October 20, 2009
Many of you will have seen or heard of the announcement that the Vatican has announced a special accommodation for Anglicans who wish to become Roman Catholic. The Archbishop of Canterbury has ‘downplayed’ the significance of this move. The New York Times article cites the Vatican as denying that they are ‘fishing in the Anglican pool’.
My immediate reaction is that I don’t have any trouble with this. There are many Anglican who wish that we were a more clear ‘doctrine first’ kind of Church whereby assent to doctrinal propositions becomes the standard for admission to the sacraments. I have argued here and elsewhere that Anglicanism is first and foremost relational in ways that shape doctrine under the Holy Spirit, but without something like a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Roman Catholic Church is a perfectly good expression of Christian Faith. I resist their succumbing to the temptation of believing that they are the definitive expression of the Christian Faith and that all ecumenical conversation is really about others joining them and coming under ‘their’ umbrella, rather than recognizing that we are all already under God’s umbrella. If we are only distinctive by virtue of history and custom, then we should reunite with Rome forthwith. If we are living the catholic faith with a slightly different emphasis, as I believe, then we should not.
Other news suggests that the Pope is looking to a possible visit to England in conjunction with the beatification of John, Cardinal Newman next year. He has made comments to the effect that Newman subjected his personal preferences and relationships to a greater view of truth expressed in the Roman Communion. That is certainly a view for which argument can be made but in the current climate rings polemical to me.