As new round of Anglican-Catholic talks begin, some question the purpose

As new round of Anglican-Catholic talks begin, some question the purpose


A new round of ecumenical talks between Anglicans and Catholics is getting underway May 17 in Bose, Italy. The meeting is the third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission or ARCIC, which was established in 1970.

The Catholic co-secretary for the meeting is Msgr. Mark Langham of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

“We begin by stressing what we have in common, finding an area we can both profess together and then moving forward from that to finding where and when and why we diverge. That’s a more productive and creative way of addressing our issues. If we simply dive in and talk about the controversial issues, as they are, people tend to entrench,” he told Vatican Radio.

Those controversial issues include the recent creation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Established by the Vatican this year, it is a specific organization for former Anglicans within the Catholic Church. The Ordinariate aims to allow converts to preserve the cherished aspects of their Anglican heritage.

Over 900 Anglicans joined at Easter, including 61 clergy. The co-secretary for the Anglican side of things at today’s gathering is Alyson Barnett-Cowan, who does not think that development will affect the progress of the talks.

“I am trusting that it’s not going to affect the climate very much at the talks itself. Much of the talk about the Ordinariate is based upon speculation and not based on what is actually going ahead. The Ordinariate is not the agenda for theological dialogue. We will have an opportunity in one of the evenings, informally, to update people on what is going on. But at this stage that ball is really in the court of episcopal conferences and their discussion with local Anglicans about how the Ordinariate will be put into place.”

Others, though, are not so sure. William Oddie, a former Anglican vicar and journalist from England who converted to the Catholic Church, says the problem with ARCIC is that only the Catholic side of the table represents a clear, collective viewpoint.

“Can anybody explain to me why we carry on with ARCIC? Is there any real intention, as 30 years ago there undoubtedly was, of actually achieving something? Is it a continuing self-delusion on the part of those participating? Or is ARCIC III just a PR exercise, designed to avert attention from the fact that we have now, inevitably but finally, come to the bitter end of the ecumenical road?” Oddie writes in the Catholic Herald.

“Whatever it is, we will all, finally, have to face reality: and, surely, the sooner the better,” Oddie says.

The ARCIC talks will take place from May 17- 27 focusing on the theme “Church as Communion – local and universal.”