The New Roman-Anglican Initiative: Significant for Lutherans?

by

The initiative of Rome to receive bodies of Anglicans, priests and laity, and permit them a ongoing corporate existence as “personal ordinariates” with distinct traditions may be of great significance for Lutherans and for all Western Christians – or it may not. (For details, go to the source and read the Vatican statement). In short, structures will be set up within the Catholic Church whereby parishes and priests would be under an ‘ordinary’ (the Vatican statement says a priest or a bishop) from the Anglican tradition. Such ordinariates would preserve Anglican liturgy and spirituality. Their priests could be married, but not the bishops. Anglicans could thus enter communion with Rome, while preserving many aspects of Anglican worship and spiritual life.

The apostolic constitution that will set the details for how such personal ordinariates will function has not yet been made public, which accounts for some of the present uncertainty. The term ‘personal ordinariate’ is not in the Code of Canon Law. Just how much independence will the personal ordinariates have? Larger uncertainties about the significance of this new move, however, can only be clarified by time and further developments. Will large groups of catholic-minded Anglicans who so far have not left their churches now move in this direction or will the ordinariates remain small? Will such personal ordinariates be intellectually and spiritually lively or will they become museums of Anglo-Catholicism of a particular date? Will these ordinariates be strong only in a few countries (perhaps England) or will they gain a foothold in the US and, more importantly, Africa? There is no way of answering these questions now.

Some see this initiative as anti-ecumenical, but that is by no means clear. The personal ordinariates could be a testing ground for just what the slogan ‘united, but not absorbed’ (used in the Vatican statement) might mean as a description of unity with Rome. Of great significance in the Vatican statement is the comment that the ordinariates might set up houses of study within Catholic seminaries so that their future priests would be schooled in the Anglican tradition. The ordinariates are thus potentially permanent. At the very least, these structures will be a sign of Rome’s willingness to accept diversity in its own ranks. The Anglican liturgical and spiritual traditions are being accepted as legitimately Catholic. At best, they could be a bridge between the Anglican and Catholic traditions, keeping up a conversation with the rest of Anglicanism and mediating aspects of the Anglican tradition to other Catholics.

Might there be a model here for catholic-minded Lutherans? Maybe. There is not at present a sizable body of interested Lutherans as there is a body of interested Anglicans, so the question is somewhat moot. (The Vatican statement refers to requests from twenty to thirty bishops – presumably Anglican bishops – for something like the new provision.) More significantly, Lutheran dissent from Rome has been essentially theological and doctrinal. The Vatican statement notes that the Anglicans seeking communion with Rome “share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine primacy as something Christ willed for the Church.” Some, but not so many, Lutherans would be willing to go this far. And among Lutherans who would go that far, how many would prefer a ‘personal ordinariate’ to an integration into the wider Catholic Church, with a greater opportunity to witness to what is of permanent Catholic value in the Lutheran tradition?

So, the Anglican ‘personal ordinariates’ may be having their fifteen minutes of fame, or we may be seeing the start of an ecumenical re-arrangement of possibilities. Time will tell.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “The New Roman-Anglican Initiative: Significant for Lutherans?”

  1. Padre Dave Poedel, STS Says:

    I am in agreement with Dr. Root’s assessment, and as one who has studied ecumenical theology in Rome, there is little doubt in my mind that there are files in the Centro Pro Unione or the Congregation for Christian Unity under Cardinal Caspar that demonstrate that this movement has been underway quietly since the 16th Century.

    Whether we renegade and intensely independent Lutherans, even of the Evangelical Catholic persuasion, could be approached en masse as these Anglicans are is highly doubtful, though they did manage to pull off the JDDJ with the LWF, though my own Synod is not party to that Declaration.

    Every time I get into my head that unity will not happen in my or my grandchildren’s lifetime, something like this comes along….OK, I am returning to ignoring this…..

  2. Chris Says:

    Is there any concern that Rome’s ecumenical officer was not present at either of the simultaneous announcement of this new provision? What have Rome’s ecumenical leaders had to say about this development?

    And with the recent reception of the SSPX folks, is this less an ecumenical effort and more a shoring up of a liturgically and theologically conservative core to the Roman church?

    • Michael Root Says:

      Hard to know what to make of the absence of anyone from the ecumenical office. The explanation that everyone was out of town seems a bit far-fetched, but my experience of the lack of coordination within the Vatican makes it more believable.
      I think the Vatican is seeking unity where it can – with the SSPX, with traditionalist Anglicans.
      Michael Root

  3. Lawrence804 Says:

    Fine post, Dr. Root. I personally think this is a breathtaking and wonderful development. A small concern I would have if I were an Anglo-Catholic entertaining this offer: is this permanent? Could the provision be overturned by a future Pope? Or is this as safe and lasting as the Eastern Rite?

  4. A.B.Cely Crowe Says:

    “And among Lutherans who would go that far, how many would prefer a ‘personal ordinariate’ to an integration into the wider Catholic Church, with a greater opportunity to witness to what is of permanent Catholic value in the Lutheran tradition?”

    Hearsay among a couple of the now graduated seniors is that a Lutheran Rite within the Catholic Church would be an acceptable (possibly even good) thing. So, maybe the idea isn’t as far away as it seems at the present?

  5. Schütz Says:

    Hearsay among a couple of the now graduated seniors is that a Lutheran Rite within the Catholic Church would be an acceptable (possibly even good) thing. So, maybe the idea isn’t as far away as it seems at the present?

    I am a Lutheran in communion with the Bishop of Rome. To become such I had to leave my Lutheran identity behind – something which I have not, I have to admit, entirely done. I still maintain very good relations with the Lutheran Church of Australia in which I was born, grew up and in which I was a pastor.

    To this day it continues to sadden me that the Lutheran Church in which I was nurtured in the faith and in which I was so very happy could not find a way of returning into communion with Catholic Church. The two have so very much in common, and what continues to separate them is largely a matter of misunderstanding, suspicion, a belief that the Catholic faith is somehow “unscriptural” at many points, a strong spirit of independance, and, it has to be said, a degree of apathy about the continuation of the schism. That apathy is all the more painful given the the fact that the Joint Declaration on Justification has shown that the Catholic Church does indeed “allow the gospel” – in fact, it has preserved it where it has almost been lost elsewhere!

    Yet for all that, I can’t really see that a “Lutheran Rite” would be a tenable thing in the Catholic Church. Lutherans, as opposed to Anglicans, are distinguished more by a particular doctrinal position rather than by a peculiar liturgy or set of customs which would make it hard to actually imagine what (other than some very good hymns and music) would belong to such a Lutheran rite.

    Ultimately, I do no regret being “integrated” “into the wider Catholic Church”. I have indeed found that in this situation I have “a greater opportunity to witness to what is of permanent Catholic value in the Lutheran tradition” – in particular the spirituality which emphasises the theology of the Cross, the centrality of Christ and Scripture, daily repentance and the Christian life as “simul justus et peccator” (rightly understood). And, of course, good hymnody!

Comments are closed.


%d bloggers like this: