Cardinal Kasper Regarding the Decision from the Church of England

[UVC translation]

L’Osservatore Romano, July 9th, 2008

by Roberto Sgaramella

“A breach from the apostolic tradition of all Christian Churches as well as an obstacle to unity”, it’s how Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, labeled the decision adopted in York, UK, by the Anglican synod allowing the ordination of women to the episcopacy. The Cardinal mentioned he was sad to hear the news on the vote from the Anglican Communion which opens the door for the introduction of legislation authorizing the ordination of women to the episcopacy.

In a note about the recent decision at the synod in York, the prelate highlighted that the Catholic position regarding the subject has been clarified by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. This decision means a breach in the apostolic tradition of all churches during the first millennium, and therefore, becomes a new obstacle to the reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Anglicanism.

Regarding future possible dialogue between both Churches, Cardinal Kasper remarked that this recent decision will have consequences on such dialogue which so far, has had positive results. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity reminds us of his remarks in a speech to the Anglican bishops, per the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on June 5th, 2006. On this occasion, Cardinal Kasper posed the problem of future ecumenical dialogue to the bishops as “The Catholic Church does not want to stop dialogue, but it would be affected by the ordination of women bishops”. He also added that the quality of such dialogue will be affected by such a decision. “Ecumenical dialogue, in the very sense of the work, has as it’s objective the reestablishment of communion with the Church. This has been our position regarding dialogue so far. This assumption cannot continue once the ordination of women bishops materializes.”

According to Anglican experts regarding internal Anglican problems, dialogue with Rome has been difficult due to the apparent lack of unity within Anglicanism. In the opinion of these experts, this latest decision from York is not totally unexpected since most Anglican bishops have been in favor of the ordination of women bishops. What’s surprising about the last three days of debate in York, is the lack of will to accommodate the important minority within Anglicanism which is opposed to women bishops.

The vote by the Anglican synod – highlight the observers – has not been codified as law, yet. Therefore, final recourse is possible for those who oppose this decision before the actual ordination of women bishop takes place. According to the experts, it could take two or three year for the corresponding regulations to be completely approved by individual assemblies. It could take no more than five years before the first woman bishop is ordained. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the vote by the Anglican bishops showed a significant majority is favorable to the episcopal ordination of women. Also these bishops were opposed to provide a separate jurisdiction in England for those of the faithful, with their priests and bishops, who are not in agreement about the ordination.

All of these issues could create an acute crisis of conscience among bishops, pastors and the faithful. We should not rule out that a good number might find refuge to their spiritual troubles by attaching themselves to the Catholic Church or other Christian communities. [UVC emphasis] The current difficulties in the dialogue between Rome and Anglicanism must not discourage Christians to pray to God and work towards complete unity.

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