BY RALINDA B. GREGOR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
The Vatican recently developed a new provision for Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church.
|Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols hold a joint press conference on October 20 regarding the recent Vatican announcement. (Photo courtesy Ruth Gledhill) |
Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, announced the plan to establish personal ordinariates, groups of Anglicans within the Catholic Church that will retain many of their liturgical traditions and some degree of consultative decision making and will be led by former Anglican clergy members. The ordinariates will function like dioceses under the joint leadership of the local bishop and the ordinary, which could be a priest or bishop.
The plan was endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI and allows married Anglican clergy, on a case-by-case basis, to be ordained as Catholic priests, but only single men will be allowed to be ordained as bishops, according to a note released by the Vatican. Unmarried Anglican clergy will be required to remain celibate, and former Catholic clergy will not be accepted for ordination under this program. Lay members will be required to make a profession of faith and receive the sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church.
"We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter," Levada said. The requests have come from Anglican groups that object to the ordination of women, the ordination of non-celibate homosexual clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions in the U.S. and other parts of the Anglican Communion.
The Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Westminster (Catholic) issued a joint statement, pledging their support for continued official dialog and cooperation. The statement gave no indication that either of them was consulted by Vatican officials as the plan was developed, but it did point to official dialog through the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Com mission (ARCIC) and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) as one means by which this degree of unity was made possible.
Though the Archbishop of Canterbury publically supports the Vatican's plan, some are viewing it as an indictment of his leadership and inability or unwillingness to take firm action against provinces-including his own-which have defied the Communion's statement on sexuality contained in 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10.
The GAFCON/Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Primates Council characterized it as "... a grave indictment of the Instruments of Communion whose very purpose is to strengthen and protect our unity in obedience to our Lord's clear command. Their failure to fully address the abandonment of biblical faith and practice by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada has now brought shame to the name of Christ and seriously impedes the cause of the Gospel."
Reactions were positive from churches and associations that have sought full unity with Rome. Forward in Faith (UK) said it "warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England."
The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a group not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury but led by Archbishop John Hepworth and claiming 400,000 members worldwide, was also positive.
Hepworth praised the offer, saying, "It more than matches the dreams we dared to include in our petition of two years ago. It more than matches our prayers." The TAC will refer the apostolic constitution to its national synods for consideration.
The Anglican Church of America (ACA) House of Bishops-the U.S. branch of TAC which is not part of the Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA)-also welcomed the plan to provide for full, visible communion between Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church, stating, "We pledge our most serious, prayerful reflection upon the Constitution when promulgated, as well as our wholehearted cooperation and fervent prayers in working to bring about this landmark and long-desired outcome."
Archbishop Robert Duncan, AC-NA primate, said he does not believe the personal ordinariate provision will be utilized by many AC-NA clergy or parishes, but he offered his blessing to those who do accept. He also expressed his support for a "deepening partnership" with the Catholic Church throughout the world.
"We concurrently thank God for the partnership that orthodox Anglicans have long enjoyed with the Roman Catholic Church, and are profoundly grateful for the many acts of kindness shown on local, diocesan and national levels, as they have stood with us in our time of trial," he said.
The Anglican Network in Canada, which is part of AC-NA, released a statement saying, "This action recognizes how deeply broken the Anglican Communion has become as a result of the abandonment by some Anglican leaders of historic Christian teaching and discipline. Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in North America-of which ANiC is a part-has also provided a means for those within North America to remain faithful Anglicans."
The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, bishop of the largely Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, said, "Not all Anglo-Catholics can accept certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, nor do they believe that they must first convert to Rome in order to be truly catholic Christians. This option to choose different paths comes at a difficult time for us as together we face the challenges of the litigation brought against us by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Rather than making hasty decisions or quick resolutions, we will continue to work and pray together for the unity of Christ's holy catholic church throughout the world." †