A new model for Catholic Ecumenism?

Well, well, well. So it has finally happened. Doing things backwards, as they often do, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released an explanatory note on an Apostolic Constitution that has yet to see the light of day, but which we are assured will set up “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans wishing to enter full communion with the Holy See while maintaining the bulk of their traditional Anglican heritage and spirituality.

Two things to note about the Note:

1) It solves the problem of married bishops among the traditional Anglican groups by determining that (a) married Anglican clergy – priests and bishops – seeking full communion can be prepared for ordination as priests but not bishops, and (b) that “the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop”. What a neat solution!

2) It solves the old question about the Western liturgical diversity. Part of the problem has been that, essentially, the Anglican rite is simply a “Reformed” version of the Roman Rite. Can it be said to be a “rite” in its own “right”, so to speak? Answer: Yes. According to Levada:

“It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (4:5). Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith.”

So, the only question remaining for this one-time Lutheran is: Could a similar situation be envisaged for Lutherans wishing to enter into communion with the See of Rome? Or, for that matter, any identifiable Christian tradition? In other words, is this a new model for Catholic ecumenism? OR, is it just ancient “Uniatism” resurrected?

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17 Responses to A new model for Catholic Ecumenism?

  1. Kiran says:

    Well, this is great news. As with the Summorum Pontificum, the Pope has dealt with those pesky English Bishops by effectively ignoring them until they learn some manners.

    A couple of questions. Anglicans who want to swim the tiber corporately (a very funny image: Maybe we should refer to this as the parting of the Channel) fall into a variety of groups. Are these groups going to be amalgamated? Or are they going to each have their own prelate? And is their going to be some general oversight. I look forward to the Apostolic Constitution!

  2. Tony says:

    It solves the problem … What a neat solution!

    Oh boy. Neat? We now will have as a daily practical witness not only married priests, but also married bishops!

    We also have a primate (+Hepworth) who was ordained a Catholic priest, joined the (mainstream) Anglicans, joined (and now heads) the TAC and who has been married twice (I don’t know the circumstances of those marriages) and this is a ‘neat’ solution?

    This flexibility is a wonderful, but why can’t it be extended internally to those, now married, former Catholic priests?

    If +Hepworth’s (or any other priest’s or bishop’s) first marriage ended in divorce, does this agreement include annulments as part of a package deal?

    But my main point is the daily witness to a model of married priesthood that makes the insistence on celibacy for everyone else look farcical.

    This is only neat if you look through an ‘Orwellian’ filter: all priests (and bishops) are celibate but some are less celibate than others!

    • Schütz says:

      Tony, you will see below the clarification that there are to be no married bishops. As for whether the Rev. Hepworth might be eligible to be ordained a priest and as a priest be made an ordinary… well, you are right to point to the annulment process, but this could not be a “package deal” since all annulments are handled on an individual basis and could never admit of external reasons not related to the objective question of whether the original marriage was valid or not. Nor is it at all clear that a continued “married clergy option” is envisaged for future seminarians of such Ordinariates. (nb. it is allowed in Eastern Rite Churches, so why not a Western Rite Ordinariate?).

      • Kiran says:

        Well, I would say it can’t be extended internally, because a similar need doesn’t exist. This is a provision to end a centuries long separation, and a bit of leniency seems to be perfectly in order, whereas those who left the priesthood in order to get married made a decision.

        Notice that Hepworth and a couple of others in a similar situation are in a slightly odd condition. I don’t see why they should be allowed to dictate the norm. In other words, one shouldn’t legislate on the basis of special cases, or conduct moral philosophy on the basis of an unbalanced diet of examples.

  3. Marco says:

    Just a quick comment: the note states that The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop.

    • Peregrinus says:

      It goes slightly further than that. By pointing out that “historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches”, I think it implies not just that the Anglican ordinariates won’t have married bishops as ordinaries, but that they won’t have married bishops at all. A married Anglican bishop who embraces Rome under this arrangement may be ordained as a Catholic priest, but not as a Catholic bishop.

      • Tony says:

        So Pere, am I to understand that +Hepworth will be, in a sense, demoted?

        And will this mean the Ordinariate (crikey, what a word!) will have a priest as its head?

        • Peregrinus says:

          I don’t think we should assume that the Australian ordinariate – if there is one – will be headed by Hepworth even as a priest. He may feel that this is an opportune moment for him to let captaincy pass to another team member, so to speak. Obviously his personal situation would attract a degree of attention in the context of his being incardinated as a priest, never mind being ordained as a bishop, and he may think, or be led to think, that he wouldn’t be doing the cause of Anglican-Catholic unity any favours by seeking to become the ordinary, or indeed to have any active priestly role in the ordinariate. Just a guess on my part.

        • Peregrinus says:

          But of course the ordinariate could still have a priest at its head. Only Anglican clergymen who are unmarried when they convert can be ordained as bishops in the ordinariate, and I’m guessing that most of them will be already married. They only way they can have a bishop at the head is to choose from among the probably small pool of unmarried Anglican clerics who convert, or “bring in” a bishop who was never an Anglican, which would rather defeat the whole point of the exercise.

      • Schütz says:

        Quite right, Perry.

  4. Peregrinus says:

    To respond to David’s question:

    “Could a similar situation be envisaged for Lutherans wishing to enter into communion with the See of Rome? Or, for that matter, any identifiable Christian tradition? In other words, is this a new model for Catholic ecumenism? OR, is it just ancient “Uniatism” resurrected?”

    It’s not “uniatism” in the strict sense; the Anglicans are not getting their own rite or their own church or their own patriarch. They will be Latin Rite Catholics ministered to by Latin Rite clergy. And, while for the details we have to wait for the Apostolic Constitution, since the Anglican ordinary need not be a bishop, I’m tempted to assume that membership in an Anglican ordinariate is not going to disrupt, or be inconsistent with, the primary ecclesiological, pastoral relationship between the individual Anglican Catholic and his Latin Rite diocesan bishop.

    I appreciate the parallel with the Eastern Catholic churches, but there is another parallel worth considering. Within the Latin church we’ve already got personal dioceses (the military dioceses) and personal prelature (so far, only Opus Dei), and now we’re getting personal ordianariates as well. All these structures are innovative (as in, came into existence within living memory, and what they all have in common is that they are not defined territorially, but personally. I think it reflects the anthropological reality of the (post?-)modern world; we construct our identities less and less by locale, and more and more by social groupings and relationships, and ecclesial structures need to reflect this reality if they are to be meaningful and to serve the church. That considerations suggests, yes, if there is a signficant group whose spiritual self-identity is as “Lutheran Catholics”, it’s appropriate to have a structure for them. But there’s no overwhelming reason why this should be confined to spiritual self-identity. Indeed, the military dioceses are not so defined. Nor, for that matter, are university parishes/chaplaincies, which have certain similarities, even if a less formal structure.

    • Schütz says:

      The whole Lutheran question is probably a red herring, Perry. The one thing that really defines a Lutheran is not a particularly cultural expression, but a “doctrinal” position. When I call myself a “Lutheran” (which in many ways I still am) it is because of certain “emphases” characteristic of Lutherans which I still favour even within the Catholic Faith, not because I hold to particular Lutheran doctrines which are antithetical to Catholic teaching. That makes me a rather unusual “Lutheran”, and I don’t expect there are enough of us out there to warrent a particular “ordinariate”!

      • Peregrinus says:

        Well, is it a red herring just because the “Lutheran Catholics” are not sufficiently numerous? You make the point that you don’t hold to Lutheran doctrines antithetical to Catholic teaching, but presumably the “Anglican Catholics” won’t hold to Anglican doctrines antithetical to Catholic teaching. They’re getting ordinariates not because of their doctrines but because of their distinctive “spiritual and liturgical patrimony”. Do your “characteristic emphases” amount to a “spiritual patrimony” – a way of being Catholic which is distinctively informed and enriched by the reflection and experience of the Lutheran tradition ? If so, it seems to me that it’s only the lack of a sufficient community which precludes a Lutheran ordinariate.

        • Schütz says:

          Are there any specifically “Anglican” doctrines (as opposed to general protestant ones) that are antithetical to the Catholic faith? I can’t think of any…

          Still, I would like to be able to sing those old Lutheran hymns and chant that old Lutheran liturgy again…

          • Peregrinus says:

            Well, I’m not sure that its meaningful to look only at [i]exclusively[/i] Anglican doctrines. If you look at, say, the XXXIX Articles, I douibt that you’ll find even one which isn’t held in common with at least one other denomination or tradition. But so what? To the extent that Anglicans hold a belief which is unCatholic, that seems to me to be a problem regardless of whether they are unique in holding that belief or share it with other Protestants.

            But I think what is unique to Anglicanism is their focus on the liturgy as a defining characteristic, rather than creedal statements. The ultimate test of Anglicanism traditionally was not how you understood the XXXIX articles, or whether you had mental reservations about them, but whether you worshipped according to the Book of Common Prayer, and took the sacrament at the hands of an Anglican priest. When Anglicans talk of Anglican spirituality, I think they have liturgy more in mind than doctrine. Which means the ability and willingness of the Catholic church to accommodate Anglican liturgy and liturgical practices creates huge possibilities.

            I don’t know that this is true to the same extent (or at all?) for Lutherans. A sentimental attachment to the experiences of one’s youth is not the same thing as the Anglicans’ essentially liturgical self-understanding.

    • Joshua says:

      Very important point you rightly raise, P. – these days we do indeed “onstruct our identities less and less by locale, and more and more by social groupings and relationships”: look at this forum for example!

      David, this merits a thread of its own IM (not so) HO…

  5. Joshua says:


    Do you mean – in the case of former Lutherans – that there are not the specific liturgical customs and so forth that Anglicans have?

    I suppose that a largely ex-Lutheran parish would certainly “sing lustily” beyond most if not all Catholic parishes….

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