On the Culture
By Dr. Jeff Mirus
November 24, 2009 6:04 PM
The Archbishop of Canterbury was obviously deeply annoyed by the Pope’s unilateral announcement that the Church would welcome Anglican congregations under a new Ordinariate. It could hardly be otherwise. And while he has retained the proverbial stiff upper lip throughout, and has uniformly responded with characteristic British understatement, it remains true that when he was eventually able to get a meeting with Pope Benedict, the Anglican Archbishop expressed his discomfiture. As he later admitted in an interview with Vatican Radio, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus left him with a “sore ego” and put him in an “awkward position.”
He also explained to reporters that, once he heard about the Apostolic Constitution, he had very little time to react, and he had to make an emergency call to Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity at the eleventh hour to find out what was going on. Cardinal Kasper uttered the usual ecumenical assurances, but he was not himself a key player. I do not say he was completely out of the loop. The official explanation is that, since doctrinal questions were involved, he had already referred the whole matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Whatever the case, the matter of Anglican entry into the Church was not proceeding under his authority nor, apparently, was he regularly consulted.
Why were both Canterbury and Christian Unity left out?
There are two reasons why the Pope would not want to discuss this in advance either with the head of the Anglican Church or the head of his own Council for Christian Unity. The first reason is by far the most important, and is the only one necessary. It is simply because the decision to welcome Anglican congregations into the Church was not an ecumenical affair.
Please follow this carefully. The Church’s only possible positive relationship with the Anglican Communion is an ecumenical relationship and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity exists for the purpose of pursuing ecumenical relationships. But the decision to admit under a special jurisdiction those Anglican congregations which want to enter the Church is not a decision about an ecumenical process; it is rather an internal Catholic decision that, for any such congregations, the progress of ecumenism has come to an end. Good relations have been maintained; growth in mutual understanding has taken place; now many Anglicans wish to end their ecumenical relationship with the Church and actually become Catholic.