Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fr. Steenson: Policy Reflects Pope’s Passion as he studied at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome last year, the Rev. Jeffrey Steenson did not know just how much the Vatican was preparing to widen its arms to Anglican pilgrims like himself.

Fr. Steenson, as he is now known again, served as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande from 2005 to 2007, when he resigned to join the Roman Catholic Church. He now teaches theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.

“I was certainly aware that there were very significant conversations going on at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but I didn’t know the scope of things,” Fr. Steenson told The Living Church.

He believes the Vatican’s policy change reflects the passion of Pope Benedict XVI. “I really think the Pope helped move things along,” he said. “Evangelization is really the heart and soul of what he’s about. When people are knocking on the door of the Church, the Catholic Church needs to take extra steps to welcome them in. It’s all about the gathering in of souls.”

Fr. Steenson said the Vatican’s new policy is neither an effort at poaching Anglicans nor at creating a permanent Anglican enclave within Roman Catholicism.

“People would misunderstand the intention of this if they think it’s to created a protected zone or a cul-de-sac in which you can hunker down. The Catholic Church recognizes that there are elements of truth and beauty in Anglicanism that ought to be preserved for the good of the whole church,” he said.

“It is genuinely open-ended. I don’t think there is any timetable or a ticking clock,” he said of Anglicans becoming assimilated Roman Catholics.

Fr. Steenson cautioned that Anglicans, in turn, should not see the Roman Catholic Church as a platform from which they fight with their former communion.

“It’s about wanting to be in communion with Peter,” he said. “It’s can’t just be a matter of being angry about this issue or that issue.”

If any congregations are engaged in legal battles over property, they had better leave those at the banks of the Tiber.

Roman Catholic bishops “do not want to intervene in what they see as a dispute within the Episcopal Church,” Fr. Steenson said. “There’s got to be closure and you’ve got to move forward.”

Douglas LeBlanc

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