23 October 2009

Bridge over Anglican waters...

I've rec'd a lot of questions about the practicalities of the Holy Father's invitation to traditionalist Anglicans to join Mother Church.

I will attempt to answer them with these provisos:  1) I am not canon lawyer; 2) and the apostolic constitution has not been published.

1).  What's the difference between the current pastoral provisions for allowing married Anglican clergy to become Catholic priests and this new arrangement?

Under the pastoral provisions of John Paul II a married Anglican priest may be admitted to Catholic Holy Orders at the discretion of a local bishop.  He will have to take some classes and pass a few exams before ordination.  After ordination, he can be assigned to a Catholic parish as an administrator or associate pastor.  He may not serve as a pastor.  Whole Anglican parishes may come over as well and be included in what is called "Anglican Use" parishes.  These parishes use a version of the Book of Common Prayer for their liturgies and are usually served by a former Anglican priest.  In all cases, the individual priest and the parish remain under the direct jurisdiction of the local bishop.

Benedict is changing this up by placing converted Anglican clergy and parishes under the jurisdiction of their own Ordinaries; that is, an Anglican Use parish served by a former Anglican priest will not answer to the local Roman Catholic bishop but rather serve under an Ordinary who was also once an Anglican priest or bishop.  This means that in any given diocese, there can be an Ordinary for the Latin Catholics (always a bishop) and an Ordinary for the local Anglican Use Catholics (can be a celibate bishop, a celibate priest, or a married priest, all of whom were once Anglican clerics).  Every geographical diocese already has a number of Ordinaries.  One is a Latin Rite bishop, another may be a Ukrainian Rite bishop, or a Byzantine Rite bishop.  What Benedict seems to be doing is establishing the first non-Latin rite in communion with Rome that comes out of the Reformation. 

2).  Can boys who grow up in one of these Anglican Use parishes become married priests?

That is unclear.  My guess is that the marriage provision applies only to converts not those who will be baptized in the Anglican Use rite as children.  I doubt very seriously that Rome will allow the Holy Father's offer to become a permanently opened backdoor for an across-the-board married Latin Rite priesthood. 

3).  Will these former Anglicans be real Roman Catholics?  I mean, do they have to accept Church teaching in every way?

Yes.  Without a doubt they will have to accept as true all the teachings of the Church.  Rome is not going to let them fudge on hot-button issues like contraception, papal primacy and infallibility, and Marian dogma.  They will have to become fully Roman Catholic.  The word is that they will sign copies of the Catechism rather than just make a statement of faith as is the norm now for Anglican converts.

4).  Doesn't this offer from the Pope ruin ecumenical dialogue with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church?

Some certainly think so.  I don't.  We can continue talking to anyone we please.  Most professional ecumenists see their job as an effort to find ways of bringing two churches together in some sort of theological or ecclesial compromise.  We'll drop doctrine X if your accept doctrine Y.  This is not the Church's teaching on how to do ecumenical dialogue.  Dialogue with other ecclesial communities is not about diluting the tradition just so we can all say that we belong to the same institution.  Benedict's offer to the Anglican is truly ecumenical because he has waived certain non-essential requirements for admission into the Church.  He has made it simpler to become Catholic, not simpler to just join a compromised tradition.  Catholic ecumenists are a little upset with all this because they sometimes see these dialogues as a backdoor means of liberalizing Catholic teaching.  They also don't like the fact that Benedict's offer is unilateral, that is, not negotiated with the official Anglican bodies.  The assumption here is that Rome should have treated Canterbury as an ecclesial equal rather than the usurper it is. 

5).  Does this move hurt our relations with the Orthodox?

Hardly.  By allowing married Anglican clergy to become Catholic priests but not bishops, the Holy Father is sending a clear signal to the Orthodox that the ancient tradition of a celibate episcopacy will be maintained.  If anything, the offer will strengthen our ties to the Orthodox (a very, very good thing!).  It has become painfully clear in the last few decades that organic union with the mainstream of Protestantism is not going to happen.  The divisions have been widened over the years by women's ordination, same-sex activism, and other radical changes in the catholic tradition.  Rome cannot alter the essentials even if she wanted to.   And most liberal Protestants are too entrenched in their modernist heresies to accept Roman authority anyway.  Our only hope for reunion now is with the traditional Anglicans and the Orthodox.  This is one of the projects of the current pope.

6).  Why not set up a Jewish Use parish, or a Buddhist Use parish?  They don't hold Catholic beliefs either.

I'll treat this as a serious question.  Obviously, Jews and Buddhists aren't Christians.  The Church has never said that Anglicans, Methodists, Quakers, etc. are not Christians.  They do not hold to the fullness of the apostolic faith found in the Catholic Church, but they are baptized Christians.  Jews, Buddhists, atheists, animists are all welcomed to become Catholic any time they choose to.  Christ's offer of salvation with his Church is universal.

I will post more on this issue once the constitution is published.  One friar noted yesterday that the Vatican is holding on to the constitution in order to gauge public reaction to the Pope's offer.  The idea is to let the notion percolate, listen for issues not raised or discussed in the private deliberations, and make any changes necessary.  Smart move, if true.


  1. "Doesn't this offer from the Pope ruin ecumenical dialogue with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church?"

    Only if by "ruin" is meant "fruitfully resolve". People don't understand what the Catholic Church means by ecumenism and ecumenical dialogue for two reasons:

    1. They haven't read the documents of Vatican II (esp. Unitatis Redintegratio), and...

    2. They listen to the wrong people (who probably also haven't read the Vatican II documents), including, most upsettingly, Cardinal Kasper.


  2. I just wanted to add one thing to question #6:

    By baptism, we are all made members of the one and true Church. Anybody who has been validly baptized in one of these ecclesial communities, whether they like it or not, are members of the Church. Jews, Buddhists, pagans, etc. are NOT validly baptized and are not members of the Church.

  3. North Hinksey, Oxford (Portsmouth diocese) has a parish priest, married, who used to be an Anglican clergyman. Are things different in the States?

  4. Father, how does the ordinariate differ from, say, an abbot or prior, who, unless I'm mistaken, is often referred to as the ordinary for those under his care?

    It seems a bit analogous since their authority is not bound geographically, is exercised within the Latin Rite, is exercised in coordination with the local bishop, and yet the superior need not be a bishop.

    The other common structures, such as a military archdiocese, personal prelature or a uniate church, are all quite different than this ordinariate.

    It is certainly an interesting solution since it would allow the leadership of Anglo-Catholic communities to continue without disruption, so long as their leaders are ordained. That seemed to be a major obstacle prior to the Apos. Const. (which really needs a name). It would also relieve the Roman bishops of the need to administer these strange new communities.

  5. Curtis, good question...I have no idea. The P.O. seems to be designed to allow these communities to thrive in areas where the local bishop might be hostile to them (e.g. L.A.).

    Berenike, we have "Anglican Use" parishes here in the States as well as regular Catholic parishes with former Anglican clergy serving.