In response to a posting at The Catholic Thing “Time for a Lutheran Ordinariate?”, a friend wrote the following on an email list::
I do not know what to think of this. While there are aspects of what might be termed the Lutheran “patrimony,” particularly, perhaps, in the area of music, which could be incorporated into Catholic practice, it seems to me that the fundamental “patrimony” of Lutheranism is doctrinal, based on the belief that Catholic teaching on a particular doctrine of (in their view) transcendent importance (Sola Fide; articulum stantis aut cadentis Eccleiae) is erroneous and that therefore they constitute a doctrinally sound reformed remnant of the Catholic Church. If some Lutherans should cease to believe, either that what the Catholic Church teaches on this locus is mistaken, or that it is the articulum stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae, then (1) what is to prevent their becoming ordinary Western/Latin Catholics and (2) if there were to be an Ordinariate for former Lutherans, would music alone be a sufficient thing to justify its existence? No particular Lutheran “Mass Rite” or worship formulary has ever occupied anything like symbolic place of the Book of Common Prayer for Anglicans, and just as the BCP rites have had to be supplemented and corrected to suit them for Catholic use, so one imagines that the same sort of thing would have to be done for a Lutheran Ordinariate (e.g., no Eucharistic consecration by use of the Verba alone, outside the context of an anaphora/eucharistic prayer).
I have naturally thought about this matter a great deal – especially while sitting with my family in a service at St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Box Hill where they worship (my “Church-in-law) as I like to call it. How it saddens me each time to think that this and many other faithful Lutheran congregations remain separated from the joyful unity with the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Churches in communion with him.
Naturally it has occured to me that the Anglican Ordinariate might provide a model for reunion between Cathoic and Lutheran churches. However, I do not think we can simply take the model of the Anglican Ordinariate and apply it to Lutherans. And I think the article in The Catholic Thing reads Pope Francis correctly. He is not, as far as we can tell, even a fan of the model as it exists.
There are similarities in the situation. Just as a future reunion between the Catholic Church and the Church of England, Episcopal Church, and other liberal communities of the Anglican tradition is now tragically out of the question, so there can be no hopes of future unity with liberal Lutheran synods and national churches. On the other hand, I do think something needs to be done to facilitate the dialogue with traditional/conservative Lutherans. The International Lutheran Council should not be alienated, for it is with them and their friends that the Catholic Church has most in common doctrinally. However, they are also less likely to be ecumenically minded toward Rome (or anyone else for that matter).
The Catholic Church must approach Lutherans committed to their tradition with a “white flag” approach: a truce, a readiness to address divergent doctrinal issues rigorously but eirenically, recognising that there is a fundamental brotherhood between us and that future unity is possible. If it happens that “groups of Lutherans” (eg. parishes with their pastor, or, could it be imagined, whole synods?) desire to seek communion with the Catholic Church, then some way of enabling them to maintain their identity as a distinct community must be sought. Should it, for instance, be a Church divisive matter whether or not a community prays the Rosary or seeks the intercession of the saints in their liturgy (as long as to do so is not opposed)? Should Lutherans in communion with the bishop of Rome be required to adopt celibacy for the clergy? Would communion under both kinds be regarded as standard in such congregations? Could less divisive ways of talking about Purgatory be found – a little less St Margaret Mary and a little more Spe Salvi, for instance? Could Synodical government and lay parish councils be maintained?
There are things that belong to the Lutheran patrimony beyond just music. Perhaps the greatest patrimony, which the Catholic Church would certainly benefit to receive in a spirit of receptive ecumenism, is the centrality of the proclamation of the Good News. In addition, modern conservative Lutheranism has developed a quite startlingly strong spirituality of baptism (almost equivalent in emphasis to the spirituality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church), and have a proven track record in catechetical formation of their young people. Not to mention their deep tradition of scriptural spiritualiity and preaching.
So, you see, a different approach for a different circumstance is required. That doesn’t mean that we do nothing, however.