Monday, October 26, 2009
OPINION: HOUSES OF WORSHIP
OCTOBER 22, 2009, 9:45 P.M. ET
By FRANCIS X. ROCCA
The Vatican's announcement this week that it will allow former Anglicans who join the Catholic Church to retain a collective identity, using many of their traditional prayers and hymns in their own specially designed dioceses, is an event with profound implications for both Anglican and Catholic life.
The decision, made to accommodate Anglicans upset with their church's growing acceptance of homosexuality and of women clergy, is likely to transform ecumenical relations between the churches. It will also heighten the internal Catholic debate over the requirement of priestly celibacy (which is to be routinely waived for married Anglican clergy who convert under the new rules, extending an exception made on a limited basis till now).
Perhaps the most striking effect of the Vatican's move is the likelihood that, within the next few years, Catholic priests around the world will be celebrating Mass in a form that draws largely from the Book of Common Prayer. This resonant text, in its many versions, has informed Anglican worship since shortly after King Henry VIII led the Church of England away from Rome nearly five centuries ago.
Startling as that may sound, the Vatican's adoption of a liturgy with Protestant origins is merely the latest—and hardly the most exotic—addition to the Catholic church's liturgical smorgasbord. The range of worship forms has grown ever wider in recent years as the global church has become ever more diverse.
Millions of Charismatic Catholics today, most commonly in Latin America but also in Africa and the Philippines, regularly attend spectacular Masses featuring Pentecostal-style faith healing, speaking in tongues and preaching that echoes the upwardly mobile aspirations of the Prosperity Gospel. Catholic Masses in sub-Saharan Africa typically feature exuberant dancing, not only by designated performers but by the congregation at large, and music derived from popular local traditions.