We had a discussion a few posts back as to whether the Anglican Solution amounted to a mass conversion or to a healing of schism and restoration of communion.
The news that the Anglican Bishop of Chichester is seriously considering the option gives us an example by which to consider the real nature of what is happening.
Let us consider what would happen if he was reordained as a Catholic priest in an Anglican Ordinariate. Would this mean a healing of the “schism” between the Catholic Church and the Local Particular Church which is the Anglican Diocese of Chichester (leaving behind the question at the moment of whether any Anglican Diocese is a local church in the “true sense”). In a word, no. Her Majesty would simply appoint a new Bishop of Chichester. Some of Bishop Hind’s flock may well follow him, but many would not, and so the Anglican diocese would remain intact.
This example shows clearly that what is being envisaged cannot really be said in any sense to be a “healing of schism”. Whether the term “conversion” is appropriate, well… there are many – even Fr Richard John Neuhaus of blessed memory himself – who questioned whether “conversion” is the right word for what happens when a protestant enters full communion with the Catholic Church. It may be, but it may not be. If, as Fr Neuhaus maintained, seeking full communion was simply another step along the journey in the one consistent direction, then “conversion” is not strictly the right word, is it?
However, we should not lose sight of the fact that, in another sense, every step of our Christian journey is a “conversion” to the Lord. Isn’t that what Brother Martin meant when (almost 492 years ago to the day) he wrote:
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
Or, indeed, what Pope John Paul II meant when he wrote in Ut Unum Sint:
The Council calls for personal conversion as well as for communal conversion. The desire of every Christian Community for unity goes hand in hand with its fidelity to the Gospel. In the case of individuals who live their Christian vocation, the Council speaks of interior conversion, of a renewal of mind. Each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel and, without ever losing sight of God’s plan, change his or her way of looking at things. (Encyclical on Ecumenism, §15)