This Catholic’s View
By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Pope Benedict’s latest initiative toward Anglicans who want to rejoin the Catholic Church has caused quite a stir.
Although Archbishop Rowan Williams and other Anglican leaders have said that it will not hurt Anglican-Catholic relations, more liberal voices in the Anglican Church, especially in the U.S. and Britain, have seen it as a crass attack on a weakened Anglican communion.
Many ecumenists on both sides see it as a repudiation of years of dialogue with the Anglicans and the adoption of “uniatism” in the Latin-rite or Western part of the Catholic Church. Uniatism refers to the pre-Vatican II strategy of trying to woo Orthodox Christians to join the Eastern-rite Catholic churches whose spirituality, liturgy and traditions are similar to the Orthodox, including a married clergy.
The Vatican does not see it that way. Rome has agreed to no longer attempt to convert Orthodox Christians, but it has not abandoned the Eastern Catholic churches, which have been part of the Catholic Church for centuries. Nor has Rome ever agreed to turn away any from the East or West who want to join. If religious freedom means anything, it means that people have a right to join any church they want.
As a supporter of the “big tent” concept of the Catholic Church, I cannot oppose Benedict’s attempt to welcome into the church Anglicans who have left the Anglican Communion. Likewise I do not object to negotiations between the Vatican and the conservative Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Lefebvre. My only concern is that the right side of the tent being constructed by the Vatican has a big “Welcome” sign while the left side has an “Exit Only” sign. Can’t we have a welcome sign on both sides of the tent?
Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
By Thomas J. Reese |
October 27, 2009; 11:53 AM ET
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