By Michael Swan
Catholics and Anglicans in Canada have been working on their relationship ever since Gen. James Wolfe surprised Gen. Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham in the fall of 1759.
By 1763 King Louis XV had no choice but to cede France’s North American possessions entirely to England’s King George III. The practicalities of a Protestant king and his Protestant army trying to impose their religion on a majority Catholic population were such that the English made allowances for the Catholic Church while they granted land and paid clergy salaries for the Anglicans.
More than 250 years later, the dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans in Canada carries on, unhindered by royalty and without much reference to the Seven Years’ War. The latest round ended Nov. 18 in Toronto after three days with a presentation to theology students at Trinity College of the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto.
At this stage, 54 years after the Second Vatican Council declared a special relationship between Catholics and Anglicans, the two sides have come up with broad agreements on the Eucharist, the place of Mary in the Church, the exercise of authority and defining the Church as communion. But still Catholic and Anglican parishes live separate lives, however much the theologians may agree.
Catholic co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada Bishop Brian Dunn blames the pressure on Catholic parishes to put out all the fires in their own communities.
“It’s like we’ve got too many issues to be concerned with the others,” Dunn said.
Archbishop Linda Nicholls, the Anglican Primate of Canada who sits on the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), sees far more co-operation between Anglicans and Catholics than may first appear.
“It tends to happen more in rural and isolated areas,” she said.
In urban Canada it’s easier for large parishes to soldier on independently, but in Saskatchewan’s Qu’appelle Valley there’s a covenant between Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans that encourages churches to work together, she said.
Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier, who pastors both All Saints Anglican and Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Churches in Watrous, Sask., agrees. But it’s also essential that people bring a solid understanding of their own traditions whenever the churches get together, she said.
“It’s important to know and understand and cherish our own traditions,” said the Anglican representative on the Canadian dialogue.
Anglican co-chair of the Canadian dialogue Rev. Bruce Meyers said there is still a problem with ignorance of how much agreement already exists between Catholics and Anglicans.
“There’s simply not a level of awareness about them (ARCIC documents that lay out areas of agreement),” he said. “It’s not trickling down to the people in our congregations because it hasn’t yet trickled down even to our clergy.”
Catholic representative on the Canadian dialogue Sr. Donna Geernaert encourages Catholics to let down their guard and listen to Anglicans.
“Mutual recognition that the expression of faith in the other tradition, however different, is a legitimate expression of Christian truth” is the starting point, she said. “We’re not copying, but we’re learning.”
Among the simple things Catholic and Anglican parishes can do together is youth ministry, said Dunn. Practical, parish-level ecumenism is a good way for people to learn their own traditions, according to the bishop.
“People need to know their own faith,” he said. “The exchange of gifts is the goal.”
The Catholic Register, December 1, 2019