Pope Benedict Discusses Anglican Petition

This news item from CNA reports recent discussions in the Vatican about the increasing numbers of Anglicans and Episcopalians who wish to become Catholics. Certainly this is referring to the recent letter from the Traditional Anglican Communion asking for sacramental unity with the Catholic Church.

Positive steps forward are very possible with this pope. It should be remembered that it was Joseph Ratzinger who made possible the generous reception of individual Anglicans over the last couple of decades. While Pope John Paul II said to UK Cardinal Hume, “Be generous to these men” it was Ratzinger’s congregation that processed the applications, approved dispensations for married former Anglican clergy and moved the process forward speedily. Over those years the Anglican use parishes were approved and pioneered and the Anglican Use liturgy was approved. Everything is now in place for a worldwide Anglican Use network to be approved and developed.

Such a development would be consistent with Pope Benedict’s vision of Church Unity. Part of his approval a more widespread celebration of the Latin Mass is the underlying idea that there can be more liturgical variety within the Church according to circumstances and cultural and historical necessities. A wider appreciation of different approved liturgies would allow greater unity within diversity. An opening to the Anglican Use worldwide would also remind us how we could be united with the ethnically and liturgically diverse churches of the East.

What Pope Benedict sees clearly is that there is an increasing chasm within Christendom. It is not between Eastern Orthodox and Latin Catholicism. It is not between Catholicism and Protestantism. Instead the chasm is between those who believe that Christianity is a divinely revealed religion given for the eternal salvation of humanity; and between those who believe Christianity is a human construct to make life better on earth, that may (and should) be adapted for each succeeding generation and culture.

Wherever possible Pope Benedict wants to gather those who believe the former into one flock under one shepherd. I believe he wants to do this not for his own glory, not for the glory of the Catholic Church, not out of any sense of triumphalism, but because he believes that a supernatural battle is going on for the soul of mankind, and that only a united Church as the Body of Christ on earth can have the power to finally overcome Satan and all his works.

  • http://www.stauva.org Fr Brian Mulcahy, OP

    Father,Having lived in Great Britain for so many years, what are your thoughts on the feasability of “Anglican Use” parishes in the U.K. itself? Won’t there be great resentment on the part of the Catholics who have remained faithful down through the centuries in the face of great odds, who have had to give up their churches in most towns and villages and be relegated to some alleyway, to find now that, perhaps, the Anglican parish in the center of town has become a Catholic parish, albeit with an Anglican flavor?I see the usefulness of “Anglican Rite” parishes here in the U.S. and perhaps elsewhere, where the Anglican Church is not the established Church, but I foresee lots of problems ahead in Great Britain itself, if some sort of “corporate union” were to be achieved.I’ll look forward to hearing about your “first-hand” experience of the relations between Catholics and Anglicans in England.Fraternally in Christ,Fr Brian Mulcahy, OP

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    My own understanding is that the ENglish Catholic bishops have rejected the ‘Anglican option’ as unworkable in the UK for reasons you outline.In the USA we are already familiar with various different rites because we have the Eastern rite churches running parallel to the Latin rite and because religious life in America is far more diverse already.I think the English bishops are right on the whole, but in my opinion the Anglican Use would be workable within the larger metropolitan areas in the UK where such ethnic diversity already exists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07168723389553636372 John

    I will have to admit some degree of confusion regarding this issue. What’s the big deal? As a soon-to-be former Episcopalian, I’m enrolled in RCIA like everyone else. Is the idea that the Vatican would create an express lane to confirmation for Anglicans?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16007396401345913549 Geoff

    Oh, please. The “chasm” is between those who worship an inclusive, loving Christ, whose arms are outstretched to all, and who loves and forgives….and those who exclude and relegate women and homosexuals to second-class status, the latter for the most obscure and homophobic of Biblical “reasons.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    John, I don’t think the question is of a ‘fast track’ to confirmation, but a way for Anglicans to come into full communion with the Catholic Church en bloc while retaining many of their wonderful traditions.Geoff, we’re in agreement. I am also in favor of a loving and inclusive Christ, and abhor those who call themselves Christians and yet treat women and homosexual people as second class citizens. True Catholicism has no place for such behavior.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07168723389553636372 John

    Geoff,I’ll admit. You’ve found me out. I’m leaving the Episcopal Church because I’m a knuckle-dragging misogynistic homophobe. And here I was thinking I had done such a good job of fooling people. Ah well. At least the Pope will tell me what to think of all this now…independent thought can be *such* a burden.

  • Anonymous

    Fr Longenecker, I am a member of TAC and I am quite interested in these developments with the Vatican do you think this may occur in my lifetime? After much consideration, I am not opposed to this union with Rome. But will it really happen, that is the question.Timotheus

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Timotheus, I believe there are still some serious obstacles. While there is goodwill within the Vatican towards such a move people will want to ask about the proper formation and training of the clergy. Probably each one (especially those who are married)will need to apply individually for ordination. There is also the question of marriage discipline amongst the clergy and laity. Most non-Catholic groups are relaxed about divorce and remarriage. Individuals who wish to come into full communion with the Catholic Church will need to get that one sorted.The most problematic is trying to understand just what the TAC are asking for. Some think they are asking for Rome to simply allow them to remain as they are, but to come into some sort of full sacramental unity. I don’t think this will happen. There are too many details that will remain troublesome.It is most likely that the next step will be talks being set up to discern together the way forward.

  • Anonymous

    It has been a long journey for me. I guess, upon considering it all, that is why I am not opposed to this union. I would however love to learn more on Roman Catholicism. Could you suggest a few books that an Anglo-Catholic can read?Timotheus

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I would suggest my book of Anglican conversion stories, The Path to Rome. Send me an email if you would like a copy. dlongenecker@charter.net

  • Louise

    Father, Having been an Anglo-Catholic, I can understand the impulse to want to maintain Anglican traditions. However, it seems to me that clarity, a clean break, impelled by humility, obedience, and submission, are all preferable to trying to maintain some aesthetic ideal. Enough of us former Anglo-Catholics have survived the ordeal that we can assure the others that the way is safe. The only result (and that is but temporary) is a bruise or two to the aestetic sensibilities.

  • Anonymous

    “What Pope Benedict sees clearly is that there is an increasing chasm within Christendom. It is not between Eastern Orthodox and Latin Catholicism. It is not between Catholicism and Protestantism. Instead the chasm is between those who believe that Christianity is a divinely revealed religion given for the eternal salvation of humanity; and between those who believe Christianity is a human construct to make life better on earth, that may (and should) be adapted for each succeeding generation and culture.”Amen Father. That’s one of the reasons I jumped ship. Rome sweet home indeed!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15515353622322145572 john skinner

    I write from Wells (UK) where as a Catholic I attend Sunday Eucharist at the cathedral with my Anglican wife.The manner in which the Pope has issued his decision – not consultingeither Anglican or Catholic Archbishops is at least discourteous at worst mischievous.There are so many complications to any practical outcome – real estate, fragmentation of church communities, married clergy, the validity of Anglican Orders…that it will take years to sort out. Meanwhile, more division, more debates, more upset.Church organisation once again is placed ahead of the simplcity of the Christian vision -as Julian of Norwich has it'Love is his Meaning'John Skinner


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