It was my good fortune to be staying in the Casa Internationale del Clero in Rome back in the 1970’s when a delegation of Anglican bishops and priests were meeting ‘secretly’ with Vatican officials about the possibility of members of the Anglican Communion coming into union with the Catholic Church while retaining some of their liturgical and cultural heritage.  The delegation was also staying at the Casa.  I was pleased to learn of what they were about since I have had a long interest in all things English.  Subsequently under Pope John Paul II the “Anglican Provision” was promulgated for the United States which permitted me as Bishop of Corpus Christi to accept one of that delegation in Rome as a candidate for ordination for the Diocese.  He was duly prepared and ordained and served the small community Anglican Catholics in Corpus Christi until his death.  I rejoice now to learn that Pope Benedict XVI will shortly promulgate a new Constitution which will allow whole Anglican communities to become members of the Roman Catholic Church.  Here is Father George W. Rutler’s, himself an Anglican convert, reaction to the news:
October 20, 2009
Fr. Rutler discusses Vatican’s Anglican provision
By Fr. George Rutler 


Fr. George Rutler, a convert from Anglicanism, was asked by CNA what his reaction is to the Vatican’s new Anglican provision. Fr. Rutler’s reply follows.

It is a dramatic slap-down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism. Indeed, it is a final rejection of Anglicanism. It basically interprets Anglicanism as a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine and makes clear that it is not a historic “church” but rather an “ecclesial community” that strayed and now is invited to return to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.

The Vatican was careful to schedule simultaneously with the Vatican announcement, a press conference of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the deeply humiliated Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to enable the Anglicans to save some face by saying that this recognizes the spiritual patrimony of Anglicanism and that ecumenical dialogue goes ahead. That is like George Washington at Yorktown saying that he recognizes the cultural contributions of Britain and hopes diplomatic relations flourish. The Apostolic Constitution is not a retraction of ecumenical desires, but rather is the fulfillment of ecumenical aspirations, albeit not the way most Anglican leaders had envisioned it.

The press, uninformed and always tabloid in matters of religion, will zoom in on the permission for married priests. They will miss the most important point: that this reiterates the Catholic Church’s insistence that Anglican Holy Orders are invalid, and perforce so is their Eucharist. These married Anglican priests have to be fully and validly ordained by a Catholic bishop. Following Orthodox custom, they are allowed to marry only before ordination and not after. And no married man may become a bishop. (Thus, any Anglican bishop joining one of these “ordinariates” would no longer be recognized as a bishop. Under special provision, Anglican bishops would have some right to pastoral authority, but would not be bishops.)

It remains to be seen how many Anglicans (Episcopalians in the USA) will be received into the Catholic Church under these provisions, but it is a final nail in the coffin of the rapidly disintegrating Anglicanism at least in the West and will radically challenge Anglicans in other parts of the world. Perhaps most importantly, it sets a precedent for reunion with Orthodox churches whose Holy Orders the Catholic Church already recognizes as valid. I should not be surprised if the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury eventually is received into the Catholic Church, at least when he retires and gets a patent of nobility and a pension.

* Fr. George Rutler is pastor of The Church of Our Saviour in New York City and is a convert to Catholicism from the Anglican Communion.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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