Is Anglicanism very similar to Catholicism?
Viennese theologian wrote the history of Anglican Catholics
"More recently, the Holy Spirit has urged groups of Anglicans to make repeated and fervent requests to be accepted as groups into the full Catholic community. The Apostolic See has graciously received these requests."
With these words begins the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus" (Eng .: "Groups of Anglicans"), with which since November 9, 2009 the Pope has given all those Anglicans who feel connected to the Catholic Church a path to unity with Rome opened. Among other things, the constitution provides for the establishment of personal ordinariates, a kind of dioceses in which converted Anglicans can maintain their liturgy and tradition.
A unity in reconciled diversity, one could say - because it was and is not about the believers in question completely shedding their own Anglican tradition, but rather about living it in recognition of Rome and in unity with the Catholic Church.
The history of these Anglican Catholics has been dealt with in recent years by a research focus at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Vienna. This particular chapter of the most recent church and liturgy history is systematically compiled, developed and also broken down theologically in the award-winning dissertation "United not absorbed. History and worship of the Catholics of Anglican tradition" by the Viennese theologian Daniel Seper, which has now been published by the German LIT publishing house.
First systematic overview
In fact, there has not yet been such a comprehensive, scientifically sound discussion of the topic. And so Seper went on research trips in the course of his dissertation and, among other things, dug up previously unpublished sources in the archives in Washington D.C., Texas and California, which open up a new look at this group of believers that goes far beyond the limited terrain of purely liturgical aspects. The last highlight of this story was the introduction of a special form of the Roman rite valid worldwide for Catholics of the Anglican tradition in 2015 - including a separate missal. In 2019 the Vatican also enacted new rules for Anglican-Catholic communities that supplement the constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus". These contain further concessions, so that priests of Anglican origin may use the missal "Divine Worship" approved by the Vatican outside of the ordinariate in church services. Even priests who do not belong to a personal ordinariate may in certain cases celebrate this liturgy. This is interpreted as a consolidation and confirmation of "Divine Worship".
Looking back, the development around 1980 was exciting, according to Seper: Although there has been a so-called Anglo-Catholic wing since the Anglicans existed, this has always had its place within the Anglican community. At the end of the 1970s, however, inquiries from Anglicans asking for admission to the Catholic Church would have increased. "What was new about it was that they did not just want to be normal Roman Catholic Christians, but that they wanted to maintain their Anglican traditions in communion with the Bishop of Rome. In doing so, they could refer to statements made by Pope Paul VI himself, who said the 'valuable Heritage of the Anglican Church 'and spoke of a unity in relation to a reunification of the two communities in which the Anglicans and their traditions should not simply be absorbed in the Catholic Church. "
Years of tough negotiations followed, as the Anglican side feared it would be taken over by the oversized Roman Catholic Church, while the Catholic side feared, for example, that the admission or recognition of married Anglican priests could be misinterpreted as a sign of the relaxation of the obligation to celibacy, according to Seper. In 1980 the first Vatican rules for the admission of Anglicans into the Catholic Church followed, while preserving their own liturgical traditions, initially limited to the USA. "Anglican clergy - even if they were married - could be ordained Catholic priests. For these Catholics of the Anglican tradition, no large structures were created, but they were integrated into the existing dioceses in the form of personal parishes."
From the personal parish to the personal ordinariate
The liturgy represented a theological stumbling block - more precisely, the Anglican understanding of the Eucharist and sacrifice, which differed in detail, as well as the veneration of saints and the meaning of prayer for the dead. Admittedly, the Catholics resorted to the "Book of Common Prayer", which was widespread in the Anglican region, but adjustments were needed, which were reflected in the "Book of Divine Worship". In 1987 it was officially approved for use in staff parishes - an important sign, according to Seper, was thus liturgically stipulated that unity in the Catholic Church does not mean uniformity, "but is understood as unity in diversity, which foreign traditions do not as a threat, but as an asset. "
However, it quickly became apparent that the unity solution in the form of "staff parishes" was not ideal, continued Seper. And so proposals were drawn up that ranged from an Anglican rite church similar to the Eastern Churches within the Catholic Church to a personal prelature or personal diocese. In 2009 the Holy See finally reacted in the form of the well-known constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus", which now provided for "personal ordinariates", which resembled a diocese, instead of personal parishes.
Positive interim result
There are now three such staff ordinariats: the staff ordinariate "Kathedra Petri" for the USA and Canada, the staff ordinariate "Our Love of Walsingham" for England and Wales and the staff ordinariate "Our Lady of the Southern Cross" for Australia. The two ordinaries in the USA and England have around 40 communities, the Australian ordinariate consists of around a dozen. "While that is a significant number, it could be higher because a large Anglican group, the Traditional Anglican Communion, did not ultimately convert as a whole."
The balance of the liturgy expert Seper after almost 10 years in which the personal ordinariate existed is basically positive: The long-term debates and negotiations would ultimately have paid off for the faithful - and the ecclesiological fears on both sides would not have been fulfilled.
Reference: Daniel Seper: United not absorbed. History and worship of Catholics of the Anglican tradition (Austrian Studies on Liturgical Science and Sacraments Theology 11), Vienna: LIT-Verlag 2020, ISBN 978-3-643-50961-1
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