Daniel Gullotta, as regular readers of his commentaries will know, was brought up as a Roman Catholic but in early adulthood converted to the Anglican Church. He is now training to be an Anglican priest in Brisbane. He has been writing for Catholica since he was a student at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane studying theology. In today's commentary he reflects on the invitation extended by Rome to traditional Anglicans to convert to the Roman Church. This commentary was originally written in October 2009 soon after the announcement of the invitation.
Will I be coming home or leaving home?
"So you'll be coming back?" That was the question that started my thoughts on this news. I was using my brand new laptop in bed when one of my Roman Catholic friends started chatting to me on Facebook starting with that question. Honestly I had not turned on the TV all day and had not heard a word of it on campus. I asked what she meant by it and then she sent me a link to the Vatican's YouTube Channel:
Basically, a "Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church", published in Rome on Tuesday, said that the Pope had introduced a canonical structure that would allow former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church "while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony". Under the term of the Apostolic Constitution, married former Anglican clergy (and seminarians) could have their vocation as priests in the Roman Catholic Church "discerned" within the new Personal Ordinariates, led by a former Anglican priest or former Anglican unmarried bishop. They would be prepared in seminaries run by the bishops' conferences alongside other RC seminarians. The Personal Ordinariate, like those provided for military personnel, and their families and chaplains, would include clergy, religious, and lay people. It would provide a "house of formation" to "address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony".
So what is this all about?
Now, to many people this is a bunch of words will be confusing and the meaning of Rome's choices of late are no doubt puzzling as well. So what is this all about? What will this mean for Anglicanism? What will this mean for the Roman Church? Does this mean Daniel Gullotta is becoming a Catholic again? In this article I want to go over some group pointers, give some information, and answer some of those questions to the best of my ability.
The last question first. No, I am not returning to the Roman Church, I am staying within the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church of Australia. In order for this to take affect it requires an Anglican like myself to accept some things that I and other Anglicans are not willing to do. Despite what many are saying, this is not simply a reaction by Rome to 'win' over some disenchanted Anglicans who are upset over the ordination of women and homosexual priests and bishops. This dialogue is deeper and more complex. During my Discernment Conference for a Vocation to the Priesthood, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and I chatted about this and he said that, "The Anglican Church in Australia will not be changed or affect by this, rather the disaffected Anglicans of the Communion." As Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams explained:
"I have been aware for a few years that there have been some groups approaching the Holy See to discuss the possibilities of what might roughly be called, 'a group reunion'. Prominent amongst those have been The Traditional Anglican Communion, a network of former Anglicans holding to a traditional pattern of Anglican faith and worship... However I don't see this constitution in any sense as a commentary on Anglicanism's problems offered by the Vacitian, it is as it has been said, a response to the requests being made by those who are Anglican or of Anglican heritage..."
The Church Times, the Church of England's official newspaper published this short list of Questions and Answers to help ease confusion:
What this means for me?
So how do I feel about this? I have had a few reactions of the weekend with my regional bishop, Bishop Jonathan Holland, Archbishop Aspinall, my fellow candidates for Formation, and our examining chaplains. Firstly that this will not solve the problems of conservative and liberal Anglicans within the Communion. The traditional Anglican churches and members that are still within the Communion will not leave just because Rome has offered a way out so to speak. Also, this "way out" has strings attached. Like Paul reminding the Galatians that once they get circumcised they must follow the entire Torah, this cross over will require Anglicans to recognize the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome, Papal Infallibility, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary body and soul into Heaven, as well as other doctrines and dogmas that have been in conflict with the Communion's beliefs. To Anglicans against the ordination of women for example, this simply solves one 'heresy' by committing five or six more! So don't expect Anglicans running out of their pews to join the Holy See.
What does this mean for Catholicism...
However, what does this mean for Catholicism? As almost every Catholic and Anglican leader has been saying on the topic, it is early days still, however I suspect that this may assist in the debates for a married Catholic Priesthood for starters and not to mention aid in growing the numbers of the declining Priesthood. The lasting effects are impossible to know at this point, yet this gives me hope that change and growth is coming Rome's way in one way or another. The question we will have to wait to be answered, is for better or for worse?
My biggest concern is that the Communion is in range of being abused by Catholic men interested in a vocation to the priesthood, but do not wish to take the vowel of celibacy. This would mean rather than faithfulness to domination's standards of beliefs and values, people can "keep their options open" and go chop and trade churches due weighing up options, rather than pursing a calling.
In conclusion, this is early days and we are all in the dark about this. No major theological changes have been made, nor will the debates in Anglicanism stop, nor will angry Anglicans will be jumping up change sides. Unity has always been on our agenda's, from Rome and the Communion, so I pray that this is a step forward in the right direction. However Rowan William's words on his visit to the Vatican in 2006 have always given me hope on Anglicanism dialogue and relationship with Catholicism.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?