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Vatican decision to accept disgruntled Anglicans unlikely to impact South Florida churches

BY JAWEED KALEEM, jkaleem@MiamiHerald.com

The Vatican's announcement this week that it will allow disgruntled Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church en masse has caused a stir among South Florida Episcopalians, members of the American wing of the worldwide Anglican communion. But it likely won't have much of an impact on the local church landscape because of existing denominational splits.

Aimed at conservative Anglicans opposed to their church's liberal stance on same-sex blessings and the ordination of woman priests and gay bishops, Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval Tuesday to a formal method to bring Anglicans into the Roman Catholic church while allowing them to keep some religious traditions, such as worship methods.

In the past, Anglicans who wanted to become Catholic needed to be approved on a case-by-case basis, but now the process can be done for individuals as well as entire congregations and dioceses. Anglican priests, who can be married, will be allowed to become Catholic priests. The Vatican has not released details of the process..

Already, one conservative Anglican diocese in Nigeria has said it is weighing the Vatican's offer. Another English group that opposes the ordination of women, Forward in Faith, has predicted the announcement could mean 1,000 less Anglican priests in the United Kingdom.

Yet South Florida's Episcopal bishop said he doesn't see the Vatican's decision putting a dent in his 38,000-member diocese.

``In a given year I can assure you that I receive more Roman Catholics into our communion than they would receive of ours,'' said the Rt. Rev. Leo Frade of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, which covers an area from Jensen Beach to Key West and includes 8 churches.

``But the reality is that those who wanted to leave have left already.''

Five years ago, when the Episcopal church approved the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire, hundreds of South Florida Episcopalians broke away in protest, aligning themselves with the more conservative Anglican Mission in America. In other parts of the country, such as Texas and California, entire dioceses have broken away from the church.

``I've gotten about 10 e-mails from folks about this already,'' said the Rev. Carlos Miranda, rector of King of Glory Anglican Church in Miami Springs, where most members are former Episcopalians. ``It will be interesting to see what the actual stipulations are of the provision.''

The Rev. Pat O'Neill, director of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for the Archdiocese of Miami, called the Vatican's announcement a ``forward step'' in relations between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, but said it is too early to tell what will happen in South Florida.

The Anglican church was formed in the 16th century after it broke away from Rome, and relations between the two churches have been improving since the 1960s.

``Pope Benedict XVI is saying a larger group of Anglican priests worldwide with their congregations or on their own are being welcomed to the Catholic community. There might be hundreds of Catholic priests each year who join the Anglican church -- or vice-versa,'' O'Neill said.

In a statement released Wednesday, Alberto Cutié, the Miami priest who famously left the Catholic Church in May after publicly breaking his vow of celibacy, was critical of the Vatican.

``Why does the church accept married priests from other churches, but does not allow its own priests to be married?. . .Does not accepting gays and women in the clergy put you in communion with the Roman Catholic Church?'' asked Cutié, who is now a lay minister at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Biscayne Park.

Chris Fulton, who was raised Episcopalian, said the announcement gave him hope. He stopped regularly attending an Episcopal church years ago as he noticed the denomination ``veering away from tradition.''

Today, Fulton occasionally attends Mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Coral Gables, but since he hasn't formally become Catholic, he cannot receive communion and feels out of place on Sundays because he grew up with the slightly different Episcopal worship style. Under the Vatican's new provision, Episcopalian and Anglican churches will be able to preserve their worship style.

``Mostly I think, `I don't know where to go to church,' so we just don't go,'' said Fulton, a 46-year-old exporter who lives in Coconut Grove.

No South Florida churches have committed to joining the Roman Catholic church, but Fulton hopes to find a one that may switch. ``I'm excited,'' he said.

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If those Anglicans/Episcopalians who become Roman Catholic Christians can truly assent to that Communion's (Vatican-approved) statements of dogma, doctrine, and moral theology, that's exactly where they should be. All clergy would have to be ordained again, because the Roman Church does not acknowledge the validity of Anglican/Episcopal ordinations; furthermore, the infallibility and authority of the Pope, assumption of Mary, indulgences, transubstantiation, RC ‘anthropology,’ contraception, and divorce/remarriage come to mind as among the other non-negotiables. I wonder how many disenchanted Anglicans/Episcopalians can honestly fit within the Roman Catholic interpretation of Christianity! I doubt that the Pope's invitation implies that one can hold to the form and substance of classical Anglican theology and simply be housed in any way within the Roman faith community. The significant differences between Anglican and Roman Catholic Christians include many matters beyond gender/sexual issues.

I don't think that the Anglo Catholic leaning Anglican would have many problems with most,if not all, of the mentioned "non-negotiable" items listed above. The Anglican church I grew up in had very similar views as the RC Church, so I know I would have no problem with moving to the Roman Catholic Church, although my wife would have some major problems with this. She comes from a very strong Southern Baptist background and has trouble understanding the significance of the litergy in the Anglican church we attend and was taught that the Antichrist will rise out of the RC Church. I can't even get her to go to a confirmation class to learn about the Anglican church and the significance of the rituals/traditions of the catholic church, so my battle is different than some others considering the Roman Catholic Church. I do believe that for many of the newly formed congregations this is a wonderful chance to rejoin the mother church. We pray every week that the church be united, now we are getting a chance to prove it. I hope it works out.

Mr. Macquire appears to be a member of an independent Anglican Church that is not part of the Episcopal Church/USA or recognized by the Anglican Communion's Archbishop of Canterbury. There is a number of such independent churches and dioceses that include "Anglican" in their names. Is this the case, Mr. Macquire? If not, would you care to identify your parish and its location?

So let me get this straight (no pun intended): The more conservative Whiskypalians are willing to leave their church over gay issues but they don't have a problem with divorced priests and divorced members. And the Catholic Church is going to welcome them with open arms, even to the point of compromising basic tenants of faith like the infallibility and authority of the Pope, assumption of Mary, indulgences, transubstantiation, RC ‘anthropology,’ contraception, and divorce/remarriage. WOW! Ignorance clothed in the cloak of religion.

I received an email asking whether there is an official list, beyond my say-so, re churches and dioceses named "Anglican" but that are independent of the official Anglican Communion (including the Episcopal Church/USA). Here's a reliable link: http://anglicansonline.org/communion/nic.html .
Furthermore, there is a section on "Episcopal Beliefs and Traditions" at www.philosophy-religion.org .
I do not mean to suggest that such independent Anglican churches are defective, fraudulent, unchristian, or the like. They can be totally faithful and sincere. In this discussion, it is a matter of trying to clarify where "non-negotiables" (as used in prior posts)apply.

Mr. Macquire appears to be this man - found via Googling. It is not clear what brand of "Anglican" he is; in other places he has taken a far right position on issues of human sexuality. One wonders how he discovered Mr. Rothaus' work all the way from Tenn.
"I am a practicing Anglican. I left the Episcopal Church about 1.5 years ago. It looks more and more like the Anglican Church is going to split over biblical teaching and most recently over Female Ordination as Bishops. I have always considered myself Anglo-Catholic (originally from the Anglican Church of Canada). The idea of Anglican Rite Catholic interests me. Exactly how does this work? How is it different from the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic church? Is it a melding of both traditions? I am going to bookmark your website and read what it says later. Thanks.
Gary W. Macquire
Oak Ridge, TN USA - 07/11/08"

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