Conference sheds light on what Anglicans will find in Catholic Church

  • March 28, 2011

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - About 140 ex-Anglicans and their Catholic friends spent March 24 to 26 getting a feel for what may turn out to be their new spiritual home in the Roman Catholic Church.

A conference on Anglicanorum Coetibus at Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga gave people an up-close look at what a future personal ordinariate for former Anglicans might look like.

Until now, Catholic-leaning Anglicans have found themselves with a choice between a "theologically alien though culturally familiar" church, or jumping to a Roman Catholic Church that is culturally alien though theologically secure, Dominican theologian and historian Fr. Aidan Nichols told the conference. A former Anglican himself, Nichols said there is more to feeling at home in a church than theological agreement.



"Culture and language are important, not just doctrine and ecclesiology," he said.

In November 2009 Pope Benedict XVI promised ex-Anglicans they could find a home in the Roman Catholic Church without abandoning their liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions. In the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Pope set out conditions for groups of Anglicans to become Catholics within personal ordinariates.

For former Anglican priest Scott Whitfield, becoming Catholic was a personal decision he made two years ago. Most Anglicans who would consider the Catholic personal ordinariates simply want to feel at home in a place where their basic understanding of the church isn't up for constant revision, he said.

"We want to leave all that behind, all that acrimony," he said.

Anglican priest and Trinity College lecturer in theology Rev. Dan Tatarnic said he was at the conference to discern whether he might feel at home in a Roman Catholic personal ordinariate, but thought it likely wasn't for him.

"I'm not here as a form of protest," said Tatarnic.

Anglicans who are angry over changes in their church from ordaining women to affirming homosexual relationships won't find those issues suddenly don't exist because they have become Catholic, he said.

"You're not going to be able to bury your head in the sand in the Roman Catholic Church," he said.

A theological and historical context is essential to understanding what Pope Benedict has in mind in Anglicanorum Coetibus, said Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins as he introduced Nichols.

Nichols traced the history of the Anglican Church in England in terms of its relationship with Rome, particularly the rise of the Oxford Movement most closely associated with Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. Because the central issues for Anglo-Catholics were authority and universality, many followed Newman's example and became Catholics.

Anglo-Catholics were never going to be happy as a minority within the Anglican Church, said Nichols.

"They aimed not be be a party within the church. Rather, they sought to take over the church," he said.

Fr. Christopher Phillips, who has pastored Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, as an "Anglican use" parish since 1983, assured the former Anglicans they were headed for familiar territory in terms of liturgy and other traditions.

"She (the Catholic Church) opened her arms not only to us, but also opened her arms to our Anglican patrimony," said Phillips.

Rather than just a form of the Mass familiar to Anglicans, Anglicanorum Coetibus envisions a complete Anglican liturgy including the Divine Office, blessings and other prayers, said Phillips.

Even if Anglican ordinariates begin small, they will be successful if they can carry their patrimony and genuine communion with the body of Christ on into future generations, said Phillips.

"I hope hundreds of thousands of people flock to the ordinariate. But if they don't, it doesn't mean it didn't work," he said.

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