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Witness through Awareness: WPCU Day #3

From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity:


1 Samuel 3:1-10, Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.
Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd.
Acts 8:26-40, Philip proclaimed to him the Good News about Jesus.
Luke 24:13-19a, …their eyes were kept from recognizing him.


Growing in faith is a complex journey. It is easy to miss God’s revealing love to us in our everyday life and experiences. The more pressure and activity we surround ourselves with, then the greater the possibility of overlooking what is in fact before our very eyes. Like the two disciples in the gospel, we sometimes think we know what is real, and try to explain our view to others, yet we are not aware of the full truth. In our world today we are invited to be aware of God in the surprising and unlikely events of life.

In our Old Testament reading, we hear how God calls and invites Samuel to bear witness. Samuel first of all has to hear this word. Hearing requires an open disposition and a willingness to listen to God.

This desire to hear God’s Word is also experienced by both Philip and the Ethiopian in the reading from Acts. They witness to their faith by responding to what is asked of them at that precise moment in time. They listen attentively and respond accordingly. The psalm of the Good Shepherd reflects the quiet trust of the one who is aware of the tender care of God, who gathers the flock and leads them to green pastures.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we seek to be aware of God in our everyday events and experiences. We meet people who are familiar and others who are strangers. In these encounters we learn from each other’s spiritual experiences and so get a new view of God’s reality. This awareness of God’s presence challenges us to work for Christian unity.


Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, You encounter us and remain with us in everyday life. We pray for the grace to be aware of all you do for us. We ask that you prepare us to be open to all you offer us and bring us together in one flock. Amen.

Reflection Questions

When have you been aware of God’s presence in your life? Are you aware of global celebrations and tragedies, and how might our churches together respond to these? Is being aware enough, or is there something more that you might do in order to give witness to your faith? How do you make yourself aware of God when the reality of God’s presence does not correspond to your expectations?


My courses…

Allora… people have asked, and I keep forgetting to answer. This is my fall semester lineup:

The Catholic Church in Ecumenical Dialogue
     Rev. Dr. Frederick Bliss, SM, Professor incaricatus from New Zealand

Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, and Interreligious Dialogue
      Rabbi Jack Bemporad, visiting professor from the Center for Interreligious Studies, USA

Knowing the Christian East: Encounter and Experience
     Rev. Dr. Joseph Ellul, OP, professor incaricatus from Malta

Methodism and its Dialogue with the Catholic Church
     Rev. Dr. Trevor Hoggard, Methodist Representative to the Holy See, from U.K.
     Monsignor Donald Bolen, former staff of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, from U.K.

Philo of Alexandria and his Influence on Early Christianity
      Dr. Adam Afterman, visiting professor from Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prophecy and Wisdom
      Rabbi Jack Bemporad, visiting professor from the Center for Interreligious Studies, USA

Reception and Receptive Ecumenism
     Rev. Dr. Frederick Bliss, SM, Professor incaricatus from New Zealand

Russell Berrie Fellowship Seminar in Jerusalem (Feb 5-13)
     Various lecturers, coordinator: Dr. Adam Afterman of Shalom Hartman Center and Hebrew University

Social Teaching in Pope John Paul II
      Various Lecturers, coordinator: Sr. Dr. Helen Alford, OP, Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences, from U.K.

Sociologia della Conoscenza (Sociology of Knowledge, in Italian)
     Dr. Bennie Callebaut, visiting professor from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, and Interreligious Dialogue

 The second Oasis in the City event hosted at the Lay Centre this year featured a presentation by Rabbi Jack Bemporad on the topic The Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, and Interreligious Dialogue. Among his 30 years of experience in international interreligious work, Rabbi Bemporad is the founder and director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding in Englewood, NJ, and has been a visiting professor of Interreligious Dialogue at the Pontifical Angelicum University for 13 years. He has been invited by the Holy See to speak on matters of Jewish-Catholic relations, and met on several occasions with Pope John Paul II personally.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad

During his comments to the Lay Centre residents and community guests, one of the points Rabbi Bemporad raised was the tremendous work of the Catholic Church through Vatican II and especially the efforts of Pope John Paul II with respect to the Jewish community and the relationship of the two religions. Despite the wealth of documents from the Church, he said, especially the USCCB document, God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation on Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, the international Jewish community has yet to examine its own long-standing description of Christ and Christianity at the same level.

The Hebrew Bible is primarily an account of monotheism directed at those who are not yet monotheists. Further, the revelation of monotheism is integral and necessary for a truly peaceful vision of the world and for the development of the concept of human rights.

“One God implies the possibility of a world of peace and justice. As long as there exists the battle between the gods and the plurality of gods as embodying separate forces of nature, then there is no sense of a world at peace. One God implies one world and one universal goal of justice and peace embodying the greatest possible realization for each individual.”

Six key themes or aspects of the Biblical message highlight the origination of human rights in the Hebrew Bible:

Equality in the Bible does not refer primarily to those of the same rank or class, but indicates a positive action of bringing up those who are weaker than oneself (widow, orphan, stranger, the poor and the slave).

The holy and ethical are inseparable. The prophetic tradition, with Amos as the first clear example, claim that social injustice –not simply idolatry or non-orthodox worship – will bring about national ruination. The value and destiny of a nation is dependent on how it treats its most vulnerable members. This social concern for the vulnerable can be traced back to Israel’s enslavement in Egypt.

The Biblical condern for the stranger and sojourner is essential. Love your fellow human being – not “as yourself” as is often translated – but “because he is like you”. There is but one law for you and for the stranger – a concept still foreign to most nations today!

Sabbath as an institution, which allows even the slave and the stranger to rest and be master of their own time for at least one day a week. By extension, the sabbatical year and the Jubilee year remind us that we are not owners of the land or of property, but stewards only. Poverty and wealth alike are only temporary.

A king is subservient to the law, not the law unto himself. The messianic king will be unlike all other kings, rather than to make war, he will make peace.

Finally, two elements that separate Judaism from the black-and-white view of “our religion is the true one, and all others are totally false and therefore evil”: First, the establishment of the Noachide as a status that taught that one did not have to be an Israelite to be saved. Second, the Tosephta enunciated that “the righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come” an idea now nearly universally accepted in Judaism.

The questions of interreligious dialogue, and our common work in support of human rights, remain: “How can I be true to my faith without being false to yours?” and “What is the place of the other religions I our own self-understanding?”

In the States, according to Rabbi Bemporad, it was the civil rights movement that joined Jews and various Christians to working together, and so we must continue to dialogue to discover the “common moral and ethical elements that are constitutive of our religions and try to unite on a common ethic independent of our theological perspectives.”

Saint Andrew the Protoclete

Andrew was the first Apostle of Our Lord, first having been a disciple of John the Baptizer. Sometimes, for some reason, my fellow western Christians forget this and refer to Peter as the first. Peter would have died an anonymous Galilean fisherman if not for his brother, Andrew, who brought him to the Christ.

One of the early successors to Peter and Paul decided to settle the question of when the church year should begin by determining that the first Sunday of Advent, and therefore the first Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, should be that Sunday nearest the feast of the first Apostle. Before that, advent was celebrated in local churches as anywhere from three days to six weeks.

My patron and namesake is also patron of Greece, Russia, Scotland, and Romania, as well as the apostolic founder and patron of the Holy See of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Icon of the Holy Brother Apostles, Peter and Andrew

One of my favorite icons is of the brothers Andrew and Peter embracing. This Icon of the Holy Brother Apostles was written for the 1964 meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI, a gift from the Successor of Andrew to the Successor of Peter, as a sign of the fraternal relationship of the two churches (also called “sister churches”). A copy of this icon was given to me for my service on the National Planning Committee of the NWCU by then-chairman Allen Johnson.

While much of the western ecumenical world was caught up in the announcement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the Anglican-Catholic personal Ordinariates in October, Cardinal Kasper joined Metropolitan Zizioulas and other representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on Cyprus for the 11th plenary round of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue. The topic of this round of conversation is “The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium”.

His All Holiness Bartholomew I greets His Eminence Walter Kasper

In honor of the feast of Andrew, the Holy Father sends a personal message and a high-ranking delegation to the Patriarch of Constantinople; a return delegation is sent to the See of Rome to honor the patronal feast of Sts. Peter and Paul every June 29. This year’s address indicated signs of hope for the ongoing dialogue and the central questions to our restored unity – the role and relationship of the universal primacy of Rome and the other major Patriarchates, and the local churches.

The Holy Father’s message to Patriarch Bartholomew for the feast of St. Andrew today highlighted this work as a sign of the growing unity of the churches, and acknowledged the many areas for cooperation even as we are still on the journey to full unity.

Patriarch Bartholomew’s message of welcome to the Roman delegation likewise highlighted the work of the Commission, now tackling some of the most fundamental ecclesiological issues which remain to divide us, namely, primacy in general and that of Rome in particular.

“We are, therefore, convinced that the study of Church history during the first millennium, at least with regard to this matter, will also provide the touchstone for the further evaluation of later developments during the second millennium, which unfortunately led our Churches to greater estrangement and intensified our division.”

He also called attention to the slow progress being made toward the calling of a Great Council of the entire Orthodox world, an event which has not happened in centuries, and which would be akin to an Orthodox Vatican II.

Flocks of Anglicans

It has been almost a month since the CDF press announcement of the apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released a couple weeks later. As with all Vatican documents, the title comes from the first two words in the official Latin edition, in this case, “groups of Anglicans” – though I prefer the translation “flocks of Anglicans”, probably inspired by the starlings and their Tiber-crossing aerial acrobatics, or the wishful thinking of certain (Catholic and secular) media outlets.

Along with the constitution itself, a set of complimentary norms and an official explanatory note was issued. The later is written by the rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University here in Rome, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, a native Roman who is trained as a civil and canon lawyer – which is an important lens to keep in mind when reading his commentary.

In the last three weeks, I have heard this issue addressed, in person, by Archbishop Rowan Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper and about a dozen other curial officials, Catholic ecumenists, and Anglicans. My comments and conclusions remain my own, so do not blame any of them for my errors, but each conversation has provided some insight to various aspects of this issue, for which I am grateful.

Communication and timing

Much has been said of the Holy See’s lack of a modern communications strategy this last year, starting especially with the lifting of the excommunications of the (still) schismatic bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. In this case, the timing issue has been remarked on a great deal.

But let us be realistic: This is the Vatican. In Rome. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get anything done here? How many good people in the Church have been frustrated by an organization that prides itself in “thinking in centuries”? Should we really believe that this was an ambitious gambit at Ecclesial Imperialism incited only by recent developments? A rushed effort to ‘fish in the Anglican pond’?

I honestly think the more likely answer is that this is, at least partially, the long, slow, overdue response to requests that came way back in 1997 from some groups that left communion with the Anglicans at that time, just as the 1980 Pastoral Provision was a response to a smaller-scale situation in the 70’s. These former Anglicans are likely the ‘target demographic’ rather than current members of the Anglican Communion. I would not be surprised if some draft of something like this had been floating around in a dusty file cabinet in the CDF for the last decade or more.

It is probably, genuinely intended as a pastoral response by some in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and possibly the Secretariat of State. However, these impulses have not benefited from the full reception of, or formation in, ecumenical dialogues and relationships.

The internal, inter-dicasteral communications and collaboration is also clearly a problem, and it has not improved much in the eight years since Dominus Iesus. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was not properly consulted in the development of the document, only verbally informed of it after it was in process. Cardinal Kasper did say on Thursday after the Colloquium that he had seen a draft of the Apostolic Constitution before the official promulgation, and was invited to make recommended changes, but he did not mention the accompanying documents, and this may have happened after the initial press conference with Cardinal Levada and Archbishop DiNoia.

Externally and ecumenically, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his staff, as well as even the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was likewise not consulted or involved in the process, but only informed shortly before the press conference. Seemingly it was informing them that motivated the conference, for fear of leaks before the Constitution was finalized.

Anglican Responses

The official responses are out there to read on the internet. Bishop Chris Epting, National Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church, has recently blogged about the issue; and the press has been following Archbishop Rowan Williams everywhere in Rome, so there is no shortage of coverage.

Personal responses among those I have spoken with have included some common themes, including brief temptation and excited interest: “Enough talk, let’s just do it! We can have unity now!”

This was usually followed by disappointment in some key aspects once the constitution, complimentary norms and explanatory note came out. After a little time, there has been a sense of betrayal of the ecumenical bonds of unity that already exist and anger at what seems to be promotion of an “ecumenism of return”, which the Catholic Church disavowed 50 years ago. One local Anglican’s comment of “not being angry about this… but then being surprised at how angry I was” is echoed in several remarks, also among dedicated Catholics sensitive to the challenges currently facing the Anglican Communion.

Personally, I was initially excited too, “What if they all came? What if we could just have unity now?”… for a few minutes. Then a mea culpa for my momentary indulgence in ecclesiastical imperialism, and my thoughts turned to friends yearning for full communion, and the personal discernment of one friend in particular between coming into communion personally or continuing the long slow work of full ecclesial union.

Chris, Nigel, Andrea, John, Stian, Ann, Chris, Liz, Terry, Peter, and Tom: You are regularly in my prayers, you know, but have been especially so in recent weeks. Nothing would make me happier than being able to break bread together, in the fullest sense, but I suppose we can wait a little longer! (In the short term, I should at least practice better communicatio in communication and start answering email…)

Personal Ordinariates: Neither Personal Prelature, Church sui iuris, nor pastoral provision

The Personal Ordinariate structure was not foreseen in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, so Pope John Paul II created it specifically for the military ordinariates in 1986. The point missed in most of the media is that this is specifically a structure for the People of God – unlike a Personal Prelature (eg, Opus Dei) or the pastoral provision, which are specifically about clergy. The personal ordinariate is a personal diocese, not just a provision to “get married priests” in through the back door and “fill the dwindling ranks”. Were that primarily the motive, I think we would have just had a personal prelature.

Neither is it a full, autonomous Church sui iuris (or Particular Ritual Church) like the 23 Churches that make up the one Catholic Church. (That is, the Roman Catholic Church, Maronite Catholic Church, Ukranian Greek Catholic Church, etc.) This is a model proposed at various times in the ecumenical conversation as a juridical/ecclesial structure for eventual full communion, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Patriarch (or Major Archbishop).

Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary acknowledges that the creation of such a structure could create “ecumenical difficulties”, without elaboration. Not knowing which difficulties he was thinking of, two immediately come to mind: 1) the idea that such a structure should be reserved until such time as we do attain full communion between Rome and Canterbury, and to do so now would be really insulting to the Anglican Communion and its leadership, and 2) a concern for our relations with the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, who might object to the unilateral establishment of a new patriarchate by Rome that did not exist as such during the first millennium.

However, the reason given in the commentary is that “the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church.” This has been one of the moments of pause for some Anglicans and former Anglicans who might otherwise consider the move.

I think this can be read positively, as acknowledging a genuine tradition that goes beyond local custom and has a proper place in the Catholic Church today at a level similarly given to, say, the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite, rather than seeing it as a ‘non-Catholic creation of the English Reformation’. However, it seems safe to say that the English church has long recognized in itself an ecclesial tradition distinct from the Roman church, even for the many centuries of full communion, which goes beyond just liturgy and spirituality to a full ecclesial sense, including juridical, pastoral, and theological practices. This limited recognition is not as generous as would have been hoped.

Theology of Bishops, ordination

When is a bishop not a bishop? Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?

[First, a brief note: “Ordinary” is a canonical term used to designate a person whose authority is by virtue of law itself in relation to his office. We refer to the diocesan bishop as the ordinary, in distinction from any auxiliary or retired bishops in the diocese. So, in itself, the “ordinary” is not a new term or office.]

One of the first discordant notes from the press announcement three weeks ago was around the identity and role of bishops and the ordinary in the personal ordinariates. Anglicanorum Coetibus basically sets up the ordinariate and outlines the responsibilities of the ordinary and the consultative structures. It gets interesting in the complementary norms (particular law).

First, in article four of the norms, it is noted that the ordinary may be a bishop or a presbyter. While allowing a presbyter exercise ordinary power is not unusual in itself, it is odd for the role equivalent to a diocesan bishop. In fact, the canons specifically mentioned in this article are describing the roles and responsibility of a diocesan bishop.

The section on “Former Anglican Bishops” (Article 11) has four points:

  • A former Anglican bishop may be appointed as the ordinary, but he would be only ordained as a presbyter.
  • A former Anglican bishop who is not ordinary could be asked to assist the ordinary in administration of the ordinariate.
  • Any former Anglican bishop would be a part of the bishop’s conference in their territory (such as the USCCB), with a status equivalent to retired bishop.
  • Finally, any former Anglican bishop who is not ordained as a Catholic bishop may request permission to continue using episcopal insignia (mitre, crozier, pectoral cross, ring, and presumably the amaranth red zucchetto, fascia, and simar).

While the first point seems to say that a former Anglican bishop could not be ordained as a bishop, even if he is the ordinary, the last point seems to indicate that at least some former Anglican bishops could be so ordained, and the rest could continue to wear bishop’s regalia even if they are not ordained as bishops.

 Turning to Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary for clarification, one finds the following:

“The ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896. Given the entire Catholic Latin tradition and the tradition of the Oriental Catholic Churches, including the Orthodox tradition, the admission of married men to the episcopate is absolutely excluded”

This is where any interest in ‘coming over’ grinds to a halt for many Anglo-catholics, especially the clergy. Among Catholic ecclesiologists, ecumenists, church historians and sacramental theologians, this is probably where there was a collective raising of eyebrows. The three issues here are the use of Episcopal insignia by non-bishops, the nature of Anglican orders and of ordination in the personal ordinariate, and the whole of the final sentence regarding ordination of married men to the episcopate.

Episcopal Insignia

Originally, of course, bishops did not wear anything different than the rest of the people of God. After Christianity became the official religion of the empire, Emperors began appointing Christian bishops to civil magistrate posts. These secular offices included the insignia of a ring and what have become the crozier and mitre. As the empire dissolved and the Church took on the role of the state more completely, they became identifiable with the episcopal office, but continued to have a secular connection.

The whole (unfortunately named) lay investiture controversy of the 12th century had nothing to do with the role of the laity in electing their bishops (which was traditional), but with the role of the secular rulers appointing bishops themselves and/or retaining the right to invest them with the ‘secular’ signs of office: ring, mitre, and crozier.

Significant to that argument and church practice since is that these are insignia of the episcopal office, and are neither appropriate for non-bishops to use nor for non-ecclesiastical authorities to confer. The exception to this concerns some of those who are equivalent to a bishop in office, such as an abbot (and in some places in the past, an abbess). Given that exception, it would be consistent to allow the ordinary of the personal ordinariate to retain episcopal insignia even if he was only a presbyter.

The underlying concern is twofold, one ecumenical and the other ecclesiological. First, having just reiterated the judgment of Apostolicae Curae of Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void” and declaring that any former Anglican bishop, presbyter or deacon would have to be absolutely ordained, the allowance for former Anglican bishops to adopt episcopal insignia without episcopal ordination basically says, “Because you are used to pretending to be bishops, we will allow you to continue pretending to be bishops, even though you will not actually be bishops.”

Secondly, the practice of having non-bishops dress or act as bishops seems to imply the Tridentine theology of the episcopate as a merely juridical office, rather than as an order in itself. If a presbyter has the fullness of orders, and being bishop is just a “job”, then a presbyter can dress as a bishop or fulfill a bishop’s office (eg, ordinary) without actually being a bishop. Catholic ecclesiologists and sacramental theologians are not too happy about that possibility.

Apostolicae Curae and Anglican Orders

Many catholic-leaning Anglicans are that way because of a Catholic understanding of the sacraments, including holy orders and the Eucharist. They may have been interested in the personal ordinariate if offered a “conditional” ordination, which would at least acknowledge the possibility of, or partiality of, sacramental validity of their current ordained ministry. But absolute ordination means a betrayal of their (very Catholic) sacramental sense of their current ministry, which is not appealing.

In the 113 years since Apostolicae Curae, Catholic historians, theologians, and ecumenists have developed a more nuanced understanding of Anglican orders. The bull is considered definitive church teaching on precisely the issue with which it deals – Anglican ordinations conducted according to the Edwardian Ordinal from 1552 until 1662.

Church historians have discovered at least some places where this ordinal was not used, and so would not be subject to the declaration of nullity. More recently, there have been more and more Anglican ordinations including bishops of the Old Catholic churches, which are generally recognized as valid in the classic Catholic understanding, and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, which also maintain an historic episcopate with a claim of apostolicity. Even the Catholic understanding of ordination vis a vis Apostolic Succession and Tradition has enjoyed development, at least in ecclesiological circles, in moving from a “spiritual heredity” model to a more collegial understanding of succession and ordination as incorporation into the episcopal college.

Given all of these, it was disappointing for many that the ordinations of former Anglican clergy were not classified as conditional. This could be understood either as “just in case” their former ordinations were either absolutely invalid or merely defective, or, even better, as a sign of their incorporation into the episcopate, presbyterate, or diaconate in communion with the ordinary and the bishop of Rome, without judgment on the state of their current orders or past ministry.

Married Bishops

Finally, there is the sentence about married bishops. The best way to read this  is to recall that Fr. Ghirlanda is primarily a canonist, and is a native Roman.

In the current canonical situation, it is true that married men are absolutely excluded from the episcopate in the entirety of the Catholic Latin and Eastern traditions, as well as in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Historically, of course, married men have been bishops (and before that, apostles). This was common in the Latin tradition, and not unheard of in the east, until celibacy became a universal norm in the Latin Church during the 12th-16th centuries. Early on, the practice of selecting monastic (and therefore celibate) presbyters to be bishop became the norm in the East, while the West continued to select bishops from the diocesan (and therefore married or celibate) diaconate and presbyterate. Ecumenically, the Orthodox Church recognizes this historic difference in praxis, and does not generally object to married bishops in the Latin Church. Theologically, there is no impediment to a married man being a bishop in either the Catholic or Orthodox traditions, and in fact scripture commends it – though, admittedly, limiting bishops to only one wife.

Being a Roman, Fr. Ghirlanda has no doubt been to the Basilica of Santa Praessade, and has seen the 9th century mosaic of Episcopa Theodora. If he had meant that in the entire Latin Catholic tradition, historically and theologically, the admission of married men to the episcopate was absolutely excluded, then he would be confirming the interpretation that Theodora was not the wife of a bishop, but was in fact a bishop herself. This seems unlikely.

The Synodal Tradition of Anglicanism

As “the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church” according to the official commentary, their pastoral tradition of synodality (collegiality and collaboration) is also worthy of emulation in the entire Latin church, and perhaps some of the norms in this section will be applied throughout the church. Even if not, they are interesting in themselves.

A “governing council” combines the basically redundant structures of presbyteral council and college of consultors currently mandated in the Code of Canon Law. It is given deliberative voting powers on a number of issues, and interestingly, prepares the terna (list of three names) from which the Holy Father would appoint the ordinary. For most Latin dioceses, this terna is currently prepared by the Apostolic Nuncio, with consultation of the region’s bishops, some other clergy, and virtually no input by laity.

Further, the pastoral and finance councils are mandated not just for the ordinariate, as is the case for all dioceses, but also for all parishes in the ordinariate. For most Latin dioceses, the parish pastoral council is merely recommended. However, the language for pastoral councils in the norms is that they are “advisory” rather than the stronger “consultative” which is in the Code, though this is a common misreading of consultation, so perhaps it was not meant as a change.

What Happens Now?

Some former Anglicans may accept the offer, but I do not think it will be a large number. Even fewer current Anglicans will, I think. The most interested will thankfully continue to work on full ecumenical unity, distant as that always seems. I am interested to see how this develops, or if it develops.

One curial official described the personal ordinariates thus: The Holy See has set aside an empty room, but without furniture, electricity, or provisions. Now we are asking Anglicans to fill the room, without being able to bring anything with them other than themselves. It may remain empty for a long time.

In the mean time, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) III preparatory commission is meeting in Rome this week, including my own bishop, Archbishop Alex Brunett as co-chair. This, after a hiatus since 2005, prompted by the developments in the Anglican Communion – a hiatus which some predicted would never end. If Anglicanorum Coetibus were really the Holy See’s ecumenical answer the Canterbury’s internal struggles, ARCIC III would be dead in the water. Yet, they seem energized and ready to go, so it will be interesting to see whether ecumenical dialogue or corporate conversion takes center stage over the next few months.

The Apostolic Constitution, Complementary Norms, and commentary can be read together here.

Centro Pro Unione

We had our first meeting of the ecumenical section tonight, in the famous Centro Pro Unione.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj at Piazza Navona

At the Angelicum, there are four ‘Faculties’: Theology, Philosophy, Social Sciences, and Canon Law. The Theology Faculty, being by far the largest, is further divided into sections: Biblical Theology, Dogmatic Theology, Thomist Theology, Spiritual Theology, Moral Theology, and Ecumenical Theology.

By reputation, at least, the two pillars of the Angelicum are its Thomist and Ecumenical sections. Part of the reason I decided to study here, in fact, is that it is the only specifically ecumenical licentiate/doctoral program offered by a Catholic university, and one of only three in the English speaking world (the others being at the Ecumenical Institute of the WCC at Bossey, Switzerland and the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin).

James Puglisi, SA, Director of Centro Pro Unione

The ecumenical section is coordinated by James Puglisi, SA, the Minister General of the Franciscian Friars of the Atonement and director of the Centro Pro Unione. The Centro serves as the library for the ecumenical section, being the most complete ecumenical library in the world since its inception in 1962. It is located in the Collegium Innocenzium, part of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj overlooking Piazza Navona. Originally the guest house for the family, part of it then became a house of hospitality named Foyer Unitas, run by the Ladies of Bethany, and the rest a place for the ecumenical observers at Vatican II to gather, named the Centro Pro Unione.

The main meeting room is therefore steeped in history, both Roman and ecumenical. As the guest house of the noble family, this room is where Vivaldi first performed his “four seasons” after the premier in Florence. Franz List and Caruso played here, and so many others. During Vatican II, this room, with a grand view of the Piazza and its fountain, is where the ecumenical observers would gather with bishops and peritii for their weekly briefing, and where some of the most important texts of the council were born or developed: Gaudium et Spes, Unitatis Redintegratio, Nostra Aetate, and Dignitatis Humanae.

There were 21 members of the section present or accounted for, and I am not sure how many others there may be. Six are from Africa, four from India, three each from the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and North America, one Italian and one Australian. One-third are lay, and two-thirds are priests; no religious and no deacons. There is currently only one woman (and she is technically in Philosophy, not Theology, but as a Russell Berrie Fellow is included in the section too).

Ecumenical Vespers at “del Caravita”

Interior of the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita

The Oratory of Saint Francis Xavier “del Caravita” is one of those churches in Rome you would never find unless you knew where to look, even though it is just off one of the main thoroughfares in the City. It is described as “an international catholic community in Rome”, Jesuit in origin but staffed by priests from four different orders. Aside from the national churches for the U.S., England, Ireland, and the Philippines it is the only Catholic church offering weekly Sunday liturgy in English.

On Friday, we celebrated evening prayer presided by Cardinal Kasper, with Archbishop Rowan Williams as the homilist, sponsored by the Anglican Centre in Rome. A simple and beautiful liturgy with what I thought was an especially powerful version of the renewal of baptismal vows, it was a nice counterbalance to the Colloquium the day before: a day of academic lecture complemented by an evening of prayer.

Stian, Rowan Williams, AJ

The pack of news photographers that had followed Dr. Williams throughout the lectures yesterday was back tonight, and it amazes me he was able to focus on preaching with the constant picture taking. Of course, trying to find one of these photos online to share is not easy, this is the best I could do:

After the prayer, we were able to meet the Cardinal, the Archbishop, and even U.S. Ambassador Miguel Diaz and his wife, Marian, who were in attendance. Unfortunately, we only got a couple shots with Archbishop Williams, though I did invite Cardinal Kasper to dine at the Lay Centre sometime. (We’re on the Ambassador’s list already. Somewhere down there…)

Jan Cardinal Willebrands, 1909-2006

Jan Cardinal Willebrands

Johannes Cardinal Willebrands would have celebrated his 100th birthday this fall, and Rome honored this great ecumenist, bishop, and Council father with a day-long Colloquium hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Cardinal Willebrands was bishop of Utrecht in his native Netherlands, and served for twenty years as the second president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, from 1969-1989, succeeding Cardinal Agustin Bea with whom he had worked closely during the Council.

Seven lectures traced the contributions of Cardinal Willebrands to the Church and the churches, each about half an hour, interspersed with Q & A time and the obligatory pausa for caffè and pranzo:

  • William Henn, OFM: Cardinal Willebrands and the relations between Rome and the Ecumenical Council of the Church
  • Michel Van Parys, OSB: Cardinal Willebrands and ecumenical relations with the Churches of the East
  • James Puglisi, SA: Cardinal Willebrands and ecumenical relations with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West
  • Msgr. Pier Francesco Fumagalli: Cardinal Willebrands and the Jews
  • Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury: An Ecumenical Testimony
  • Jared Wicks, SJ: Cardinal Willebrands and the development of Catholic ecumenical theology
  • Cardinal Walter Kasper: The heritage of Cardinal Willebrands and the future of ecumenism

Unfortunately, the Holy Father’s general audience for the students of the Roman universities was scheduled during the morning, so several students opted for that instead, but the ecumenical section of the Angelicum was here almost in full!

While the morning helped paint a vivid picture of the life and many contributions of Willebrands to the Catholic Church and its commitment to ecumenism, the afternoon focused as much on the current and future situations, and made several references to Cardinal Kasper’s new book, Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue.

When some people lament the apparent ‘slowing’ of ecumenical progress in the last twenty years, as compared to the previous thirty, the golden age remembered is the period in which Willebrands was either President or Secretary of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity (named the Secretariat for Christian Unity when first established).

Cardinal Kasper has described him this way:

“He had many qualities: sensitivity and discernment in judging people and situations; great capacity to communicate; the gift of nurturing true friendships. All this is fundamental for ecumenical dialogue since ecumenism means overcoming suspicion, building trust and creating friendships. In Willebrands we find the right balance between a passionate eagerness for unity and that patience which does not try to force things but lets them grow and mature. Not least, Willebrands had an exceptionally fine sense of humour, humour being often the only way to face small-minded and sheepish attitudes.”

Before the Council, when Catholics could not attend ecumenical meetings or participate in ecumenical prayer, Willebrands and others would faithfully observe the letter of the law, then accept invitations to tea with a group of sisters who would also, coincidentally, invite the members of whatever commission or meeting was going on in ecumenical circles. In this way early Catholic contributions were not lost to the ecumenical conversations, and the beginnings of a network of friendships was being developed. It was a way of being “obedient to the Church, and more obedient to the will of Christ”.

Willebrands established a “Catholic Conference for Ecumenical Questions” in 1951, to discuss Catholic issues ‘in response to’ some ecumenical initiatives. This was done while maintaining open contact with Cardinal Ottaviani in the Holy Office (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).  He was instrumental in arranging the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in which the mutual excommunications of 1054 were renounced. He helped establish the Joint Working Group of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and was the primary point of contact between the WCC and the Catholic Church for decades.

During the Council, Willebrands was able to use the previous decade of personal relationships to draw up a list of ecumenical observers to be invited, and was their host throughout the Council. These observers and staff of the secretariat would meet weekly at the Centro Pro Unione on Thursdays, to get a debriefing of the week’s interventions (which were in Latin) in English and other more common languages. Often there would be a presentation by one or more of the peritii of the council. As the bishops themselves heard about these gatherings more and more would attend, at the least to hear in an understandable language what had been discussed in front of them the week previous!

Jared Wicks, SJ; Archbishop Rowan Williams; Cardinal Walter Kasper

Near retirement, Willebrands noted that the best ecumenists have been theologians, but also that “ecumenism is first a way of being Christian, before it is a theological or pastoral competence.” He published, in 1987, an article titled “Subsistit in”, Vatican’s Ecclesiology of Communion, which is one of the most authoritative interpretations of the nature of the church in Lumen Gentium 8, along with the work of Joseph Ratzinger and Walter Kasper.  

One of the last reflections he gave in Rome before retiring to the Netherlands was at the invitation of the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, and delivered in the Centro Pro Unione, “Why I Am a Man of Hope” – a summation of all his experience and why he maintained hope for the future of the Church and ecumenism.

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury

In reading some of the headlines the next day, you might have thought that the entire colloquium was just a platform from which the Archbishop of Canterbury could fling the gauntlet at Benedict’s feet on the issue of the ordination of women. This was not the case, and the issue of ordination was raised as an case in the broader question of the relationship between local and universal church, and the theological weight of divisive issues. (His entire address is here.)

Rather, it was a time for him to assert that he too, was a man of hope for the future of the ecumenical imperative, while acknowledging some hard questions that need to be asked, the central question being,  

“…whether and how we can properly tell the difference between ‘second order’ and ‘first order’ issues.  When so very much agreement has been firmly established in first-order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, is it really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integrity?”

In other words, given the depth of our agreement on the nature and mission of the church, on Baptism and Eucharist, et cetera, do the remaining issues of division – such as the understanding of authority, primacy and the relationship of local to universal church – carry the same weight as the issues that unite us? These are questions pertaining to the hierarchy of truths, and asked by our fellow Christians who desire unity:

“All I have been attempting to say here is that the ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full – and then to ask about the character of the unfinished business between us.  For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain. And if it isn’t, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?”

The Church of Rome

 Every Wednesday brings a guest presider with a normally brief presentation during and after dinner. This week was an opportunity to get a better look at the Church of Rome, from some excellent authorities.

Monsignor Nicola Filippi, Secretary to the Cardinal-Vicar of Rome

Our presider was Don Nicola Filippi, ordained a presbyter of the diocese of Rome in 1995 and named a Chaplain of His Holiness (the lowest grade entitled “Monsignor”) in 2005, he serves as secretary to the Cardinal-Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini. Princess Gesine and her husband, Deacon Masimilliano, of the Doria Pamphilj family, joined us as well. Don Masimilliano and Donna Gesine are friends of the Lay Centre and were our generous guides when we visited the family palazzo/galleria last month.

Vested for the liturgy, Don Nicola is the very image of a classical Roman senator, and I think will be a bishop himself in the next decade. Two interesting liturgical observations: there are very few deacons in Italy, I think Masimilliano is one of only two in the suburbicarian diocese where he is incardinated, so it was clear there is room for a more robust development of their role. Also, since communion under both species is not as common in Italy as it is most places in Europe and North America, Monsignor Filippi chose to serve communion by intinction, I think as a kind of pastoral compromise between his custom and ours, which was a first for me.

The Church of Rome, the diocese itself, is an interesting reality. Their diocesan bishop is the pope, and yet, as Father Nicola said, “Rome is Rome, and the Vatican is something else entirely. That’s the other side of the Tiber.” Some of the pastoral and administrative issues sound not all that different from home!.

Deacon Don Masimilliano and Donna Gesine Doria Pamphilj

There are about 2.5 million Catholics in the diocese of Rome, and it includes 330 parishes, plus the other 600 or so churches, which are chapels, stations, oratories, or shrines. Though the bishop of Rome is Benedict, Cardinal-Vicar Villani is the ordinary for almost all intents and purposes. He is assisted by seven active auxiliary bishops, one as a kind of vicar general to the Cardinal-Vicar (who is technically the vicar general), five lead regional vicariates, and one is responsible for hospital ministry. The diocesan website lists 1215 diocesan clergy, 1917 clergy from other dioceses, 4800 religious clergy, 124 opus dei clergy, 2050 lay religious, and 1050 lay staff*. (These numbers include retired clergy, I think, and the website also counted all the cardinals, and over 1200 bishops who are probably curial staff and diplomats.)

Compare that to Seattle, with 578,000 Catholics, including 3 bishops, 294 diocesan clergy, 32 clergy from other dioceses, 96 religious clergy, 486 lay religious, about 800 lay ecclesial ministers and 1393 lay teachers. Rome has less than 5 times as many Catholics, but more than 21 times as many clergy, and half as many lay staff*.

*Lay staff listed for Rome included faculty of the pontifical universities, members of commissions and consultors to dicasteries, as well as actual paid staff in Roman offices – virtually no lay ecclesial ministers as we know them in the States.

Only about 40%-50% of the children born in Rome are recorded as being baptized, and there are only about 80 or 90 catechumens each year, though Fr. Nicola indicated that a large number of families may take their children outside the city, and thus to other dioceses, for baptism so it may not be quite as low as that looks.

He spoke about a questionnaire the chancery had been trying to get parishes to fill out regarding pastoral planning, evangelization and sacramental life, and only about 2/3 of parishes responded (I thought this was pretty good, actually). When the Cardinal started visiting pastors who had not sent the response in, one of the first said, “oh, yeah, we forgot about that. I’m sure it’s here somewhere…” and then proceeded to produce the previous year’s questionnaire, still in the original envelope.

As I am sure you have heard, though Italy is nominally 90% Catholic, very few people are very active in the life of the church. For most, it is where you go to get baptized, married, and buried. Just last night a classmate was telling me how, on his first Christmas in Rome, he attended a popular parish nearby and could not find a seat 20 minutes before mass began, and the church was filled with young people. But then, as the opening hymn began, mobile phones came out of pockets to take pictures and he heard several people calling their mothers, “yes, mama, I’m going to church. See, I’m sending you a picture!” Then they left. By the time of the opening prayer, my friend had no problem finding a seat.

Lateran Archbasilica and Palace; Cathedral and home of the diocesan chancery of Rome

One of the responses that has been very popular in Italy, and in Rome especially, are the lay movements. Whereas the U.S. has seen a greater development in the area of parish life and in lay ecclesial ministry, here there is almost the sense that if you are really serious about your faith you do not go to your parish but spend your time with the movement. Two of the largest in Rome are the Charismatic movement and the Neochatechumenate Way. (I would have guessed Sant’Egidio, Focolare, or Communione e Liberazione).

Unfortunately, some of the biggest problems for the Catholic Church of Rome come from these movements. Poor catechesis, insufficient theological education of the clergy, and the creation of a parallel church to the diocesan-parish structures were all cited as serious issues among the diocesan leadership. The dichotomy of spirituality and theology, so typical of the “classical” western Latin tradition, is noted especially in the Neocatechumate Way with an emphasis on the spiritual and too little attention on the theological. They are also having a challenge with the high number of non-Italian priests coming to serve the communities here, without adequate cultural formation and preparation for the life of the Church in Rome.

This was one more reminder of how slowly my Italian is coming, too, so prayers for that please! I would like to have asked about lay ecclesial ministry in Rome. Next time!

Extraordinary Form: The Tridentine Rite in Rome

 With something like 900 churches, chapels, and oratories in Rome, I could visit one a day and still have a long way to go by the time I graduated. However, since we have our community Eucharist weekly in the Lay Centre, I am trying to spend Sunday worship somewhere different each week to continue getting a sense of the Church, both Roman and catholic.

Santissia Trinita' dei Pellegrini, personal parish for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite

This Sunday I joined some friends who are regulars at the parish church of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims). Trinità is the personal parish in Rome for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, more commonly called the Tridentine Rite. It is staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Just as the liturgy was renewed in 1970 by Paul VI in accordance with the Vatican II Council, so it was after the Council of Trent when Pius V promulgated the Roman Missal of 1570. “Tridentine” simply means “of Trent”. The latest of several revisions to this liturgy of Trent was made by John XXIII in 1962, and it is that version which was approved by Benedict XVI on 7.7.07 for use as the extraordinary form of the liturgy.

At one level, I was not sure what to expect. I am too young not only to have missed being formed by this liturgy and the concomitant devotions and ‘Catholic ghetto’ identity, but I also missed the most tumultuous years of peri- and post-Conciliar development, changes, and even occasional abuses. I simply do not have a neuralgic response to either the Tridentine liturgy or to the phrase “Spirit of Vatican II” as do so many of my older colleagues of different generations. Some experiences I have had did lead to some expectations, some of which were confirmed and some of which were totally blown away.

While this was my first experience with a “high mass” according to the extraordinary form, it was neither my first Tridentine nor Latin liturgy. While I have participated in some beautiful liturgies in Latin before, they were all according to the normative Roman Rite – in other words, the same mass we celebrate every Sunday in English, Spanish, Italian, etc.

My (admittedly few) previous experiences of the Tridentine form could not be described, by any stretch of the imagination, as beautiful. In fact, they could hardly be described as liturgy: terrible music, if any, nothing resembling “full, conscious, and active participation” by the assembly, and a vapidity so pervasive that the sacramentality, spirituality, and genuine reverence for the Eucharistic liturgy was almost totally lost. In at least one case the priest’s Latin was so bad the actual validity of the consecration was called into question. Each time it seemed more about making a ‘political’ statement in the culture wars than in actual worship or an act of communion.

Given the people who invited me, however, I was confident that this would not be a repeat of those experiences, whatever it turned out to be. As it turned out, that involved both beauty and illumination.

Gregorian and other chant done well – the music was beautiful. My rusty Latin was enough to know what part of the mass I was in, and to sing along with some of the mass parts, but mostly it was enough to just listen.

Solemn Mass at the high altar

About one hundred twenty people were there, the median age seeming to be in their early 50’s, with a pretty good mix from two or three small children to people old enough to have been formed in this rite.  We had a crowd of about fifteen students from the pontifical universities, most of whom are regulars. I only saw a couple of mantillas in the whole assembly. A small pamphlet had the readings and some prayers in Latin and Italian. The major parts of the mass were recognizable from the current form of the Rite, and from what I remember studying in my Liturgical history courses. Announcements and collections are not much different, though the former came in the middle of mass rather than at the beginning or the end.

Having an inaudible Eucharistic canon and to be so far removed from the altar did distract a little from prayer and participation, as did not always knowing when to kneel, stand, or sit or precisely why. Not that I could kneel anyway, there was not room enough! One thing that was consistent with more than a few regular parishes, though, was that everybody seemed to have their own expectations about this anyway, and most of the time about half were kneeling while half were standing. It was not very uniform, but neither did that seem to matter to anyone.

Cognitively, I know that the idea of the long nave with a high altar at one end, the presider and other ministers facing ad orientem along with the people is supposed to represent the presbyter leading the people in the sacrifice and their pilgrim journey. I also know that most people experienced this more as a sense of removal and non-participation, of the mass as a private devotion of the priest “over there” while we did our thing “over here”. Personally, it felt neither like I was being led in worship, nor that I was completely removed from the action. As something both deeply familiar and existentially unfamiliar, I guess I was in more of an observer-participant role, a student in prayer.

The need for the renewal and reform of Vatican II was made evident to me, on one hand. This is a liturgy pretty far removed from those described in the early church, and not easily accessible for a lot of people, especially if not done as well as it was at Trinità. On the other hand, I could see how it would be a difficult adjustment for people formed by this liturgy to adapt to the current Rite, especially if their experience of the transition was handled badly and without proper catechesis, as seemed to be the case in too many places.

What is most striking to me is the people and their attitude regarding the liturgy, at least those I spoke with, which includes friends from the Angelicum, the Lay Centre, and others. A German friend describes the participants as “traditionalists, but not necessarily conservatives.”

In the States, generally, it seems that the Tridentine mass has become little more than a weapon of the culture war, as I mentioned above. “More Catholic than Benedict XVI, more conservative than Pius IX, and holier than Mother Teresa” would be the motto. Probably they are here too, just as the opposite extreme can be found in some other parishes, if one looks hard enough.

Here, instead, are people of prayer, less interested in proving that they have the “true mass”, than in worshiping as fully as they are able, in a Rite and a spirituality that speaks most clearly to them. Motivated by genine reverence rather than triumphalism, tradition rather than traditionalism, i felt as welcome here as i have my first time in any parish (well, except Blessed Teresa, but that was a truly exceptional experience!)

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