Catholic Church set to welcome Anglicans back into the fold

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Pope Benedict in a neat hat

“I was teaching Moral Theology this morning when I learned that the Apostolic Constitution for Anglicans had been officially announced by the Holy Father. I was so overcome with emotion that I had to leave the classroom. The Holy Father is so generous and desires so deeply ‘that they all might be one.'” – Taylor Marshall

Read the whole post on Taylor Marshall’s blog.  He is a Catholic convert and former Anglican/Episcopalian priest.  So he has a very unique perspective on this breaking news.

“This new Apostolic Constitution is Pope Benedict’s response to Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church.

The Holy Father has approved a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates (like the military) allowing former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony – liturgy, music, customs, etc.” – Taylor Marshall

So just to clarify for anyone who may be wondering: The Church did not change any official teachings. And they are not allowing Anglicans to hold any beliefs that contradict that same official Church teaching. This is just an effort to organize, regularize, and make easier the process by which, for example, an entire Anglican congregation could become unified again with the one, Catholic Church. Similar kinds of things have happened before, but, as I non-technically understand it anyway, those were taken on a case by case basis within each diocese. This new “Apostolic Constitution” will standardize and universalize that and make it much easier.

Essentially, these particular groups of Anglicans are either already Catholic in belief or would like to become so. And the Church is willing to allow their particular diversity of custom and practice (even though such practices developed in schism with the Church) for the sake of doctrinal unity.

This is pretty cool, really. The Anglicans have long been an ecumenical focus for the Church because they are indeed so similar. And it’s the perfect place to start on the path towards total reunification of Christians – a cause Pope Benedict in particular is using his papacy to champion. Let us pray that this movement continues to spread to other denominations (as well as schismatic groups like SSPX) and eventually unifies all Christians back to the One Church. It is so essential that we Christians be unified in our fight against the secularism, materialism, and relativism running rampant in the world today.

A few points from Bishop Nichols on this issue (hat tip to Luke Coppen):

1) “It is a response, not an initiative, by the Holy See.” In other words, it is not an aggressive attempt to “poach” Anglicans, as some news reports have suggested.

2) “This is a response to those who have declared that they share the common Catholic faith and accept the Pope’s ministry as something Christ willed for the Church.” The decree encourages people who are already Catholic in mind and heart to take the final step and enter into full communion with Rome.

3) “Much work now opens up, not only for those who hold such faith and will have to consider carefully the formal response of the Holy See, but also for the Catholic community.” This is just the beginning of a long and probably very complicated process.

4) “This response does not alter our determined and continuing dedication to the pathway of mutual commitment and cooperation between the Church of England and the Catholic Church in this country.” The new provision does not render local ecumenical efforts redundant.

5) “We also need to appreciate what this moment makes clear about the mind of Pope Benedict XVI.” Catholics must understand why the Pope has made this move. It is because of his urgent belief that Christians must be united in the rapidly secularising West.

6) “The Holy Father clearly believes that legitimate diversity does not threaten the unity of the Church.” In order to unify Christians, the Pope is prepared to give those who wish to be reconciled a possibly surprising degree of freedom.

Or you can watch a video of the President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, speaking here:

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Amy October 21, 2009 at 2:05 pm

That is a bold move but beware of the Catholic Church. I used to be Catholic but then I stopped practicing after I found out some disturbing truth. Some say the papacy is the antichrist. They changed the ten commandments which is the Law of God, the Pope claims to be a god, they have killed innocent people for centuries like the Spanish Inquisition and supporting the Nazis, and the priests have molested a lot of children. That is not Christian, that is evil hiding behind religion. Why do they have so many followers?!! People really need to open their eyes. I know I did!!!

Kristi October 22, 2009 at 9:34 am

Amy – I’m sorry you feel that way about the Catholic Church. As Matthew Warner quoted, this move of the Vatican is a response, not an initiative. These people desire to come into the full communion with the Catholic Church again, and that desire is beautiful and should be encourged. Addressing some of your complaints – though the wording and numbering is slightly different when you compare the two versions of the ten commandments, there is no belief added or taken away in the “Catholic version” when compared to the “Protestant version.” We would, of course, agree completely with both versions as being both true and not contradictory to each other. And far from supporting the Nazis, the Catholic Church is responsible for saving tens of thousands of Jewish people during the Nazi persecution. Jewish people themselves have praised the work Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church did in saving lives. One more thing – as sad as the sex abuse scandal is, the fault falls on the individual people who made those choices, not the Catholic Church – which is a divine institution, not merely human. People are not perfect – whatever religion they happen to profess.

David October 22, 2009 at 10:54 am

Amy,

There are many people who move from Catholic Christianity to Evangelical Christianity. There are also many people who move from Evangelical Christianity to Catholic Christianity, I being one. It is a two way street. I would like to paraphrase something Thomas Howard said. “Catholics become Evangelicals because they don’t know Catholicism, Evangelicals become Catholics because they do know Evangelicalism/Christianity.” Amy, I’m sorry that you have been poorly educated in Catholicism, I can only say read some non-biased material and pray.

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