Vatican halts bishops' joint church service
BY GABRIEL WINGATE-PEARSE
28/02/2009 4:00:00 AM
"THE Vatican has put a stop to a joint Pentecostal [!] service planned by the Newcastle and Maitland Catholic and Anglican bishops.
The confirmation service was scheduled for May 31 at Christ Church Cathedral, and was promoted as a "very exciting and special" event.
Parishes encouraged church members to consider being confirmed on that day.
But Rome intervened, forcing its cancellation, citing the possibility of "confusing messages" being given to churchgoers [like, about who is a priest and who isn't. About which sacraments are valid and which aren't!].
It is unclear how the headquarters of the Catholic Church learned of the service, as no formal notification was given.
It is a blow for the two bishops, as well as Bishop David Walker of the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay, who together signed an agreement last year called the Tri-Diocesan Covenant to work towards common goals.
It committed the dioceses to improve relations between the Catholic and Anglican communities.
The "request" was made by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which is the central governing body of the Catholic Church handling most affairs relating to official public worship.
In a joint statement, the Right Reverend Brian Farran, Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, and the Most Reverend Michael Malone, Catholic Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, said the congregation had "expressed concern about a simultaneous celebration and the possibility of confusing messages being given to the people". [Fair enough!]
In the statement, Bishop Malone said he believed that since a similar celebration had been held in England in 1989 [ahh yes, England circa 1989, that bastion of orthodoxy!], a precedent had been established, and he apologised to those who would have been involved.
Bishop Farran said he, too, was disappointed."
OK a few basics...
No doubt the media will start screaming about dobbers and 'temple police' again, so a few basic points.
1. Catholics and Anglicans are not in full communion with each other! We don't even recognise them as a 'Church' in the way we do with the Orthodox, but rather as an ecclesial community.
2. If ecumenism can be justified at all these days, its purpose has to be to be to bring those who don't have the fullness of truth (viz Anglicans) to the Church. Yes, once upon a time it was about working for peace, clearing up misunderstandings etc - but we are no longer throwing rocks at each other in the streets (well, except perhaps in old-fashioned low Church Sydney!). Above all, ecumenism can never be about all getting together and pretending we have no real theological differences when in fact we have.
3. The Catholic Church holds that Anglican Orders are not valid (there are a few bodgy cases where doubting anglican priests have run off to find a bishop who does have valid orders to ordain them. But if they swim the Tiber, they generally have to be at least conditionally ordained; more often ordained for the first (valid) time).
4. And for that reason Anglican sacraments (other than baptism and marriage) aren't valid either.....
It is one thing to have joint prayer sessions and the like. Even to allow non-Catholics to do a reading at a Mass for some particular occasion (though personally I'm opposed to that). Quite another to have so-called joint ceremonies.
Could the laity have been confused by the whole thing? You bet! But at least the thing was stopped in time, rather than having embarrassing photos reported all over the world, scandalizing catholics everywhere, as inevitably would have been the case had the event proceeded.
Bishop Malone, by the way, is aged 69, so a way to go yet in theory at any rate...
The cold war has turned hot...
The other interesting thing about this story is that it marks yet another example of action to assert orthodoxy. There are a few of them around - we all know about the ongoing saga with the SSPX. And in Austria, the Bishop of Linz, who allegedly pressured his newly appointed auxiliary, Bishop Wagner, to resign, was called to Rome this weekend (though at least he actually went, unlike a certain Queensland bishop). Now if only things were moving as fast in our beloved Brisbane...But in any case, look forward to an interesting time ahead...