Southern Religion

‘A Once-Catholic Episcopalian Looks at Benedict’s Offer’

When the pope defended his outreach to Anglicans as ecumenism, Pulitzer Prize winning author Jack Miles explored the impact of a reverse offer.

In the Catholic magazine Commonweal, Miles wrote:

If the Episcopal Church were in a tit-for-tat mood, it could issue its own marching orders. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who occupies the same position within her church that Rowan Williams occupies within his (and who happens to be the daughter of Catholic converts to Episcopalianism), might issue an open invitation to the member groups of the Roman Catholic Leadership Conference of Women Religious to disaffiliate from Rome and reaffiliate — as religious congregations, not individual women — with a church where they would be welcomed for their often superior education as well as their selfless charity, rather than suspected of…well, whatever it is that the Vatican suspects them of.

While that idea has a touch of enlightening humor about it, the point is painfully clear and becomes more so when he turns to the Eucharist. About Holy Communion he writes:

The Rev. Canon Colville Smythe, a retired priest who generously volunteers his services at St. Edmund’s, spoke wisely, I thought, in a sermon on the Feast of Christ the King, when he said that Holy Communion, rather than Baptism, is the sacrament that nowadays typically begins a seeker’s journey toward sacramental Christianity. Baptism, in our time, typically comes later. In Smythe’s view, we should thus welcome all visitors—not just visiting baptized Christians—to receive the sacrament. As it happened, his sermon was delivered on the day when the New York Times reported that Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island had asked Representative Patrick J. Kennedy not to receive Communion because of his position on abortion. Not long before this, Archbishop Raymond Burke, who in 2004 took a cue from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and led the way in denying Communion to presidential candidate John Kerry, had denounced Boston’s Cardinal Séan O’Malley for allowing the late Ted Kennedy to receive a Catholic funeral.

In that context, you may indeed wonder with Miles what peace conservative Episcopalians will find if they accept Pope Benedict’s offer to swim the Tiber.

We believe Miles’ piece, “Trading Places,” is well worth your time, here.


January 16, 2010 - Posted by | Catholic, Religion | , , ,

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