RC archbishop to Anglicans: we don’t want cafeteria Catholics

November 22, 2009
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(Photo: Archbishop Vincent Nichols, 21 May 2009/Kevin Coombs)

Those disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales who think they can take up Pope Benedict’s offer and switch to Rome with a “pick and choose” attitude should think again, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols has said.

Many Anglicans unhappy with women’s ordination and gay clergy cannot just convert to Roman Catholicism as a way out, but must accept Catholic doctrine  wholeheartedly, he said.

“Nothing is envisaged in this provision that the Pope has put in place is a kind of minimalist approach to picking bits of the Catholic faith that I like and then seeing myself as it were contained as a quasi-Catholic, not a real Catholic, under the umbrella of this constitution,” he said, referring to a “buffet approach” to the faith that some Catholics dismiss as “cafeteria Catholicism.”

It is still unclear how many Anglicans will convert, but the invitation, in the form of what’s called an Apostolic Constitution, has opened up old wounds between the Vatican and Lambeth Palace.

It has also crystallised divisions within the Church of England, the Anglican mother church.

A debate is raging over whether the Pope’s offer was an act of undisguised poaching, tapping into discontent among some Anglicans. or whether it was an act of generosity, responding to calls of help.

It has also raised questions about the approach adopted by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, towards the offer – details of which he did not know until two weeks before the announcement. Some say he has been too soft, while others say he has been judicious.

A meeting between the pope and the archbishop this weekend was said to be short but courteous – though the BBC pointed out the pope spent more time with artists visiting the Sistine Chapel than he did with Williams.

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(Photo: Archbishop Williams and Pope Benedict, 21 Nov 2009/Osservatore Romano)

One thing that is clear is Nichols’ call for complete devotion to the Roman Catholic Church.

“I clearly want to say unambiguously that anybody who seriously wants to perhaps take up the initiative that Pope Benedict has put in place needs to do it out of a conviction that this is the context in which they desire, long to live their Christian discipleship,” he said.

“It therefore must be a positive desire in their heart, and one that centres around not questions of the ordination of women to the episcopate, not questions of sexual ethics, but must centre around an understanding of the role of the office of the Bishop of Rome…in the ongoing life of a Christian.

“So a person must be embracing of that concrete aspect of Catholic life which is the authority of the Holy See in the person if they are hoping to make this journey with integrity.”

Williams seemed to say the same thing when, in an interview with Vatican Radio, he stressed that Anglicans who switch to Rome should do it because they genuinely want to become Roman Catholics, not out of protest against something in Anglicanism. “People become Roman Catholics because they want to become Roman Catholics, because their consciences are formed in a certain way and they believe this is the will of God for them. I wish them every blessing in that,” he said.

Archbishop Nichols’s comments came as he announced that a commission of Catholic bishops and advisers had been set up to consider in detail the next steps with regards the Apostolic Constitution. It will liaise with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and offer advice to diocesan bishops.

It will be interesting to see whether his comments influence the number of Anglicans wanting to switch.

24 comments

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Anglicans who find Roman Catholic Dogma complete with modern concepts like Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility a bit too much to swallow would be better advised to examine Orthodox teaching. I was surprised to discover how close it was to my Anglican position. Services in English all over the country too.

This is a major problem with all organized religions. Religion is meant to lead the aspirant along the path of spiritual awakening. The problem is that too often worshipers, and clergy alike, get caught up in the dogma and ritual. They forget about the goal of communing with the divine. Or rather, this communion is seen as incidental to worship and not the goal of it.Worshipers are not meant to spend their entire lives in “discipleship”. They are meant to grow in the spirit and to understand the truth being revealed so that they can live by it and thus become spiritually perfected and ready to stand before the creator as perfected beings.Worship is meant to change the desires of the heart. The goal is to learn what it means to truly love, and to grow that love in the heart. The goal is to refine that love and to make it pure like the love that God showed to you by giving you life and leading you towards understanding by giving you the desire to commune with him.When the heart is full of pure love, the mind will use its powers of logic and reason to fulfill that desire for pure love. The mind of the human being becomes altruistic and “love your neighbor as yourself” becomes a way of life.One does not need religious dogma or ritual to cultivate this love. One need only devote themselves to understanding what it is to truly love. If one truly desires this love then God will bring the understanding of it to the aspirant. “Ask and you shall receive.” This is what true religion is about. It has nothing to do with ritual or ceremony. Those are supposed to be examples that illustrate the underlying goal.Whatever your faith. If you understand the concept of one universal source of all existence, then cultivate the heart. Use the examples given in the ancient texts regarding spiritual cultivation (Bible, Torah, Buddhist texts, etc..). Then it won’t matter what your faith is. You will succeed in communing with the divine and enter into eternal life.

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Benny your comments sound nice but you should really learn what these major religions stand for and, for example, the importance of the Church in regards to Catholicism. From the onset, they all look the same but if you take a harder look there are key fundamental differences.Also its hard to communicate and worship with God through yourself and own merits. Don’t take this the wrong way but our own ego gets in the way to become in true union with Christ due to our imperfect and sinful nature. Our human spirit is naturally void of Christ, and through the teachings of His Church He gave to us, we can fill this void by allowing him to enter us wholeheartedly so we can obtain eternal salvation.

Posted by José | Report as abusive

JoséWhat is central to the varying Christian faiths is Christ. One need not involve oneself in the differences between the churches. Buddhism, Judaism, etc… all hold out the goal of communing with the divine.Truth be told, the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have their roots in the Roman Empire. When Constantine found his empire dwindling he laid hold of the Christian cults and elevated their form of warship to be the official religion of the empire. This is why we have the ranking structure of the priests, and the ceremonies that come with the church.Constantine was a sun worshiper. And the structure of the Catholic church comes from the Sun Cult’s organizational structure.”its hard to communicate and worship with God through yourself and own merits.”It may be difficult but it is not impossible. Jesus said that we should pray in secret. And the father who sees in secret will reward you. Communion with the divine is a uniquely personal experience. God gives you exactly what you need when you ask for it.They are not just pretty words. Try it for yourself and see. Seek, ask, and knock for yourself. And pay attention. You will receive as it is promised.Find your pleasure in the creator and nothing else will have a hold on you.

Hi Benny,Your universalist approach sounds quite appealing at first, but it has serious flaws. Very simply, the dogmatic differences between churches are critical. Those dogmas dictate what members of various churches will typically believe, and as a result, what those members will tend to do. Certainly there are hordes in the world who are quite hypocritical about living their faith, but they merely emphasize the need for sound knowledge of one’s faith.Anytime I’ve discussed life with any Christian, we’ll always agree that Christ is our Saviour. The commonality often ends right there though. Because our dogmas are different, we’ll very often think very differently and declare how we should act VERY differently.As far as the Catholic Church’s roots are concerned, it’s a very common myth that Constantine developed the Church. Christ founded the Catholic (both Roman and Eastern) faith, which his apostles spread through the world. If it so happens that there are characteristics of the Roman empire within the Church or something of Constantine’s original faith appears the same, what of it?Have you noticed that American law and British are often quite similar because the United States grew out of England? Yet we, the People of the United States, don’t don’t call ourselves “reformed British”, do we? Why then would we assume that Rome or Constantine defined anything in the Church? Which particular government held sway over the world at the time is irrelevant.What’s important is to understand what Christ taught us, something that Catholics believe has been preserved by the Pope and his bishops in the form of sacred Tradition.I understand quite well that many Christians consider that an arrogant attitude. I would too, except I haven’t ever found anything in Catholic dogma/doctrine to be false, though it’s often misunderstood. Ultimately, the Church must either be completely right, or completely wrong. Which side you take in that argument will determine whether you’re Catholic or another denomination.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Richard Downing’s suggestion is quite flawed….it fails to address the fullness of truth that resides where Our Lord put it…in His Church, ie: the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic CHurch…..and our Orthodox brothers & sisters have a similar deficiency with regard to “fullness”….RIchard – you are a cafeteria Christian….why not start your own church?…

Posted by John S | Report as abusive

John,You are correct about the differences. The core of the faith is Christ however. And regardless of the differences in the churches. The teachings of Christ do not change.The differences amount to personal tastes. Anything outside the teachings of Christ is superfluous. Christ did not start the Catholic church. He started what we consider to be Christianity. And even then all he was doing was teaching the Jews how to become better Jews. Since the Jewish people didn’t accept him, he spread the word to the gentiles. And this is where the Romans picked up the faith. And long after Christ was crucified at that. Remember that Rome (home of the Catholic church) persecuted Christians until the empire started to fall apart. Then Christians became important for the preservation of Imperial power.The trappings and customs of the various denominations serve only peripheral concerns. How one should dress, what one should eat, or how often to pray etc… are side issues.It is the development of the heart and mind to focus on the living God, creator and sustainer of the universe, that is the real goal. Human artifice is just for human comfort. God is no respector of persons. The logic you site is the very reason there is so much discord among the churches. Each believe they are correct. But no dogma is correct. Only the teachings of Christ and the principles he set forth are of any real value in the church.As you correctly point out dogma determines what people believe and do. Problem is, communion with God is not a cookie cutter enterprise. Each human being is different. And each has his/her own unique limitations. Fellowship in the church is a good thing. The problem as I said before, is that people can become lost in the ceremony and tradition and easily forget the purpose of these things.The spiritual walk is done alone. Jesus instructed us to pray in secret. One who prays in secret will have no one to stroke their ego. Worship in secret keeps prayer between you and God alone. As it should be. The church is for fellowship. It is for learning the teachings of Christ. And it is a way for worshipers to come together and do good works.The mark of a true Christian is in the way they behave, not in what church they attend. There is only one true authority. And that is God himself. Many churches, but only one God. Which church is the true church? The true church is God in your heart. Everything else is fluff.

And, cafeteria Catholics take note! The time of pick-and-choose religion is over. The Archbishop is clever enough to counsel incoming Anglicans AND use such an opportunity to instruct cradle Catholics (and the Tony Blairs out there).And, Christ did found the Church. He entrusted Her leadership to Saint Peter. Read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The first council, the Council of Jerusalem, is recorded in Acts and was presided over by Saint Peter. The Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church at Pentecost, which has been celebrated as the birth of the Church from the beginning. Only those whose ecclesiology begins with a Calvin or Wesley might try and avoid 1 Tim 3:15, which speaks of the Church as the pillar and bulwark of truth.

Posted by Warren Anderson | Report as abusive

Archbishop Nichols is certainly the world`s greatest hypocrite. When he was in charge of the Catholic Education Service he insured that catholic doctrines were not taught in the programmes. He walked side by side with Ed Balls the MP responsible for schools ensuring that children were taught sex from 5 years on. There is not response from hijm to the latest dictatorial agenda from the Govenment that there will be not right of parents to withdraw a 15 year old child from sex lessons in Faith or Secualar schools. When examined the Archbishop is the worst cafetria catholic of them all. He and his fellow bishops are actually trying to stop real catholicism coming into what they see as their English Church.

It’s amazing that so many people quibble over the formalities and then get into things like “we don’t want you folks in our church” blah blah blah.If EVERY church were destroyed today. God would still be. If all of the texts regarding the churches went up in smoke, the teachings of Christ would be no less valuable. And with no churches, what would people do? Abandon Christ? Not hardly.Christ is what is central to Christianity. If the churches did not exist do you believe you would be denied eternal life? There is no such thing as holy mother church. God is holy. Man is flawed. Thus the church is flawed. And many are the flaws the church is guilty of.You can’t wash all that under the board. God has NEVER faltered. The churches have failed the people MANY times. Think of the atrocities committed by organized religion committed in the name of God. No church is innocent of this.So before supporting dogma blindly consider the pitfalls of doing so. God does not want blind faith. He wants us to choose him over the trappings of this world. In everything God must be justified. But he who causes harm to another in the name of God is not a servant of God but a servant of the prince of this world.I’m not saying that organized religion is wrong. I’m just saying that one must be vigilant. Be careful not to give yourself to the traditions and ceremonies only to forget the reasons for engaging in them. And if God and spiritual growth is not the reason for the rituals practiced, then they should be abandoned.You can be angry at my post. But what is true is true regardless of who agrees or not.

And please understand that Jesus did not start the Catholic church. When he used the word church in the scriptures he was talking about starting a community of disciples.At the time of that conversation Christianity as a faith had not yet materialized. Rome controlled the Jewish state. And after the death of Christ the apostles went and taught. Peter did go to Rome. But the early Roman government persecuted Christians with relentless brutality. When Christians started to become the majority, and with a dwindling power base, the Emperor decided to elevate Christianity to the level of state religion. He made it palatable to the Romans by adopting the structure of the Sun cult. Constantine himself remained a sun worshiper.So yes. Jesus started the church. But he did not start the CATHOLIC church.

If you consider sacred scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit to holy men consider specifically, the words of Jesus in the Gospels, He said (Matthew 16:18), “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”Some things should be noted. (1) Peter means rock, thus Jesus builds a church on him. (2) Jesus builds his very own church. (3) And no matter what, the church will never be destroyed by the evil forces in the world.Continuing with scripture: In The Acts of the Apostles 2:41 : “They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”We can see here that very early on those that were received into the church persevered in the doctrine of the apostles. The bishops today are the succession of the apostles spanning back to the beginning of the church.By these verses, there is only One church and if it isn’t the Catholic church which one is it? The church must have history all the way back to Jesus and the apostles and it can never have disappeared throughout that whole span of time. How else would God gather from every age a people for himself to worship him in spirit and in truth?

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

I don’t think he would do the Moses thing over and over again when He had now already sent His only begotten Son by the incarnation to be all that we need to know about God and how it is to worship him in spirit and truth.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

The doctrine of the Apostles is not the same as the dogma of the Catholic church. Remember that Peter himself was killed. Crucified upside down no less. It wasn’t pretty. The church that was built upon the rock of Peter is the Church of Christ. I don’t mean the denomination either. I mean it literally.Simon was given the name Peter when he demonstrated his understanding that Jesus was a son of the living God. This knowledge itself is the actual rock upon which the church is built.The first true Catholics are only Catholic because of Constantine’s need to retain power. The apostles were originally Jews. They would NEVER have implemented an organizational structure that was anything but Jewish-centric.All of that came about after all of the original apostles (those that lived with Jesus before his crucifixion) were martyred.The true church would never have engaged in forced conversions, or the prosecution of thinkers like Copernicus, and Galileo. Those men were no danger to the authority of God. But they did pose a danger the authority of the egos wearing priestly robes.Hence I stress. It is Christ and his teachings that are central to any and all Christian churches. The rest is dogma, and as such superfluous.If at ANY time, dogma even suggests, that the rules of the church come before Christ or ANYTHING that Christ taught, then the dogma is false teaching and nothing more.I don’t know Catholic dogma enough to know if any such teachings exist. All I admonish is that Christians must be vigilant against becoming obsessed with tradition and custom and loosing sight of the true goal. Communion with God

to say that we define our own spiritual maturity is as false as the statement that we accept Christ, he does the excepting.We are” Being saved”and to look at ourselves as anything other than “filthy rags”is a misconception.The knowledge of Christ is revealed to us and i am thankful that my salvation in not in my hands.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Benny,I could be angry at your comments; were I still 18 and lacking much knowledge about the church, I might be. As it is, I’m only disappointed. Your arguments present numerous failings in catechesis, a stubborn intellectual dishonesty, or maybe both.For one, stating that Christ didn’t start the Catholic Church. Well, he definitely started SOMETHING. And I have yet to hear of any other church that can trace it’s history back to Christ himself. Soooo….I don’t know what your grounds for dismissing the Catholic Church are, but…either he DID give us a group of Apostles, with Peter as their head, or he didn’t. Either he DID give us numerous teachings (dogmas) and sense to reason things out (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit), or he didn’t. If he DID, I don’t know how you can come up with anything different from what we now call the Roman Catholic Church. If he DIDN’T, I don’t know how you can create a cogent argument.Then again, when it comes to blind faith, I can’t address that thoroughly unless I know what you’re referring to. I remember hearing about this or that that the Church “didn’t get” or needed to change it’s mind about. Every single time, I’ve discerned that those who’re complaining or accusing the Catholic faith of blindness…are themselves blind to the Truths the Church actually teaches.Ultimately, I guess I’m stuck. I can’t force you to reconsider your view, but neither can I agree that your statements are accurate.Guess I’ll simply have to remember to pray for you and others at Mass!

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Benny, please do not forget that your stance on what’s crucial in being a Christian is only one of many. You may believe that theological details are unimportant, but this standpoint is by no means necessarily “better”, more true or closer to God than the ones of McCormick, Rowans or Ratzinger.

Posted by H.G. | Report as abusive

How can adults spend so much time arguing over fairy stories?Do as you would be done by. What more do you need?

Posted by jbloggs | Report as abusive

We must accept being lit by the light of the creator. If God did the accepting we would all be saved and there would be no need for this discussion. God gave us free will for a reason. He gave it to us so that unlike the other creatures of this world, instead of following by instinct or by force of nature, human beings would be able to choose him freely, or reject him.Ultimately God is the only true freedom. But the choice is ours to make. Keeping dogma ahead of the Christ himself is to invite suffering and a wandering in the desert of this world.Church is good. It’s a place of fellowship. It’s a place of learning. But ultimately every student must apply what has been learned and discover the world for themselves.”However, while most text points to an ancient church in Egypt being Coptic, or for example, Greek Orthodox, the earliest churches were technically neither, because Christianity in Egypt predates these slightly more modern divisions.”Check out the link below. Found that on a quick google.http://www.touregypt.net/features tories/coptchurch.htmJesus started THE first church. He did not start the Catholic church.If you would pray. Pray for the awakening of your spirit. And pray for peace. The spark of life that is within you is a spark from the Holy Ancient One. That you have a desire to know God is proof that your spirit is rising. Be careful not to allow yourself to become distracted by the trappings of this place. That’s why they’re called trappings. My father will take me home. He will do it because I seek, ask, and knock at his door. He will fulfill his promise in me. Just as he will in you. And in every human being that walks the earth.Seek only what is important and appreciate the things of this world for what they are. Temporary.Peace.

Benny,I’m quite saddened by your last posting or two, but also puzzled. You seem to think that the Catholic Church places it’s dogma over the teaching of Christ and/or that there is some difference between dogma and Christ’s teaching.Again, it’s difficult to respond to your postings without knowing what dogmas/teachings you’re referring to and discerning whether those things you find objectionable are even dogmatic. As far as that goes, I can’t say with any certainty whether the concerns you might have come from actual Catholic teachings or from purported Catholic teachings, or from some other faith tradition entirely. Without knowing that, it’s very difficult to even begin to address your struggles.All I can say with any certainty is this: You’re very uncomfortable with the Catholic faith in particular, and most likely with many other churches as well, but you’re not willing to investigate any of your concerns adequately. Like I mentioned before, I can’t help you with that.I can address these though: A careful examination of the Bible will demonstrate–if you’re willing to see–that Christ intended for his apostles and disciples to act according to the covenant that Christ himself established and that he did not intend to limit this covenant or the human structures surrounding it to Jewish culture.If you have doubts about that, don’t forget that the man who wrote the Gospel of Luke was himself originally a Gentile doctor. Not Jewish.Saul, who became Paul, was Jewish originally, but didn’t limit himself to the Jews after his conversion.So, either Christ intended that his followers would “violate” Jewish law…or else nearly half the New Testament is invalid!As far as other human failings with Copernicus, Galileo, and a host of other events through history, I would warn you against following modern myth and misinformation. Be certain that you know what the Church actually did, said, and taught about each case, and what each of these thinkers or doers actually did and said.You might be surprised by how much the people of the modern world have completely out to lunch.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009  /11/25/guestviewwhen-it-comes-to-clergy -misconduct-take-off-those-stained-glass -specs/This is the church. Made up of fallible people. To show such blind loyalty to an organization merely because it makes a claim of being rooted in Christ while continuously failing to live up to the example is bad enough. That the church as an organization has done little if anything to remove the log from its own eye while attempting to remove the specs from the eyes of others is even worse.Do not allow yourself to trust blindly in the church. If you would trust blindly, trust God only.

John: A most excellent job of defending the Church that Our Lord Jesus Christ started.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

It is common in our time to assert that Jesus did not even know He was the Messiah — teacher, priest and ruler, much less that He meant to establish a church.Consider, if He did not mean to establish a church, that means that He either meant (1) to do nothing but leave behind a tradition of teaching, or that He meant (2) to perfect the existing assembly by means of the teaching, or that He meant (3) to abolish all structure in the existing assembly and let each man fend for himself without teachers, priests, or rulers.He can’t have meant to abolish priests, because the prophecies said that He would provide and pure and eternal sacrifice. He can’t have meant to abolish rulership, because He appointed Peter to have the keys to the kingdom, to bind and to loose, to confirm his brethren. He can’t have meant to abolish teaching, because he appointed men to go and teach in His Name–”he who hears you, hears Me.” Hence options (1) and (3) are ruled out.As for option (2), He could not have meant to perfect the existing assembly, because He knew that they would reject Him, AND that all the old forms could not hold the new teaching–one puts new wine in new wineskins, as He put it.It is in this New Assembly, which is the Church, that the Messianic offices–teaching, sacrificing, and ruling–will be extended in time so as to be accessibly by all men in all places (“to the ends of the earth”). The CCC explains that these offices are found both in the hierarchy and in the laity, each according to its sphere.In the New Testament, in Acts, and in the letters of Paul, we find this hierarchy already in existence 200 years before Constantine.

Posted by David Perkins | Report as abusive

The first real Christian churches formed in Egypt. They were well established before the Romans accepted the faith. The Coptic churches did suffer at the hands of Roman pagans. The churches in Egypt formed the first monasteries.The CATHOLIC church is a Roman construct. The Coptic churches grew organically from the teachings of Christ and from his disciples who went and taught in Egypt and were accepted there.The Romans were behind the curve in the establishment of the Church. So again. Jesus started THE first church. Which was charged with spreading the good news and teaching how people should behave towards each other.Over time that message was covered in gold and jewels and various luxurious buildings. The message was smothered. And the atrocities of the church ensued.The Catholic church is A church. Not THE church. THE church is the teaching of Christ. And who would be his disciple is a member of his church.