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, October 20, 2009

Assessments of the Announcement by Rome of a new Apostolic Constitution for Welcoming Anglicans into Full Communion

Now that the news of the new Aposotolic Consitution is getting known, we'll begin to see some assessments of what this all means.

In the absence of having the text of the Apostolic Constitution, however, there is going to be a lot of speculation that may well prove wrong. However, what the Note from the Congregation from the Doctrine of the Faith does make clear are the following points:

1. The Personal Ordinariates will be national or regional in nature, and will work with the competent Catholic Bishops' Conference.
2. The Ordinariates will function "like" the military ordinariate; clergy in the Military ordinariate (in the US anyway) are not incardinated in the Ordinariate; whether the clergy of these personal ordinariates will be or not is unclear, but I suspect so (as in Personal Prelatures). (For more information on the military ordinariate, visit the US Archdiocese for the Miliatry at
3. The Ordinary will be a bishop (and thus necessarily unmarried, preserving the constant tradition of the West and East) or a priest, married or celibate.


So, here are some assessments:

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a pastoral provision priest ministering in South Carolina, has a post on his blog Standing on My Head entitled "Open Wide the Doors" in which he wonders:
"That's how it will work. The big question is, how will the Anglicans respond? There will be a range of responses. The Archbishop of Canterbury seems rather stunned by the whole thing, and yet there has been talk of this happening for a couple of years now. I think the mainstream Anglicans have been putting their head in the sand about this possibility for some time, and have considered the overtures of the TAC to Rome to be 'just a few former Anglican schismatics flexing their muscles.' That Rome has taken them seriously will come as a slap in the face to the mainstream Anglicans who keep investing in the 'past-the-sell-by-date' forms of the old ecumenism."

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, himself a convert from Lutheranism, prefaces his initial analysis of the Note from the CDF, in "Anglicans desiring unity will have 'ordinariates'" on his blog What Does the Prayer Really Say?, with the following:
"Keep in mind that the Holy Father has from time to time expressed openness to discussing different ecclesial structures and even the role of Peter. He has spoken of his role as primarily one of unity. He also let go of the title Patriarch of the West. Just a few reminders, before reading, that the Pope thinks deeply about these issues."

Damian Thompson, religion writer for the Telegraph in England, writes, in a post entitled "New era begins as Benedict throws open gates of Rome to disaffected Anglicans" on his blog Holy Smoke, that:
"This is astonishing news. Pope Benedict XVI has created an entirely new Church structure for disaffected Anglicans that will allow them to worship together – using elements of Anglican liturgy – under the pastoral supervision of their own specially appointed bishop or senior priest. The Pope is now offering Anglicans worldwide “corporate reunion” on terms that will delight Anglo-Catholics. In theory, they can have their own married priests, parishes and bishops – and they will be free of liturgical interference by liberal Catholic bishops who are unsympathetic to their conservative stance. There is even the possibility that married Anglican laymen could be accepted for ordination on a case-by-case basis – a remarkable concession. Both Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Rowan Williams are surprised by this dramatic move. Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was in Lambeth Palace only yesterday to spell out to Dr Williams what it means. This decision has, in effect, been taken over their heads – though there is no suggestion that Archbishop Nichols does not fully support this historic move."

Richard Owen and Ruth Gledhill writing for the London Times, in a deliberately provocatively entitled piece called "Vatican moves to poach traditional Anglicans":
"The announcement paves the way for thousands of Anglicans worldwide to join the Roman Catholic church while maintaining elements of their own spiritual heritage. lthough Dr Williams knew that talks had been taking place in Rome, he was unaware until two weeks ago of the radical nature of the proposals being drawn up by Rome. Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who hosted a simultaneous press conference in Rome this morning, visited London only last weekend to inform Dr Williams and the English Catholic bishops of what was being proposed."

"The proposals will also regularise the place of former Anglicans in the US who already worship under the auspices of the US Catholic bishops by bringing them also into the new, central canonical structure of the Apostolic Constitution."

Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters writes in "First Thoughts on an Anglican Ordinariate" on his blog In the Light of the Law:
"In any case, the idea of a "personal ordinariate" is another sign of the (I think) inevitable trend away from purely territorial jurisdictional units in the Roman Church and toward greater use of personal jurisdiction. This trend has been evident in western canon law at least since the late 1960s (see, e.g., 1967 Synod of Bishops, "Principles Guiding the Revision of Canon Law", no. 8) and is reflected in the 1983 Code (e.g., 1983 CIC 372, 518). Provided this shift is pursued in an orderly manner, I think it a step in the right direction for people who are coming to see themselves as less identified with various locales, and more with social groupings. Certainly several other groups in the Church will be watching the Anglican project with an eye to applying innovative structures in their own spheres.
Lastly, it strikes me as a bit odd that CDF is, at present, the lead dicastery in this matter. Provisions for "particular churches" usually come from the Congregation for Bishops (ap. con. Pastor bonus 75-76), not CDF. While theological issues (and there are some here, of course) are better addressed by doctrinal experts in CDF, organizational issues (which are numerous here) seem better left to administrative experts in the Cong. for Bishops. But, I'm sure someone has already thought of that."

Roman Catholic Deacon Greg Kandara, on his Beliefnet blog "The Deacon's Bench", reproduces a press release of Anglican convert Fr. George Rutler of New York, in whic Fr. Rutler writes:
"It is dramatic put down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism. It basically interprets Anglicanism as a spiritual parimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine and makes clear that it is not an historic "church" but rather an "ecclesial community"' that strayed and now is invited to return to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.
The Vatican was careful to schedule simultaneously with the Vatican announcement, press conference of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the deeply humiliated Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to enable to enable the Anglicans to save some face by saying that this recognizes the spiritual patrimony of Anglicanism and that ecumenical dialogue goes ahead. That is like George Washington at Yorktown saying that he recognizes the cultural contributions of Britain and hopes diplomatic relations flourish. The Apostolic Constitution is not a retraction of ecumenical desires, but rather is the fulfillment of ecumenical aspirations, albeit not the way most Anglican leaders had envisioned it. "

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