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unclear on the concept

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 03, 2009

Ecumenists, like liturgists, should never be left unsupervised with sharp tools in reach. Bad things will happen. Case in point: some Aussie ecumenists thought it'd be a great idea to throw a joint Anglican-Catholic Confirmation service this May. It seems not to have occurred to the organizers that the spectacle of persons gathered to commit to different bodies with a different hierarchy, a different church law, and a different notion of sacramental validity is more a celebration of schism than of unity.

The Holy See was not afraid of playing bad cop. From The Herald:

The Vatican has put a stop to a joint Pentecostal service planned by the Newcastle and Maitland Catholic and Anglican bishops. The confirmation service was scheduled for May 31 at Christ Church Cathedral, and was promoted as a "very exciting and special" event.

Parishes encouraged church members to consider being confirmed on that day.

But Rome intervened, forcing its cancellation, citing the possibility of "confusing messages" being given to churchgoers. It is unclear how the headquarters of the Catholic Church learned of the service, as no formal notification was given.

Confusing is right. For starters, the 25th Anglican Article of Religion does not regard Confirmation as a true sacrament instituted by Christ, but one that had "grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles." Not all Anglican provinces adhere to the Thirty-Nine Articles, but several still do. Further, an Anglican website tells us, "As in the case of baptism, there are two types of confirmation service in the Church of England, those that follow the confirmation service in The Book of Common Prayer and those that use the pattern of confirmation service contained in Common Worship." Given the shonky Alternative Profession of Faith the C of E permits in the ceremony "where there are strong pastoral reasons," it's not abundantly clear that all Anglicans say Yes to same thing in being confirmed -- and highly doubtful they all intend what the Catholic Church intends.

In this case, of course, the candidates will have been softened up by months of ecumenical artillery. There isn't necessarily a doctrinal gap among the Newcastle aspirants. But think of the kind of catechetical materials that would have been employed in this venture and ask yourself which is more likely: that the Anglican ministers and confirmands hold a Catholic doctrine of the Sacrament, or that the Catholic ministers and confirmands hold a Protestant one?

We can be grateful that someone was canny enough to notify the Congregation for Divine Worship of the proposal, and grateful that they weren't asleep at the switch. Ecumenism is too important to be left to the ecumenists.

Tip to Jeff Miller.

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