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Home » General Diaconate

CDF on Anglicans Entering the Catholic Church

Submitted by on 21 October, 2009 – 7:08 pm3 Comments
CDF on Anglicans Entering the Catholic Church

With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution., the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.

In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.

Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has prepared this provision, said: “We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to
the legitimate aspirations ofthese Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.”

These Personal Ordinariates will be formed, as needed, in consultation with local Conferences of Bishops, and their structure will be similar in some ways to that of the Military Ordinariates which have been established in most countries to provide pastoral care for the members of the armed forces and their dependents throughout the world. “Those Anglicans who have approached the Holy See have made clear their desire for full, visible unity in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. At the same time, they have told us of the importance of their Anglican traditions of spirituality and worship for their faith journey,” Cardinal Levada said.

The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. “The initiative has come from a number of different groups of Anglicans,” Cardinal Levada went on to say: “They have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion.”

According to Levada: “It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive
way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (4:5). Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith.”

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  • Alfred Banya says:

    I think this is a good move that will give opportunity for our Anglican brothers and sisters who would like to be in communion with the Catholic Church to do so. I am however disturbed by recent negative media coverage alleging the announcement was done without consultation with the leadership of the Anglican Church. I don’t knoww to what extent this is true, and what implications it has for the future of ecumenism. Any thoughts?

  • Peter Rennie says:

    This is a delicate issue and would have been difficult or impossible to do in consultation with the leadership of the Anglican Communion. While they may not have had much official notice of the announcement, it has been widely anticipated since the Lambeth Conference of last year.

    It has some interesting implications; possible enrichment of the liturgy from some of the ancient English catholic rites preserved in the Church of England, and what of the formation of married men as priests in the Anglo-Catholic part of the church. Does this have an eventual implicaiton for the Roman Rite?

    What of ecumenism? Realistically, we have long ago abandoned the hope of true corporate union with the Church of England and have instead concentrated on sharing the common aspects of our faith in the ways that remain available.

  • Mike Farren says:

    Many of our Anglican brothers and sisters now have the opportunity to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Which at first glance would appear to be a good thing.
    However, there are a couple of points that do not seem to be clear from the document, namely:
    A unity which allows an Anglican form of worship and the retention of some of the rites and prayers, would seem to me to be a church within a church – where ex Anglican clergy are responsible to ex Anglican bishops…A house divided perhaps?
    Secondly, and this where I may hear some shouting – but – Whilst we are short of priests, I cannot help feeling this is a knee jerk reaction from the Vatican to try and reverse this by ordaining ex vicars into Priests. Are they if ordained only to serve their own people in the old Anglican rite?
    Now before I am accused of prejudice, I have met some very good Priests who were once vicars – but I have also met those who, although ordained into the Catholic Priesthood are for all intents and purposes still Anglican vicars; they have simply switched churches and if the women clergy problem were addressed they would be gone tomorrow.

    Although this conversation is healthy I feel we have been given something that has been done and dusted!