The Rev. Dr. R. William Franklin, Academic Fellow of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Visiting Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Angelicum University in Rome and Associate Director of the American Academy in Rome explains it all :
We here in Rome have received many questions about the Vatican announcement on October 20 about the setting up of “Personal Ordinariates” for former Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion now with the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some answers to those questions posed by many.
Click Read more to see the Q and A. Hat tip, Bishop Pierre Whalon.
We here in Rome have received many questions about the Vatican announcement on October 20 about the setting up of “Personal Ordinariates” for former Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion now with the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some answers to those questions posed by many:
1. What exactly happened?
On October 20 there were two simultaneous press conferences in Rome and in London announcing that Pope Benedict XVI has approved an Apostolic Constitution that will set up a new canonical structure within the Roman Catholic Church that will allow for Personal Ordinariates which will make it possible for groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, preserving within the Ordinariates distinctive aspects of the Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition.
In Rome, Cardinal William Levada, President of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which prepared the Constitution, which Pope Benedict has approved) and Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, of the Congregation for Divine Worship, announced that the Constitution would be forthcoming.
In London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced the Constitution with their view that it brings to an end “a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”
2. What is new about the “Personal Ordinariates?
The Apostolic Constitution clearly authorizes something “new” in the Roman Catholic Church and it provides “a new way” to enter into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church. For many centuries individual Anglicans have converted to the Roman Catholic Church. There have been, however, a few previous cases in the past in which groups of Anglicans have entered the Roman Catholic Church and have been allowed to preserve some corporate structures of Anglicanism. Examples of this have been the Anglican diocese of Amritsar in India, and some individual parishes from the Episcopal Church in the United States which maintained an Anglican identity when entering the Roman Catholic Church under a “pastoral provision” adopted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
When this development took place in 1982, the Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Rev. William Norgren, wrote:
“In pluralistic America we are accustomed to Christians moving from church to church. It is quite a different matter for one church to organize parishes and institute liturgy taken from another church—all to satisfy the individual wishes of a very few people who have moved. Comments in my hearing from individual Episcopalians, including some bishops, about parishes and proposed Anglican rites have been uniformly negative. This is simply a fact.”
What is new in 2009 is that this provision will be universal in its application. It provides for groups of parishes that will be formed into “Personal Ordinariates” which may be presided over by former Anglican priests, or unmarried bishops, and it provides for distinctive forms of priestly formation for former Anglicans which incorporates aspects of the Anglican tradition.
3. What is the origin of the Constitution?
According to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Constitution emerged as a single model for the world-wide church in response to requests coming to the Holy See from various Anglican groups over the last years seeking to enter into full communion with the Roman See. Cardinal Levada has said:”We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.”
4. Were we at the Anglican Centre in Rome surprised by this announcement?
For more than a year, we at the Anglican Centre in Rome have heard rumors of groups of former Anglicans meeting in Rome with representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But we were neither informed nor consulted about these conversations, nor was the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the ecumenical office of the Holy See, who are our closest dialogue partners in Rome. The Pontifical Council did not draft the Constitution, nor did it participate in the press conference announcing the Constitution. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he was informed of the announcement “at a very late stage,” and the Archbishop’s Representative to the Holy See, the Very Rev. David Richardson, has said that he was “taken aback by the Vatican’s decision.”
5. What are the ecumenical implications of the “Personal Ordinariates”?
We at the Anglican Centre in Rome expect and hope that the ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church will continue. We look forward to a response from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the proposed Apostolic Constitution. This will help us to understand how the ecumenical dialogue can continue in a context which has obviously been made different now. As Dean Richardson has said,”It doesn’t seem to me to help the ecumenical dialogue, but perhaps it will galvanize the dialogue.”
6. What are some unanswered questions?
There are four unanswered questions that need to be addressed before we can evaluate the ecumenical future:
a. What does the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have to say about the Apostolic Constitution?
b. What does the text of the Apostolic Constitution actually say ( the document has been announced but we have not seen it), and particularly on the following points, what are the details? What specifics of the Anglican patrimony will be allowed? Will it be more than “spiritual” and “liturgical”? Will it be “ecclesiological” and “theological”? What will seminary formation for former Anglicans entail? How will the “Personal Ordinariates” relate to the authority of the local Roman Catholic bishop?
c. What are the names of the groups of former Anglicans who seek reunion with the Roman See? Names of various groups have been put forward and denied in Rome, so it remains unclear to us what former Anglicans we are talking about. Knowing the identity of those who seek to move will help in our evaluation of the significance of this development.
d. And finally, what will be the response to this development in the many provinces of the Anglican Communion where there is a national Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue?
7. What will our continuing relationships be like?
With this announcement the shape of things to come for Anglican—Roman Catholic relations is at this time unclear. But in a letter of October 20, 2009, Archbishop Rowan Williams has said:”It remains to be seen what use will be made of this provision, since it is now up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution; but, in the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression.”