I once got into a spat on a Facebook Site called “Anglican Catholics” since the owner was clearly not what would be regarded as an Anglican Catholic: his beliefs were certainly askew from what could properly be called Catholic. His response was “my friend, you do not own the term Anglican Catholic.” Eventually, I left the group as I realised that I would be banging my head against a brick wall when the Catacombs of Priscilla came up yet again.
I believe that we are clear what we mean by both Anglican as an adjective and Catholic as a noun. I am of course assuming that if one calls oneself a Catholic, then one is necessarily Christian and therefore affirms Christian doctrine. The question one now needs to answer is whether the doctrine that is called Christian Doctrine can be anything other than Catholic.
Here, we can open the door to all kinds of polemics, accusations, anathemas, and behaviour that is not consonant with the love that Christ bids us show. There is a difference between one’s identity and one’s practice otherwise we would all fall into the Pelagian trap. A man can be a Christian, but if he confesses that Our Lady was not a virgin, then it would be perfectly reasonable to infer that he is not a very good Christian measured up against the Canon of Doctrine, just like a Benedictine monk is one by his profession of his vows, not by his keeping of The Rule.
I believe it right to say that the Catholic Faith is the correct expression of Christian Doctrine. This necessarily means that people who don’t agree with me, I believe, are wrong and therefore deficient in some way in their beliefs. As long as we are talking about actual doctrine and not pious opinion, this seems quite justifiable. Yet, I still cannot say that these folk are not Christian unless there is some profound revelation of this. I can certainly describe actions as not being Christian – murder, adultery, et c – but these can be, and indeed have been, committed by Christians!
What if a Christian stands up and denounces Christ Our Lord? Well, then I do have reason to believe that they’re not really Christian. There’s evidence for it. Criminals have confessed on their deathbeds, the Penitent Thief finds Paradise, but if Christian Identity is in the heart and not in the actions, then the one who denounces Christ is simply not Christian. Human beings are not permitted to know the secrets of the heart. We may only gather evidence from actions. It is clear, then, why St Paul in concordance with Our Lord’s teaching urges us not to enter into judgment on anyone’s identity, but to judge the actions that they perform as something separate and part of the fallible human nature.
Does that mean we get to say who is an Anglican Catholic? I think the same principle applies. Anglican Catholics are indeed just as good at not behaving like an Anglican Catholic as Christians are good at not behaving like Christians. This means that we do need to live our lives in such a way that we could be convicted of being what we say we are on the strength of evidence. Acting like an Anglican Catholic does mean acting like a Christian first. How might we then continue?