Wednesday, October 21, 2009

St. Therese, the Anglican Ordinariate and More


Father Ernie Davis is a former Episcopal Priest who "came home" to the Catholic Church and was ordained for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in 2002. He is currently administrator of St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City.

Last year, a small Anglican parish in Kansas City decided to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. They were received by Bishop Robert Finn and they now make their home at St. Therese where they continue to receive converts. St. Therese is probably unique in the Catholic world in that it celebrates both its historic Gospel Mass and now an Anglican Use Liturgy every Sunday.

Fr. Davis was overjoyed at yesterday's news of the upcoming Apostolic Constitution creating personal ordinariates for the reception of Anglicans into full communion. In an email he sent out yesterday, he speculated that the patroness of his parish may have had something to do with what he regards as a miracle, my emphases:

I have three questions/observations from the point of view of our little flock dedicated to Our Lady of Hope here at St. Therese.

Who could have hoped for as much as has been offered? Is the miracle of medical healing attributed to the intercession of John Cardinal Newman any less spectacular than the healing of the divisions in the church? Wasn’t it clear that something amazing was about to happen when the relics of St. Therese spent her feast day at York Minster?

Today he sends another email in which he explains how this development differs from the Pastoral Provision and where he rejects some of the "sound bite" judgments being made by the U.S. punditry:
First, the Pastoral Provision is local while the Apostolic Constitution is universal. The Pastoral Provision is in effect in the United States and provides a process by which former Episcopalian or Anglican priests may be considered for ordination in the Catholic Church, temporarily suspends the discipline of celibacy during the lifetime of the priest's wife, and allows for groups of former Episcopalians to retain some of their liturgical traditions using an approved modification of the Book of Common Prayer called the Book of Divine Worship. The Pastoral Provision is also in force in Great Britain, but British bishops have not approved an Anglican based liturgy. The Pastoral Provision does not apply in the rest of the world, although individual priests may convert and be considered for ordination on a case by case basis.

Second, the Pastoral Provision has a limited but indefinite time-frame. Its purpose was to allow Episcopalians and Anglicans to be absorbed into the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Constitution is being issued at a much higher level of authority and is not intended to be time-limited. It appears that the Pope envisions that an Anglican community will exist within Catholicism for quite some time and even provides the possibility of separate Anglican tracks within Catholic seminaries to provide for future continuity.

The new Apostolic Constitution can apply anywhere in the world, and it provides the possibility of much more autonomy for former Anglicans. They will not have the same level of autonomy as our sister Eastern Rite Catholics, but there will be some similarities. The Anglican Ordinariate will remain within Western Rite Catholicism, part of the Roman Catholic Church.

This Apostolic Constitution is a very, very generous gift, made in response to petitions from as many as fifty different Anglican bishops around the world. It was said earlier this year that the Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth was discussing such a move. They have since separated themselves from the Episcopal Church, but have not said definitively that they want to join the Roman Catholic Church. Locally, several small Anglican parishes in Kansas City may be members of the Traditional Anglican Communion that made a petition to become Catholic. The TAC is a worldwide body. We will have to wait and see what happens locally. Bishop Finn has established an Anglican Use community as part of St. Therese Little Flower Parish which is already receiving converts to the Catholic Church and using the Anglican Use liturgy from the Book of Divine Worship.

Most news outlets will reduce this to conflicts between liberals and conservatives about women and gays. The truth is much richer. Let me ask, was John Henry Newman a liberal or a conservative?

Anglicans have been converting to the Catholic Church since the reformation. Since the 1840s, some Anglicans have been working and praying for reunion. In the late 19th century an Anglican religious order, the Francisan Friars of the Atonement (Grayfriars) in Graymoor, New York joined the Catholic Church to pray and work for reunion from within Catholicism and since then have provided the leadership for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Since Vatican II, Anglicans and Catholics have been in high level discussions aimed at creating the kinds of mutual understandings that would someday lead to reunion. Vatican II paved the way for Catholics to make the kinds of concessions Pope Benedict made that will allow Anglicans to retain some of their liturgy and spirituality, recognizing that Catholicism is enriched and not diminished by this kind of diversity. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism who helped pave the way for Vatican II, will be beatified in 2011 when the Pope visits England. If miracles of healing can be attributed to his intercession, you can’t convince me that he hasn’t had a hand in preparing the way for this new Apostolic Constitution. Anglicans and Catholics flocked to visit the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux as they made a very recent pilgrimage to England. Her relics rested on her 2009 feast day at York Minster, the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of York. When I read about that, I told the people here at St. Therese Little Flower that she was working on something big. In other words, preparations for this Apostolic Constitution have been in process for 170 years, and some of the preparations have been made at levels that are higher than popes.

The news reports are right. The Anglican Communion, which understands itself to be part of the Catholic Church already, is convulsed with issues of fundamental sacramental theology and ethics. Constituent parts of the Anglican Communion are arriving at opposite answers. Constituent parts are fragmenting. I concluded that the Anglican Communion is not equipped to deal these issues, that the Anglican claim to be part of the Catholic Church is a beautiful illusion, and that these issues cannot be resolved apart from the Church that is undoubtedly Catholic. Does that make me and many other converts liberals or conservatives?

There's no way that all that can fit into a sound bite.

Anglican Bishop Confirms St. Therese is Behind Anglican Ordinariate