Bishop Pope: Catholic Movement at an end. TLC 8.10.07 August 10, 2007Posted by geoconger in Fort Worth, Iran, Living Church, Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic movement in The Episcopal Church has degenerated from a theological imperative into haberdashery, the retired Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Clarence C. Pope, Jr., told a reporter for The Living Church, explaining his departure to the Roman Catholic Church.
On Aug. 6, Bishop Pope wrote to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, resigning from the House of Bishops, and telephoned his successor, the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, to announce his decision.
Bishop Pope said the Catholic movement, which has been part of “Anglicanism from the time of the Elizabethan Settlement, has gradually dissipated until we are left with lots of ‘catholic’ vestments worn in areas of The Episcopal Church where ‘low church’ used to be the order of the day.”
The movement has reached its end within the current institutional structures of The Episcopal Church, Bishop Pope asserted, and as a matter of conscience, it was time for him to go.
“Without the stable center provided by the Holy See of Peter,” he said, the Catholic movement within the church will “ultimately die away.”
The culprit in what he believes to be the death of Anglo-Catholicism is the usurpation of powers and prerogatives by General Convention. Bishop Pope argued that over the past generation, the “vote” in General Convention had led to the triumph of “political correctness” over sound doctrine. The vision of corporate reunion “put forth by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop [of Canterbury Michael] Ramsey can now never be realized.
“General Conventions are not General Councils but they have come to behave as such,” he said. “Doctrinal changes concerning holy matrimony, holy orders, and matters of sexual morality have put The Episcopal Church outside the limits of the Vincentian Canon, and marginalize everyone within it from the Catholic world.”
Bishop Pope said he regretted his return to The Episcopal Church in 1995, after having spent a year as a Roman Catholic. He explained that shortly after he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, “I was discovered to have advanced prostate cancer and that because it had spread so aggressively, I probably would not survive.”
The series of chemotherapy treatments and radiation he underwent left him “very impaired in my thinking,” he explained. The toll of his treatment and his tepid reception from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, which had refused him ordination as a priest, provoked depression.
“In the midst of all this sense of losing any awareness of belonging, Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called to see how I was,” Bishop Pope said. His classmate from the 1954 seminary class at Sewanee encouraged him to return to The Episcopal Church.
“Needing some ground of belonging, I gave in to his nudging and, as he claimed never to have received my letter of resignation, I drifted back to The Episcopal Church,” Bishop Pope said. He asserts now that “being of sounder emotional stability and out from under a fog bank of severe depression, I would never have made such a return.”
He characterizes his move to Rome not a rejection of Anglicanism but as a culmination of a spiritual journey.
“My love of Anglicanism is very deep,” he said, and it had “shaped and brought me to my present understanding” of the faith. Joining the Roman Catholic Church is “the final step for which this preparation was, I think, intended,” and was “by a desire for wholeness and settlement in the home I believe God has erected.”
Published in The Living Church.