St Roger of Taize?

Well, its been five years since Roger Schütz (no relation, aka Brother Roger) died under cruel and tragic circumstances. Along with Martin Luther, Elijah, Our Lady, Bishop Elliott (the Archibald Portrait), Pope John Paul II, Blessed Mary of the Cross and Cardinal Newman, his picture adorns my little “iconastasis” wall in my office. There have been many speculations about why it was that Cardinal Ratzinger communed Brother Roger just a few months earlier at Pope John Paul II’s funeral, but in the light of all the commentary and information available, I think the answer is a fairly simple one: Brother Roger was Catholic. Now there is a statement that I am sure will keep the combox full for a little while, but I base my opinion on the fact that John Paul II’s funeral was not the first time that Brother Roger received Catholic Communion, and that it was, in fact, a regular practice for him both in his own community at Taize and whenever he visited the Holy Father in Rome. He was, of course, in a very unusual situation, almost without parallel in the Church.

Despite its origins, Taize as a community is not officially affiliated with any Protestant Church, and (as I understand it) the majority of the brothers today (including the current prior) are Catholic. Since John XXIII, Taize has had a very positive relationship with the Holy See. Again, as far as I know, although Brother Roger was technically speaking an ordained reformed minister, he did not celebrate the reformed sacraments or excercise his ordained ministry in any way in his role as prior of Taize. I guess, again technically speaking, you could say that I am an ordained Lutheran pastor. The difference between Br Roger and me is that I made my entry into the Catholic Communion publicly, whereas his entry into the Church’s communion was unofficial and private. Another difference is that I have received the Catholic sacrament of confirmation, and there is no evidence that Brother Roger ever did. So in my mind that puts him rather in the same position of any Catholic child who has received first communion but has not yet been confirmed. Perhaps one could say that he was (even in his advanced old age) still on the path of an initiation that was begun but never completed.

I can understand why that was, and obviously so did the Holy See, even though the Catholic Church never publically (and still does’nt) claim him for herself. John Allen reports on a positive tribute to Brother Roger in L’Osservatore Romano marking the fifth anniversary of his death. According to Allen, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone writes in his message to Br Alois that:

Brother Roger was “a tireless witness to the gospel of peace and reconciliation” and a “pioneer on the difficult journey towards unity among the disciples of Christ.” …Pope Benedict wants to express his “spiritual closeness” to Taizé, Bertone wrote, and his “union in prayer.”

Even more interesting was this comment:

In some ways, Bertone referred to Schutz almost as a saint, writing that “now that he has entered into eternal joy, he continues to speak to us.”

But for the fact that Brother Roger was never officially confirmed as a Catholic, he lived a life which (again in my own humble opinion) certainly would have put him in line as a candidate for sainthood HAD he been a “signed-and-sealed” member of the Church. Brother Roger was certainly an exemplar of what it means to live a life of “spiritual ecumenism” according to the teachings of the Church.

Here is something Pope Benedict said five years ago on his visit to Cologne for World Youth Day soon after Brother Roger’s death which illustrates this point:

We cannot “bring about” unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism – prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life – constitutes the heart of the meeting and of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 8; Ut Unum Sint, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.

I would also like in this context to remember the great pioneer of unity, Bro. Roger Schutz, who was so tragically snatched from life. I had known him personally for a long time and had a cordial friendship with him.

He often came to visit me and, as I already said in Rome on the day of his assassination, I received a letter from him that moved my heart, because in it he underlined his adherence to my path and announced to me that he wanted to come and see me. He is now visiting us and speaking to us from on high. I think that we must listen to him, from within we must listen to his spiritually-lived ecumenism and allow ourselves to be led by his witness towards an interiorized and spiritualized ecumenism.

I see good reason in this context for optimism in the fact that today a kind of “network” of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity.

The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an “invisible cloister” which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves interiorly to the Lord’s prayer “that all may be one” (Jn 17: 21), then this prayer, made in the Name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14: 13; 15: 7, 16, etc.).

St Roger of Taize? I think the idea has merit. But you might disagree.

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “St Roger of Taize?

  1. I assume, accepting your theory for the moment, that his conversion/entry into full communion was kept private to avoid scandal – however, and this is a big however, is not there something wrong about treating one’s reception into the visible communion of the Church as a potential scandal or stumbling block?

    I think the Cause for his canonization might well come undone when confronted by the scandal of his being in full communion being kept quiet for fear of scandal.

    BTW, what are the terms for true scandal and false scandal, if you know what I’m trying to say!?

    Would not fear of scandal in the bad sense be rather fear of what the scoffing world might say – as in the way that the positive value of virginity is not exactly bruited about (or would that be rather casting pearls before swine?)?

  2. The fact that he received communion does not necessarily mean he was technically in full communion with the Church – there are certain restrictive circumstances when it is permitted by the Church.

    Either way, a canonized saint is by definition a witness to the faith. Like Joshua, I would have thought that if you didn’t publicly witness to being a member of the faith, your chances of being canonized are pretty much zero, regardless of the objective state of your soul or the merits (or otherwise) of the cause you lent support to.

    • Gareth

      Hi Terra,

      I was just wondering what the certain circumstances when it is permitted by the Church for a person not in communion with the Catholic Church to receive Holy Communion are?

      The reason I ask is that I have heard something about this before, but can not remember the precise details and plus I am too lazy to google it. myself.

      • Peregrinus

        This is actually quite complex. There are different rules for unbaptised persons, Eastern Christians, non-Catholic Western Christians, etc.

        But, sticking with non-Catholic western Christians (mostly Protestants), the rule is that Catholic ministers can lawfully administer the eucharist (and penance, and anointing of the sick) if:

        – the person concerned seeks the sacrament of their own accord
        – the person concerned manifests “Catholic faith” in respect to the sacrament (and there is no guidance on exactly what “Catholic faith” means, but in the case of the eucharist it is generally taken to mean that they need to manifest faith in the Real Presence, but not necessarily in transsubstantiation)
        – the person concerned is “properly disposed” (a rather vague condition, but of course one which applies to Catholics also)
        – the person cannot approach a minister of their own community
        – and either (a) danger of death is present, or (b) “in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges” administration of the sacrament.

        Helpfully, or unhelpfully, depending on your point of view, there is a rule that bishops/bishops’ conferences are not to issue “general norms” about this except after “at least consulting” the “local competent authority” of the “interested non-Catholic church or community”. The sheer number of protestant churches, the diversity of views among them and the hot-button sensitivity of the issue means that such consultation could be very difficult, with the result that few bishops and even fewer bishops’ conferences have issued any general norms about this. The result is that people are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and it is hard to build up an overall picture of actual practice.

        • Perry, at different times these “rules” have been enunciated in the magisterium differently. They do not always specify “danger of death”, but often something such as “grave need” or other.

          The most recent statement of these norms was in Pope John Paul II’s last encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia where he wrote:

          “46. In my Encyclical Ut Unum Sint I expressed my own appreciation of these norms, which make it possible to provide for the salvation of souls with proper discernment: “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid”.97

          These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.98

          The faithful observance of the body of norms established in this area 99 is a manifestation and, at the same time, a guarantee of our love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, for our brothers and sisters of different Christian confessions – who have a right to our witness to the truth – and for the cause itself of the promotion of unity. “

          By the way, I have no real proof that Br Roger was not confirmed in the Catholic Church. He might have been. Just that we have no proof of it. Some certificate or public proof is usually required of this sacrament of initiation. It would be very strange indeed to administer it secretly.

  3. Peregrinus

    I think it would be a mistake to look at this through a purely canonical lens.

    Brother Roger came from a Calvinist background. Canonically, the occasions on which a Calvinist Christian can be given communion are exceptional; it requires danger of death or some other need judged by the local ordinary – the bishop – to be “grave”.

    Canonically, therefore, if Brother Roger had not become a Catholic, it would arguably have been canonically irregular for him to be admitted to Communion at the pope’s funeral.

    But arguably not. In other contexts, bishops have identified occasions such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, ordinations, etc as sufficiently “grave” to warrant the admission of non-Catholic Christians to communion (if [i]other[/i] canonical conditions are satisfied, and let us assume that they were in Br. Roger’s case).

    The question is whether such a judgment was made by the “local ordinary” on the occasion of the Pope’s funeral. I don’t know. I’ve no idea who the ordinary of Rome is during a papal interregnum.

    In any event, Br. Roger was a daily communicant at Taize. It would be hard to bring that under the rubric of “grave need”. And, in that environment, one of the other canonical requirements – that the individual be unable to approach a minister of his own tradition – was certainly not satisfied.

    If, on the other hand, Br. Roger had,/i> become a Catholic, there is no canonical issue about his receiving communion. But there is a different canonical issue. There is a canonical process for becoming a Catholic which involves [i]inter alia[/i] the creation of a written record – a certificate, an entry in a register. Apparently no such record exists anywhere for Br. Roger. That wouldn’t invalidate his entry into the church, but it would make it canonically irregular. David’s suggestion that Br. Roger was never confirmed (how do you know, David?) would also point to some irregularity; confirmation is routinely (though not necessarily) part of the reception of an adult convert.

    Whichever way we call it, then, it seems that canon law may not hve been scrupulously adhered to.

    But what of it? Br. Roger’s claim on us has nothing to do with his application of canon law. The communion which makes a Christian into a Catholic is a real, living relationship; the canonical procedures with which we mark it and point to it are not the essence of the relationship. Br. Roger himself, as I understand it, felt that he had come to full communion in a long process of “reconciling in myself the faith of my past with the mystery of the Catholic Faith, without rupturing communion with anyone”.

    According to Walter Kasper, who knew him well:

    “As the years passed, the faith of the prior of Taizé was progressively enriched by the patrimony of faith of the Catholic Church. According to his own testimony, it was with reference to the mystery of the Catholic faith that he understood some of the elements of the faith, such as the role of the Virgin Mary in salvation history, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic gifts and the apostolic ministry in the Church, including the ministry of unity exercised by the Bishop of Rome. In response to this, the Catholic Church had accepted that he take communion at the Eucharist, as he did every morning in the large church at Taizé. Brother Roger also received communion several times from the hands of Pope John Paul II, who . . . was well acquainted with his personal journey with respect to the Catholic Church. In this sense, there was nothing secret or hidden in the attitude of the Catholic Church, neither at Taizé or in Rome . . .

    Brother Roger never wanted to break “with anyone,” for reasons which were essentially linked to his own desire for unity and to the ecumenical vocation of the Taizé Community. For that reason, he preferred not to use certain expressions like “conversion” or “formal” membership to describe his communion with the Catholic Church. In his conscience, he had entered into the mystery of the Catholic faith like someone who grows into it, without having to “abandon” or “break” with what he had received and lived beforehand. The meaning of some theological or canonical terms could be discussed endlessly. Out of respect for the faith-journey of Brother Roger, however, it would be preferable not to apply to him categories which he himself considered inappropriate for his experience and which, moreover, the Catholic Church never wanted to impose upon him.”

    If that is how Br. Roger saw the matter, and if successive popes apparently agreed with him, who are we to be quibbling about canonical processes?

    • If that is how Br. Roger saw the matter, and if successive popes apparently agreed with him, who are we to be quibbling about canonical processes?

      That’s basically what I am saying, Perry. And I think the fruit of his life demonstrates that he, essentially, manifested the Catholic Faith and was properly disposed toward the sacrament. I don’t think his Catholic faith was kept hidden, it simply wasn’t trumpeted. Again, I don’t think that was because he wanted to “avoid scandal” so much as he wanted to be – as St Paul – “all things to all men”. You can argue with that, but obviously a number of popes – including our present one – didn’t. I reckon the bloke was a saint. (Mind you, I reckon Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a saint too, but just put that down to my latent Lutheranism…)

  4. Marcel

    ‘Latent Lutheranism’? Your tongue my be firmly in your cheek with that confession David. However, with a picture of archheretic Martin Luther on your wall (next to Our Lady!) I wonder whether you have reached the Tiber yet, or are you still paddling in the Rhein?

    The Br Roger episode was more of a scandal than something that should be ‘celebrated’ and held up as an example with moves for a canonisation. I am sure it was uncomfortable for +Newman (also on yor wall) to publicly convert, but we received no such Apologia Pro Vita Sunt from Br Roger did we?

    • When a soul realises the obligation to conform to the Catholic religion and the necessity of seeking communion with the Bishop of Rome, that soul has no choice but to answer that call. However, the manner in which this vocation is realised will be different for each soul, and appropriate to their circumstances, just as are all true vocations. Moreover, one is not required to “give up” as much as “take on” when one enters the Catholic Church. There is a vitality and a depth to Lutheran spirituality which, when practiced in accordance with the Catholic faith, enriches rather than impoverishes. Our great expectations for the Anglican Ordinariates are a case in point. They are not being required to abjure Anglicanism, but rather only the heresies taught by Anglicans. Thus also, I am not required to give up Lutheranism in order to become a Catholic, only those heresies which Lutheranism teaches. Luther did teach SOME heretical doctrines, but that doesn’t make everything he taught heretical.

      Concerning Brother Roger, do you know anything about him (other than the fact that his communion with the Catholic Church had not been made public) that would make him an unsuitable candidate for sainthood? I mean, if he HAD BEEN publically received into the Church, would you still have an objection to the consideration of his cause?

  5. Marcel

    I admit I am confused by the case of Br. Roger. Br Alois, in the aftermath of Br Roger’s death said: “No. Brother Roger never ‘converted’ formally to Catholicism. If he had, he would have said so; for he never hid anything about the path he was following. All through his books, often written in the form of a journal, he explained as he went along what he was discovering and what he was living.”

    I thought the only ‘evidence’ for his conversion was the reception of Holy Communin at the funeral Mass for John Paul II. Is it not still an open question? I would be extremely happy to be corrected.

    • Well, yes, it is still an “open question”. But the funeral mass was not the only time he received Catholic communion. In the article by Allen to which I have linked, Cardinal Kasper is quoted as saying:

      “In response, the Catholic Church accepted that he take communion at the Eucharist, as he did every morning in the large church at Taizé,” Kasper said. “Brother Roger received communion several times from the hands of Pope John Paul II, who had become friends with him from the days of the Second Vatican Council, and who was well acquainted with his personal journey with respect to the Catholic Church. There was nothing secret or hidden in the attitude of the Catholic Church, neither at Taizé or in Rome. During the funeral of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger only repeated what had already been done before him in Saint Peter’s Basilica, at the time of the late pope. There was nothing new or premeditated in the Cardinal’s act.”

      Ratzinger would have known this, and so this would have influenced his decision to give Br Roger communion. And the fact is that Br Roger was not just in the line up for communion, but the FIRST person to receive communion at the funeral. I don’t think this was an accident, nor was it a private act. But the question is still open, of course. These are just my thoughts.

      • Peregrinus

        There has been a certain amount of angst from traditionalist and Lefebvrist quarters on this matter.

        If we understand a Catholic to be a baptised Christian whose regular Eucharistic community was the Catholic church, then it does seem that Brother Roger was a Catholic, and indeed was regarded as such by Walter Kasper, John Paul II and Josef Ratzinger. I think it is fair to say that those three men represent a range of opinion on the broader question of what the church is and how it is constituted, but they were all of the view that Br. Roger was a Catholic; that has to be significant.

        The issue seems to be not so much whether he was a Catholic but how he became one. It seems that he himself, and those who might be supposed to be close to his thinking, reject the idea that he “converted” to Catholicism. It also seems clear that he did not follow the now-normative Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. (Though, in fairness, Br. Roger seems to be have been a Catholic since before the RCIA was promulgated.)

        I have seen it asserted on a traditionalist site that he was received by the Bishop of Autun (the Diocese in which Taizé is located) in a private ceremony in 1972, at which he made a profession of faith and took the Eucharist. Such a ceremony is also the culmination of the RCIA, but it would normally also involve confirmation, and be followed by the creation of a canonical record of reception into the church, neither of which seems to have happened in this instance. It occurs to me that every time I go to mass I usually make a profession of faith and take the Eucharist; it may be that the 1972 ceremony was simply a mass at which Br. Roger took the Eucharist for the first time.

        The concern expressed by traditionalists is that the 1972 ceremony apparently didn’t include any “abjuration” of past (Calvinist) heresies. This, no doubt, is the flip side of Br. Roger’s position that he never “converted”. More broadly, the concern may be with the lack of a formal procedure to mark a “turning point”, or even to be that turning point.

        There is an interesting comparison to be made with corporate reunions with the Catholic church. These, too, tend not to focus on abjuration and rejection, but on affirmation. Adherence to an Anglican ordinariate, for instance, will be signified not by abjuring the XXXIX Articles, but by affirming the Catechism, which is seen as consistent with an affirmation of the Anglican heritage. I suspect if we go back in history to the establishment of the various Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome, we will find something similar happened. And David’s own experience is that he was not required to – and did not – abandon Lutheranism when becoming a Catholic.

        I think a lot of this points to how we understand ourselves as Catholics. If we define “Catholic” in opposition to “Protestant” (or “Calvinist” or “Lutheran” or “Anglican” or “Orthodox” or whatever) then the only way to become Catholic is to stop being Not-Catholic, and any “fudging” on this calls into question the genuineness or completeness of one’s Catholicity. And I think certainly since the Reformation Catholics have tended to understand themselves in this way.

        And this trend has been particularly marked in the Anglo-Saxon world, because (a) Protestants [i]do[/i] define themselves in opposition to Catholicism; that’s pretty much what “Protestant” means, and (b) since the Reformation Protestantism has dominated the religious and cultural imagination of most of the English-speaking world. Thus the Catholic/Protestant distinction is understood in essentially Protestant terms, even by Catholics. One is either a Catholic or (say) a Calvinist. And the way one becomes a Catholic necessarily involves stopping being a Calvinist.

        A second factor at work here is the Protestant emphasis on “faith alone”, and (it follows) the church as an institution or group defined by faith, or more accurately defined by a profession of faith. There is a long tradition of Protestant denominations identifying themselves by “confessions”; a statement of what they believe which distinguishes them not only from Catholics but from other Protestant denominations. Admission to a particular denomination depends on the believer not only believing the particular confession of that denomination, but publicly professing, or subscribing to, that confession. Hence a profession of faith before the community is not simply something that is natural, appropriate, fitting; it’s something that is essential. As long as you haven’t done it, you’re not a member; you are an interested and friendly Christian observer or guest, but not a member.

        I think, again under the influence of Protestantism, Catholics since the Reformation, especially in the English-speaking world, have bought into this. Hence the way you identify yourself as Catholic, not Calvinist, is publicly to profess believe in Catholic doctrines and to abjure the Calvinist ones your formally professed.

        Hence the concern about somebody becoming a Catholic in a way which doesn’t involve a public profession of Catholic faith and abjuration of formerly-held Calvinism .

        This isn’t entirely foreign to the Catholic tradition, of course; we also see faith as essential, and profession of faith as an essential aspect of Christian witness. But I think Catholicism locates this in a broader tradition of communion, shared faith being one aspect of a shared relationship of eucharistic communion, but not the only aspect.

        From this point of view, what makes you a Catholic is the reality of your relationship of Eucharistic communion with the Catholic church. I think Br. Roger’s journey, and the collective journey of faith-groups reconciling with the church points to this. If you have been on a journey of faith which has brought you into the eucharistic communion of the Catholic Church, it is hard to repudiate that journey. Increasingly, we are ready as a church to acknowledge and affirm the truth and grace to be found in non-Catholic communities; those nurtured in those communities who have come into the Catholic church will be all the more eager to do this.

        • reject the idea that he “converted” to Catholicism

          There are many Protestant “converts” to the Catholic faith who would abjure the word “convert” as a description of themselves. R.J. Neuhaus (for eg) used to say that by entering full communion with the Catholic Church he became more fully the Catholic he always was.

          It needs to be remembered too that other members of the Taize community were formally received into the Catholic Church. The name of the particular brother I am thinking of is on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite remember it. He wrote a good little book on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Can someone help jog my membory?

          The other thing is this little story from this document by Lukas Vischer:

          The influence of this small group of monks has been and continues to be immense. In Taizé, young people experience Christian community across the boundaries of the confessions. But can the confessional differences be overcome by this temporary experience? The confessional structures, especially of the Roman Catholic Church, have turned out to be much more resistant than they appeared for a short while during the 1960s. The “free space” of Taizé could not be easily transplanted into the daily life of the churches.

          A conversation with Frère Roger a few months before the opening of Vatican II is still alive in my memory. “Now,” he said, “it is the calling of the Reformed church to contribute to the renewal of Catholicism.”

          I wondered: “Does the true challenge not rather consist in working together, Protestants and Catholics, toward a new form of catholicity?”

          “Perhaps,” he answered, “but the way to unity leads through the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church.”

          He consistently followed this road, and it was almost inevitable that from year to year and from decade to decade the community moved more in the universe of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformed origins became gradually less evident, and the renewal of the Reformed tradition was no longer the purpose and theme of the community.

          But, in fact, the Reformed background continued to be essential for the mission of the community. It was the freedom provided by the Reformed tradition that made it possible to build the “free space” in Burgundy. How quickly the initiative would have come to a standstill if the community had been subjected to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church! Without the basis of Reformed freedom, the vision of Frère Roger would not have been capable of going beyond mere intentions. The awareness of this gift should perhaps have led him to witness to the Reformed heritage and its fundamental convictions with a little more gratitude and care.

          The way Vischer speaks of Taize as a “free space” reminds me of something else I read in Aidan Nichols “Rome and the Eastern Churches”, where he describes a brief attempt in the 1990s for the Urkrainian Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches to form one local church in communion with both Rome and Constantinople. He comments that (unfortunately?) the idea of mediated communion communion does not exist in Catholic ecclesiology.

          From this point of view, what makes you a Catholic is the reality of your relationship of Eucharistic communion with the Catholic church.

          That is certainly how I primarily understand it, with particular emphasis on personal communion with the Bishop of Rome. It is why I feel myself still able to self-identify with Lutheran spirituality. Of course, I abjure those aspects of Lutheranism that are contrary to the faith of the Bishop of Rome, but that is by no means all of it. How desparately I wish it would have been possible for me to occupy a space in ecclesiology that would have enabled me to remain a Lutheran pastor AND be in communion with Rome. Unfortunately neither side could imagine how such could have been possible – and frankly, neither could I! But the present Holy Father HAS found a way for Anglicans to become Catholics without rejecting their Anglicanism. One can dream.

          • Peregrinus

            “The name of the particular brother I am thinking of is on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite remember it. He wrote a good little book on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Can someone help jog my membory?”

            Max Thurian. He not only became a Catholic without “converting”, in the same way as Br. Roger, but was ordained a (Catholic) priest in 1987, and was appointed by JPII to the International Theological Commission in 1994.

            • That’s the man! And i seem to remember he explained his conversion to the Catholic Church (which was formal and public) in exactly the same terms that Br Roger used to explain his relationship with the Catholic Church, which again gives me reason to think that Br Roger believed that he had done the same thing.

              • Peregrinus

                Not that public, I think. He must have become a Catholic some time before May 1987, when he was ordained a priest, but even the fact of his ordination wasn’t generally known for another year, until he disclosed it to an ecumenical working group that he was a member of. The fact of his having become a Catholic is inferred from the fact of his having been ordained, and wasn’t generally known before that.

                He must have been confirmed, but we don’t know when or by whom, and the formality of the process by whcih he became a Catholic is unknown, as is its date, if it had an identifiable date.

                So, a lot like Br. Roger, really, except that he was ordained on a known date and can be assumed to have been confirmed then or previously.

                • Well, this gets more and more interesting. We can assume that because Max Thurian was ordained that he must have been officially received into the Church beforehand (via confirmation although we have no knowledge of when or by whose hands that happened), since, as we all know, one cannot be ordained a Catholic priest without being a baptised and confirmed Catholic. Br Roger was not ordained, but he was on more than one occasion given communion by the Holy Father, and usually this is only done for those who are baptised and confirmed Catholics. A reasonable assumption in the former case would therefore also be a reasonable assumption in the latter, wouldn’t it? IF the Church were to go ahead and allow a cause for his sainthood to be opened up, that would put the matter to rest as surely as Max Thurian’s ordination did.

                  • Peregrinus

                    On the other hand, it might be seen as asserting precisely the kind of “claim” that Br. Roger would have been so averse to.

                    (Plus, confirmation is a canonical necessity for ordination, but not for taking the Eucharist. So the basis for assuming confirmation in Br. Roger’s case is not quite so strong. Plus, reports of the “reception” of Br Roger by the Bishop of Autun affirm that he was not confirmed on that occasion, which I think suggests a positive decision not to be confirmed. That, of course, might have been reconsidered at a later date, but have we any reason to suppose that it was?)

  6. Marcel

    Thank you Peregrinus for that succinct summary of events.

    If everything you say in that post is correct then I cannot see how Br. Roger could be considered a Catholic. So a canonisation is completely out of the question. His improvident death outside the Church was a great misfortune.

    • Peregrinus

      Hi Marcel

      I think my post was largely directed at explaining why Br. Roger did consider himself to be a Catholic, and why Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Kasper considered him to be a Catholic. I myself see no reason to dispute their understanding of the matter. The most we can say is that he did not comply with the canonical proprieties, but that is no more reason to deny his Catholicism than it would be to deny, say, the validity of the Lefebvrite Eucharist.

      Can you say what you think was wanting to make Br. Roger a Catholic?

  7. This raises an important issue much on the minds of Anglicans considering taking up the offer made in Anglicanorum cœtibus: many of these Anglo-Catholic layfolk have always held a high doctrine of confirmation, and honestly find having to be confirmed “again”, as they see it, as part of the rite of reception into full communion, to be a real scandal and stumbling-block.

    I know of two cases (and there must be many more) of Anglicans who have been received into the Church, but who have deliberately managed to avoid being confirmed in the process, precisely because they believe they were confirmed by an Anglican bishop and that that suffices.

    Now, I know little of Calvinistic practice, but would Br Roger have been “confirmed” in some Reformed ceremony when he was a youngster?

    • Peregrinus

      I think not. In the Calvinist view there are only two sacraments; Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Calvin himself was pretty strong in his rejection of confirmation, not only because he regarded it as a sort of “pseudo-sacrament”, but also because he saw an affirmation of confirmation as a denial or partial denial of the completeness, efficacy and sufficiency of baptism.

      That’s not to say that there might not be churches in the Calvinist tradition which have developed some kind of liturgy or sacramental to mark faith development and faith commitment in adolescence, and that from a sociological point of view this might not have some parallels with the Catholic practice of confirming adolescents. I don’t know about that, one way or the other. But if there is anything of that kind, Calvinists would be at pains to distinguish it from Catholic confirmation.