Oct 22, 2009

whoa. whoa. WHOA!

Okay, this is exciting. The Vatican has approved an Apostolic Constitution for the purpose of bringing Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church! Very roughly, this means there will be something like an 'Anglican Rite' of the Roman Catholic Church, and as I understand it, Anglican congregations can be corporately brought into full communion with Rome.

As I understand it, married priests will retain their clerical status and responsibilities, but cannot be bishops. Celibate Anglican bishops can become bishops in the Roman church, and some celibate priests may be ordained as new bishops in the Anglican "rite" of the Church.

This is meaningful to me for a couple reasons.

First and foremost, one of my good friends is Episcopalian - the province of the Anglican Communion in the US. I know he's very warm to the Roman tradition. He is actually one of the main reasons I became Roman Catholic. and he turned me on to liturgical tradition by introducing me to the daily office. I haven't talked to him about this yet, but just the fact that this avenue exists between the two churches gives me new hope as I reflect on how much our friendship has meant to me.

Another reason I'm excited is I think this sets a positive precedent for the Church. I think this is a good experiment for the Church to see how it can open up new avenues to receive established Christian communities into its fold. I don't think I'll offend any of my Protestant readers if I say that there's something of a trend of dissatisfaction fomenting in the ranks of mainline Protestantism. I think the 'Emerging' movement, with which I heavily identify, is a result of it. With this precedent in place, is it really far fetched to consider the possibility of a Lutheran or Methodist rite? Though I won't hold out too much hope for an Emerging rite. ;)

It's still early in the process, and there may only be a small proportion of Anglicans who will embrace this opportunity, but I still think this will only be good for our Christian ecclesiology and ecumenism.


Jeremy Fincher said...

While, no doubt, Anglican clerics will continue to minister as priests after becoming Catholic (that's something the Church takes great care to ensure), they will need to be ordained, since the Church teaches that Anglican orders (and thus all their order-dependent sacraments: Eucharist, confession, anointing, and obviously ordination) are invalid.

There's some good information available at (or linked from) http://www.jimmyakin.org/2009/10/new-structures-announced-for-reception-of-anglicans-into-full-communion.html if you want to see a more in-depth assessment than the mainstream media typically provides.

Jeremy Fincher said...

One thing I should have noted in my previous post: this seems to be leading the way to having a full-fledged Anglican Rite within the Catholic Church, akin to the Melkite rite or any of the other Eastern rites within the Church.

The thing is, to have an Anglican rite, you need Anglican bishops. To have Anglican bishops, you need Anglican priests, and to have Anglican priests, you need a way for them to join the Church while preserving their own unique traditions and perspectives, and this Apostolic Constitution, with its "personal ordinariate" seems to be leading the way to exactly that.

The creation of an Anglican rite will be particularly interesting because it will be the first *Western* alternative to the Latin rite, and it will likely permit a married priesthood (though, as with tradition immemorial, it will not permit a married bishopric). It'll be interesting to see what happens when/if an Anglican rite becomes available to westerners.

Matt said...

Please excuse my ignorance, but are we assuming that Anglicans WANT to be a part of the Catholic church? If they wanted to be Catholic, wouldn't they have done so already? And that's true of anyone identifying themselves with a different denomination, sect or religion.

luke said...

You're excused. ;)

Seriously though, the Vatican did this exactly *because* there are a large number of Anglicans who want full communion with Rome. The announcement notes a congregation of 400,000 Anglicans who have been asking for this for years. This was an answer from Rome to those groups already asking for it, rather than a plea from Rome trying to entice or lure Anglicans.

A growing number of Anglicans have wanted to join Rome, but also want to maintain their Anglican traditions. And why shouldn't they? The Anglicans have some of the best English-native liturgy in the world! And a tradition that can claim the like of C.S. Lewis and the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

I'll actually speculate that if C.S. Lewis were living in today's Anglican church, he would be one of the ones joining this new Roman rite ... and many are even speculating that Archbishop Rowan Williams may do so!

Michelle said...

If C.S. Lewis were alice today, I think he'd have long been catholic already! :)

Saint said...

Matt: to add on Luke's note, there's been a great deal of clamor in the Anglican Church, especially as sects have been swinging more liberal and breaking off. A lot of the more conservative branches have been discussing desires to reunite with Rome, and even as a method of keeping their own tradition and not caving totally in.

Anglicans value their history and traditions (lower case t) just as much as Catholics do, so I can totally understand a willingness for that preservation.

Oh, and also, we like to assume everyone wants to join us. They just don't know it yet. :P

luke said...

here's an article about a very prominent Anglican Bishop who is planning to take advantage of the opportunity.


Caedmon said...

I'm admitting in the asking that I haven't looked into this myself, beyond reading this post & comments... But, er.... ;)

I remember a few years ago talks between Rome and one particular Anglican "denomination" (I know that's the right word, technically). Does this new announcement include the entirety of the Anglican Church or just one subset within?

luke said...

I think everyone's still waiting to see the content of the Apostolic Constitution since all we have to go on now is the press release stuff.

As far as I understand though, the channel is intended for all Anglicans who wish to join the RCC, and the major difference between this and RCIA is the constitution will allow for Anglican clergy to convert along with an entire congregation all at once.

Having said that, I think the main driver for this was a history of requests from the Traditional Anglican Communion, which is not an official congregation within the Anglican church.

We'll just have to see how it all shakes out over the years.

Caedmon said...

Thanks for clarifying. It was the TAC stuff I was remembering from a few years back.

Regardless, I'm one who likes the idea of adding rites within the church. I'm all for creation of local liturgies within the unity of a single body.