Cardinal Wuerl, 12/17/2010

Anglican communities who join Catholic Church would bring gifts of their heritage and tradition, says Cardinal Wuerl

Earlier this fall, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was named by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to guide the incorporation of Anglican groups into the Catholic Church in the United States.

In this position, Washington's archbishop is a delegate of the congregation and heads the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee charged with assisting the congregation in implementing the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus ("Groups of Anglicans"). Pope Benedict XVI issued the document in November 2009 to provide for establishing personal ordinariates for Anglican groups who seek to enter corporately into full communion with the Catholic Church. In the apostolic constitution, Pope Benedict reaffirmed his commitment to promoting Christian unity and said that as the one chosen "to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all churches," he had to find a way to accept the request of Anglican individuals and groups who wanted "to be received into full Catholic communion."

The personal ordinariate is a canonical structure similar to a diocese that covers the area of a bishops' conference. This permits the incoming Anglicans to be part of the Catholic Church while retaining aspects of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.

Other members of the committee are Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Mass. The committee will be assisted by Father Scott Hurd, who was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1993, joined the Catholic Church in 1996 and was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in 2000. Father Hurd will assist Cardinal Wuerl as staff to the ad hoc committee and as a liaison to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The ad hoc committee has two tasks: To facilitate the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States; and to assess the level of interest in such an ordinariate in the United States.

Interested Anglicans are asked to contact Cardinal Wuerl through the Archdiocese of Washington.

In an interview, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the work of the ad hoc committee.

What was your reaction to the appointment?

Cardinal Wuerl: "I recognized that this response on the part of the Holy See to the persistent requests over a long period of time provides an opportunity for a truly pastoral response on the part of the Church here in the United States. While this work can be challenging, it's the fruit of the Spirit."

What goals do you have for this committee?

Cardinal Wuerl: "The first thing we would like to do is determine how many groups there are who would like to be part of the ordinariate. Over the past year, there have been a number of people who have written, interested in exploring this idea. Now we are able to begin the most significant work that the committee and myself as a delegate will face. We're going to have to determine how many potential ordinariate parishes there are. There is envisioned in the United States one ordinariate. We don't know how many congregations across the country would want to take advantage of the provision. I have received a number of inquiries since my appointment. Father Hurd has responded on my behalf. We want to enter into dialogue with the communities. The information we would need includes its size, location and history. The committee has developed some criteria to begin to determine the necessary information we would need relative to the communities across the country. Our first step right now is receiving inquiries and responding to them, and in dialogue to assess with them what the prospects are for an ordinariate in this country."

What about the timing of the announcement of this appointment, just days after Pope Benedict's visit to Great Britain?

Cardinal Wuerl: "My appointment is for the United States. It is not directly related to the Pope's visit to England. The possibility of an ordinariate had been discussed and the apostolic constitution had been issued long before the visit. The constitution Anglicanorum coetibus followed on the persistence of the requests. At a certain point, the Holy Father, in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, decided there has to be a pastoral response."

Is this an effort to reach out to Anglicans who disagree with the Anglican Communion's ordaining women to the priesthood and allowing same-sex marriages?

Cardinal Wuerl: "This constitution and the idea of an ordinariate respond to the conscientious desire for unity. We who in our country so highly prize conscience should be the first to recognize that if a congregation feels called to reunion with the Catholic Church, we would want to facilitate that process. Our committee is working out of the presumption that those seeking reunion do so in good faith."

(At this point in the interview, Father Hurd noted, "It's an honor to assist with this effort, certainly a very historical moment in the life of the Church, and my prayer is that the reception of these groups into the Catholic community will be a blessing for all those involved.")

Cardinal Wuerl: "We are grateful that we have a priest in our central administration who is so well prepared to assist in this effort and has sensitivity to the concerns of all those involved."

Is there an historical precedent for this effort?

Cardinal Wuerl: "I'm not aware of one precisely such as an ordinariate. We have to insert this pastoral response on the part of the Pope into the longstanding effort at corporate reunion between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. In the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI and Anglican Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury began to talk of corporate reunion, how could the two faith communities work toward unity. For years, there were regular meetings between Anglican and Roman Catholic representatives in the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). These meetings produced a number of agreements. The original context was to bring both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion together. The apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus is in effect a continuation of that movement. The initial effort on a larger level has stalled over a variety of issues. I think any process to bring together disparate elements of Christians is a good thing, it's a positive thing. Unity is the ultimate goal. Our Lord prayed that we might all be one."

How might this ordinariate work?

Cardinal Wuerl: "We are all familiar with the concept of a diocese, with a bishop, priests, parishes, the sacraments, but we usually envision that within a certain geographic territory. The ordinariate would be similar, except for geography. There will be an ordinary, priests and parishes. The difference is these parishes would not just be clustered in one geographic area, but spread throughout the country.

"The most important element at the heart of this process is that the community will now be reunited with the See of Peter. In that way, it will be like any other parish in the neighborhood. What will be different is that many elements of their liturgy will be reflective of their Anglican heritage. Even there, the core elements will be identical. The Mass will be the Mass, but some liturgical aspects will reflect the Anglican heritage."

(Father Hurd noted, "The elements of the Eucharistic liturgy are the same... But we would not be using the Book of Common Prayer, because elements in it are not consistent with Roman Catholic theology.)

Cardinal Wuerl: "Already, some Anglicans use a missal that takes elements of the Anglican tradition and draws upon the precision of the Roman Missal. The Anglican tradition is rooted in a rich appreciation of English, some of which has been unchanged for centuries. Just as there are those who prefer one type of music to another in our liturgy today, so there are those deeply immersed in the language, cadence and rhythm of the Anglican liturgy."

How will members of the Anglican groups become Catholic?

Cardinal Wuerl: "After an appropriate period of time and a catechetical process still to be determined, the members of the Anglican tradition parish individually have to make a written profession of faith that they accept the faith of the Catholic Church. Then they proceed to complete the process of sacramental initiation (Confirmation and Communion). The priest has to go through a formation process and be ordained."

What gifts will these Anglican communities bring to the Catholic Church?

Cardinal Wuerl: "Retaining the Anglican tradition that is so dear to these communities in a way is replicated and found in churches already in full communion with the Catholic Church. We have many Eastern Churches with their traditions and liturgies, such as Ukrainian, Maronite, Melkite, Ruthenian, the Malabar and Malankar Churches. All of these churches have parishes where that richness and diversity are reflected in unity of faith in one Church. The former Anglican communities, I believe, will enrich the Church."

What are the parallels between parishes in the ordinariate, and parishes in a regular diocese, and what differences do you see?

Cardinal Wuerl: "The similarities and parallels are the structure and the way they work. There will be an ordinary and pastors. The governance and direction of the churches will follow canon law, and the teaching will be in conformity to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In that sense, there is significant similarity; they are almost indistinguishable.

"The differences are not in matters of faith, ecclesial governance or in the sacraments, but the differences are matters of liturgical style, language and historical heritage. That is why we would expect to hear music somewhat different from the local Latin parish. The language of prayer will have a different tonality."

Do you see the recently beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman as a role model or patron for this effort?

Cardinal Wuerl: "Whether on an individual level or communal basis, the return to full Communion with the Catholic Church is always gratifying to see. We can take inspiration from Blessed John Henry Newman. He actually began a movement re-examining the division between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. He was formed in the Anglican tradition and brought those gifts to the Catholic Church. He grew up in that tradition. At a recent symposium at Georgetown University reflecting on the impact of Blessed John Henry Newman, the speakers agreed that Newman is a model for conscientiously being led in the Spirit to reunion with the Catholic Church."

On the day before the Consistory, Pope Benedict and the world's cardinals discussed a number of key issues, including the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus. What insights did you gain from the discussion on this issue?

Cardinal Wuerl: "In the course of the discussion presided over by our Holy Father, there was vocal support for the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus. It was pointed out that in the catechesis surrounding the implementation of this apostolic constitution, there would be ample opportunity also for Catholics to renew their understanding of important elements of the faith, such as the nature of the Church, the significance of the petrine office, the role of the Magisterium, or teaching office of the Church, and the sacramental nature of the Church. Many of these aspects of our faith have faded from the awareness of some Catholics today, thus, the discussion I found to be a helpful reminder of the catechetical mission we have, not just to those coming into the Catholic Church but to those who are already members of the Church."