Fr. Jack Barker and the early history of our movement

IMG_0156As we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Anglicanorum coetibus this year with our conference Anglican Tradition in the Catholic Church Nov. 15-16 in Toronto, it’s good to remember the Apostolic Constitution did not drop from the sky into Pope Benedict XVI’s imagination without any grounding or preparation.

Anglicanorum coetibus had its roots in the Pastoral Provision of 1980 and it had its pioneers who were on the forefront of ensuring Anglican tradition and common identity would have its place in the Catholic Church.

One of those pioneers is Fr. Jack Barker, who will be our keynote speaker in Toronto.  You will not want to miss his talk!  He has told us he will share information that has not been released in the public domain previously.

Fr. Barker has written a history of the Pastoral Provision that is well worth reading to remind us how far we’ve come.  It also shows how much remains the same!

For example, he writes:

On August 20. 1980, Archbishop John R. Quinn of the Archdiocese of San Francisco gave the world the first knowledge of the existence of a “Pastoral Provision” which had been approved by Rome through the efforts of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The decree of the Congregation was approved by Pope John Paul II on June 20. 1980 and communicated to Archbishop Quinn as the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in its letter dated July 22, 1980. [Appendix A] This decree was for the benefit of Episcopalians seeking full communion with the Catholic Church in the United Stares. The effect of this decree was to allow a means by which Episcopalians could become Roman Catholic, while at the same time retaining some of their traditions in a “common identity,” including liturgy and married priests. The response to the Archbishop’s press release was stunning. In private conversation, the night before the press release, Archbishop Quinn, when he had finished reading the decree said: “I’m not sure what all this means.” It can be seen in retrospect that the Pastoral Provision may be viewed as a microcosm of the changes taking place in the Roman Catholic church today.

This momentous announcement has been poorly understood and has received mixed responses from both Roman Catholics and Episcopalians. A great deal of attention was given to the idea that some married Episcopal priests could become Roman Catholic priests and retain their wives and the married life. The possible effects of this decree are of far greater historical consequence than merely the issue of married priests. The approval of the Pastoral Provision raises questions concerning its effect on ecumenical relations in the post Vatican II world, not only between Episcopalians and the Roman Catholic church but also between Anglicans in England and the Catholic church. The advent of this decree also represents another development in the relationship between the Roman Catholic church in the United States and the Vatican. Depending on one’s point of view this decree may be seen as another event in the one hundred year old history of tension between conservative and progressive elements within the Catholic church.

That reminds me so much of the shock that greeted news that Anglicanorum coetibus would be published!   I was at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops annual plenary in Oct. 2009 when news came from Rome that the Apostolic Constitution would be published in Nov. of that year.

While some bishops, were overjoyed as I was, I came across others who were flummoxed, maybe even annoyed by the announcement, because of its potential impact on ecumenical relations with the Anglicans.  The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada who was there as an invited guest seemed taken by surprise and not happy at all.   Remember news reports from England that Pope Benedict had parked tanks on the lawn of Lambeth Palace?

The idea of a structure patterned after the military ordinariates was brought up even before the Pastoral Provision was published:

Chicago 1978

Bishop Bernard Law invited Frs. Barker and Brown to meet with a canonist in Chicago to explore together the form of an Anglican “common identity” in the Catholic Church. In addition to the above, representatives of SSC and the Evangelical Catholic Mission (ECM) 13 were also invited by Bishop Law. The three groups met with Bishop Law’s Canonist at the Hilton Hotel at O’Hare Airport. The Anglicans present favored the proposal on structure modeled on the Military Ordinariate, but the small number of parochial communities, the death of Cardinal Seper who had taken a personal interest in this cause, together with the reluctance on the part of the American Catholic hierarchy mitigated against such a possibility.14 The report which came out of that meeting was submitted to Bishop Kelly (Secretary of the NCCB) by Father Bowen, the canonist. Bishop Kelly, in turn, submitted the report to the Vatican; the report also served as the basis for discussion at the executive session of the NCCB which followed in May 1978. It was at this meeting that Bishop Law spoke favorably to the question. It has been reported that the bishops of the NCCB likewise gave a favorable response. The PDSAC was informed by Bishop Law that the President of the NCCB, Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco, would now be the liaison for the NCCB relative to the Pastoral Provision.15

Fr. Barker was also involved in discussions regarding liturgy.  Stay tuned!

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