Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fr. Rutler Responds to the Papal Provision for Anglicans Wishing to Convert to Rome

Reaction to yesterday's ecumenical bombshell from the Vatican continues to trickle in. The Catholic News Agency get a juicy comment from Fr. George Rutler a priest in New York City and a convert from Anglicanism. It is blunt and thought-provoking and begins as follows:

"It is a dramatic slap-down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism. Indeed, it is a final rejection of Anglicanism. It basically interprets Anglicanism as a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine and makes clear that it is not a historic "church" but rather an "ecclesial community” that strayed and now is invited to return to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.

The Vatican was careful to schedule simultaneously with the Vatican announcement, a press conference of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the deeply humiliated Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to enable the Anglicans to save some face by saying that this recognizes the spiritual patrimony of Anglicanism and that ecumenical dialogue goes ahead. That is like George Washington at Yorktown saying that he recognizes the cultural contributions of Britain and hopes diplomatic relations flourish. The Apostolic Constitution is not a retraction of ecumenical desires, but rather is the fulfillment of ecumenical aspirations, albeit not the way most Anglican leaders had envisioned it."

Read it all here.

The ecumenical fall-out from this will continue for decades and perhaps centuries. The central point that many commentators are making is that the Pope would never have done this if any hope remained for a mutual recognition of orders between Rome and the Anglican Communion. This means that the schismatic acts of the Anglican Communion, especially in the past decade, have finally convinced Pope Benedict XVI that no hope remains of the Roman Catholic Church ever recognizing Anglican Communion as a Church in the way that Rome will (and, in fact, already does) recognize the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. By Rome absorbing the anglo-catholic elements of the Anglican Communion, it is true that the Communion will be further weakened. But what difference does that make if the Communion is already in the process of fragmenting anyway?

What is next? The re-integration of the SSPX process continues at the typically glacial Roman pace and the prospect of inter-communion with the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy continues to be a very real one. Liberal Protestantism has pretty much fallen off the ecumenical radar and we should expect further defections from liberal Protestant denominations by orthodox believers and eventually some mergers between dying liberal denominations. (The ECLA and TEC look like they were made for each other and may be able to survive together for one extra generation by selling off real estate confiscated from the orthodox.) Evangelicals will eventually become the main ecumenical dialogue partners of the Roman Catholic Church, although reunion at this point seems too far off to see.

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