National Catholic Reporter

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Reported reuniting of Catholics, Anglicans ëmisrepresentsí reality

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
New York

tReports of “radical proposals” to reunite Catholics and Anglicans, published by the Times of London, “misrepresent” and “sensationalize” the reality of the situation, according to a statement issued today by the Anglican and Catholic co-chairs of the dialogue between the two confessions.

tThe Times report carried the headline, “Churches back plan to unite under pope,” suggesting that an agreement to bring Catholics and Anglicans under the jurisdiction of the pope had been agreed to by bishops on both sides. It connected the deal to debates over gay bishops and the blessing of homosexual unions within Anglicanism, suggesting that the plan might deepen the rift between Anglican conservatives and liberals.

tThe story refers to a forthcoming document from the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, created by the Vatican and the Anglican Communion in 2000 to take stock of almost 40 years of dialogue between the two bodies. Titled “Growing Together in Unity and Mission,” it summarizes the results of those dialogues and outlines several areas where concrete cooperation between Anglicans and Catholics are possible.

tWork on the document began in fall 2001, before the current crisis in Anglicanism related to the ordination of an openly gay bishop in the United States.

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tThe co-chairs of the dialogue rejected reports of a deal for Anglican/Catholic reunion.

t“It is unfortunate that [the document’s] contents have been prematurely reported in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalizes its conclusions,” said Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane, Australia, and Anglican Bishop David Beetge of South Africa, the co-chairs of the dialogue body.

tA statement from Bathersby and Beetge in response to the Times story was released mid-morning today.

“While it is encouraging that a document of this kind can be produced and that practical day to day cooperation between Catholics and Anglicans can be strengthened, talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated,” the two prelates say.

tIn fact, the new document explicitly acknowledges that formal unity between Anglicans and Catholics is not possible, given the crisis within Anglicanism over homosexuality and other issues.

tParagraph seven states: “This present context, which adds to existing differences between our two communions, is not the appropriate time to enter the new formal stage of relationship.”

tIn response to the suggestion that the document might lead to a schism within Anglicanism, the two men cite a 2004 Vatican statement encouraging Anglican cohesion: “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,” that statement from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said.

tIn general, Bathersby and Beetge said, most of the specific proposals within the document – such as attendance at one another’s services, and common resources for religious education – are already widely practiced in many locations, in some cases for decades.

“The document draws together a series of proposals which members believe are possible in the present context given the degree of faith we share. But it also says that local bishops in each part of the world will need to discern what is appropriate locally, given that the context and dynamics of relationships between Anglicans and Roman Catholics differ widely across the world,” the two bishops say.

tA leaked copy of the statement, which has not yet been officially published, but which was distributed to Anglican primates meeting in Tanzania, is available on the internet at: www.anglican-mainstream.net/downloads/growingtogether.pdf

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