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Some observations on Ad Tuendam Fidem
By AO correspondent Chad Wohlers, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA
5 JULY 1998: Today's edition of The Boston Globe included two editorial pieces about Ad Tuendam Fidem and Cardinal Ratzinger's explanatory piece. One is by Lisa Sowle Cahill, professor of theology at Boston College, and the other is by Richard P. McBrien, a professor of Theology at Notre Dame. After discussing the subtle differences between "definitively held" and "infallible", he mentions the following with regards to Ratzinger's declaring that the invalidity of Anglican orders to be definitively held:
"The last example is astonishingly insensitive and provocative, coming as it does shortly before the opening of the Lambeth Conference, a meeting of every Anglican bishop from around the world, held every 10 years in Canterbury, England. What is equally astonishing is that the cardinal-archbishop of Westminster, Basil Hume, whose diocese is located at the very center of the Anglican Communion, was caught by surprise."
"Not even Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was informed until a few hours before its release. Significantly, Cardinal Cassidy is about to visit England during the Lambeth Conference, which begins July 18. He is likely to have a chilly reception unless some credible explanation or, better, the promise of a retraction is extended to the Anglican bishops. "
While some have, perhaps correctly, said that this issue really doesn't concern us as Anglicans, one might remember that, at least in this part of the country, RC's vastly outnumber Episcopalians, and any other denomination, for that matter. Perhaps for that reason they are the greatest source of converts to the Episcopal Church - I wouldn't be surprised if RC converts comprise more than half the membership of some parishes around here. Thus, this issue not only affects an extremely important ecumenical relationship (which, by the way, has been largely non-existent here since the installation of our very conservative Cardinal), it also affects the number of people who may, or may not, convert to the Episcopal Church.
The majority of American Catholics, of course, are really much closer to the Episcopal Church in their theology and polity than they are to the official RC line. So far most have managed to deal with this by simply ignoring the Pope's various pronouncements. As one of the previous Globe articles mentioned, this results in RC parishes becoming much more congregational - disregarding most everything outside their own parish. If the present Pope keeps pushing - and lives long enough to keep pushing - eventually something will snap, and large numbers of American RC's will desert their church. Many already have, of course, mostly by becoming disenchanted with all Churches. But many may eventually break away to form a new denomination, while others may end up as Episcopalians.
So, I think, this issue really does affect our Church because, ultimately, it can affect the character of our own denomination through the number and type of people attracted to the Anglican Communion.
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