Cardinal Levada reflects on ecumenism and Anglicanorum Coetibus

Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia carries this story:

Fresh off presiding and preaching at last week’s dedication of a new Nebraska seminary chapel for the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, the church’s “Grand Inquisitor” — California’s own Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — went North, using a Saturday address at a dinner in Kingston to offer his most in-depth comments to date on Anglicanorum coetibus, the Vatican’s controversial new pathway for groups of disaffected Anglicans to swim the Tiber whilst maintaining significant elements of the patrimony of the English church.

Reflecting the significance of Levada’s remarks, a transcript of his text has been posted by our friends at Salt + Light….

HT to Chris for sending me this link. The transcript of the speech can be found here, and it is, as Rocco notes, “lengthy”, but well worth reading in its entirety.

The speech falls into two sections, one where he outlines the history of ARCIC I and II (and the announcement by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury that there is to be a new round of ARCIC – ARCIC III – starting soon, on the topics of “Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching”) and then when he very frankly discusses the Catholic goal of ecumenism, in direct relation to Anglicanorum Coetibus using the musical image of a piano and a symphony orchestra.

The first section makes the obvious point that new issues have arisen since the first heady days of ecumenism causing divisions among Christians (both between Catholic and Protestant and within various communions, in particular the Anglican Communion), especially the issues of women’s ordination and homosexuality. It is certainly surprising, but true, that no bilateral dialogue between Christian communions has to date discussed either of these major current issues. Levada notes:

The only outstanding question on ministry and ordination that remained was the ordination of women, an issue that was new. I note here that the ARCIC statement on ministry was published in 1973 and only in 1976 did the first ordination of a woman priest occur in the Episcopal Church in the United States. In spite of the request of the Holy See for further elucidation on this question, the commission maintained that its mandate to examine the classical teaching on ministry and orders had been accomplished, and asked that the question of the ordination of women be remanded for consideration by its successive commission. Until now this issue has not been examined by ARCIC.

He also notes that while ARCIC II reached a fairly solid agreement that “the claim, sometimes made that homosexual relationships and married relationships are morally equivalent, and equally capable of expressing the right ordering and use of the sexual drive” was to be rejected, this agreement has been almost totally lost since the consecration of Gene Robinson by the Episcopal Church in the US.

It seems that the new ARCIC will at least address this latter issue, if not also the former.

But then Levada goes on to make some quite amazing and, as I said, frank claims about Catholic ecumenism, claims with which I find myself to be in full agreement. Here is just a slice of the entire cake:

Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism—one could put, “we phrase it that way”. Yet the very process of working towards union works a change in churches and ecclesial communities that engage one another in dialogue, in actual instances of entering into communion do indeed transform the Catholic Church by way of enrichment. Let me add right away that when I say enrichment I am referring not to any addition of essential elements of sanctification and truth to the Catholic Church. Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine founder.

The new reality of visible unity among Christians should not thought of as the coming together of disparate elements that previously had not existed in any one community. The Second Vatican Council clearly teaches that all the elements of sanctification and truth which Christ bestowed on the Church are found in the Catholic Church. What is new then is not the acquisition of something essential which had hitherto been absent. Instead, what is new is that perennial truths and elements of holiness already found in the Catholic Church are given new focus, or a different stress by the way they are lived by various groups of the faithful who are called by Christ to come together in perfect communion with one another, enjoying the bonds of creed, code, cult and charity, in diverse ways that blend harmoniously.

Coincidentally, just on Thursday night I had the pleasure of sitting at dinner with an entire table of Anglicans, including clerics (some who would describe themselves as Anglo-Catholics) and a retired bishop. It was a case for me of “don’t mention the ordinariates”, but I need not have worried. They themselves raised it in their own discussions, and not in an entirely negatively way. One cleric commented that it was a strange business, because the announcement of the establishment of these ordinariates seemed to have sidelined the Vatican’s ecumenical council and its president, Walter Kasper. I argued that this is because Rome wanted to keep the two issues separate, that the ordinariates were not to be viewed as the Vatican’s “new way of doing ecumenism”. Levada’s speech has caused me to rethink this. Perhaps, in fact, this is the future for Catholic ecumenism. If that is so, then we really are entering a whole new phase of the ecumenical movement – at least between Catholics and Protestants.

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