Now that the full text of the Vatican's "Apostolic Constitution" dealing with certain former Anglicans who wish to become Roman Catholics has been released, it is clear that what is being touted by some as an 'ecumenical gesture' may be understood as 'pastoral' but is not necessarily very ecumenical. Even though Cardinal Walter Kasper has now given one newspaper interview, there has otherwise been a noticeable silence on the part of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on this matter. This appears to be a unilateral action on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which flies in the face of the slow, but steady progress made in the real ecumenical dialogue of over forty years.
This is "come home to Rome" with absolute clarity. Any former Anglican who has been ordained will not only have to be re-ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, not only re-ordained as a transitional deacon, but even re-confirmed as an adult member of the Body of Christ! Any one who does make this move is not an Anglican, nor an Anglo-Catholic, but a Roman Catholic convert.
As we have said on numerous occasions, we commend with our blessing any Anglican who in good conscience wishes to become a Roman Catholic just as we welcome any Roman Catholic who in good conscience wishes to enter into full communion with the Anglican Communion. But these decisions are to be made as individuals not as communities of persons. The Vatican may rest assured that we will never create "Roman Catholic Ordinariates" within the Anglican Communion for former, disaffected Roman Catholic converts. We will continue to welcome individuals, from the Roman Catholic Church or any other Christian communion, who desire to be in full communion with the See of Canterbury, and therefore with the Anglican Communion.
For our part, The Episcopal Church remains committed to genuine, ecumenical dialogue both on the national (Anglican - Roman Catholic Consultation in the USA) and international (Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission) levels. We are encouraged by Cardinal Walter Kasper's comment in Osservatore Romano on November 15 that these will, of course, continue. The recent "Apostolic Constitution" is a distraction, but likely only a minor one, from the real goal of ecumenical conversation between the largest (Roman Catholic) and third largest (Anglican) Christian communion in the world.
Bishop Christopher Epting
Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
The Episcopal Church
November 16, 2009
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