Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another (Roman Catholic) Response to the Apostolic Constitution

In April, I mentioned attending a gala for the 80th birthday of Leonard Swidler, who is editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Leonard is also Co-Founder and President of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC). Yesterday Leonard sent out, on behalf of ARCC, an open letter to Anglicans.Episcopalians thinking about coming over to Rome. The full text of the letter is here.

Completely without irony, the letter lists a number of things that might make someone think twice before making the move. Here is the text except for the footnoteswhich can be found at the link cited above.
We, the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), wish to extend a warm welcome to our brothers and sisters of the Anglican/Episcopal communion who are clergy and spouses, as well as laity, discerning the call to become members of the Roman Catholic Church under the recently announced Apostolic Constitution.

As committed and enthusiastic Catholics working for the renewal of the Church in the spirit of the Second Council of the Vatican (Vatican II), we recognize the primacy of an informed conscience in making your discernment and decision, To that end, we wish to offer the following observations, that you may be informed of the realities in the Roman Catholic Church of which you may choose to become a part.

You bring an experience of collegiality and subsidiarity at the parish and diocesan levels which, provided you are allowed to retain its practice, will bring a strong complement, even as it stands in polar opposition, to the top-down authority structure of the Roman Catholic Church, where collegiality and subsidiarity function only haphazardly, and almost exclusively at the international level.

You will find yourself members of a Church rich in the liturgy that flowed from the authentic conciliar tradition of Vatican II.

You will find yourself in a Church where at least 39% of marriages now take place across denominational lines, and where truly interchurch couples (who continue to worship together as much as possible in both their Christian traditions) offer an imperfect but real preview of the anticipated unity for which Christ prayed.

If you are a priest, you will find yourself a member of a Church where your Anglican/Episcopal priesthood, exercised with fidelity over the years, is considered “absolutely null and utterly void.” You will be required to question the validity of your earlier ordination and then seek re-ordination within the Roman Catholic Church.

If you are a priest, you will find yourself in a Church where, if your wife dies, you will be called to be celibate, and forgo for the rest of your life the joy and solace of a loving spousal relationship.

You will find yourself members of a Church where at least 60% of its members are in favor of married clergy and the ordination of women, and 45% are welcoming of gay and lesbian unions.

You will find yourself likewise in a Church which defines homosexuality as an objective disorder, yet where some 20-30% of the clergy (bishops, priests and deacons) have that orientation.

You will find yourself in a Church with a rich variety of theologies and practices, some of which you will be in agreement with, while others will be difficult for you to accept, yet all of which are held under the banner of the Roman Catholic Church.

Should you accept all these things, and in conscience believe that the offer of priestly ordination within the Roman Catholic Church is from God, then we will warmly welcome you, for you will have accepted the Church as it is, rather than the sentimental or imagined Church of integrity which some would have you believe.

Leonard Swidler.

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