Fr Longenecker responds to the Ivereigh article on Tony Palmer

He writes, my emphases:

Should the then Cardinal Bergoglio have advised Tony Palmer to convert to Catholicism? In fact, the more we learn about Tony Palmer, the more interesting the question becomes. He was very involved in joint Catholic-Charismatic renewal and evangelization ministries.  Wouldn’t that ministry have been undermined if he became Catholic? Was Cardinal Bergoglio, in this instance, correct in advising him to stay put?

The doctrinaire would say, “The Catholic Church is the one, true Church. Everyone outside it is going to hell and therefore it was wrong to tell Tony Palmer not to convert!” Unfortunately it’s not always that easy. Sometimes it is better, for all sorts of reasons, for a person to stay where they are. Those of us who work with converts–especially clergy converts–(and I get about two or three emails a month from clergy thinking of converting) realize that for family, faith and financial reasons immediate conversion is not always the answer. If a person is moving towards the Catholic faith we meet the person where they are and walk with them on that journey. It took me twenty years to finally take the step to become a Catholic.

Therefore one can’t judge Cardinal Bergoglio’s call with Tony Palmer.

What I can do, however, is say what converting to the Catholic  Church rather than remaining an Anglican did for me.

Firstly, it gave me clarity of vision. In the Anglican Church all was a muddle of relativism and personal opinion. Once I became a Catholic things began to move in a positive direction. My mission, my calling and my beliefs were clear enough that I could engage in mission with much more enthusiasm and purpose.

 

When I spoke to Tony Palmer on Skype in early July he told me he was already Catholic, but that the Pope had told him to wait and keep on doing what he was doing, that it was better for him to remain outside the Church for now.  Something to that effect.  It kind of went with his telling the participants at the Kenneth Copeland conference they were all Catholics since the joint Lutheran Roman Catholic Statement on Justification of 1999.

I had to go talk with my spiritual director about all of this.   I loved Tony Palmer, but I was not sure about whether he fully grasped or agreed with Catholic ecclesiology and what Catholics understand as a definition of Catholic.

My spiritual director told me the Pope probably sensed he was not yet ready to become Catholic and thus told him to keep doing what he was doing.

I believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.  What Pope Francis seems to be opposing when he talks about “proselytism as solemn nonsense” is rushing the work of the Holy Spirit by insisting on doctrine when people are not ready for it.

I have to remember, those who pushed the One True Church apologetics on me pushed me away from the Catholic Church.  When I entered the Catholic Church I was ready to give full assent to Her teachings.

 

 

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One Response to Fr Longenecker responds to the Ivereigh article on Tony Palmer

  1. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    You wrote: My spiritual director told me the Pope probably sensed he was not yet ready to become Catholic and thus told him to keep doing what he was doing.

    I believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. What Pope Francis seems to be opposing when he talks about “proselytism as solemn nonsense” is rushing the work of the Holy Spirit by insisting on doctrine when people are not ready for it.

    I have to remember, those who pushed the One True Church apologetics on me pushed me away from the Catholic Church. When I entered the Catholic Church I was ready to give full assent to Her teachings.

    That clearly is a very important aspect of the situation. The Catholic Church does not gloss over doctrinal differences to achieve the appearance of reconciliation of those who cannot accept the full body of Christian doctrine as taught by the church. The reconciliation must be real and without reservation.

    There is, however, another dimension to this situation. The goal of ecumenism is to heal schism, fulfilling our Lord’s expressed will that all would be one (Ut unam sint) — and those contemplating a move into the Catholic Church need to consider this, especially if they are in positions of pastoral or ecclesial leadership where they might be able to influence the decisions of others.

    >> When an individual, or a few individuals, leave another congregation or denomination to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church, the other body remains — and so does the schism.

    >> When a congregation or denomination splits, with one group leaving to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church and the other group continuing as the former body, the schism again remains — and there are further complications. The remnant obviously will be the faction that is less Catholic in its thinking, and it is likely to become more so without the input of those who depart. Further, resentments surrounding the voids created by the departure of the other group are likely to lead to exaggeration of these differences, widening the chasm and making ecumenical dialog with the remnant that much more difficult.

    Unification will happen much more quickly if those who are in positions of leadership in other congregations and denominations lead the respective bodies on the path of reconciliation rather than leaving those bodies to come into the Catholic Church as individuals.

    Of course, this is not to suggest that the Catholic Church should ever refuse those who ask to come into full communion, either individually or in small groups. In fact, the ordinariates are an important model, concretely showing others how they might preserve their own customs within the umbrella of the Catholic Church — which, for some, might have been a significant obstacle to reconciliation.

    Norm.

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