The Anglican Ordinariate that was created by the Roman Catholic Church as a means of permitting the conversion of disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians to the Church of Rome is ethically and morally questionable.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Vatican, the Anglican Ordinariate for the U.S. is scheduled to be established January 1, 2012 in response to the requests of many disaffected Anglican clergy, which were first made in the 1980’s, to leave the Anglican Church and convert to the Church of Rome without having to change their Anglican heritage, expression or form of worship.
In the Book of Exodus 20:17 we are told explicitly “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Accordingly, it seems rather logical to conclude that the intention of the Church of Rome to take advantage of a deeply complicated family matter such as that taking place within the Anglican Communion is in direct violation of this scriptural admonition. The extreme discord currently circulating within the corridors of the Anglican Communion is a very public process and many observers acknowledge that many of the disagreements and decisions that caused these problems are in many ways valid to the extent that many disaffected members of the faithful and the clergy have made the difficult decision to leave their spiritual home.
While the actions by the Anglican faithful may be understandable, the action by the Church of Rome requires explanation. There is something not quite comforting when one’s sibling (sister church) consciously decides to feather their nest from the suffering of another sibling. The creation of the Anglican Ordinariate by the Church of Rome to accomplish just such an act is an undeniable act of coveting one’s brother or neighbor’s belongings and is unquestionably in conflict with scriptural guidance.
The continual decline of membership and clergy within the Church of Rome is well known and recognized and may explain to a degree the motivation behind the creation of this peculiar new division within the Church. The question is whether it is ethical to take advantage of another when they are in desperate straits and whether the end justifies the means.
The renowned ethical philosopher Immanuel Kant in his “categorical imperative” unequivocally states that using humans as a means to an end is unjustifiable.“Kicking” the Anglican Communion while she is down is a good example of this unethical practice. If one recalls the Archbishop of Canterbury posing with Pope Benedict the XVI at the Vatican in November 2010 it is easy to imagine that one or both of these spiritual leaders may have felt uncomfortable considering the number of Anglicans who had and were in the process of transferring to the Church of Rome.
The primary issue in this particular matter is one church openly coveting the members of the other. Further, it would be more compassionate and caring if the Church of Rome sought to counsel those Anglicans who are troubled by the problems taking place within their spiritual family to attempt resolution or reconciliation rather than encouraging defection and transfer. As most marriage and family therapists traditionally counsel, “failure to resolve problems in one relationship virtually guarantees the transfer of similar problems to future relationships. Therefore, this latter action of encouraging defection is tantamount to “meddling” in the family affairs of another and coveting their children, siblings and relations; rather than an act of Christian compassion and caring.
Of course is it completely acceptable to transfer from one church to another. However, when such transfer is largely at the advantage of another, while their counterpart is in crisis, is a completely different matter. Taking advantage of both one’s brother and his children as a means of replenishing an ever diminishing flock can only be deemed reprehensible and raises the question of what will happen when the courtship is over.
What will be the result when these Anglicans, who believe they will be capable of continuing to be Anglican in the hallowed halls of a strange land, realize that this cannot be accomplished? Where will the disaffected Anglicans go then? What feelings of fidelity and felicity will remain when married clergy are denied and Anglicanism gives way to Catholicism and the “unordinary” of the “Ordinariate” becomes unacceptable and untenable, while the decline continues?