Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Canterbury to Rome; Rome to Canterbury

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the official Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical dialogue continues, questions have arisen regarding the potential impact on the dialogue of Roman Catholics or Anglicans who switch communities.

While Anglicans -- especially Anglican bishops or priests -- becoming Roman Catholic after disagreeing with their community's stands on ordaining women or openly gay men has made news, the movement of Catholic priests and laity to Anglicanism seldom makes headlines.

The article quotes Bishop John Flack, head of the Anglican Center in Rome, who talks about people both leaving the Roman Catholic Church and joining from the Anglican Communion. Bishop Flack is the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome.

Among those changing denominations, the Roman Catholics generally say they long to breathe the "free air" of the Anglican Communion, with Catholic priests usually saying they plan to marry, the bishop said. The Anglicans usually say they have had enough of the "woolly thinking" of their leadership, he added.

"Anglicans who become Roman Catholic generally become very conservative Roman Catholics, while Roman Catholics who become Anglican tend to become very liberal Anglicans," he said.

Bishop Flack, who is the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Vatican, said he usually counsels people to stay within their community as a valuable voice in continuing debates.

"Changing your spots makes the Anglican Church more liberal and the Roman Catholic Church more conservative," Bishop Flack said.

Read the complete article When Anglicans, Catholics switch churches, what happens to dialogue? from Catholic News Service.

Aside from the issue of individuals converting, the article also discusses the Traditional Anglican Communion and other groups like it. Bishops usually handle the conversions of individuals, with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith signing off on issues such as Anglican priests entering the Catholic Church. The Traditional Anglican Communion however wants to have direct discussions with CDF on issues that would lead to an 'Anglican Rite', should the Communion enter into communion with Rome.

Bishop Flack said establishing an Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church before the church and the entire Anglican Communion established full unity "would have a worsening effect on relations. It would be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the Anglican Communion."

"I hope the Roman church would be very careful, consulting us, keeping us informed and being open with us," Bishop Flack said.

Such a reaction is of course to be expected. I really feel for the Anglican Communion. I just don't know how they're going to hold it together in any meaningful way. Rome can wait until after things come apart and then institute measures such as an Anglican Rite, but personally, the Anglican Communion is already coming apart at the seams in slow-motion. Might as well go forward now.

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