The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity. St. Basil the Great, the Church’s greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy. He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort...St. Basil often talked with yearning about the archaia agape, the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day. This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.

- Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Homily on the Occasion of his Formal Institution as Ordinary

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Anglican Catholics Then and Now

Last weekend, in London, three Anglican bishops and their families were received into full communion with the Catholic Church in a very public ceremony in Westminster Cathedral. Three Anglican nuns and some laypeople were also received. By Easter it is expected that the Anglican Ordinariate will have been set up, and up to 50 more Anglican priests will be received into the Catholic Church along with a significant number of laypeople.

This public reception is in marked contrast to the manner in which I, and many others were received into the Catholic Church in England in the mid 1990s. At that time "ecumenism" was still the main priority for the Catholic bishops of England and Wales as well as the Anglican establishment. There was a pact between the rulers of both churches that the defections to Rome would be low key. No one wanted to rock the ecumenical boat. Consequently, the publicity machines of both churches went into overdrive to downplay and minimize what was happening. In fact, in the mid 1990s there were not fifty Anglican priests who converted but 500. Some even reckoned the numbers to be between 750 and 1000. The reason it was difficult to establish how many of us converted to the Catholic faith at that time was because certain categories of Anglican priest didn't register in the official tally. Retired clergy, clergy in minor posts like hospital chaplains and school chaplains or priests who were only ordained for a short time all failed to appear on the official lists. This was on purpose. Both the Catholic and Anglican hierarchy had done a deal that the numbers would be deflated, those receiving converts into the Catholic Church were told specifically to make the reception low key. Those of us resigning our livings and being received were told to keep a low profile. So, for example, my wife and I received private instruction at Quarr Abbey and were received on a Tuesday evening in the crypt in a very quiet and private Mass...

read the rest of Fr. Longenecker's thoughts at his blog Standing on My Head.

Hat tip to Mary Ann Mueller

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