions, I would hope. Given the complexity, both theological and historical, of any such discussion it is useful to have a concise starting point.

Even for groups for which this document has no direct relevance, e.g. evangelical Anglican groups such as the AMiA, thinking carefully about ecclesiology is important for their own internal issues.

Also, as Damian Thompson notes:

Another notable feature of the Constitution: it makes provision for what are effectively new orders within the Ordinariate structure: “The Ordinary, with the approval of the Holy See, can erect new Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the right to call their members to Holy Orders, according to the norms of canon law.” So the Pope clearly envisages the Ordinariate as a living and growing entity within the Catholic Church worldwide, not just England and Wales.

And, zooming out a bit, as Matt Kennedy says what a joy these last few weeks have been.

[Update 19 November]
Regarding the speech that Rowan Williams gave in Rome, Fr. Longenecker remarks:

. . .
The ‘impaired, but real communion’ which the Archbishop pleads for is the way Anglicanism has always existed. The present crisis in Anglicanism is simply testing the principle to its utmost. Catholics should understand that what they perceive as fuzzy, compromising wishy washiness is actually considered by Anglicans to be the primary virtue of their religion. In his speech in Rome yesterday the Archbishop was simply offering the Anglican Way (which he believes to be the best way) as a way forward for the whole church.

There is, of course, a name for the Anglican position. Those who love long words will love it. It is called ‘Latitudinarianism.’ This is the belief that unity of form in religion is to be preferred above all things and that unity of doctrine may be sacrificed to achieve the unity of form. The opposite of Latitudinarianism is Sectarianism. This is the belief that unity of doctrine is more important than unity of form. Sectarians therefore divide into groups with others who believe the same way they do and therefore they sacrifice unity of form for unity of belief.

Cardinal Newman wrote on this, saying that only an infallible authority could guarantee both unity of form and unity of belief. Sectarians have a dogmatic church that is not isolated. Latitudinarians have a united church that is not dogmatic. Only with an agreed infallilble authority which is the focus of unity and the arbiter of belief can we have a church that is both dogmatic and unified. . . .

And here’s an article about Criticizing Your Mother by “Doc” Holiday, a curate at one of the ACA anglican parishes which will be coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. The ACA (Anglican Church in America) is the American branch of TAC (Traditional Anglican Communion) and their house of bishops has said:

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America joins our Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, in welcoming with deep joy the announcement of the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution to provide for full, visible communion between orthodox Anglicans and the Holy See. The House of Bishops wishes to express its appreciation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for its painstaking work with respect to appropriate ecclesial structures to enable this historic step towards unity in Christ in accordance with Our Lord’s high priestly prayer. We pledge our most serious, prayerful reflection upon the cooperation and fervent prayers in working to bring about this landmark and long-desired outcome.

[Update 5 Dec 2009] Christian Campbell over at the Anglo-Catholic blog, reminds that continuing-anglican pretensions can mislead one about size, especially in the USA:

The truth of the matter is that, while the TAC does have hundreds of thousands of communicants in Asia and Africa, traditionalist Anglicans are virtually insignificant in North America. In the USA, the most generous estimate would put their number at no more than 10,000. Of these, approximately 6,000 are communicants of the ACA, the American province of the TAC.

Among the American Continuing Church jurisdictions, there are, in addition to the ACA, perhaps four or five other “players” of any significance whatsoever. These range in size from a couple of thousand to a few hundred souls. But among them are an host of bishops, archdeacons, canons, and other ecclesiastical titles seemingly beyond number. Recently, one jurisdiction — numbering no more than 650 souls — consecrated not one, not two, but three suffragan bishops to tend their flock!

The leader of the second largest Continuing Church body styles himself “Archbishop and Metropolitan” (though his entire church is only slightly larger than the typical suburban Roman Catholic parish) and has seen fit to issue a “response” to Anglicanorum Coetibus on behalf of his jurisdiction (despite the plain fact that the Apostolic Constitution was issued directly in response to the pleas of TAC and FiF UK, and in no way concerns his group). And several of his priests use their Internet haunts to develop a new branch theory which evidently is composed of Rome, Constantinople, and their own tiny band of Anglo-Jansenists. Theirs, we are to believe, is the only true, “pure” Apostolic Christianity left. Readers are assured that these “classical Anglicans” are not anti-Roman and that they are indeed desirous of communion with the Holy See — but only after the Catholic Church purges herself of errors in, and additions to, “the faith once delivered to the Saints.” At the end of the day, many of these Continuing Churchmen seem quite content with the fact that their entire “Catholic” communion (which is worldwide, they insist) numbers no greater than a small town.

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