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Gays and Women slows ecumenical progress: CEN 8.01.08 p 7. August 11, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Lambeth 2008, Roman Catholic Church, Women Priests.
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The Anglican Communion must put its ecclesiological house in order before any further meaningful steps toward dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church can take place, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told the Lambeth Conference on July 26.

Speaking to a self-select session of the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Westminster reviewed the work of ARCIC, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Consultation over the past forty years, and expressed the Vatican’s desire for the work to unity between the two churches continue.

The Roman Catholic Church “takes no pleasure at all to see the current strains in your communion – we have committed ourselves to a journey towards unity, so new tensions only slow the progress,” he said.

Three Catholic Cardinals will address the Lambeth Conference. Cardinal Ivan Dias last week addressed a plenary session on evangelism, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor spoke to issues of Anglican Roman Catholic dialogue and on July 31 Cardinal Walter Kasper will speak to “Roman Catholic perspectives on Anglicanism.” All three cardinals have been critical of recent actions taken by members of the Anglican Communion, with Cardinal Dias diagnosing Anglicanism with spiritual Alzheimer’s.

In his address to Lambeth, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said the divisions over doctrine and discipline that had divided the Anglican Communion had harmed also its ecumenical dialogue. If the Roman Catholic Church “does not believe that it can ordain women, in what way is the issue of Anglican ordinations to be overcome? Or to put the matter another way, and this is not meant to be polemical, if Anglicans themselves disagree over this development, and find yourselves unable fully to recognise each other’s ministry, how could we?” he asked.

The Anglican divisions over homosexuality could also undo the progress of drawing the churches closer.. “It doesn’t need me to enlarge upon the divisiveness of some issues of morality. If anybody ever thought that such questions concerned only the individual conscience and had little ecclesial, let alone ecumenical, consequence, events have shown otherwise,” he said.

However, behind these issues, “hidden in these shadows,” was the issue of church order and ecclesiology, the cardinal said.

“How do we understand the Church? Where is the Church to be found? Is it a loose federation with a common history and family kinship? Is it a more closely-knit body with developed structures of authority? Moreover, with what instruments does the Spirit enable the Churches to reach binding decisions where necessary? – decisions which can provide clear and focused guidance about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and about the moral decisions church members face as they try to follow the Gospel,” the Cardinal asked.

Citing the discussions at Lambeth and at last month’s Gafcon conference in Jerusalem, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said the Anglican Communion was addressing these issues. However, it must settle its questions of authority, as there was little point of continuing ecumenical dialogue if the agreements reached held no significance for Anglicans.

“If we are to make progress through dialogue we must be able to reach a solemn and binding agreement with our dialogue partners. And we want to see a deepening not a lessening of communion in their own ecclesial life,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said.

Anglicans must decide who they are and what they believe before any meaningful dialogue can take place, he argued as “these discussions are about the degree of unity in faith necessary for Christians to be in communion, not least so that they may be able to offer the Gospel confidently to the world. Our future dialogue will not be easy until such fundamental matters are resolved, with greater clarity.”

Whether the Cardinal’s words will sway the bishops at Lambeth is unclear. Only 17 people attended his presentation, of whom seven were Roman Catholic ecumenical participants, while only one Church of England bishop was present.

Speaking to reporters on July 25, the Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico charged that the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI had backed away from ecumenical dialogue. “They are the ones who are obstacles,” he said, arguing that Benedict placed too much emphasis on the issue of the ordination of women and homosexuality. “My concern is that they open themselves to dialogue instead of saying this is wrong.”

Dialogue with traditionalist Anglicans and the Vatican, however, appears to be coming to a conclusion. On July 5 Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to the leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), Archbishop William Hepworth stating the Vatican was giving “serious attention” to the “prospects of corporate unity” with TAC and other traditionalist Anglicans.

However, the Vatican would wait and see what happened to the Anglican Communion before it acted. “The situation within the Anglican Communion in general has become markedly more complex” in recent months, Cardinal Levada noted, and the Vatican would respond once it knew which way the Anglican Communion would turn.

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