17 November 2012

Submission? You bet!


Each year a large number of Anglicans make the journey into the full communion of the Catholic Church through our parish. In fact, a husband and wife were received yesterday, and at this time there are several more receiving instruction.

Every once in a while I’ll hear from clergy serving in any of the several local Anglican communities. Sometimes they’re interested in becoming Catholic; more often they’re interested in debating. Obviously they don’t want to lose people from their communities, so I don’t blame them for trying to make their case. Some of them see no need to “become Catholic” because they’re quite certain they already have everything necessary for being Catholic. They would entertain the idea of “being in communion with Rome,” as long as it didn’t involve having to believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. In fact, many of them would hold that those Anglicans who intend to become Roman Catholics have sold their souls – to what or to whom, I’m not certain – and words like “capitulation” and “submission” are used fairly often.

I always end up agreeing with them on that point. Becoming a Catholic does require capitulation and submission – to God, that is. It was, after all, God’s idea that the Church be one. It was God’s idea that St. Peter should be the Rock on which His Church would be built. It was God who said, “This is my Body,” and “This is the chalice of my Blood.” It’s all there in the Gospel, from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Himself, so why wouldn’t we take those statements as true? In fact, it was God’s idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be preserved from the stain of original sin so that the flesh He took would be unblemished by sin. And since sin results in death, it’s logical that she who was conceived in the extraordinary situation of original purity should not undergo the ordinary circumstances of death. Likewise, it was God who said that those whom He had joined together, “let not man put asunder.” He also said, “Thou shalt do no murder,” and surely He intended the commandment to be applied to the innocent unborn. These things, and more, are part of the revealed Catholic faith. Who wouldn’t want to submit to such obvious truths?

And I have to ask those who warn against capitulation and submission to these and other matters of faith…what are they offering? Some “pure” form of Anglicanism? Catholicism divorced from the Petrine office established by Christ? A pick-and-choose form of Christianity tailor-made for personal tastes? Actually, that doesn't seem to be working out so well. Pride doesn’t make for a stable foundation, and the private judgement of what’s true doesn’t make very reliable glue.

When he was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey spoke of the “provisional” nature of Anglicanism. In 1989, then-Archbishop Robert Runcie was addressing the North American Conference of Cathedral Deans when he said, “Our vocation as Anglicans is to put ourselves out of business.” Entering into full Catholic communion through the Pastoral Provision or the Ordinariate isn’t so much a matter of going out of business; rather, it’s moving the best treasures to a safe location, where the roof doesn’t leak and the walls aren’t crumbling.