My response to J Loring’s letter (“Anglican way raises dilemmas,” CL 25/5/08) is in the interests of the need, as that letter’s suggests, “to pray intensely, study available literature and question open-mindedly.”
Let me offer what might be considered a few “vocal elements” of which the above letter speaks, and which guide the Catholic Church in its ecumenical engagement and dialogue with the Anglican Communion.
The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism recognises that the Catholic Church had its part to play in dividing the one Church of Jesus Christ over the centuries (No 3).
Also, when speaking of those Churches and ecclesial communities in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, it goes on and highlights, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place (No 13).
There is no doubt that difference and division exists between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion.
A joint meeting between bishops of both Churches in 2000 clearly recognises some of these, to date, unresolved issues: the understanding of authority in the Church, including the way it is exercised, and the precise nature of the future role of the universal primate; Anglican Orders; the ordination of women; moral and ethical questions.
However, and with particular regard to the issue of ordination of women by the Church of England, Cardinal Walter Kasper (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) has said the following:
“One thing is certain: the Catholic Church will not break off the dialogue even in the case of such a decision. It will above all not break off the personal relationships and friendships which have developed over the past years and decades.”
A word then too of guidance from the Joint Declaration between Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams, at their meeting in November 2006. Together they say:
“There are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer co-operation between us.”
“promoting respect for life from conception until natural death; protecting the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of children in the context of healthy family life; outreach to the poor, oppressed and the most vulnerable, especially those who are persecuted for their faith; addressing the negative effects of materialism; and care for creation and for our environment. We also commit ourselves to inter-religious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters.”
In a related matter to this final point of inter-religious dialogue, I would make one final comment. Loring’s letter suggests that Anglicans are of another faith.
This is of course not the case, Anglicans and Catholics are of the one Christian faith.
A statement from the Joint Declaration already noted is helpful here as Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams speak together.
As Christian leaders facing the challenges of the new millennium, we affirm again our public commitment to the revelation of divine life uniquely set forth by God in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe that it is through Christ and the means of salvation found in him that healing and reconciliation are offered to us and to the world.
Dialogue and joint witness between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion, does not undermine the gift of faith given to all Christian Churches.
Rather, these are necessary endeavours of the Catholic Church as it upholds the ecumenical imperative for visible Christian unity.
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