VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Anglican Communion needs to find a way to affirm the dignity of all people and encourage the active role of women in the church while remaining faithful to the Christian tradition and Scriptures, said Cardinal Walter Kasper.
The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke July 30 at a session for bishops attending the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference, which is held once every 10 years, in England.
Offering "Roman Catholic Reflections on the Anglican Communion," the cardinal told the bishops he spoke "as a friend" representing a church committed to dialogue with Anglicans and praying that the Anglican Communion does not split as a result of differences over ordaining women and over homosexuality.
The ordination of women bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of an openly gay bishop in some Anglican provinces are seen as practices that will make Roman Catholic-Anglican unity impossible, in addition to straining relations among Anglicans.
The text of his presentation was published in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
In his address, the cardinal said, "We hope that we will not be drawn apart, and that we will be able to remain in serious dialogue in search of full unity so that the world may believe."
Zenit has Kasper's full text here:
What we are talking about is not an ideology, not a private opinion which one may or may not share; it is our faithfulness to Jesus Christ, witnessed by the apostles, and to His Gospel, with which we are entrusted. From the very beginning we should, therefore, keep in mind what is at stake as we proceed to speak about faithfulness to the apostolic tradition and apostolic succession, when we speak about the threefold ministry, women’s ordination, and moral commandments. What we are talking about is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ Himself, who is our unique and common master. And what else can our dialogue be but an expression of our intent and desire to be fully one in Him in order to be fully joint witnesses to His Gospel.
It has often been said, and is worth restating, that the dialogue was dynamized by the desire to be faithful to Christ’s expressed will that His disciples be one, just as He is one with the Father; and that this unity was directly linked to Christ’s mission, the Church’s mission, to the world: may they be one so that the world may believe. Our witness and mission have been seriously hampered by our divisions, and it was out of faithfulness to Christ that we committed ourselves to a dialogue, based on the Gospel and the ancient common traditions, which had full visible unity as its goal. Yet full unity was not and is not an end in itself, but a sign of and instrument for seeking unity with God and peace in the world.
I know that many of you are troubled, some deeply so, by the threat of fragmentation within the Anglican Communion. We feel profound solidarity with you, for we too are troubled and saddened when we ask: In such a scenario, what shape might the Anglican Communion of tomorrow take, and who will our dialogue partner be? Should we, and how can we, appropriately and honestly engage in conversations also with those who share Catholic perspectives on the points currently in dispute, and who disagree with some developments within the Anglican Communion or particular Anglican provinces? What do you expect in this situation from the Church of Rome, which in the words of Ignatius of Antioch is to preside over the Church in love? How might ARCIC’s work on the episcopate, the unity of the Church, and the need for an exercise of primacy at the universal level be able to serve the Anglican Communion at the present time?
Rather than answer these questions, let me remind you of what we stated at the Informal Talks in 2003, and have reiterated on several occasions since then: “It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree.” Therefore we are following the discussions of this Lambeth Conference with great interest and heartfelt concern, accompanying them with our fervent prayers.
Since it is currently the situation that 28 Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood, and while only 4 provinces have ordained women to the episcopate, an additional 13 provinces have passed legislation authorising women bishops, the Catholic Church must now take account of the reality that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate is not only a matter of isolated provinces, but that this is increasingly the stance of the Communion. It will continue to have bishops, as set forth in the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and West will recognise therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early church and continuing through the ages.
I have already addressed the ecclesiological problem when bishops do not recognize other’s episcopal ordination within the one and same church, now I must be clear about the new situation which has been created in our ecumenical relations. While our dialogue has led to significant agreement on the understanding of ministry, the ordination of women to the episcopate effectively and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican Orders by the Catholic Church.
It is our hope that a theological dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church will continue, but this development effects directly the goal and alters the level of what we pursue in dialogue. The 1966 Common Declaration signed by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey called for a dialogue that would “lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed”, and spoke of “a restoration of complete communion of faith and sacramental life”. It now seems that full visible communion as the aim of our dialogue has receded further, and that our dialogue will have less ultimate goals and therefore will be altered in its character. While such a dialogue could still lead to good results, it would not be sustained by the dynamism which arises from the realistic possibility of the unity Christ asks of us, or the shared partaking of the one Lord’s table, for which we so earnestly long.
In that vein, I would like to return to the Archbishop’s puzzling question what kind of Anglicanism I want. It occurs to me that at critical moments in the history of the Church of England and subsequently of the Anglican Communion, you have been able to retrieve the strength of the Church of the Fathers when that tradition was in jeopardy. The Caroline divines are an instance of that, and above all, I think of the Oxford Movement. Perhaps in our own day it would be possible too, to think of a new Oxford Movement, a retrieval of riches which lay within your own household. This would be a re-reception, a fresh recourse to the Apostolic Tradition in a new situation. It would not mean a renouncing of your deep attentiveness to human challenges and struggles, your desire for human dignity and justice, your concern with the active role of all women and men in the Church. Rather, it would bring these concerns and the questions that arise from them more directly within the framework shaped by the Gospel and ancient common tradition in which our dialogue is grounded.