.- The Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster Cormac Murphy-OâConnor has issued an extended commentary on Pope Benedict XVIâs new provision for Anglicans who wish to become Catholic. He reported that a similar proposal had been rejected under Pope John Paul II, but was revived after the ârepeated requestsâ from Anglicans worldwide who have been âknocking at the door for a long time.â
He emphasized that Pope Benedictâs response to those Anglicans who wanted to become Catholic was not a reflection on the Anglican communion as a whole or of Catholicsâ ongoing ecumenical relationship with them.
Cardinal Murphy-OâConnorâs comments came during the Richard Stewart Memorial Lecture, delivered at Worth Abbey on Oct. 29. The cardinal was joined at the lecture by the Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton and the Abbot of Worth, Christopher Jamison.
The cardinal, who was the Catholic Co-Chairman of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), titled his lecture âARCIC: Dead in the Water or Money in the Bank.â He recounted his own work in ecumenism from an autobiographical point of view while discussing theological dialogue, the search for communion, and âspiritual ecumenism.â
He also discussed the recent Anglican provision, reporting that a special provision for Anglicans might have been âhelpfulâ in 1993 and 1994 when other groups of Anglicans joined the Catholic Church. However, this proposal was rejected as inappropriate because the bishops of England and Wales were dealing solely with clergy of the Church of England and a provision would have to be provided to all the churches of the Anglican Communion.
âIf the Holy See had offered such Personal Ordinariates then, and in particular here in England, it might well have been seen as an un-ecumenical approach by the Holy See, as if wanting to put out the net as far as one could,â Cardinal Murphy-OâConnor opined.
He said that both Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would have been against such a proposal, as were the leading Catholic prelates of Britain.
âMatters have moved on since then and the repeated requests by many Anglicans, not only from England but from other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, have necessitated a new approach, which is why I think that the Personal Ordinariates offered by the Holy Father can be seen not in any way un-ecumenical but rather as a generous response to people who have been knocking at the door for a long time.â
His other lecture remarks discussed his early interaction with Anglicans, Congregationalists and Methodists. Cardinal Murphy-OâConnor told how he became âimbuedâ with what the Second Vatican Council said about the âimportant workâ of ecumenism in its document on the topic, âUnitatis Redintegratio.â
âWhile it stated quite clearly that the unity of the Church subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, it insisted that the Church must also pray and work to maintain, reinforce and protect the unity that Christ wills for her,â he explained.
Prayer in common with other Christians was âcrucially importantâ because a change of heart and holiness of life should be regarded as the âsoulâ of the ecumenical movement, he said.
Turning to the âfruitful yet so inconclusiveâ aspects of ARCIC, he said: âIn more than 40 years of official ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Communion, it may be asked, âWhere are we?ââ
Some of the classic disputes at the root of divisions between Anglicans and Catholics, the cardinal stated, had been âbasically resolvedâ through a new consensus on fundamental doctrine. While there is a ârenewed understanding,â he said work remains on the relationship of Scripture and Tradition and the teaching authority which interprets it.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor also touched on the subject of the Anglican Communionâs decision to ordain women to the priesthood and the episcopate, a action that he said created a âVery difficult obstacle.â However, in his view the ARCIC documents are still âmoney in the bankâ because they are an achieved consensus and a study and reflection on a ârenewed visionâ of Christâs Church.
The Second Vatican Councilâs teaching that the Church of Jesus Christ âsubsists inâ the Roman Catholic Church takes seriously that there are individual Christians, ecclesial elements, and in the case of the Orthodox even âgenuinely particular churchesâ outside the âvisible confinesâ of the Catholic Church
This teaching means that full communion, as the goal of ecumenism, âhas not to be understood as simply a return of separated brothers and sisters and churches to the bosom of Catholic mother church.â
âThis full communion, unity, does not of course mean uniformity but unity within diversity and diversity within unity,â he added.
The new Anglican provision must be understood in the context of the papacyâs mission to preserve Church unity and freedom from âone-sided ties,â the cardinal asserted.