Australian bishop urges prudence as Anglicans join Catholic Church

PERTH, Australia – Incorporating traditionalist Anglicans into the Catholic Church must be a “slow, cautious and prudent” path of implementing Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution, said the bishop in charge of the process in Australia.

On November 9, the Vatican published Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” (“Groups of Anglicans”) along with specific norms governing the establishment and governance of “personal ordinariates,” structures similar to dioceses, for former Anglicans who become Catholic.

Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Elliott, a former Anglican himself, told The Record Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth Dec. 11 that such Anglicans are in for a difficult next few years as the ordinariate is established in Australia.

The prelate, appointed to oversee the process at the bishops’ November 23-27 plenary meeting, said that while the Church of England made some pastoral provision for these traditionalist Anglo Catholics, the Anglican Church has done nothing for them in Australia; “and the generous offer of Pope Benedict (XVI) comes to them in that context.”

“They are at a stage of praying and discerning,” Bishop Elliott said. “Obviously some are very tied to the churches where they worship, and great sacrifices will be required of them.

“They will have to give up worshipping in familiar places that they love dearly and seek fellowship with like-minded Anglicans on the journey into full unity with the Catholic Church.”

The apostolic constitution, he explained, gives “very clear guidance” on questions of local ordinaries, or bishops, of the Anglo Catholics. These will be worked out under the guidance of the Vatican and in conjunction with the Australian bishops over the next few years.

“I would hasten to add that we must not hurry this process. It must move slowly, cautiously and prudently,” he said.

“We will need more guidance from Rome on the exact way to proceed, but practical planning is already beginning at the local level in Australia among these groups.”

Bishop Elliott said that while Australia’s bishops welcomed the project, “we’re under no illusions it will be a complex process of establishing the ordinariate in a stable and sustainable way.”

“Some are going around saying this is a blow to ecumenism. I would argue quite the opposite; it will eventually facilitate stronger and richer ecumenism and may well facilitate honest relations with all Anglicans,” he said.

Bishop Elliott has already met with bishops, clergy and lay from the Traditional Anglican Communion and the traditionalist Forward in Faith Australia and has planned a series of meetings with the two groups and other individuals who have contacted him.

“I think we have to be as welcoming as possible, as many of these people are deeply hurt and have suffered much by trying to maintain a Catholic conscience in a situation of rapid change,” he said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.