Bruised but still standing

Published December 1, 2009

Admittedly, it was a bit of a surprise. “It’s a bit of a bruise on us, no question,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told the Anglican Journal. “It came out of nowhere.”
Still, Archbishop Hiltz doesn’t expect the Oct. 20 Vatican announcement opening the door for disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church-and still retain some of their Anglican traditions-will appeal to many Anglicans in Canada. Nor will it put a damper on ecumenical relations and the 40-year formal dialogue between the two churches, he said. In fact, Archbishop Hiltz expects the fallout from this announcement to be minimal.  “I personally don’t think there are going to be any huge implications from this. We are talking about a very small number of [Anglican] people who will respond to this provision that the Pope is putting in place.”On Oct.20, the Vatican announced an Apostolic Constitution whereby the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, made a provision for Anglicans who want to be received into full communion with the See of Rome, to retain certain aspects of the Anglican tradition. Details released on Nov. 9 show that it allows Anglican converts to retain some of their traditions and practices, such as the eucharist. They will, however, have to commit to all Roman Catholic doctrine and beliefs. The constitution includes an offer for Anglican clergy to have ordinariates or non-territorial dioceses within the boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church. These ordinariates would be under the control of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In addition, it confirms that married Anglican priests will be allowed to serve as Roman Catholic priests, but on a case-by-case basis. Unmarried priests must remain celibate. Former Anglican bishops, including those who are married, could be ordained as priests and are eligible to be appointed as ordinary. This would allow them to exercise pastoral and sacramental ministry within the ordinariate with full jurisdictional authority. The phenomenon of Anglicans asking to be received by the Roman Catholic Church is not new, Archbishop Hiltz has pointed out. What is unique about this latest provision from Rome is that it “responds to groups of Anglicans who have made special enquiries,” he explained in an earlier statement. The vast majority of Roman Catholics in Canada and the U.S. are committed to working together for God’s mission and that will continue, said the primate in an interview. “We’ll continue walking together and working together.”
At press time, members of the Canadian Anglican-Roman Catholic Bishops’ Dialogue were scheduled to meet on Nov. 18 and 20. The main topic of discussion: the growing global problem of human trafficking.  An information session open to the public and the press was planned after the conference to answer questions about ongoing Anglican/Roman Catholic relations. This was to be followed by a group of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops presiding together over a public service of ecumenical vespers at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver.Archbishop Hiltz referred to these upcoming events as evidence of the health of ecumenical relations. “We will speak out together on an important issue,” said the primate, who planned to attend. “Then we will worship together and share the liturgy to show that our dialogue is continuing.”Eastern Catholic Bishop John Pazak said that although “there will be a little tension” following the release of the Vatican document, “there’s a good spirit” that exists between the churches and “we do talk about our differences.” Dialogue co-chair, Dennis Drainville, bishop of the diocese of Quebec agreed, saying, “I think the good will that has been built up over 40 years will continue.” However, he expected many questions surface at the meeting, such as, “What does this mean? Why has this come now? Why has there been no consultation of the part of the Vatican with the Anglican Communion?”Anglicans who want to leave the communion because of issues such as the ordination of women, liturgical renewal, matters of divorce and re-marriage, and sexuality, are the group most likely to put themselves under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI, explained Archbishop Hiltz. Bishop Drainville said the Vatican’s offer also will appeal to those who describe themselves as Anglo-Catholics, “who are seeking to be reunited with Rome,” he said. “It’s not going to mean very many people in Canada, frankly. England is slightly different because they are just going through their crisis about women in Episcopal orders…” Joining the Roman Catholic Church won’t be of interest to “the breakaway group which with we’re most familiar” – the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), said the Primate. “[They]…still want to remain in the Anglican Communion and to have a relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury.” Leaders of a global group of conservative Anglicans have called the Pope’s offer “a gracious one,” but said they “are convinced that this is not the time to abandon the Anglican Communion.” The Primates Council of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) said, “Anglicanism has a bright future as long as we remain grounded in the Holy Scriptures.”


Keep on reading

Skip to content