(Roman?) Catholic — Part Eight


Since all the Byzantine Rites share the same history of the schisms of Photius and Cerularius as the Ukrainian Rite, and since none of them has a presence in our immediate area, and having listed them in the last installment, I shall move on to look at the future, rather than at the past.

Toward the end of the last century and the beginning of the present, several groups and individuals within the Anglican Communion approached the Catholic Church to investigate the possibility of reintegration. The apostolic constitution enacting the introduction of personal ordinariates for former Anglicans was released on Sept. 11, 2009. On Mar. 3, 2010, the eight members of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America and 3,000 lay people in 120 parishes in four dioceses across the U.S. voted to join the Catholic Church. On Mar. 12, 2010, the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada made a similar move. 

Later that year, groups of clergy and laypeople in Australia and the British Isles made similar requests. The Australian group of parishes has been joined to Anglican parishes in Japan, and is now known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. The group of parishes in the British Isles is the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. For the United States and Canada it is the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter.

King Henry VIII decided he would be the head of the Catholic Church in England, and thus went into schism. It was his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, who became Protestant and left the Catholic Church. Those times saw such pendulum swings of power and religion that the man-on-the-street was left thoroughly confused. A good sense of that is shown in the satirical poem of the Vicar of Bray (Google the title). Since the Anglicans were originally of the Roman Rite, the ordinariates just described are also of the Roman Rite. It may very well be that these ordinariates will develop into ecclesiastical provinces of a new Western Rite, joining the Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite and the vestigial Mozarabic Rite. 

As the Personal Ordinariate experiment with Anglicans gains greater recognition, it is being asked if the arrangement might be appropriate for other Protestant groups who wish to return to the Catholic Church. In particular, there is the thought of a Lutheran Personal Ordinariate. Such a plan has not been rejected by the Church, but it has been pointed out that the initiative must come from Lutherans themselves who want to come home.

Further down the line, I see the possibility for another particular church in China. At present, there are two Catholic Churches operating in China, one in union with the pope, and the other not. Yet, under very different circumstances they try to maintain the faith and bring the Gospel to the people. The government-sanctioned church has even gone to the Catholic seminary training in Rome to prepare its own clergy. 

The xenophobia of the current Communist government in China is the stumbling block preventing a single Catholic Church in China. Once that is overcome, I believe the Chinese people would accept the idea of a particular church with its own governance in China. After all, we saw in installment five, Christian presence and influence in China dates back to as least the sixth and seventh century. Also, the writings of the missionary Matteo Ricci were so impressive to the Chinese that they have become part of the classic national heritage.

Before Christianity there were various religions and beliefs, but there was no church. As the Good News taught by Jesus and preached by the Apostles spread across many lands, the Church became aware of itself in many different cultures and histories. As I noted in the fifth installment, “We are simply members of the Catholic Church, whatever our nationality or rite. It is a grand brotherhood/family in Christ.”

The Gospel clearly tells us that Jesus chose to form a Church. If we look for the Church of Christ, we can find it. The following paragraph is taken from section eight of the Vatican II document on the Church: “This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess as one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic, which our Savior, after His Resurrection, gave to Peter to shepherd (Jn. 21:17), and committed him and the other Apostles to extend and direct with authority (Mt. 28:18), which He erected for all ages as the pillar and mainstay of the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15). This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in his communion, although many elements of sanctification and of truth may be found outside of its visible structure, which, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity.”

Following the Council, these same ideas were incorporated in the new Code of Canon Law: Canon 204, P.1 — The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through Baptism, have been constituted as the people of God; for this reason, since they have become sharers in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal office in their own manner, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each one. P.2 — This Church, constituted and organized as a society in this world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. 

Father Martin L. Buote is a retired priest of the Fall River Diocese and a frequent contributor to The Anchor.

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