Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eve of All Saints

Could this be true?

"I'll tell you a secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints. "God wants a handful of men 'of his own' in every human activity. Then...'pax Christi in regno Christi' - 'the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ'" [The Way 301].

Fr. Neuhaus commented:

“I'm not sure what Malraux meant by it, but it is one of those oracular pronouncements that have about them the ring of truth. At the threshold of the Third Millennium, it seems that the alternatives to religion have exhausted themselves. That is true of the materialistically cramped rationalisms of the Enlightenment encyclopaedists, which, along with ideological utopianisms, both romantic and allegedly scientific, have been consigned, as Marxists used to say, to the dustbin of history. The perversity of the human mind will no doubt produce other ideological madnesses, but at the moment it seems the historical stage has been swept clean, with only the religious proposition left standing. That is certainly the intuition that informs John Paul II's repeated exhortation, "Be not afraid!"--an exhortation addressed to the entire human community.”[11]

Is This Theologically Feasible?

The ideological structures have in fact collapsed. Could a new truth be emerging now by dint of the praxis of prayer and self-giving as service in ordinary work (where the whole philosophical corpus of modernity has been heading [but incorrectly understood and labeled “German Idealism”]). Could it be understood not as a doctrinaire conservatism but as a true “liberalism” of self-transcendence – a praxis - where the truth emerges from the experience of the self as self-transcendence? And could this truth be the truth of the human person that can be found, as the Second Vatican Council teaches in Gaudium et spes #24: “Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” Could it be that this non-doctrinaire liberal formulation of the Magisterium of the Church be the key to the emergence of the truth that has its prototype in Jesus Christ that will make us free (Jn. 8, 32)? Recall that the “theological epistemology” of Ratzinger offers a “liberal” praxis to achieving a “knowledge” of Jesus Christ as transcendent, personal Deity. He offered St. Luke’s “And it came to pass as He was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him.” They were able to transcend contingent sensible knowledge of the man Jesus of Nazareth to draw from the experience and consciousness within themselves as “Other Christs” and transfer that consciousness as the concepts and word: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16).

Could this be where the Spirit is leading the entire world at the present moment? Could it be that we have actually reached the historical moment when The words uttered to St. Josemaria Escriva become historical actual:
“If you put me at the center of all human activities… by fulfilling the duty of each moment, in what appears important and what appears unimportant, I will draw everything to myself. My kingdom among you will be a reality!”

Chaput on the Down Baby: "Icon of God's Face and Vessel of his Love"

The Task of the Catholic Medical Professional

by Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.


A number of my friends have children with disabilities. Their problems range from cerebral palsy to Turner's syndrome to Trisomy 18, which is extremely serious. But I want to focus on one fairly common genetic disability to make my point. I'm referring to Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

You may already know that Down is not a disease. It's a genetic disorder with a variety of symptoms. Therapy can ease the burden of those symptoms, but Down syndrome is permanent. There's no cure. People with Down syndrome have mild to moderate developmental delays. They have low to middling cognitive function. They also tend to have a uniquely Down syndrome "look" -- a flat facial profile, almond-shaped eyes, a small nose, short neck, thick stature and a small mouth which often causes the tongue to protrude and interferes with clear speech. People with Down syndrome also tend to have low muscle tone. This can affect their posture, breathing and speech.

Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle. And the reason why it may decline illustrates, in a vivid way, a struggle within the American soul. That struggle will shape the character of our society in the decades to come.

Prenatal testing can now detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies with a strong risk of Down syndrome. The tests aren't conclusive. They can't give a firm yes or no. But they're pretty good. And the results of those tests are brutally practical. Studies show that more than 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome now get terminated in the womb. They're killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes -- a flaw that's neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable.

The older a woman gets, the higher her risk of bearing a child with Down syndrome. And so, in medical offices around the country, pregnant women now hear from doctors or genetic counselors that their baby has "an increased likelihood" of Down syndrome based on one or more prenatal tests. Some doctors deliver this information with sensitivity and great support for the woman. But, as my friends know from experience, too many others seem more concerned about avoiding lawsuits, or managing costs, or even, in a few ugly cases, cleaning up the gene pool.

We're witnessing a kind of schizophrenia in our culture's conscience. In Britain, the Guardian newspaper recently ran an article lamenting the faultiness of some of the prenatal tests that screen for Down syndrome. Women who receive positive results, the article noted, often demand an additional test, amniocentesis, which has a greater risk of miscarriage. Doctors in the story complained about the high number of false positives for Down syndrome. "The result of [these false positives] is that babies are dying completely unnecessarily," one med school professor said. "It's scandalous and disgraceful... and causing the death of normal babies." Those words sound almost humane -- until we realize that, at least for the med school professor, killing "abnormal" babies like those with Down syndrome is perfectly acceptable.

In practice, medical professionals can now steer an expectant mother toward abortion simply by hinting at a list of the child's possible defects. And the most debased thing about that kind of pressure is that doctors know better than anyone else how vulnerable a woman can be in hearing potentially tragic news about her unborn baby.

I'm not suggesting that doctors should hold back vital knowledge from parents. Nor should they paint an implausibly upbeat picture of life with a child who has a disability. Facts and resources are crucial in helping adult persons prepare themselves for difficult challenges. But doctors, genetic counselors, and med school professors should have on staff -- or at least on speed dial -- experts of a different sort.

Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential. They've seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits -- often miraculous -- of parental love and faith. Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others. These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect. They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.

Raising a child with Down syndrome can be hard. Parents grow up very fast. None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it. They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism. It's a realism flowing out of love -- real love, the kind that courses its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God. And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.

The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. None of us is perfect. No child is perfect. The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear. That's the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that's the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.

Nearly 50 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born with some sort of heart defect. Most have a lifelong set of health challenges. Some of them are serious. Government help is a mixed bag. Public policy is uneven. Some cities and states, like New York, provide generous aid to the disabled and their families. In many other jurisdictions, though, a bad economy has forced budget cuts. Services for the disabled -- who often lack the resources, voting power and lobbyists to defend their interests -- have shrunk. In still other places, the law mandates good support and care, but lawmakers neglect their funding obligations, and no one holds them accountable. The vulgar economic fact about the disabled is that, in purely utilitarian terms, they rarely seem worth the investment.

That's the bad news. But there's also good news. Ironically, for those persons with Down syndrome who do make it out of the womb, life is better than at any time in our nation's history. A baby with Down syndrome born in 1944, the year of my own birth, could expect to live about 25 years. Many spent their entire lives mothballed in public institutions. Today, people with Down syndrome routinely survive into their 50s and 60s. Most can enjoy happy, productive lives. Most live with their families or share group homes with modified supervision and some measure of personal autonomy. Many hold steady jobs in the workplace. Some marry. A few have even attended college. Federal law mandates a free and appropriate education for children with special needs through the age of 21. Social Security provides modest monthly support for persons with Down syndrome and other severe disabilities from age 18 throughout their lives. These are huge blessings.

And, just as some people resent the imperfection, the inconvenience and the expense of persons with disabilities, others see in them an invitation to be healed of their own sins and failures by learning how to love.

About 200 families in this country are now waiting to adopt children with Down syndrome. Many of these families already have, or know, a child with special needs. They believe in the spirit of these beautiful children, because they've seen it firsthand. A Maryland-based organization, Reece's Rainbow, helps arrange international adoptions of children with Down syndrome. The late Eunice Shriver spent much of her life working to advance the dignity of children with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Last September, the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation committed $34 million to the University of Colorado to focus on improving the medical conditions faced by those with Down syndrome. And many businesses, all over the country, now welcome workers with Down syndrome. Parents of these special employees say that having a job, however tedious, and earning a pay check, however small, gives their children pride and purpose. These things are more precious than gold.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once wrote that, "A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives." Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs; in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned or homeless -- each one of these persons is an icon of God's face and a vessel of his love. How we treat these persons -- whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste -- shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.

The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that "Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations."

Here's what that means. Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics. God will demand an accounting. Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family. God will demand an accounting. And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation's life. God will demand an accounting. As individuals, we can claim to be or believe whatever we want. We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long -- but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us. God knows our hearts better than we do. If we don't conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we're only fooling ourselves.

We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the meaning of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the dysfunctions of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith. It's a culture of fantasy, selfishness and illness that we've brought upon ourselves. And we've done it by misusing the freedom that other -- and greater -- generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.

What have we done with that freedom? In whose service do we use it now?

John Courtney Murray is most often remembered for his work at Vatican II on the issue of religious liberty, and for his great defense of American democracy in his book, We Hold These Truths. Murray believed deeply in the ideas and moral principles of the American experiment. He saw in the roots of the American Revolution the unique conditions for a mature people to exercise their freedom through intelligent public discourse, mutual cooperation and laws inspired by right moral character. He argued that -- at its best -- American democracy is not only compatible with the Catholic faith, but congenial to it.

But he had a caveat. It's the caveat George Washington implied in his Farewell Address, and Charles Carroll -- the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence -- mentions in his own writings. In order to work, America depends as a nation on a moral people shaped by their religious faith, and in a particular way, by the Christian faith. Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on.

This is why the same Father Murray who revered the best ideals of the American experiment could also write that "Our American culture, as it exists, is actually the quintessence of all that is decadent in the culture of the Western Christian world. It would seem to be erected on the triple denial that has corrupted Western culture at its roots: the denial of metaphysical reality, of the primacy of the spiritual over the material, [and] of the social over the individual . . . Its most striking characteristic is its profound materialism . . . It has given citizens everything to live for and nothing to die for. And its achievement may be summed up thus: It has gained a continent and lost its own soul."

Those who serve in the medical profession have a sacred vocation. That vocation of healing comes from Jesus Christ himself. I don't mean just curing people's aches and pains, although physical healing is so very important. I mean the kind of healing that comes when a suffering person is understood and loved, and knows that she's understood and loved. That requires a different kind of medicine. The medicine of patience. The medicine of listening. The medicine of respect.

Over the years, I've learned that when God takes something away from a person, he gives back some other gift that's equally precious. Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is a friend of mine. Rick has always been Catholic, and always prolife. But it's one thing to argue in Congress for the sanctity of life. It's another to prove it by your actions under pressure. Last year Rick's wife gave birth to a beautiful daughter named Bella. Bella has Trisomy 18. Against the odds, that little girl is still alive and still growing. And she's surrounded by a family devoted to loving her, 24 hours a day.

Rick and his wife have no illusions about the prospects for their daughter. No one "recovers" from Trisomy 18. But he said to me once that each day he has with Bella makes him a little bit more of a "whole person." It's one of God's ironies that the suffering imperfection brings, can perfect us in the vocation of love. Rick's daughter is an education in the dignity of every human life; a tutor in the meaning of love -- and not just for themselves, but for me as their friend, and for dozens of other people who encounter the Santorum family every week. Another friend of mine has a son with Down syndrome, and she calls him a "sniffer of souls." He may have an IQ of 47, and he'll never read The Brothers Karamazov, but he has a piercingly quick sense of the heart of the people he meets. He knows when he's loved -- and he knows when he's not. Ultimately, we're all like her son. We hunger for people to confirm that we have meaning by showing us love. We need that love. And we suffer when that love is withheld.

The task of the Catholic working in medicine is this: Be the best doctors, nurses and medical professionals you can be. Your skill gives glory to God. But be the best Catholics you can be first. Pour your love for Jesus Christ into the healing you do for every person you serve. By your words and by your actions, be a witness to your colleagues. Speak up for what you believe. Love the Church. Defend her teaching. Trust in God. Believe in the Gospel. And don't be afraid. Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life.

Changing the course of American culture seems like such a huge task. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming and converting a civilization has already been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling you and me to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He's waiting, and now we need to answer him.

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Denver. This article is adapted from remarks he delivered to the Phoenix Catholic Physician's Guild on October 16, 2009.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NYT Anti-Catholicism Confronted by Archbishop Dolan

October 29, 2009

The following article was submitted in a slightly shorter form to the New York Times as an op-ed article. The Times declined to publish it. I thought you might be interested in reading it.


By Archbishop Timothy M. DolanArchbishop of New York

October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series! Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-catholicism.

It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” while John Higham described it as “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.” “The anti-semitism of the left,” is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic “the last acceptable prejudice.”

If you want recent evidence of this unfairness against the Catholic Church, look no further than a few of these following examples of occurrences over the last couple weeks:

On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community.
According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”

Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.

On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child. Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible. However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.

Five days later, October 21, the Times gave its major headline to the decision by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans who had requested union with Rome. Fair enough. Unfair, though, was the article’s observation that the Holy See lured and bid for the Anglicans. Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.” Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.
Finally, the most combustible example of all came Sunday with an intemperate and scurrilous
piece by Maureen Dowd on the opinion pages of the Times. In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription -- along with every other German teenage boy -- into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans.

True enough, the matter that triggered her spasm -- the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives -- is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.

I do not mean to suggest that anti-catholicism is confined to the pages New York Times. Unfortunately, abundant examples can be found in many different venues. I will not even begin to try and list the many cases of anti-catholicism in the so-called entertainment media, as they are so prevalent they sometimes seem almost routine and obligatory. Elsewhere, last week, Representative Patrick Kennedy made some incredibly inaccurate and uncalled-for remarks concerning the Catholic bishops, as mentioned in this blog on Monday. Also, the New York State Legislature has levied a special payroll tax to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fund its deficit. This legislation calls for the public schools to be reimbursed the cost of the tax; Catholic schools, and other private schools, will not receive the reimbursement, costing each of the schools thousands – in some cases tens of thousands – of dollars, money that the parents and schools can hardly afford. (Nor can the archdiocese, which already underwrites the schools by $30 million annually.) Is it not an issue of basic fairness for ALL school-children and their parents to be treated equally? The Catholic Church is not above criticism. We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be “rained out” for good. I guess my own background in American history should caution me not to hold my breath.Then again, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Proposal: The Value of Opus Dei for An Anglican Ordinariate Within the Catholic Church

Although England can boast of a millenary tradition of natural law and jurisprudential respect for the human person (Magna Charta), the country has witnessed a lessening in the consciousness of said natural law since the break from the papacy. The Church in England became the Church of England. The Catholic Church in England ceased to be the Church Universal. As a consequence of the break from Rome, the church of England became reduced to the cultural phenomenon of a churched elite. It ceased to be the organic culture of a living faith. This is so because a living faith involves becoming Christ to the extent that one can say with Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). This cannot take place without the Sacrifice of the Mass, the fullness of the Word and the complement of the sacraments, especially Penance.

The personalism of salvation is a key concept in the mind of Benedict XVI. He is at pains to explain that the entrance into the one Church of Jesus Christ via the sacrament of Baptism is not merely the acquisition and rearrangement of a few ideas. It is “a death event.” Using St. Paul as his example, then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “Paul says, ‘I live, no longer I, but Christ lives within me’ (Gal. 2, 20)…. “Then in a single sentence, as clear as a lightning bolt, the inner event that took place during all of this, … the ground of it all, is made clear. This inner event is at once personal and objective. It is the most personal of experiences and at the same time indicates what the objective essence of Christianity is for each on of us… Conversion according to Paul is something much more radical than a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. It is a death event. In other words it is the replacement of the subject – of the ‘I.’ The ‘I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The ‘I’ does not perish, but must let itself diminish completely, in effect, in order to be received within a larger ‘I’ and, together with that larger ‘I,’ to be conceived anew.”[1]

This is an astounding announcement. As St. Josemaria Escriva heard that grounding locution for the founding of Opus Dei on August 7, 1931: “I say that … you are to raise me up in all human activities,… that all over the world there be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.”[2] The reality of it involves a radical identity with the Person of Christ, and the Person of Christ as the identity of the Church. In the same public lecture, Ratzinger quoted Paul again: “Just as the body and the various members interact, the same is true of Christ” (1 Cor. 12, 12). He explains: “(Paul) uses the common comparison of the body and its members, which was used in ancient social philosophy. In the transfer of this metaphor to the Church, however, there is a surprising change which is often overlooked. To miss this change inevitably leads to an incorrect grasp of Paul’s entire understanding of the Church. He does not hesitate to use comparisons with the sociology prevalent at the time, but he does so in a way which shows that his conception of the Church is entirely different from his view of society. In fact Paul does not say: ‘Just as in an organism there are many members interacting with one another, the same thing holds true for the Chruch.’” Rather, what he does say, as indicated above, “Just as the body and the various members interact, the same is true of Christ.”

Consider, now, that if there is a split from the Church of Christ, there is an absence of the Person of Christ. Consider also that Vatican II has taught that the Church of Christ “subsists” uniquely in the Catholic Church. Hence, if the Anglican Church is apart from the Catholic Church, and if the Church of Jesus Christ “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, then this radical identity with the Person of Christ cannot take place in the Anglican Church as Anglican and hence cannot be the locus of salvation as Church. It will have “elements of salvation,”[3] as Lumen Gentium mentions, but it will not have the saving subsistence [4]of Christ Himself and for that reason will deviate in critical areas. Critical areas, of course, are the effect on civil society as well as fidelity to Christian Tradition.

With regard to civil society, if a faith does not become culture in that society it is not a living faith. All of this adds up to an op-ed in the New York Times October 25 that observed, Britain has gone through a truly prodigious change in the last 30 years. It has moved from being a largely white culture with Christianity as its background religion to be a completely secular, multicultural society…. A genial secularized liberalism is the new norm. It might be difficult to define it, but you feel when its codes are infringed, as with the controversies over ‘faith schools’ that teach creationism, or with the misgivings felt by many secular politicians about such issues as the wearing of the burqa.”[5] The article goes on to suggest that “Maybe it’s just as British to wear a black bag over your head as to wear one of the bizarre outfits you still see in the enclosure at Royal Ascot.”

That said, it goes on to say that “In such a climate, the Church of England had no chance at all of surviving. It was bound to go, and it was just waiting, historically, for some catalyst to bring it to an end. That catalyst has been provided by the somewhat unlikely controversy over female bishops,” or as he suggested earlier: “female bishops, gay bishops, gay female bishops – take your pick.”

Vatican Note on Establishing Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans

Published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


“With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.

“In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

“The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.

“Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has prepared this provision, said: "We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter"…

“According to Levada: "It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (4:5). Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith."

Let it be noted that according to Canon 368 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983 “particular Churches, in which and from which, the one and only catholic Church exists, are principally dioceses.” However, there are two notable exceptions: personal prelatures and military Ordinariates, which, although having their differences, have an equivalency that would be favorable to exploring how Opus Dei as the first Prelature established after the Council could assimilate Anglicans to full communion in the Catholic Church.

A Proposal

Could it be that Opus Dei as the first instance of a Personal Prelature in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 may have an impact on the dynamic of the Personal Ordinariate for the Anglican Church? My interest stems from the fact that Opus Dei instantiates the ascetical goal of living out the “aboriginal relationship” between clergy and laity that obtained in the Church from the beginning with the first Christians. This notion, which is the heart of the “re-evangelization,” permeated the Second Vatican Council under the rubric of The People of God that, in turn, was further refined as Communio in the extraordinary Synod of 1985. Pedro Rodriguez formulated said it in the following way: "Opus Dei as a social reality in the Church is organic and undivided. Its lay faithful (men and women) and the priests who act as its clergy complement each other in exemplary adherence to the basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles - called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism - and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the 'ministerial' consequences of the sacrament of Order... So, what we find in Opus Dei, different yet complementing one another, are two ecclesial forms of participating in Christ's priesthood. We find both the 'substantial' priority of Opus Dei's lay faithful, at whose service is the priestly ministry, and the 'functional' priority of the sacred ministry, in whose head the prelate) resides the sacra potestas that governs the prelature."[6]

The fact is that Opus Dei anticipated and catalyzed Vatican II particularly in chapter IV of Lumen Gentium and "The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity." Since the Church has been de-clericalizing itself by going “back” to its pristine experience of radical equality of laity and ministerial priests in the baptismal vocation to be “other Christs” immersed in the environment of the secular world, and since Opus Dei is the in situ catalyst of that radical equality, it would seem reasonable and important that the Anglicans returning to the Church entered in the spirit that permeates the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei as a kindred structure of the Ordinariate.

* * * * * * * * *


Historically, the Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests of the Second Vatican Council (December 7, 1965), considering the various pastoral needs of a fast evolving world, suggested that for “special pastoral projects for the benefit of different social groups in any region or among any race in any part of the world…there can … be set up…personal prelatures.”[7] This was followed by a “Motu Proprio” of Paul VI for the implementation of the “prelacies.” In a footnote to the Code of Canon Law of 1983, Book II, Title IV On Personal Prelatures,” it read: “Personal prelatures are jurisdictional entities established by the Holy See within the hierarchical pastoral activity of the Church as an instrument for the performance of particular pastoral or missionary endeavours. They are under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for Bishops. A personal prelature must consist of a prelate who is the proper Ordinary, and of secular clerics who are trained and incardinated in the prelature. Laypeople who are incorporated to or form part of a personal prelature cooperate organically in its activities and in achieving its ends, by means of contracts or agreements in which mutual rights and obligations are determined according to the statues of the prelature.”

Expatiating on the above, it read: “In order to accomplish special pastoral or missionary tasks for various regions or social groups requiring special assistance, prelatures may usefully be established by the Apostolic See. These would consist of the secular clergy specially trained and under the rule of a prelate of their own and governed by statues of their own.” The prelate would be empowered to establish a seminary for laity in preparation for priesthood “incardinating such students under the title of service to the prelature and to promote them to Orders.” The document goes on to say that “There is no reason why laymen, whether celibate or married, should not dedicate their professional service, through contracts with the prelature, to its works and enterprises.”

Opus Dei as “Aboriginal Relation” of Ecclesial Communio

The social arrangement of the relation of lay faithful and ministerial priests in Opus Dei could serve as model for Anglican faithful and re-ordained ministerial priests. Opus Dei, in the words of Escriva, is “a little bit of the Church.” Not being a particular Church because it is personal and not territorial and its members belong to it and to the diocese in which they reside, nevertheless Opus Dei is analogical to the particular Church because it shares a common “theological substance.” Rodriguez writes: “We can say that the ground for the analogy between Opus Dei and the particular Church is the common ‘theological substance’ of ecclesial bodies structurally organized according to the basic ‘common priesthood/ministerial priesthood’ relationship – the fact that both have the substantial elements of the internal dimension of the Church’s structure.”

Let’s examine that. Rodriguez goes on: “Opus Dei’s social arrangement as a ‘Christian community’ stems from what we have called the ‘internal dimension of the Church’s structure.’ That is, it is born of mutual relations of christifideles and ‘sacred minister,’ or if you prefer, it derives from the two forms of participating in Christ’s priesthood. That is also why Opus Dei as a social reality in the Church is organic and undivided. Its lay faithful (men and women) and the priests who act as its clergy complement each other in exemplary adherence to the basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles – called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism – and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the ‘ministerial’ consequences of the sacrament of Order…. ‘The ministerial priesthood of the clergy and the common priesthood of the lay people are so intimately linked that both, in unity of vocation and government, require and complement each other (ad invicem) in striving for the end proper to the prelature.” [8]

Opus Dei lives out in living reality the communio personarum of lay faithful and ministerial priests, each exercising his irreducible identity as Bridegroom (minister priest) and Bride (layfaithful) resulting from the respective sacraments of Baptism and Order [both conferring the ontological reality of “character” on the respective persons], and each being so much in service to the other that they form the “Unum” that is “Ipse Christus” of the “Whole Christ” that we saw above.[9] And so radical and important is this “aboriginal relationship” that obtained among the first Christians that yielded the living eschatological “already” of Jesus Christ in the world, that it would be a deviation from the reality of the Church not to present it to the Anglicans. In fact, precisely so that this radical equality and functional diversity of lay faithful and ministerial priest spread throughout the Church, Opus Dei is not a particular Church but a personal (non-territorial) institution of the universal Church, and whose mission is to disseminate this aboriginal “spirit” of the universal call to holiness to the whole Church, and in our case here, to the Anglican Church.

The Prelate

The figure of the Prelate is also key here since it is the love of Father that engenders the identity in both layman and ministerial priest and empowers both to make the gift of self that is the dynamic of the communio. Rodriguez goes on to make this critical point that is so necessary in the understanding of the episcopal office: “We ought to say that in Opus Dei’s institutional life and in its members’ relations with their prelate, what is decisive is neither his ‘jurisdiction’ nor their obedience. Rather, what truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his ‘fatherhood,’ his role as pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called ‘Father.’ The prelate’s role in the life of Opus Dei deeply configures the prelature. Therefore it is important to consider it when determining the ecclesial profile of the social arrangement lived therein.”[10]

Without the experience of the Person of Christ, it is impossible to have an authentic experience of personhood in that Jesus Christ as God-man is the prototype of man imaging God. If the meaning of the human person is Christ, then we are no longer talking about “natural law” but about the law of the person which is quite different. “Natural law” would be a dynamic of acts tending toward ends which we know by observation. The “law of the person” would be a dynamic taken from the revelation of Jesus Christ and would take the formulation of Gaudium et spes #24 of finding self by gift of self. It would be a complex anthropology grounded on the ontological architecture of the one Person, two natures in Christ. The dynamic would involve the “I” of the Logos subduing His human will and making the gift of Himself as man to the Father for us. In a word, He is Priest of His own existence, mediating between Himself and the Father. That said, it would logical, then, that the decay of the Anglican Church as Christian by severance from the vine would promote a culture that would be incoherent with the humanness of Christian personhood.

It is important that we recall that there is no salvation outside the Person of Jesus Christ Who is the God-man, and that He founded a Church that is His very Self. When He calls out – “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?”(Acts 9, 4), it is evident that those whom Saul is persecuting – the Church – is Christ Himself. To make this point, the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium #8 reads that “This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” It goes on to say that “Nevertheless many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”

Vatican II’s use of “subsist” means here that there is only one Church that is the unique Subject that is Christ (the Catholic Church), although there are “elements” of salvation outside that visible Church. Cardinal Ratzinger clarified the issue in the following way: “It becomes necessary to investigate the word subsistit somewhat more carefully. This expression, the Council differs from the formula of Pius XII, who said in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi: ‘The Catholic Church ‘is’ (est) the one mystical body of Christ.’ The difference between subsistit and est conceals within itself the whole ecumenical problem. The word subsistit derives from the ancient philosophy as later developed in Scholastic philosophy. The Greek word hypostasis that has a central role in Christology to describe the union of the divine and the human nature in the Person of Christ comes from that vision. Subsistere is a special case of esse. It is being in the form of subject who has an autonomous existence. Here it is a question precisely of this. The Council wants to tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete subject in this world can be found in the Catholic Church. This can take place only once, and the idea that the subsistit could be multiplied fails to grasp precisely the notion that is being intended. With the word subsistit, the Council wished to explain the unicity of the Catholic Church and the fact of her inability to be multiplied: the Church exists as a subject in historical reality.”[11]

Having lost access to the full experience of Christ in the Catholic Church, England as a Subject has lost the full experience of the truth of the human person and hence the consciousness of its Christian identity as a Subject. With this loss, England lost the coherence of the Church and the human foundation of its secular society.

It has lost the autonomy of a secular – not secularized (because this would involve the atheism of being radically alone and self sufficient) – culture in which all religious traditions could flourish. To wit: Christian anthropology involves the priestly dynamic of Jesus Christ whereby He masters Himself and makes the gift of Self. This is the profound meaning of the human freedom won for us by Christ crucified.[12] It is precisely because of this self mastery of a single subject (and therefore true autonomy) that Christianity provides the ground of the institutional separation of church and state, and hence the legitimization of religious pluralism. The point rests on the epistemological distinction between subject and object whereby there is one subject that is holy and many objects that promote sanctification. There is only one saving Church of Jesus of Christ, but there are many diverse elements of salvation (e.g. Scripture and Sacraments) outside that Church that derive from her. Hence there is a legitimate plurality of religions in accordance with a true freedom of consciences while there is only one true Church. That plurality must be respected because it responds to the respect for the religious freedom of the person to master self with regard to the things of God. The topic is the burden of the document “Dignitatis Humanae” which is so central to the mainspring of the Council: the meaning of person as self-determining freedom. In a word, there is no true freedom in separation from the living experience of Christ, and that can only take place in the Church of Jesus Christ that “subsists” in the Catholic Church.

That lacking in England, and being held together by the flimsy externalism of a doctrinally and sacramentally detached Anglican “Church,” it is no wonder that “Britain has gone through a truly prodigious change in the last 30 years. It has moved form being a largely white culture with Christianity as its background religion to being a completely secular, multicultural society.”[13] Although Wilson fears “the complete secularization of Britain, and an acceptance of its new multicultural identity” (with an exodus of perhaps 1,000 Anglican priests, 10-15 Anglican bishops and plausibly large congregations) that will destroy its identity, nevertheless, the breath of life may well be pumped into a slumping culture with the uptake of a renewed experience of Christ within the One Universal Church of Christ.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology Ignatius (1995) 50-51. I am taking the text from a public lecture at “St. Michael’s Papers I – The Church as an Essential Dimension of Theology, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, 13 April 1986, pp. 3-4.

[2] “‘At the moment of elevating the Sacred Host, without losing proper recollection, without being distracted… there came to my mind, with extraordinary force and clarity, the phrase of Scripture ‘et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad me ipsum’… Reflecting years later on this experience, Escriva said that he understood our Lord to be saying those words to him ‘not in the sense in which the Scripture says them. I say it to you in the sense that you are to raise me up in all human activities in the sense that all over the world there be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs;” J. Coverdale, Uncommon Faith, Scepter (2002) 90.

[3] Lumen Gentium #8: “Many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its [Catholic] visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”

[4] The word “subsistence” is used in contradistinction to “is” to indicate that the Church is talking about two distinct realities: subject and object. Christ (Subject) “subsists” in the Catholic Church while “elements of sanctification” (object) are to be found outside the confines of the Catholic Church.

[5] A.N. Wilson, “Rock of Ages. Cleft by the Pope,” New York Times op-ed WK 9, October 25, 2009.

[6] Pedro Rodriguez, "The Place of Opus Dei in the Church" in Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1993) 38.

[7] Vatican II, “Presbyterorum Ordinis” #10.

[8] Ibid 38

[9] So powerful is the exercise and grasp of this spousal relation between laity and ministerial priest yielding the “Ipse Christus” of the Church, that John Paul II used the von Balthasar image of the Church of Mary (laity) holding precedence over the Church of Peter (hierarchical cleric) whereby one cannot effectively exist without the other. Cf. ftn. 55 of John Paul II’s “Dignity and Vocation of Women.”

[10] P. Rodriguez, op. cit. 56.

[11] J. Ratzinger, “Ecclesiology of the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium,” June 28, 1992, published in English edition of L’Osservatore Romano 19 September 2001, page 5.

[12] See John Paul II’s remark: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom;” Veritatis Splendor “85.

[13] A.N. Wilson, “Rock of Ages, Cleft by the Pope,” NYT, op-ed, October 25, 2009 WK 9.