November 2, 2009

Anglican-Catholic Theological Consultation Looks at Immigration, New Vatican Statement

WASHINGTON (USCCB)— The sixty-sixth meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the United States (ARC-USA) took place at the Washington Retreat House in Washington, October 26 and 27. Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio and Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, co-chaired the meeting. It marked the third round of the dialogue focusing the theme, “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Common Ground and Divergences."

At the start of the meeting, consultation members considered the Vatican’s October 20 announcement that personal ordinariates would be created for former Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while “preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.” The members welcomed the Catholic Church’s acknowledgement of a substantial overlap in faith and the legitimacy of many Anglican traditions, a recognition that is the fruit of over 40 years of official dialogue between the two churches. Because the Apostolic Constitution establishing the new ordinariates has not yet been published, members felt it premature to comment in detail. They said they looked forward to receiving the document to consider at their next meeting. Members also found encouragement in the firm statements by Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders that the official dialogue between the two churches will continue.

The theological consultation examined immigration reform as its first issue. Jesuit Father Thomas Rausch, Ph.D., of the Department of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, presented the Catholic viewpoint on this question and focused on the 2003 document of the Conferences of Catholic Bishops of the United States and Mexico, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” Bishop Thomas Breidenthal then presented his paper, “Immigration Reform: An Anglican Approach.” The members noted substantial convergence based on common sources, including the tradition of Roman Catholic social teaching.

The second discussion looked at the 1993 encyclical by Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, which outlined fundamental elements of Catholic moral teaching. Father Charles Caccavale of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, in Huntington, New York, summarized the contents of the encyclical and emphasized that it presents the moral life as deeply connected to the life of faith and to eternal life. Professor Timothy Sedgwick, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, offered reflections on the document from an Anglican perspective, noting areas of agreement and others that require further exploration, including the encyclical’s understanding of “intrinsically evil acts.”

During the meeting members prayed the Roman Catholic and Anglican Liturgy of the Hours together, and celebrated the Eucharist in both traditions, with the members participating to the extent allowed by the discipline of their respective churches. On October 27, they toured the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. That evening Bishop Breidenthal hosted a dinner in honor of Bishop Christopher Epting, who will be retiring as ecumenical officer of The Episcopal Church in December, after nine years of service to the dialogue.

The next meeting is slated for March 15 and 16, 2010, in Delray Beach, Fla.

In addition to the co-chair, Catholic members of the dialogue are Msgr. David A. Bohr, Rector of St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania; Father Caccavale, M. Therese Lysaught, Ph.D., Department of Theology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Theresa Notare, Ph.D., of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Father Rausch, and Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson, Ph.D., Associate Director of the USCCB's Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and staff to the dialogue.

Representatives of The Episcopal Church, in addition to Bishop Breidenthal, include the Rev. Dr. Ellen Wondra, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary; the Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver, Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas; Mary Reath, governor of the Anglican Center in Rome and author of "Rome and Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity" (2007); Sedgwick; the Rev. Canon. J. Robert Wright, Ph.D, Professor of Church History at the General Theological Seminary in New York, New York; and the Right Reverend Christopher Epting, ecumenical officer of The Episcopal Church and staff to the dialogue.

A complete list of the agreed statements released by the consultation as well as links to earlier press releases can be found on the USCCB website at

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