The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has posted the text of an address by Bishop Steven Lopes at the University of Vienna on March 28. It concerns primarily the role of the Congregation of the Faith where Bishop Lopes worked for 10 years before being named our bishop.
Generally speaking, by 1588, any matters concerning the faith and mores—often translated as “morals” but better understood as the manner in which the faith was practiced— came under the direct jurisdiction of the Congregation of the Holy Office. Its power extended not only to Rome and the Papal States, but, at least in theory, to 1 The Constitution Licet a diversis of Pope Julius III (15 February 1551) explicitly asserted the primacy of the Roman Inquisition in matters of faith over the claims of civil authorities, in this specific instance, the Republic of Venice. Page 4 of 18 every Catholic in every place. It had absolute jurisdiction in matters of heresy, schism, and apostasy.
This last reference is, of course, very important for our particular interest today in the question of corporate reunion of Anglicans and other groups with the Catholic Church. Responsibility for schism and apostasy has been the exclusive responsibility of the Congregation from the beginning and, to be clear, corporate reunion is the healing of of schism. There are other instances today at the Holy See for ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue. In these dialogues, the full, visible unity of Christians in Eucharistic communion may be the ultimate goal, but it is a remote goal and a great deal of prior conversation and theological exchange is yet needed. But once that dialogue reaches the point of action, of asking explicitly for full communion, competence passes to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which exercises responsibility in not only declaring schism, but in overcoming it. In the case of Anglican communities, they were clear in saying that the various dialogues over the years had led them to the point of accepting the Catholic faith to the extent that doctrinal difficulties were not posed by those communities seeking full communion. Indeed, many cited the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a decisive moment, as this compendium of the Church’s faith not only articulated “the faith once delivered to the Saints” but also provided a measure against which one could gauge the Catholicity of their own Ecclesial Community. For Catholic-minded Anglicans, this was essential.
The talk then goes on to give many details on what happened at the Congregation prior to Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.
In 2007, the Congregation received a new cluster of letters from groups of Anglican clergy posing a different kind of question. Yes, they were writing to say that their own individual journeys of faith had led them to the point of seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. But they were also writing as pastors responsible for the care of souls. They were concerned for the faithful who were willing to follow them into the fullness of Catholic communion. What of them? Was the idea just to assimilate them into normal Catholic life? Would their faith and devotion, nurtured and developed in an Anglican context, survive that process of assimilation so that these faithful truly became Catholic? Could there not be some “space” opened up in the Catholic Church where the faith practices and devotional life of these faithful could continue to thrive? One such letter the Holy See could ignore. As it happened, within a span of 4 months, the Congregation received very similar letters from groups of Anglican clergy in England, from Texas in the United States, from Australia, and from the so-called continuing Anglican groups, notably the Traditional Anglican Communion. Some response on the part of the Catholic Church was required.
My Dear Web Elf, we need a special link to this document. It is hugely important for our archives.
Another impressive intervention from our bishop!
I hope the POCSP will post an English text of his talk at Herzogenrath that our Anglicanorum Coetibus Society president David Murphy attended and posted on here.