WEST ROXBURY -- Members of a local congregation of former Anglicans who joined the Roman Catholic Church years ago, support the recent move by the Vatican that will establish a worldwide structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Church, while preserving distinct aspects of their liturgy and culture.
Father Richard Bradford, chaplain of the Congregation of St. Athanasius, the lone Anglican-use congregation within the Archdiocese of Boston, praised the action by the Vatican.
“It wasn’t the Catholic Church looking to steal from other Christian communities. It was a response to Episcopalians who wanted to be reunited with the Holy See,” Father Bradford said. “It shows the Church at her best. In her zeal for souls, she’s leaving no stone unturned.”
Cardinal William J. Levada, the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, said in an Oct. 20 Vatican press conference that an upcoming new apostolic constitution would create “personal ordinariates,” a structure similar to a diocese, for pastoral oversight for those who wish to bring Anglican liturgical elements into the Catholic Church with them.
“This apostolic constitution is an effort to make it easier and encouraging for non-Catholic Christians to become Catholic,” Father Bradford added. “At the same time, it is not giving up anything the Church preaches, teaches, or believes. The Catholic Church is not giving up the centrality of the Holy See, the Magisterium, or the discipline of celibacy.”
For Father Bradford, a married priest who entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, the move is a “gracious exception” to the Church’s tradition of celibacy, required of all Latin Rite priests.
Steve Cavanaugh, a member of St. Athanasius who edits the congregation’s newspaper as well as the journal of the Anglican-use Society, lauded the Vatican’s move for its international reach.
“It takes what we’ve had in the United States and it makes it available outside the U.S.,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s clear it’s going to be worldwide, which hasn’t been the case.”
Pope John Paul II issued a decree in 1980 that allowed Episcopalians in the United States to become Catholic while retaining some of their liturgical traditions, as well as the custom of married priests.
Currently, there are nine Anglican-use parishes and one order of sisters nationwide.
Locally, the Congregation of St. Athanasius was established in 1997 by Cardinal Law and enjoys parish status. It worships at St. Theresa of Avila Church, a Roman Catholic church in West Roxbury.
Father Bradford was ordained a Catholic priest in 1998. He also serves as a parochial vicar at St. Theresa’s.
There is speculation as to how the Vatican’s call for ordinariates will be applied.
Father Bradford says a non-geographic diocese could be established.
“Even though the congregations can work together, there’s no coordinated oversight of them together,” Father Bradford said.