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Trick or Treat: A Lutheran ordinariate?

Just in time for Reformation Day, the Vatican's top official for ecumenism floats the possibility that Lutherans could get their own special church inside the Roman Catholic Church, much as was done for disgruntled Anglicans. Cardinal Kurt Koch spoke to Zenit:

"Anglicanorum coetibus was not an initiative of Rome," Koch said, "but came from the Anglican Church. The Holy Father then sought a solution and, in my opinion, found a very broad solution, in which the Anglicans ecclesial and liturgical traditions were taken into ample consideration. If similar desires are expressed by the Lutherans, then we will have to reflect on them. However, the initiative is up to the Lutherans."

Hang on Anabaptists, your turn is coming soon!H/T: Catholic World News

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I am in favor of anything that allows the importation of more Lutheran chorales into our musical life. Though I was terrified that the new liturgy of last Advent would mean the vanishing (or banishing) of Luther's A Mighty Fortress from the missalette (ugh -- what a word!) we use locally, it's still with us. But for how long?

What is wrong with the word missalette? It is simply a convenient reference, located in the pew, for people to use . . . why the sighing and rolling of eyes? What would you have people like me read during mass?

I do not understand why so many Commonwealers disapproved of the Anglican ordinariate, but the hissing and sneering was front and center. I also do not see why they thought they had a say-so in the matter in the first place.

Maybe now is the time to canonize Martin Luther?

Gives a new take on the phrase- "Reform of the Reform."

I've heard of individual Lutheran pastors (like Fr. Neuhaus) and I know of individual Lutherans who have swum the Tiber. But I'm not aware of entire parishes or synods or similar social organizations who would come over en masse, as has been the case with Anglicanism. I should hasten to add that I know virtually nothing about Lutherans' internal politics and movements. But it seems possible that the situation could be quite different, and could call for a different response, than Anglicanorum Coetibus.

O, Ode to Joy! Just what Catholics need: Some malcontent Missouri Synod Lutherans who wouldn't know Martin Luther if he bite them in the _ _ _!?! No self-respecting Lutheran wants to get in bed with Roman apostates!?!This is one of those Vatican stories that should be ignored because any attention to it only encourages them.Let the hierarchs knock themselves out scouring the German countryside for some Lutherans to rescue from perdition: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" ... Indeed!

Well it's one way to get women priests into the Church; now wouldn't that be a hoot.

"'Anglicanorum coetibus' was not an initiative of Rome but came from the Anglican Church," says the good cardinal.Hmmm. If Roman Catholic parishes, in highly publicized moves, defected to the Orthodox Communion, would Cardinal Koch be happy with the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch declaring, "This development was not an initiative of Constantinople but came from the Catholic Church"???

An interesting follow-up -- Catholic bishops in Germany are leery of being invited to "celebrate" the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 theses, set for 2017:

"It's not impossible in principle, but it depends on the character of the events planned," Bishop Gerhard Feige, the top Catholic official dealing with Protestants, said in a statement for the Protestant Reformation Day holiday on Wednesday."Catholic Christians consider the division of the western Church as a tragedy and - at least until now - do not think they can celebrate this merrily," he wrote in the text outlining Catholic doubts about the event.

Cardinal Ratzinger actually had many nice things to say about Luther, and was instrumental in the 1999 justification statement. Luther's ecclesiology seems to be the main stumbling block. But it is for Catholics in their own church.

Lutherans not inclined to leave seem occupied with the Luther Decade with annual themes leading up to 2017: 2008: Opening of the LutherDecade2009: Reformation and Confession2010: Reformation and Education2011: Reformation and Freedom2012: Reformation and Music2013: Reformation and Tolerance2014: Reformation and Politics2015: Reformation - Visual Arts and the Bible2016: Reformation and the One World2017: Anniversary of the Reformation. More in English at Imagine the impact if the recent head-scratching synod of Roman Catholic bishops had wrapped up with a proposal of a ten-year celebration of their faith, perhaps even highlighting some of the same topics found above. (Replace "Reformation" with "Evangelization" as needed.)

Yup, imagine. But don't hold your breath. I think any effective "new evangelization," especially any evangelization that reaches the 85% of Millennials who no longer attend Church, will not come from the hierarchy. That leaves the religious and the likes of us.

If Luther taught us anything it's that when the hierarchy doesn't listen to the people, the people don't listen to the hierarchy. How many hierarchs now truly listen to the people, i.e., the lower clergy and laity? Name five. I'd say Cardinal Turkson, and maybe Cardinal Schoenbrun a little bit. Oh, and Bishop Robinson, the Australian. Cardinal Ravasi listens to the intellectuals. Who else? The Pope listens to the SSPSers, that's true, and the Lutherans sometimes.

I do not understand why so many Commonwealers disapproved of the Anglican ordinariateBecause it was so anit-ecumenical, done behind the Archbishop of Canterbury's back, and smacking of Uniatism.

Ken,The hissing and sneering at Anglicanorum coetibus was because the Anglicans who were interested in converting to Catholicism actually agreed with the Church that women cannot be ordained and that homosexual acts are sinful, whereas much energy here is devoted to trying to get the Church to adopt what has become the Anglican position.

Yes, indeed, some of us are put off that our Church is more embracing of non-Catholics opposed to women priests than it is of Catholic women called to the priesthood.

Has anyone done a counting of how many Anglicans have availed themselves of the Anglican ordinariate? Every now and then I read of an example, but I wonder if there are any numbers.About the missalette -- I don't object to the book itself, of course, for it can be very useful. Just the diminutive word which to my aging ear sounds cutesy.

"... whereas much energy here is devoted to trying to get the Church to adopt what has become the Anglican position."Please, wake up and die right.These are not Anglican positions. Women's ordination is allowed within ECUSA and in the CofE (though parishes do not have to accept a woman priest). Other national churches do not allow women's ordination.There has never been pronouncement from Lambeth other than that homosexual activity is a sin. Several bishops in the worldwide communion did sign a document saying that homosexuals should be treated with Christian charity (then Bishop Williams signed it), but even that did not get a majority of signatures.The fact that ECUSA ordains practicing homosexuals is one reason the Anglican Communion has been within a hair's breadth of schism.

Last I heard, Anglican ordinariates--full communion but using Anglican liturgy--is a hypothetical possibility, but no parish has ever taken Rome up on the offer, nor has Rome worked out a procedure for accepting any such parish. David G. is probably more up on this than me, though.Episcopalians with a more conservative line on women priests and homosexuality realigned with a "mission" effort led by the Anglican Bishop of Uganda (not remembering his name at the moment) rather than flocking to Rome. Eschewing women priests and homosexuality does not a Catholic make. Conservative Episcopalians would be skeptical about Roman teachings re divorce, birth control, purgatory, the exposition of the consecrated host. Oh, and that little matter of the papacy.

The US Odinariate web site offers a great deal of early-stage information about itself, processes, associated communities, etc. The FAQ appears to describe how a parish would be accepted as well as individuals. It answers the question "Will the liturgy look like a typical Catholic liturgy?" -- "The liturgy in ordinariate parishes will be fully Catholic, though will feel very similar to that of a traditional Anglican liturgy in terms of music, structure and prayers. Parishes will use the Book of Divine Worship, which is a Vatican-approved Catholic liturgical book that is based upon historic Anglican liturgies, with the prayers adapted ."

Jean --According to this article at the Ordinariate's U. S. site a number of parishes have already switched over.

Our Lady of Walsingham, the Ordinariate covering UK: Lady of the Southern Cross, the Australian Ordinariate:

Back to the Lutherans, a popular quote, surprising to some, came from Cdl. Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in a 2008 interview. He strongly commended Luther's faith, Biblical commentaries, and hymns. Most interesting is his claim (in English translation) that Luther is one " from whom even Catholics can learn".

An informative Oct 2012 update from Ordinary Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson of the US Ordinariate after 9 months mentions a number of significant details, including dual charism, titles to churches, and collaboration with bishops. Some news from English papers has suggested these as points of difficulty as the Ordinariate begins there. Heavy emphasis is put on the Ordinariate's two-fold charism or mission -- ministering to needs of all former Anglicans coming to the Catholic Church and maintaining the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican communion within the Catholic Church ". Introducing and maintaining the fullness of the distinctive Anglican patrimony is to be addressed in all decisions and activities. Consequences for already burdened US diocesan bishops and USCCB remain to be seen. Addition of a Lutheran Ordinariate surely would further enrich the unity being sought.

Jack and all, thanks for the update. Looks like something around a dozen U.S. parishes have "crossed over." As far as I can see (and this is from Wikipedia, so always suspect), about twice as many Episcopal churches realigned with the Anglican Church in North America, the Ugandan mission effort.So I'm still stickin' to my story that, among conservative Episcopalians, Anglicanism still looks better than swimming the Tiber.

"I do not understand why so many Commonwealers disapproved of the Anglican ordinariate, but the hissing and sneering was front and center. "Sorry, but it is really the Orneryariate.

I always thought that Anglicanorum coetibus was a form of birth control.

"Has anyone done a counting of how many Anglicans have availed themselves of the Anglican ordinariate?"Has anyone ever done a counting of how many Roman Catholics (including priests and especially women) have walked down the stree to membership in their local Episcopal church? How many current Episcopal rectors and vicars were formerly RC priests and RC women?I didn't think so. The numbers might be highly unsettling.BTW, I know 3 women rectors who are former RC. And then we can start looking in the numbers of former RC members of the UCC parishes, particularly in larger cities.

Transsubstantiation versus sacramental union is not a problem?I mentioned the Real Presence to my catechism kids in passing, and thought I had stated it in simple terms ("before the consecration, what you have on the altar is bread and wine; after the consecration, it is still bread and wine, but Christ is present in the bread and in the wine"). I used the simplest description that captured the gist of my belief, but realized this week that I may have described something more akin to "sacramental union" instead of "transubstantiation". If it's not an obstacle to the return of Lutherans within the Catholic church, then, does that mean that it's not important? Or is that outdated and resolved? Have there been discussions between Catholics and Lutherans that would have clarified the difference? I doubt that any of the kids care, but if the way I think is not the way the Church thinks, it would be good for me to at least be aware of it!

Jim -- "Anglicanorum coetibus" may yet turn up as the title of an episode of "The Big Bang Theory."

Mr. McCrea,The United Church of Christ has roughly half as many members as it did in the early '60s, even though the US population doubled during the same period. The Episcopal church lost 23% of its Sunday communicants in the last decade. Liberal Protestantism is dying, even if it is attracting Catholics who are upset by the Church's refusal to turn itself into a replica of liberal Protestantism.

Angela - in that case, it will be "The Anglicanorum coetibus Modifier" or some such.

Thorin: and if it was not for the influx of Spanish-speaking members into the RCC, what would the membership be like today?Besides, isn't this pope a proponent of a smaller, purer church?Your stats have nothing to do with my questions about reverse poping. I think you have just tried a form of "tu quoque" logical fallacy, but will leave that determination to my philosophical betters (anyone is).

[Feb 2010] In an honest appraisal of Lutheran-Catholic relations, former ELCA Presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom last year acknowledged that ordaining women was the first nail in the coffin of further ecumenical progress,

We've got an ECUSA parish (my ex-wife's) pastored by a former RC cleric. His brother, last I knew, is a religious order cleric assigned to a RC parish in our town.

What do the different branches of the Lutheran Christian tradition think of women's ordination? Anybody know?I'm surprised by Chilstrom's remarks. Didn't he criticize the RC archbishop for trying to push his religious beliefs on non-Catholics? Oh, well, I guess nobody's perfect.Just so-so.(like me)

Claire, that's an interesting question re transubstantiation and where Lutherans stand. Lutherans are in communion with Anglicans (or at least were; don't know whether recent developments in Anglicanism messed up that deal or what). But the Anglican take on communion is that Christ is present in the bread and wine, and Anglicans may believe in transubstantiation. Or they may believe that Christ enters us in some other, more spiritual way.It's hard to explain that to Catholics (who teach transubstantiation only) and Protestants that view communions merely commemoration.I guess it wouldn't really matter to Catholics, since Anglican orders are not legal or valid, ergo God is not present in Anglican communion.

Claire --As I understand Aquinas (and I think he's quite orthodox about this), at the Consecration that lump of stuff that is bread turns into Christ's body, and His soul is, of course, present in that body. This means that the wafer literally is Jesus' body and it's combined with its soul, just as your own body and soul are combined into one being, namely, Claire. I don't know what Thomas says about the texture, color, taste, etc. (the apects that we know by means of our senses). They are present miraculously, but are they just left over from the bread? I don't know.The whole thing is weird -- weird beyond belief for many people, but, oddly, not at all weird to many little children who make their First Communion. Yes, it does require that one believes that God can do things that you don't find happening in nature. God operates beyond nature at times, so strange things can happen.

Brian Davies says in his book The Thought of Thomas Aquinas that Anyone reading through the discussion of the Eucharist in the tertia pars of the Summa theologiae ought to see without much difficulty that Aquinas thinks of himself as talking about something which defies understanding. The Eucharist, for him, is a mystery in precisely the sense that God is a mystery for the Eucharist, for him, is the presence of God.That's the best explanation I've ever heard. We moderns easily forget mystery. But there it remains.

Jeanne --I agree. And it seems to me that one of the greatest failures of catechesis since VII has been the failure of the Church, first, to make the faithful aware of the greatness and mystery of God, and, second, its failure to teach people how to pray to such a God.By the way, your new book, "When the Enlightenment Hit the Neighborhood", came. I particularly like the part about reason and mystery. (Nagel's new book also came, and I'm seesawing between the two :-)

Oops -- that's "When the Enlightenment Hit the Neighborhoods" (plural)

For some background on the Real Presence doctrine:+ go to scroll down and look for "Dissertation" on the right; click the link+ scroll down to Part II, Chapter 2 ("Other examples of creativity")+ peruse "Real Presence in the Eucharist"I think Dr. Gerald Floyd gives a nice overview for those of us with no background in this area.My understanding is that the Lutheran Christian tradition embraces *consubstantiation* as its doctrine on the eucharist. Whether this understanding is uniform across the tradition, I don't know.Since the eucharist is a mystery of our faith, we must acknowledge that it cannot be explained. Otherwise, it would not be a mystery in the first place. Human words simply cannot explain a mystery.

There is nothing like experience to describe doctrines. I once took a visitor who wanted to see women clergy to an Evangelical Lutheran Church where I knew there were such. There were two women conducting the entire service. Later I took my friend to a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church where there was only one man who presided. In both churches communion was celebrated every Sunday. At the Missouri Church communion was served two different ways at the same time: both passing a chalice and offering individual communion cups (for those who were afraid of germs.) I have been told by reliable sources that Lutherans believe in Consubstantiation which means that the Sacrament is both the body and blood of Christ and bread and wine at the same time. They do not believe in the perduring presence so that means that they do not store the Sacrament in a tabernacle, but reconsecrate leftovers the next time they have a service. A Lutheran minister who visited a friend of mine who was confined to her home would consecrate the elements right there at the time of the visit. Martin Luther did a very good job at exposing the abuse of the sale of indulgences which were authorized by a Pope in order to cover a loan from the House of Fugger to Albrecht of Mainz for his purchase of a church office. Luther believed in Transubstantiation and stated that he would rather drink Blood with the Pope than wine with the Swiss (Reformed tradition). He later betrayed the German Peasants in their bid to improve their situation and became a rabid antisemite. He is best known for defining the doctrine of Justification by Faith. This means that a person cannot earn Salvation because it is a free gift from Jesus which need only be accepted. He based this doctrine on the verse in Genesis which says "Abram believed the Lord and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."Luther and Henry VIII hated each other. Luther opined that Henry was validly married to Katherine of Aragon. I am not and have never been a member of any Lutheran denomination, but I think that I have stated Lutheran beliefs and practices accurately. If not, I am open to correction.

I think the most important work on the Eucharist is the ARCIC I Windsor statement, which culminated in ARCIC II's "Clarifications" which can be found at with links to earlier documents embedded.The Vatican response which led to the clarifications says:It is in respect of Eucharistic Doctrine that the members of the Commission were able to achieve the most notable progress toward a consensus. Together they affirm "that the eucharist is a sacrifice in the sacramental sense, provided that it is made clear that this is not a repetition of the historical sacrifice" [(EE 5)]1; and areas of agreement are also evident in respect of the real presence of Christ: "Before the eucharistic prayer to the question what is it?', the believer answers it is bread'. After the eucharistic prayer to the same question he answers: it is truly the body of Christ, the bread of life'" (EE 6). The Catholic Church rejoices that such common affirmations have become possible. Still, as will be indicated further on, it looks for certain clarifications which will assure that these affirmations are understood in a way that conforms to Catholic doctrine.After the clarifications were issued, JP2 and Robert Runcie issued a joint declaration affirming the "signs of progress" in these agreements. And the joint declaration of B16 and Abp Rowan Williams in 2006 refers to a process of fruitful dialogue, which has been marked by the discovery of significant elements of shared faith. While some would minimize the importance of these statements, they reflect substantial agreement at high levels on the Eucharist and Real Presence of Christ therein.Lutherans and Anglicans have moved even further along the road to unity, their shared communion reflecting a shared faith that is substantially the same as Roman Catholic faith. In some ways, these agreements paved the way for the Ordinariates though the object of the dialogue is mutual conversion and shared recognition of each other, not the creation of new divisions and institutions.

Consubstantiation and transubstantiation both are based on a philosophy of substance, that what makes a thing a thing is unknowable, though what we can sense may tell us a bit. In the context of this "essentialism" Claire's remarks are a good example of consubstantiation, both bread and Christ are present after the consecration.It is also possible that Clare thinks of bread differently, in scientific terms based on her sensory knowledge. In that context, saying "it is still bread" is the same as saying it still looks and tastes like bread. That is fully consistent with transubstantiation. Christ is present, but so are the appearances of bread.As Jeanne said, this is a mystery which doesn't quite fit into our philosophies. Our faith, not our philosophies, is what matters, except when our philosophies keep us from Christ. Then we need to reach past them to Christ.

Canonize Luther? I would vote against. He made too many extreme statements, even in his best thought out works such as The Bondage of the Will; and his antisemitic rants are far worse than anything from Bp Richard Williamson. Philip Melanchthon would be a worthier candidate for canonization if it were not for his support of the judicial murder of Michael Servetus.

We must stop talking about substance (on which Newman made some quite skeptical remarks in Apologia, chapter 5) and think of the Eucharist in terms of event. The meal event becomes participation in the Paschal event. Leave it at that.

Jim McK, thanks for the cite from the Windsor agreement. At some point along the road, RC-Anglican dialogue also confirmed that there was no impediment to Anglicans believing in the assumption of the Virgin Mary, an infallible Roman Catholic teaching, though it is not official teaching of either Anglicans or Lutherans.August 15 is the feast day of the Mother of Our Lord in both Lutheran and Anglican churches.From a practical perspective, I will say that during RCIA as I experienced, RC beliefs about Mary were very sketchily outlined. The Assumption was simply explained as "the feast of Mary's ascension into heaven," nothing about what the assumption actually meant or its significance. It's only been in the last couple of years that I've been able to take a more Catholic line on devotion to the Holy Mother. When you're sitting by a death bed, there really isn't anybody else in heaven better to call on to help you stand it.

In some ways, these agreements paved the way for the OrdinariatesThat's interesting. An unexpected consequence!

Thank you Joseph for your pointer to the informative "creative advance" dissertation chapter.

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