Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
November 1, 2009

A New "October Revolution"

By now I am sure you have heard of Pope Benedict's decision, a decision of historic importance, to invite High Church Anglicans and in the U. S. A. their Episcopalian confrères, as long as they subscribe to our creed, to enter the Roman Catholic Church as corporate groups, that is to say, as integral parishes or even, should it be so, as entire dioceses, while preserving their clergy and their distinctive liturgy in much the same way as do the Eastern Rite churches that recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome as St. Peter's successor. As is currently the case with Eastern Rite Catholic priests residing in the "Old Country"--most of those living in America have agreed to abide by the rule of celibacy-the Anglican priests who come over to us, if they are already married, would continue to serve as married clergy in their newly Roman Catholic congregations, though presumably after receiving ordination from a Catholic bishop to guarantee the validity of their orders. Whether a married Anglican bishop would be permitted, after reconsecration, to serve at that same level within the Catholic Church seems doubtful, to say the least, though even for that there would be precedent. A disciplinary canon (Canon 19). issued by the earliest of ecumenical councils, the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), allowed those clergymen who had formerly served in the heretical Paulianist sect but, having renounced their heresy, who were seeking reconciliation with the Catholic Church, to be ordained, after a time of testing, to a corresponding level of clerical authority within the Catholic Church. It's interesting to note, by the way, that this same canon 19 of Nicaea explicitly forbade the conferring of the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon the Paulianists' women clergy. Even back then the functioning of women as ordained clergy was, where it occurred, a characteristic of heretical groups. Canon 19, reflecting the settled tradition within the Catholic Church, states as a governing principle that " women do not receive the laying on of hands". Pope John Paul the Second, in his apostolic constitution Ordinatio Sacerdotalis , ended discussion of this matter once and for all when he declared with a solemn exercise of papal authority that in obedience to the normative practice of Christ Himself, the Church "has no authority whatsoever" to confer the sacrament of Holy Orders upon women. On this issue those who are waiting for a change will wait in vain. Indeed it was a break with this very tradition, approved in 1976 by the Episcopal Church of America's governing authority meeting in Minneapolis, that precipitated the crisis in faith that has brought many an Anglican and Episcopalian to the recognition that it is only within the Catholic Church, built as it is by Christ's decree upon the Rock of Peter (Matthew 16: 13-19 ), that the winds of strange doctrine, devised, St. Paul wams us, by the cunning of men, (Ephesians 4: 14 ) have been withstood in the past and will be withstood forever, under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit. As one example of how the secular press reacted to this invitation from Rome may I share with you the following report from last Sunday's New York Times (October 25). It was written by Laurie Goodstein.
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For An Episcopal Parish, a Path to Catholicism
   By Laurie Goodstein
   The New York Times-October 25, 2009

When the Vatican announced last week that it would welcome groups of traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church, leaders of one Episcopa lparish celebrated as if a ship had arrived to rescue them from a drifting icefloe.

"We'd been praying for this daily for two years," said Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, a parish in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia that is battling to keep its historic property. "When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears."

This parish could be one of the first in the United States to convert en masse after the Vatican completes plans for a new structure to allow Anglicans to become Catholic while retaining many of their spiritual traditions, like the Book of Common Prayer and married priests.

The arrangement is tailor-made for an "Anglo-Catholic" parish like this one, which has strenuously opposed the Episcopal Church over decisions like allowing women and gay people to become priests and bishops. Mass here is celebrated in the "High Church" style reminiscent of traditional Catholic churches, with incense, elaborate vestments and a choir that may sing in Latin.

"The majority of our members will be on board with this," the Rev. Aaron R. Bayles, the assistant pastor, said as he finished celebrating a noon Mass devoted to church unity in a small side chapel lighted with blue votive candles.

He said he was exultant when he heard the news from the Vatican because he had always hoped to see the unification of Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity.

"This may be a step in that direction," said Father Bayles, the parish's new curate and a chaplain in the Air National Guard Reserve. (The previous curate left to become a Roman Catholic.)

The Church of the Good Shepherd has long been at loggerheads with the Episcopal Church, the American branch in the global Anglican Communion. This year, the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania sued to take over the church's building, a magnificent stone replica of a 14th-century English country parish that was built in 1894. The church's property is estimated by its accounting warden to be worth $7 million.

For 17 years, the parish has refused to allow the local Episcopal bishop to come for a pastoral visit or confirmation, and then stopped paying its annual financial assessment to the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

Even the parish priest's title and status are a sign of the conflict. Bishop Moyer is not a bishop in the Episcopal Church, but he uses that title because he was made a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion, a conservative splinter group that played a crucial role in persuading the Vatican to welcome the Anglicans.

In his office sitting room, where he keeps framed photographs of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Moyer said he was one of the 38 bishops in the Traditional Anglican Communion who signed a petition to Pope Benedict XVI in October 2007 asking for an arrangement that would unite Anglicans with the Catholic Church.

He said the bishops even ceremonially signed a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to signify their full acceptance of Catholic doctrine. Meanwhile, the global Anglican Communion, with 77 million members. struggled to stay intact as conservatives splintered off or protested from within. Some were Angto-Catholic, but others were evangelical Anglicans, dedicated to a conservative interpretation of Scripture but wary of Rome and papal authority.

Under the arrangement, the Vatican said it would allow married Anglican priests, but not married bishops. Bishop Moyers, a father of three, said he was waiting to hear whether he and other bishops could be "grandfathered in."

Bishop Moyer acknowledged that some of his parish's 400 members would choose to leave rather than become Catholic. Some are former Catholics who may not want to go back. Others feel loyalty to the Episcopal Church, despite the conflict....

Bishop Moyer said he had become increasingly eager to jump as the ground underneath him became more and more shaky. In 2002, his former diocesan bishop, Charles E. Bennison, defrocked him for refusing to submit to the bishop's authority, but Bishop Moyer remained in place. (Bishop Bennison himself was defrocked in 2008 after a church trial found that he had covered up years before for his brother, a priest, who sexually abused a girl.)

Even as their disputes escalated, the Church of the Good Shepherd never formally left the Episcopal Church, unlike many other conservative parishes and four dioceses. A big part of the reason is that the Good Shepherd did not want to be evicted from its property. Other conservative parishes have court battles to keep their properties when they tried to lostleave the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Moyer lives in a rectory on the church's property. He said he hopes to resolve the church's "legal quagmire" over the building before they decide to jump to the Catholic Church.

He opened the wooden door onto the circular driveway in front of the church. On a glorious fall day, the scene looked like a tourist postcard from Kent.

"It's a beautiful church," he said. "I hope we can keep it."
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The British publication The Economist offered an appraisal that was less ancedotal and more analytic than that of the New York Times. It appeared in the issue of October 24th
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Unleashing the Counter-Reformation
   The Economist, October 24, 2009

Since the Church of England voted 17 years ago to admit women to the priesthood, disenchanted individual members of the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion have been quietly converting to Roman Catholicism. Since 2003, when the Episcopalian church, the American branch of the Communion, first ordained an openly gay bishop, the number of alienated conservatives has been swollen by those dismayed by their Church's growing tolerance of homosexuality. 

Many traditionalist Anglicans, nevertheless, have held back, reluctant to sacrifice their liturgy and heritage. On October 20th Pope Benedict offered them a way out of their unease and into the Catholic Church.
In so doing, he created a new headache for the beleaguered Anglican leadership-and resuscitated an old conundrum for the Vatican.

For years, the pope's officials have been mulling over what to do about Anglican splinter groups which sought to join the Catholic church as a body. Foremost among these is the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC),   led by an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth. It has been thought the pope might offer the TAC a status within the Roman Catholic Church like that given to the conservative fellowship, Opus Dei----one that gives its members their own pastors rather than putting them under the local diocesan bishop.

But the papal decree goes much further. It enables not just the TAC, but any Anglican group - community, parish, even an entire diocese-to enter into communion with Rome without sacrificing its traditions. The so-called Apostolic Constitution (the highest form of pontifical ordinance) creates a new entity that transcends diocesan boundaries: the "personal ordinariate".. similar to the "military ordinariates" for Roman Catholics in the armed forces. In charge of each will be a former Anglican prelate. The Vatican has already taken, following reordination, several dozen rebel Anglican priests, some of them married. It makes a similar exception to its rule of priestly celibacy for the Eastern Catholic churches (which recognize the pope but use their own rites). The Vatican does not, however, permit married bishops. So the pastors of these new "personal ordinariates" must either be unmarried bishops or married priests.

Archbishop Hepworth declared himself "profoundly moved by the generosity" of Pope Benedict ...

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One may justifiably salute this action of Pope Benedict, and rejoice in it, as a major step forward in the cause for which Christ prayed at the Last Supper:

"That they all may be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." (John 17: 21)
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