Pope Gives Hope To Anglo-Catholics

Benedict XVI stated in his first message as Pope that the imperative duty of the successor to Peter was to rebuild the complete and visible unity among all Christ’s disciples. Concrete gestures which enter hearts and stir consciences are essential to inspiring within everyone that inner transformation that is the prerequisite of all ecumenical advancement.

This goal is being pursue by the concrete gesture of Anglicanorum Coetibus (the Pope’s Apostolic Constitution), which allows Anglican Communion members to be welcome into the Catholic Church in full communion. Last week, the Catholic Church expanded its structure by launching an Ordinariate for Anglicans Australia. This ordinariate received them into full communion with Catholic Church and allowed them to retain some of their customs.

A New Pope Communion

Many Eastern-base Christian churches have been include in the official dialogue of the Catholic Church with many other Christian churches. Through agreement between the Pope, the leaders of the churches, this dialogue led to some instances where the Catholic Church entered or re-entered full communion with them.

These churches have maintained their fundamental identity and held the same beliefs as the Catholic Church. They also brought with them their liturgical practices, traditions, and experiences. For those who see the Catholic Church as a monolithic power-hungry entity, this may seem strange. The Catholic Church made up of many local churches that share a fundamental unity of faith and creed under the Holy Spirit.

Anglicans Are Welcome Pope

Anglicanorum Coetibus, the gesture of Pope Francis to Anglicans is similar to and distinct from these ecumenical dialogs. It allows Anglicans to enter into corporate union with the Catholic Church. It is however different because it only applies to individuals or groups that enter into communion, and not the entire Anglican Church by official agreement. The Pope claims that his decision to accept these Anglicans together is motivate by groups and Anglicans who petition the Catholic church to into full Catholic Communion individually as well corporately.

The Anglican-Catholic relationship is now different. What has been controversial is the way Anglicans are being receive into the Catholic Church. Instead of being receive individually (as was the custom), Anglicans will be welcome together into the Catholic Church. Some people question the need for the Ordinariate. This begs the question. Should the churches be unify now or should they wait until the whole church is unite?

The Pope First Steps

This move was interpret as a breach of the Anglican Communion rather than an attempt to engage in genuine ecumenical dialog. Dr.Rowan Williams (Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) disagreed with this interpretation, explaining that the Pope’s actions were a response to an Anglican situation in which some Anglicans wanted to be Catholic now.

Dr.Williams claimed that the Pope’s Constitution was a product of ecumenical dialog, which recognized that Anglicans could share elements of the Anglican heritage with Catholics. Or, as the Pope put it, Anglican communion can a precious gift nourishing faith of the members the ordinariate, and as a treasure that is to be share.

To enrich the Catholic Church, Anglican groups, people and traditions could be included. This would allow for the integration of being both fully Anglican as well as fully Catholic. An ordinariate has the advantage of allowing for a collective approach rather than one individual. This preserves Anglican relationships, histories, and traditions and makes it easier to achieve unity

Too Soon?

This is a momentous time in Anglican-Catholic relationships. Many of the tribalisms and prejudices of the past are gone. Through official dialogues, where important issues are discussed and agreed upon, genuine dialogue and understanding have been possible to develop. There have been issues such as teaching sexuality and women’s ordination that have made headlines.

These issues have led to the assumption that many Anglican ordinariates in Australia could signify that many traditionalists, seeking admission, will be looking for ways to avoid recent Anglican Church decisions. This is not the intention of all who sign up. We should also be clear that joining the ordinariate does not imply signing up for a political agenda, whether it be regarding women, homosexuality, or any other issue.

These are important issues, but the ordinariate is primarily about affirming the catholic nature of the church. This catholic nature has been valued by the Anglican Church. Traditionally, this catholic nature was defined as the universality of local churches that are guided by God. This unity is visible around St Peter’s office.

It is the catholicity that God (not human beings) makes possible through grace-filled Love. Anglicans as well as Catholics continue to affirm it together while continuing to discuss its practice. The ordinariate is a pathway for any Anglican-Catholic sensibility, even if one does not define Anglican to mean not-Catholic. It is actually a pathway for those who seek a catholic ecclesiology, that is, Church structure, and communion, which is often the true desire of those looking for the Catholic Church.

Unknown Pope Consequences

While the Pope’s enthusiasm is admirable for ecumenical efforts is admirable, there are many details that still need to be worked out, and some implications are difficult. The Anglican Communion is a major implication. There are clearly divisions and tensions within this communion. While the Pope’s initiative might offer some relief, it may also cause problems for others.

Many Anglicans of goodwill and concern are soul-searching about the Anglican Church’s ecclesiology, communion and spirituality. It is difficult to decide whether you want to remain in the Anglican Church, or move to the Catholic Church. This decision requires reflection about your own circumstances and the nature of the Church. This discernment also has implications for the Catholic Church’s support of the consciences of Anglican Communion members.

Unity And Change

The Pope and Archbishops of Canterbury acknowledge that there are many Anglicans who are ready to unite. The Pope wants to pastorally respond and facilitate union. However, Anglicans move at different rates towards unity. This raises a pastoral problem. People are at different stages of the conversion process and ecumenical unity. This can lead to more differences when people convert in groups than for individuals.

Many ordinary Catholics still need to understand the creation of ordinariates. Catholics desire unity but it is important to understand the papal initiative and cultivate a spirit welcoming and welcoming all Catholics. The Anglican ordinariate shows the potential for unity. The Pope said that unity was the priority of the Church because it is God’s true love. This unity, as with all relationships, will require mutual understanding, dialog, cooperation, hospitality and generosity. In other words, it will require a genuine desire for selflessness among brothers and sisters in Christ.