Relations between the Churches of the Anglican Communion and The Roman Catholic Church are always in a bit of tension. On the one hand there are realistic and hopeful signs of shared prayer at the highest level and (more importantly) at the parish level, and instances of great welcome. The video of the work of the Anglican Communion in Rome and the part of Episcopalians in it is captured in this video from Episcopal News Service:
On the other hand, news on the Associated Press wire today suggests that the basic problem persists. It is not about this or that particular theological issue. It is about power: who has it and what threatens it. The Pope has directly criticized a movement in the Roman Catholic Church that is working for serious reconsideration of rules concerning a male and celebate clergy. The whole article can be read HERE.
Read the article carefully. Note particularly that the head of a dissidant group backed off from the writer's position that the Pope had soundly criticized the group. It seems to me to be a bit of a shuffle - shuffle routine.
Now, go to the website of the dissedent group:
P f a r r e r – I n i t i a t i v e
PROTEST – A PLEA FOR A CREDIBLE CHURCH
Since the 'Call to Disobedience' in which we committed ourselves in future to show a sign of our own responsibility for the renewal of our Church, agreement and encouragement have come to us from all sides both at home and abroad – but on the part of the the bishops essentially silence - and occasionally violent rejection. There has seldom been any dialogue apart from publicity. In the face of the current starvation of parishes and pastoral care under the pressure of the shortage of priests and an ageing clergy, we say again and again NO:
1 We will say NO when we are asked to take on more and more additional parishes, as otherwise we just become itinerant celebrants and sacrament-dispensers, whose actual pastoral work is slipping from their hands. We resist the trend to make a fleeting appearance in several locations but not to find and offer a spiritual and emotional home.
2 We say NO to presiding at more and more weekend Eucharists as an excess of services and homilies all too often turns them into superficial rituals and routine talks - while encounter, discourse and pastoral care wither away. Arriving shortly before Mass and leaving immediately afterwards makes our service a hollow routine.
3 We say NO to the merging or closure of parishes when no parish priest can be found. Here the shortage is raised to the status of a law instead of unbiblical church laws being changed to deal with the shortage. Law is for people, not the other way round. Even church law is there to serve people.
4 We say NO the overburdening of parish priests, who are being pressured into fulfilling numerous duties, whose time and energy for a devotional life are being eroded by administrative duties, and who are expected to carry on working long after retirement age. The result can even be that earlier effective ministry is damaged by excessive demands.
5 We say NO when canon law gives an all too harsh and merciless judgment: to the divorced who dare to re-marry, to same-sex couples who live in a partnership, to priests who have failed in celibacy and thus entered into a relationship – and to the many who follow their own consciences rather than man-made law.
Because silence is taken to be acquiesence and because we want to be true to our responsibility as priests and pastors, we have to express this five point Protest. It is a 'pro-test' in the literal sense - a 'witness for' [Latin: pro teste] Church reform, for people whose pastors we want to be and for our Chuch. The joylessness of the way in which today's church is run is not a good witness to the 'joyful message' which motivates us. For we want 'not to be dictators but fellow workers to bring you joy' (2 Cor 1:24).
These are brave people dealing with a system that has bound itself to a particular read on items not a requirement of the faith but a product of time and circumstance. That the Roman Catholic Church has viewed them as non-negotiable standards (although the married priest business is fudged sometimes) should give those who seek a more perfect union pause.