CNS: Anglican leader’s concern for unity reflects Vatican concerns

That’s the headline at Catholic News Service to this article. How ironic that the dateline is July 29, 2009 — 35 years from the date of the first ordination of women in The Episcopal Church.

An extract:

Vatican concerns about how some recent decisions of the U.S. Episcopal Church will impact the search for full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity are echoed in a reflection by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion.

Writing July 27 about the Episcopal Church’s recent general convention, Archbishop Williams repeatedly referred to the need to keep in mind the ecumenical implications of local church decisions in addition to their impact on the unity of the Anglican Communion as a whole.

In a statement July 29, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity “supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the church,” the statement said.

“It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion,” it added.

It is worth recalling the address Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave at the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference in July of 2008. An extract:

As you well know, the ordination of women to the priesthood in several Anglican provinces, beginning in 1974 to be exact, 35 years ago to the day, July 29 1974], and to the episcopate, beginning in 1989, have greatly complicated relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church….

As I stated when addressing the Church of England’s House of Bishops in 2006, for us this decision to ordain women implies a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox churches. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century.

Since it is currently the situation that 28 Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood, and while only 4 provinces have ordained women to the episcopate, an additional 13 provinces have passed legislation authorising women bishops, the Catholic Church must now take account of the reality that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate is not only a matter of isolated provinces, but that this is increasingly the stance of the Communion. It will continue to have bishops, as set forth in the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and West will recognise therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early church and continuing through the ages.

So there you have it. For its stance on woman’s ordination the Anglican Communion has become more unrecognizable to Rome. Until Rome changes that will continue to be so. Ecumenism is a false argument to raise in the debate over unity of the Anglican Communion.

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