HOUSTON — The head of the Vatican’s doctrine office called on Anglican communities that have entered the U.S. Catholic Church to have courage in bringing their patrimony into the larger Catholic community.
“Be courageous pioneers of communion, placing the diversity of your gifts at the service of the universal Church,” Archbishop Gerhard Müller said on Feb. 2. “The distinctiveness of your traditions and manner of prayer and worship are no obstacle to true unity in the Church.”
The archbishop, who is the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston during a symposium on the mission of the U.S. ordinariate.
Erected Jan. 1, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a special diocese-like structure that allows entire Anglican communities to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining certain elements of the liturgy and other customs.
The Holy Father had authorized the creation of ordinariates for Anglican communities seeking to enter the Catholic Church in his 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
There are currently two other ordinariates for former Anglicans: the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which covers England and Wales, and the Australia-based Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
In his talk, Archbishop Müller said that the ordinariates serve Christ’s “vision of unity.”
“It can certainly be said that, in creating this new structure, the Holy Father was responding to a movement of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It is the Spirit that draws the disciples of the Lord together, fashioning them into the ecclesial body of Christ.”
Archbishop Müller explained that the communion of the Catholic Church “flows from the communion of the blessed Trinity,” and its unity is not based on uniformity.
“Uniformity tends toward the elimination of those who do not conform or comply,” he said. “Conversely, another way the world tries to achieve oneness is by simply overlooking or ignoring the differences that do exist, even to the point of allowing contradictory claims to truth.”
But because the Church finds its unity in God, he noted, diversity in liturgical expressions in some governance structures and in parish culture “does not threaten ecclesial communion.”
“The overarching structure which holds together these expressions is the faith of the Church, ever ancient and ever new, and expressed eloquently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the archbishop continued.
Therefore, he said, the ordinariates’ preservation of “distinctive Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony” is “a hallmark of their parochial life” and “a contribution to the vitality of the Catholic Church.”
Integrating With Integrity
Archbishop Müller told the ordinariate leadership that they have the “delicate but all-important task” of preserving their communities’ integrity while integrating them into “the larger Catholic community.”
He stressed the need to foster a “culture of communion” with the bishops, the local dioceses and parishes, the Catholic faithful and “those still separated from the Church,” an important task that requires “wisdom, humility and a firmness of intention to avoid divisiveness.”
The archbishop said that ordinariate communities will face “scrutiny” both from interested members of the Anglican Communion and from Catholics who “will want to know that you are here to stay, strengthening our ecclesial cohesion, rather than setting yourselves apart as another divisive grouping within the Church.”
He noted that members of the ordinariate have displayed “great courage” in entering full communion with the Catholic Church, and he urged them to continue exercising such courage.
At the same time, he warned against taking a “defensive or contentious” position towards Catholic Church authority, saying that “unity is easily undermined by a culture of suspicion.”
“The openness of the wider Catholic community to the rich Anglican patrimony which you bring will be encouraged when they experience in your communities the joyful and peaceful embrace of our common faith,” the archbishop said.
“In a world marked by division and discord, a culture of communion can be an especially eloquent witness to the truth of our faith and in fidelity to Our Lord’s prayer ‘that they might be one.’”
Archbishop Müller also noted that the Holy Father has been heavily involved in the ordinariate, assuring its members that they “are very much in his thoughts and prayers.”
Other featured speakers at the symposium were Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who had served as the Vatican delegate for establishing the ordinariate, and Msgr. Steve Lopes, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, who leads the ordinariate, also spoke, and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston welcomed the attendees.