Thus the seemingly small decisions of Pope John and Pope John Paul II have brought many former Anglicans and Episcopalians not only into full communion with the Catholic Church, but have also brought some of us into the ministry of the Catholic priesthood. Their decisions in this matter also illustrate the way the Catholic Church makes progress.
Pius XII’s decision to make an exception to the rule of celibacy and welcome a few Lutheran pastors combined with John XXIII’s decision to open a Secretariat for Christian Unity and to welcome a visit from Archbishop Fisher. Paul VI’s recognition that an exception to the rule of celibacy was possible opened the way for John Paul II to establish the Pastoral Provision. That in turn allowed Benedict XVI to expand the Pastoral Provision into the Anglican Ordinariate. It may be that Francis will expand the concept of the Ordinariate to include Lutherans, Methodists and other Christians from the Reformed tradition.
Some think the Catholic Church is completely inflexible. Not so. The Catholic Church does adapt and change, but that change is always consistent and in continuity with what has gone before. Pope St John XXIII and Pope St John Paul II are examples of tradition developing while remaining rooted in the unchanging truths of the Catholic faith.
Fr. Dwight Longeneckeris a former Anglican priest who was ordained in 2006 through the Pastoral Provision. Visit his blog, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.