Cardinal Kasper says a revived Oxford movement can 'retrieve the riches' of Anglican tradition
BY ANNA AFICO
A VATICAN cardinal has called for a new Oxford Movement in the Anglican Communion in an address at the Lambeth Conference.
Addressing a small working session of Anglican bishops during the last few days of the Conference last week Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Vatican's ecumenical department, said that Anglicans should think about a new Oxford Movement.
The 19th century movement Ied to a number of prominent Anglican converts to Catholicism, most famously Cardinal John Henry Newman, whose beatification is expected to be announced before the end of the year.
Cardinal Kasper said: "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."
The cardinal spoke on the subject of "Roman Catholic Reflections on the Anglican Communion" at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. He said that recent changes in the Anglican Communion — such as the ordination of women bishops and a change in the ecclesiological structures — meant that "fill] visible communion as the aim of our dialogue has receded further and that our dialogue will have less ultimate goals and therefore altered in its character".
He said that the ecumenical advances made by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) since the Second Vatican Council had borne good fruit, but that dreams of a full communion had reached an impasse.
Cardinal Kasper said: "This leaves me all the more saddened as I have now, in fidelity to what I believe Christ requires — and I want to add, in the frankness which friendship allows — to look to the problems within the Anglican Communion which have emerged and grown since the last Lambeth Conference, and to the ecumenical repercussions of these internal tensions.
"I would like to address a series of ecelesiological issues arising from the current situation in the Anglican Communion, and to raise some difficult and probing questions. But before doing so I want to reiterate what I said when in November 2006 the Archbishop of Canterbury came to Rome to visit Pope Benedict: 'The questions and problems of our friends are also our questions and problems.'
"So I raise these questions not in judgment, but as an ecumenical partner who has been deeply discouraged by recent developments, and who wishes to offer you an honest reflection, from a Catholic perspective, on how and where we can move forward in the present context."
Using St Cyprian, he argued that the understanding of the role and authority of bishops had come to signify different things in the Catholic and Anglican Communions since the last Lambeth Conference 10 years ago. Referring to women bishops and the widening cracks between conservatives and progressives in the Anglican Church he said: "It also seems to us that the Anglican commitment to being 'episcopally led and synodically governed' has not always functioned in such a way as to maintain the apostolicity of the faith, and that synodical government misunderstood as a kind of parliamentary process has at times blocked the sort of episcopal leadership envisaged by Cyprian and articulated in ARCIC."
Adding that the Catholic Church felt "a profound solidarity" with the Anglican Communion over the fragmentation, he said the Church was "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?"
Cardinal Kasper reiterated the statement that he made to the Church of England's House of Bishops in 2006 and to The Catholic Herald earlier this year, saying that the decision to ordain women moved the Church of England away from the churches of the first millennia.
He said: "We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century. Since it is currently the situation that 28 Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood, and while only four 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."
Despite the cardinal's bluntness, the reaction among Anglicans bishops was reportedly positive.
Bishop Christopher Hilt, the Anglican in charge of inter-Christian dialogue, said that dialogue between Christians and Anglicans would "almost certainly change".
"Nevertheless I rejoice in the cardinal's opening paragraphs in which he speaks of his hope to remain in serious dialogue in search for full unity, so that the world may believe," he said.
"In spite of our apparently contradictory behaviour," Bishop Hill said, "Anglicans remain committed to the goal of full, visible unity."