Fr Christopher Colven, a former Anglican priest and sometime Master of the Society of the Holy Cross, is the Rector of St James, Spanish Place, London. He published this remarks on his parish website today:
During the past week at Spanish Place, two adults have been received into full communion with the Catholic Church, joining eight others who have made the same journey of faith this year – with the prospect of two more adding to their number before December is out. When Cardinal Newman became a Catholic in 1845 he was disappointed that more did not follow his example as he had come to the understanding that the orthodoxy of Christianity could only be ultimately guaranteed by communion with the Successors of St Peter. Perhaps now Newman has been beatified his prayers are proving ever more effective! Cardinal Hume used to say that the Catholic Church does not benefit from a weakened Church of England and that the Church by law established in this country has a unique opportunity (and responsibility) to ensure a Christian presence in the public domain. It is clear, though, that present divisions within Anglicanism are causing many to seek to live their Christian faith in less choppy waters: some wonderful fruit is being shaken out from the tree, and that is to our gain, not least at the parochial level.
The door to the Catholic Church has always been open to individuals, but the fresh element which has been added recently is the possibility of groups moving into full communion while retaining something of their own tradition and liturgy. Despite the usual perception of the Roman Catholicism as monolithic, it has, in reality, always acted as an umbrella under which could be found many different rites, cultures and emphases – we do not have to look further than our neighbours at the Ukrainian Cathedral in Duke Street to see a local manifestation of this truth. Pope Benedict has offered the prospect of “ordinariates” to those who want to be received corporately: the two basic requirements are a desire for communion with Rome and the acceptance of the Catechism as the standard of belief: beyond that it is virtually a blank cheque. Blessed John Henry must be working overtime! The generosity of the Holy Father’s offer is unparalleled (what a radical Papacy this is turning out to be – and who knows what further surprises the Holy Spirit has prepared for us) and although in some quarters it has been interpreted negatively as “poaching”, it is no more an expression of the Pope’s responsibility to serve and shepherd. In the longer term, what will probably be of more significance than any current application is that a flexible model for corporate reconciliation is on the table, which, potentially, could help to bring closer that day – for which we all long and pray – when all the Baptised will once more be in a single communion and fellowship. That was Christ’s own desire expressed during the Last Supper and we must never envisage nothing less than full organic unity as the goal of a true ecumenism. Anything that brings that moment closer is to be welcomed and encouraged.
h/t Giles Pinnock at The Anglo-Catholic