Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ecumenism, right and left

I like Anglicans.  (Well, there was this one who consistently made snide comments about "that dogma our Roman friends so appropriately refer to as 'the Assumption,'" but there's no reason to write the whole gang off because of a single bad apple, right?)

Given my generally hospitable nature, you'd think I'd be happy about our newest outreach effort: the notice earlier this week that a special structure would be established in the Roman Catholic Church, one that will welcome traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman fold.

In terms of worship, this move recognizes that these Anglicans have much in common with Roman Catholics, though it is notable that they will be able to keep some of their distinctive liturgical practices.  More "notable," however, is the reason Rome is suddenly looking good to these traditionalists:  we reject both women's ordination and the ordination of active gay men.  Most "notable," for Catholics in the pews, will be the fact that this welcome will be extended to married Anglican priests (many people do not know that, in fact, we've been welcoming married Anglican priests for some time now, on a case-by-case basis). 

On the plus side, Pope Benedict does seem to be trying to settle problems rather than avoid them.  Maybe we should add "focus" as a positive factor in the calculus of choosing older cardinals for the papacy.  The conventional wisdom was, after John Paul II's death in 2005, that electing an older pope would mean the election of a relatively quiet "caretaker."  I didn't buy that then, but now have even less reason to, as Benedict has moved with relative speed on certain fronts, such as the case of the Society of St. Pius X, the question of the celebration of the 1962 Latin mass, the Legionaries of Christ, etc.

Yes, you may say, but these are all efforts to accommodate sticky situations on the right.  Why are those who stray to the right regarded as "faithful," though problematic, while those who stray to the left are labeled "dissidents" and thrown out? One understanding of this relies on the metaphor of "low-hanging fruit:" these cases have been around for a while, they needed resolution, and they regularly engaged or were engaged by many official connections that could serve as dialogue pathways.  Perhaps the left could learn something here, about communion and incrementalism.

National Catholic Reporter has two pieces of interest on this:  John Allen's nuanced analysis, which recognizes that, until the actual document is issued, we don't really know precisely what is being suggested; and a somewhat more spirited response from Jamie L. Manson, "Misogynist?  Homophobic? We've Got the Church for You!" There will be more to say when the apostolic constitution (the text itself) is released.  UPDATE, Sun. 10/25:  David Gibson, writing in the Washington Post, also comments on this development, in "Is Pope Benedict a Closet Liberal?"  and Cathy Kaveny asks an interesting question:  Do married Anglican priests use contraception?

In other news, don't miss the significance of the appointment of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, formerly the ordinary of the diocese of St. Louis, to the Curia's Congregation for Bishops. This is a very disappointing move, as it will place the stamp of a divisive and reactionary sensibility on the episcopate for years to come.

And finally, in that ecumenical spirit, a shout-out to a newish venture by my old friend Susan Hogan, pretty good lutherans, an "independent news site" that features "ECLA News in Real Time." Check it out, bring a hotdish. [h/t:  Jeffrey Weiss, Politics Daily]