May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!--Pope Benedict XVI

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tracey Rowland: The Anglican Patrimony

18 06 2011
Professor Tracey Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage & Family in Melbourne, Australia, and gave this address at a conference for those exploring joining a Personal Ordinariate in Australia. She is also the author of the popular and excellent Ratzinger’s Faith, published by Oxford University Press.

Pope Benedict XVI has consistently held that the ecumenical process is one of acquiring unity in diversity, not structural reintegration.  For example, in his Ecumenical Address in Cologne in 2005 he remarked that ‘Ecumenism does not mean what could be called an ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history – it does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline’.

In this address he also spoke of dialogue as an exchange of gifts in which the Churches and Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches.  This theme was reiterated in a parallel address in the Crypt of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, at the second World Youth Day of his pontificate.  He noted that whereas an idea aims at truth, a gift expresses love.  Both, he concluded, were essential elements of dialogue.

The announcement of the establishment of a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans has been the most dramatic example of Pope Benedict’s attempt to put these principles into operation.  According to Cardinal 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 ecumenical 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.

In his published commentary on Anglicanorum Coetibus Cardinal Levada noted that this proposal of a Personal Ordinariate was consistent with the earlier ecumenical efforts of Cardinal Mercier of Belgium who explored the possibility of an Anglican union with the Catholic Church under the principle of an Anglicanism ‘reunited but not absorbed’. Cardinal Levada also noted that paragraph 13 of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism recognised the special place of the Anglican Communion as a body in which Catholic traditions and institutions were to some degree retained after the Reformation.

From my personal experience I would say that for many Anglo-Catholics the barriers to full communion with the See of Peter have tended to be primarily cultural rather than doctrinal.  They have been reluctant to seek full membership of the Catholic Church because of a not unreasonable belief that they would have to abandon whole elements of their Anglican cultural heritage.  It is precisely this problem Pope Benedict hopes the creation of an Ordinariate will overcome.

Read the complete essay here.

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