Even before a single Anglican emerged dripping, shivering, and towelling dry from the Tiber, there was lots of cheering, jeering, and whatnot on the forthcoming apostolic constitution on absorbing Anglicans into the Roman West. The matter doesn’t interest me deeply. Back in the gool ol’ 70’s, we had an Anglican teaching high school history. He was asked about his reception of Communion at school Masses, and I recall he said something along the lines of Roman Catholics believing in the Real Presence at their Mass, and therefore it was no problem for him.
I had a college friend who, though American, insisted she was Anglican and not Episcopalian. (Her mother’s maiden name was Spencer, so my friend claimed to be a fifth cousin of Princess Di–but that’s another story.) She had no problem with Eucharistic belief either–regularly participating in the Newman Community and various groups there.
My older brother is an Episcopalian. I was stunned to learn a few months ago that, as a boy, he used to listen to the rosary on the radio. More, he used to pray the rosary as a child. Given my family’s stunted flirtation (before I was born) with Roman Catholicism, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. Every so often, he and his wife come down for Mass at the student center. They do not receive Communion, out of respect for their variance with the pope, as opposed to any lack of belief in the Real Presence. My brother actually left the Lutheran Church when he moved to Iowa because he “missed Mass,” as he put his high-church experience out west.
In my limited experience, I find many non-Catholics who have a strong belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The obstacle, it seems, is less sacramental faith than ecclesiastical governance. In grad school, I did a series of papers in different courses on Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism. I was drawn to certain liturgical elements of the East, as well as the witness of many Eastern saints, especially the Eastern Doctors. But I was aware that faithfulness to the sacramental and liturgical traditions is not enough for unity.
So now it seems that there have sprung up some nets, shoals, and rubble in the Tiber. The end of mandatory celibacy in the West seems to have been put off. So much for the Anglican Route: Roman seminarians-to-be getting married, shifting to Anglican Use, getting ordained, then shifting back. Save those Hail Mary plays for the gridiron.
It will be interesting to see how this “Benedictine Ecumenism” plays out. Can the Servant of Unity throw the doors open? Or will worries about Roman celibacy hang the effort? Will this be another rock on which non-Catholics must stumble?