Skip to comments.When Anglicans, Catholics switch churches, what happens to dialogue?
Posted on 11/15/2005 1:50:24 PM PST by NYer
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the official Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical dialogue continues, questions have arisen regarding the potential impact on the dialogue of Roman Catholics or Anglicans who switch communities.
While Anglicans -- especially Anglican bishops or priests -- becoming Roman Catholic after disagreeing with their community's stands on ordaining women or openly gay men has made news, the movement of Catholic priests and laity to Anglicanism seldom makes headlines.
Bishop John Flack, head of the Anglican Center in Rome, said he meets people moving in both directions, yet the ecumenical dialogue has not explored the implications of their movement.
"We are not talking about huge numbers in either direction, but it is perhaps a constant trickle," he told Catholic News Service Nov. 9.
Among those changing denominations, the Roman Catholics generally say they long to breathe the "free air" of the Anglican Communion, with Catholic priests usually saying they plan to marry, the bishop said. The Anglicans usually say they have had enough of the "woolly thinking" of their leadership, he added.
"Anglicans who become Roman Catholic generally become very conservative Roman Catholics, while Roman Catholics who become Anglican tend to become very liberal Anglicans," he said.
Bishop Flack, who is the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Vatican, said he usually counsels people to stay within their community as a valuable voice in continuing debates.
"Changing your spots makes the Anglican Church more liberal and the Roman Catholic Church more conservative," Bishop Flack said.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have made clear over the past 40 years that they want to re-establish full unity and that any problem arising in one community causes pain for the other.
A general principle of the ecumenical movement is that dialogue partners do not seek the "conversion" of each other's members, but that as both seek deeper conversion to Christ they naturally will draw closer to each other.
At the same time, respect for an individual's conscience and for his or her concrete situation means the dialogue partners must provide pastoral care and a welcome to individuals who approach them.
The situation becomes more complicated when it involves a group of people wanting to change denomination and when the change, although reflected in a long-standing desire for full unity, is triggered by one issue, such as women's ordination or homosexuality.
After the Episcopal Church in the United States decided in 1976 to ordain women to the priesthood, some former Episcopalian priests and laity sought full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican established a special "pastoral provision" to oversee the movement in the United States of former Episcopalian clergy wanting to minister as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The provision also set up guidelines for "Anglican use" Catholic parishes, allowing former Episcopalian parishes to retain some of their Anglican liturgical and spiritual traditions.
The Episcopal Church's decision to ordain women bishops in the late 1980s and its consecration of an openly gay man as a bishop in 2003 led to further movement.
Currently close to 80 former Anglican ministers are serving as Catholic priests in the United States and there are seven "Anglican use" parishes.
Similar movements of Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church have occurred in Australia, Canada and Great Britain, and the movement is expected to continue if the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, decides to ordain women bishops.
While the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is the Vatican's lead office for official unity talks with the Anglican Communion, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deals with the situation of individuals wanting to become Roman Catholics.
Generally, however, the movement is handled through local Roman Catholic bishops approached by former Anglicans. The doctrinal congregation reviews the paperwork submitted by the Catholic bishop who has agreed to accept the former Anglican priest or parish.
But at least one former member of the Anglican Communion is trying to change the practice and enter into direct discussions with the doctrinal congregation.
Archbishop John Hepworth of Australia is primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group that describes itself as "a worldwide association of orthodox Anglican churches, working to maintain the catholic faith and resist the secularization of the church. Our member churches comprise more than 400,000 members on six continents."
The archbishop, who has met privately with officials of the doctrinal congregation, has said the Traditional Anglican Communion synod will meet in Rome early in 2006 to begin formulating a plan for seeking full union with the Roman Catholic Church.
Many Traditional Anglican Communion members hope they will be welcomed with a provision for the establishment of an "Anglican rite" within the Roman Catholic Church, allowing them to maintain some of their traditional disciplines -- including married priests -- and their liturgical heritage.
Such a provision, which Vatican officials insist they have not begun considering, would mean that the "Anglican use" envisioned as a temporary situation in the United States could become permanent and more widespread.
"If there is a major rupture in the Anglican Communion, the Catholic Church will face a situation which is largely new," one official said. "It is possible that close relations with the Anglican Communion could mean that a large group of Anglicans being welcomed into the Catholic Church would not necessarily be detrimental to ongoing dialogue -- but that all remains to be seen.
"For the moment, the Anglican Communion is struggling to find a way forward, and the Catholic Church is encouraging the communion to strengthen its bonds of unity," the official said.
Another official also said that while the Roman Catholic Church must respect the consciences of those who desire full union with Rome, the Vatican does not want possible union to be used as "a threat" in any group's discussions with its mother church.
Bishop Flack said establishing an Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church before the church and the entire Anglican Communion established full unity "would have a worsening effect on relations. It would be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the Anglican Communion."
"I hope the Roman church would be very careful, consulting us, keeping us informed and being open with us," Bishop Flack said.
On an official level, Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops began meeting outside Rome Nov. 11 to continue refining a statement of the beliefs their faith communities hold in common.
The work of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission had taken a break in 2003 after the ordination of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church and after the decision of a diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada to bless homosexual unions.
But in May the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity published a statement saying the reaffirmation of traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality by the primates of the Anglican Communion as well as efforts to find ways to ensure individual dioceses do not violate the bonds of communion provide "a foundation for continued dialogue and ecumenical cooperation."
I know many Catholic former Anglicans, but the only Anglican former Catholics I know either married into an Episcopal family or wound up attending an Episcopal church after falling away from Christianity altogether at one point.
For example, I know one guy who was raised Catholic who left Christianity for agnosticism and later dated and decided to live with a Jewish girl.
Her parents were not happy about the cohabitation and eventual intermarriage.
She turned her back on Judaism and he turned his back on Catholicism, but they both considered themselves "spiritual people, not religious people" and wanted to have a ritual, not a government, wedding.
They decided to try out the liberalminded Episcopal church down the block. The Episcopal clergyman didn't care about their cohabiting or their lack of belief in Christ's divinity so they got married at his church and still go there several times a year for Christmas, Easter, etc.
Sounds like one of my best friends from high school and her husband. He's a lapsed Catholic, she's a usetobe Methodist, neither has any faith, but they attend the Episcopal Church for holidays because it's Aesthetically Pleasing.
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You have to give these reporters credit for taking a whack at this, though they invariably get the details wrong. The Traditional Anglican Communion is not officially part of the Anglican Communion. The TAC has entered into exploratory discussions with the Vatican regarding establishing communion with the Holy See as a uniate church, sui juris. This would not expand the Anglican use, it would establish an Anglican Rite. It would, in theory anyway, not affect talks between Rome and the "official" Anglican Communion.
"'Changing your spots makes the Anglican Church more liberal and the Roman Catholic Church more conservative,' Bishop Flack said."
For us Catholics, what's the downside?
My experience has been with Catholics joining our ECUSA parish because they divorced but wished to continue receiving the sacraments. There are other couples that joined because one was Catholic, one was some Protestant denomination, and they sought out the ECUSA as a middle ground. In all these cases all of them had been regular churchgoers and had not lapsed prior to joining the ECUSA. Nor were they seeking somewhere where they could drop belief in Christ's divinity or to further "the homosexual agenda".
Are these friends of yours? May I recommend a good book to give them as a Christmas present?
PS - pick up an extra copy for yourself :-)
Okay ... if I am understanding you correctly, the establishment of a "uniate" church ( a term most reviled by the Eastern Catholic Churches but sanctioned by the Orthodox), would allow it to function with its own bishops, cardinals, etc. Is that correct? This would, like the Eastern Catholic Churches, also entail reviews and possible corrections to the present liturgy, in order to bring it into accord with the Magisterium. Is that correct? And, if so, where do those discussions now stand? What about the 'female' priests? Where do they fit into this model?
Assuming it follows the present model ... none. I tend to believe that there is far more at issue here. Many of these discussions began before the ECUSA elevation of Vicki Gene Robinson as bishop, thus endorsing his lifestyle. It doesn't fit the Catholic model and surely had an effect on the discussions. There is and can never be room for doctrinal changes such as this, in the Catholic Church.
Thanks for the rec. I own it and love it. Good idea that - passing it on to them.
I assume you mean remarried Catholics. I confess that there are as yet no divorcees in my immediate circle of acquaintances. Me and my extended group of friends and acquaintances have only seen one divorce so far and that one was gladly sanctioned by the Catholic Church.
I can remember going to a KofC function where Mass was said prior to what we were doing. The priest came from an Anglican use parish - none of us were able to follow along...and he became quite agitated when we responded to familiar parts of the liturgy with our "normal" responses.
"What happens to dialog?" Nothing. You don't DO theology by dialog. Dialog is the problem.
Not hard at all. To the arriving Anglicans: "Welcome home." To the departing Romans: "Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out."
I remain not at all comfortable with the "Anglican Use" parishes. There's something really odd about a married priest who has kids.>>
Tell that to the priest at the Byzantine Rite down the street. His wife would give you an earful....
I'm all for a married priesthood. They'd all at least be, ahem, HETERO.....
That pretty much sums up the problem with the Anglican church. Once Christian, now openly pagan.
Correct, though there aren't cardinals in the Anglican hierarchy.
... entail reviews and possible corrections to the present liturgy, in order to bring it into accord with the Magisterium. Is that correct?
Yes, though I don't think there would be much correcting required. Each of the TAC member churches uses a liturgy that is derived from the Sarum (or Salisbury) rite that was widely used in England before the reformation. There would, I'm sure, be some modifications
where do those discussions now stand? What about the 'female' priests? Where do they fit into this model?
It would be premature to describe them as anything other than the term I used, exploratory discussions. I believe that Cardinal Ratzinger had been personally involved in the discussions prior to John Paul II's death. I do know that the discussions are continuing.
TAC churches reject the innovation of "female priests." They don't believe women can be priests. That is the main reason that the TAC is not part of the official Anglican Communion.
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