Today’s edition of “The Australian” carries several stories about the Anglican Solution.
In “Anglicans warned about joining Catholic Church in anger and haste”, Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, gives the wise advice:
[P]eople of either church “should not seek to leave and join the other church because of a particular issue that they may disagree with, but rather express a total acceptance of all that the particular church they are joining stands for. Anger and being disgruntled are not good qualities to bring to a church fellowship.”
Single issues (such as women’s ordination and blessing of same sex unions) ought to represent no more than a “catalyst” in one’s growing enlightenment about the nature of the ecclesial communion to which one belongs, and that it is time to be moving on on one’s journey. But in the final analysis, one should seek membership in an ecclesial communion out of true love for that communion, not hatred or anger for the communion one has left.
The Archbishop also apparently expressed doubt that many Anglicans would join the Catholic Church
“as Anglicans have concerns regarding Papal authority and infallibility, the power of bishops, the lack of a voice for the laity, celibacy as a prescribed format for priesthood, marriage after divorce, understandings regarding the mass” among other things.”
Well, that is no different from saying that most Anglicans are protestants. And he could have added “concerns regarding birth control and abortion” to that list. But some Anglicans are Catholics, at least in spirit, who accept all these doctrines, and so it makes sense for them to seek communion with the Catholic Church. Mind you, for just the same reason, it would be unlikely that there will be much pressure for a “Lutheran Solution” along the same lines as the proposed “Anglican Solution”.
But I am puzzled at Herft’s idea that
the decision by Rome to allow married Anglicans to serve as priests “does raise questions for Rome regarding the celibacy rule”.
Why? Does he not understand that the very basis of the “Anglican Solution” is a respect for differing customs among the various Catholic traditions? The celibacy rule has served the Latin Church astoundingly well over the centuries. It is our particular culture, which will not be threatened by our communion with other Catholic traditions of the West any more than it is challenged by the Catholic traditions of the East. This is how the Catholic Church envisages “unity in diversity”: the unicity is in our doctrine, the diversity is in our customs.
In another article in The Australian (“More roads lead to Rome as divine divide diminishes”), Christopher Pearson interviews Archbishop John Hepworth. He makes the comment that while Anglican Catholics will have a married priesthood:
On the other hand, Anglican Catholics are going to have to relearn the value of the celibate vocation. The TAC already has a number of celibate bishops and celibate communities of priests and nuns, so perhaps the lesson has begun to be learned.
He also comments that :
the ecumenical movement with its dreams of Christian unity has burned out in its first exciting stage, when people believed that churches would indeed find unity and do it soon. Instead they have found friendship and common endeavour but little organic unity. In that climate Rome has been reconsidering the nature and extent of its ecumenical activity.
In fact, what is being reconsidered is, I believe, the methodology of church unity. The methodology of bi-lateral dialgues between Rome and the Protestant communities which has been practieced since the Second Vatican Council has led to a greater understanding of each other’s faith, but not one of these dialogues has actually led to anything as simple as a game-plan for the restoration of visible unity, let alone visible unity as such. There are many protestants who are getting impatient with this situation. Generally this impatience is expressed along the lines of a demand that Catholics allow open communion at the Eucharist with protestants. But the announcement of the “Anglican Solution” this week shows that the Catholic Church is also getting impatient with the dialogical method. As Rev. Dr Charles Sherlock commented in the article mentioned above, “now a single model is to apply across the board”. And that model is NOT a compromise union arising out of dialogue on doctrine, but a complete acceptance of the Catholic faith while retaining the particular diverse customs of the reuniting bodies on both sides.
Thus, Pearson’s question about “How will the Orthodox react to the new arrangements?” is quite approriate. Hepworth’s answer is interesting – although he is wildly wrong about the immanence of the restoration of unity between Rome and Moscow:
Already there are stories circulating that the Patriarch of Moscow has urged his ecumenical negotiators in the Vatican to hurry in order that the Anglicans do not get too far ahead. They’re probably apocryphal, but we do know that the Russian Orthodox Church is very close to achieving unity with Rome. It is the largest of the Orthodox churches of the East. We also know that the Orthodox are watching the Anglican process very closely to try to assess the extent to which Rome is serious about tolerating many different traditions of Christianity within the scope of the Catholic Church. I have had conversations with members of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church about the parallels between their conversations with Rome and ours. Christian unity throughout the world is at a very similar moment. Conversation and co-operation are beginning to evolve into forms of organic unity that still protect diverse Christian traditions of worship and spirituality.
That’s what this is all about, actually. It is, as Hepworth himself states:
“a product of the serene confidence of this Pope, someone who passionately believes that unifying the Christian world is something demanded by God.”