~by Fr. Dwight Longenecker in Crisis Magazine on the Pastoral Provision
Father [Eric] Bergman [ed.note: a former Episcopal priest who was received into the Catholic Church and consequently ordained through pastoral provision] also points out that Anglican Use parishes have become a refuge for cradle Catholics from the stranger liberal liturgical experiments. “The established Anglican Use communities have many cradle Catholics who come to the Anglican Use Mass because they appreciate the beauty of the music, the reverence of the liturgy, and the orthodoxy of the priest,” he explains. Rev. Christopher Phillips, the pastor of the Church of the Atonement in San Antonio, reports that about 60 percent of its members are reverts to the Catholic Faith or cradle Catholics who have returned for what they perceive to be a proper liturgy. People who actually converted to Catholicism represent only 40 percent of the large Anglican Use parishes in Texas.
Rather than being an ecclesiastical eccentricity, it could be that the Anglican Use parishes will provide a safe haven for shipwrecked Anglicans, as well as a home for Catholics who are refugees from clown Masses, new age rituals, and the whole range of goofy liturgical abuses found within the American Catholic Church.
Evangelistic and Ecumenical Tool
Critics of the Anglican Use argue that the whole thing is a waste of time and energy. If people want to convert to the Catholic Church, let them convert and join their local parish. Why should Episcopalians get special treatment? What’s the point?
Defenders argue that the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use parishes are part of a larger ecumenical and evangelistic plan. If the Catholic Church is serious about unity, then she should be making every effort possible to reconcile different groups in a multitude of different ways. The Anglican Use, they say, is a tool for evangelization and reconciliation.
The Anglican Use “bridge” is not only a way across the Tiber for Episcopalians; there are an increasing number of Anglican and Episcopal breakaway churches. To date, there are nearly 100 independent Anglican denominations. As the worldwide Anglican communion goes into meltdown, there is a real possibility that whole provinces of the Anglican Church will break away. Could a breakaway denomination or a whole Anglican province convert and use the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use in order to come into full communion with Rome?
Father Bergman explained that the Pastoral Provision can only be fully implemented in those countries where the national conference of Catholic bishops approves its implementation. So far, only the United States conference has done so. Some moves are being made for bishops’ conferences in other English-speaking countries to do the same, and there is a dream that the growth of the Anglican Use will one day justify the creation of a personal prelature or an apostolic administration.
If this were to take place, there could be a real opportunity for Anglican Use parishes to exist in many places around the world where the Anglican communion now has a presence. Some Anglican provinces in Africa and Asia are both Anglo-Catholic and orthodox in doctrine, and such an option may very well be a way forward as they seek to disentangle themselves from the irreformably liberal Anglican regimes of Canterbury and New York.
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