Anglican Fr. Warren Tanghe, on the Forward in Faith website, has asked "Was it worth it?" He asks one of the same questions I would ask: As exhausted and frustrated as people are in seeking a resolution, was anything accomplished that was worth the expense? He writes:
It is worthwhile to meet face-to-face with one another, and especially with those with whose ideas and actions one disagrees. It is worthwhile to hear them, to understand why they think and act as they do, and to discover such common ground as one may have with them. And it seems that the Lambeth Conference 2008 and its indaba process have done all that. There has been a shift in the way the bishops regard one another, and some say that the sense of communion seems to have been renewed. But still, that does nothing to resolve the crisis. It remains, and at best Lambeth has bought more time. Yet it is the temporizing, the talking without fruit, the pointing to the next meeting and the next, that have left those who have absented themselves from Lambeth and many who are here increasingly alienated from the Communion.
I like the fact that he affirmed that it is worthwhile to meet and to better understand "those with whose ideas and actions one disagrees." In the case of the Anglican Communion, the same position underlies the continuing dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor similarly asked, in his address to the Conference, whether his many years of work in Anglican - Roman Catholic dialogue were worth it -- or at least he answered that question, which others would have asked him.
While Damian Thompson called Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor an "old-style, glad-handing ecumenist" for his assertion that ARCIC had been worth his effort, I do not agree. Dialogue is important, whether it is among Anglicans, or whether it is ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and other Christians. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said it was worth it "because I know it is Christ’s will that we be one, and however long it takes that has to be our goal. Pope Benedict again and again comes back to this as at the heart of what he is working for." I once wrote something similar in a post titled "Hope Amid Difficulties in Catholic-Anglican Ecumenism" a couple of years ago, even while admitting a lack of optimism about what the near future would hold for such ecumenical dialogue.
Perhaps those who think that the Cardinal's address represented old-style ecumenism did not read all the way through it, to the point where he said, "Our future dialogue will not be easy" and perhaps overlooked that Cardinal Kasper also stated in his address that ARCIC "has indeed borne good fruit." I appreciated Damian Thompson's work in comparing and contrasting all three Cardinals' addresses, but I did not find them to be quite so far apart from each other as Thompson's commentary seemed to me to suggest.
It is not possible to know, as in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," how things would be now if ARCIC and ARCIC II had not happened. Nor is it possible to know how things would be now if the Catholic-minded Anglicans had not made the efforts they have made over the past 30 or 40 years to turn the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole in a different direction from the one it is taking. I couldn't say it has not been worth it. I couldn't answer whether the expense of the just-completed Lambeth Conference was worth its accomplishments. Dialogue bears fruit.
Yet, dialogue must be moving toward something and, if unity within the Church is to be protected, that unity must have some means of resolving conflict. Ultimately, the dialogue needs to end and a decision needs to be made that can and will actually be effected. Fr.Tanghe's frustration in "the pointing to the next meeting and the next" and the lack of fruit is indicative of the lack of an effective resolution to Anglican difficulties after so many meetings.
I would also mention Anglican Fr. Kendall Harmon's asking today, from a perspective that is different from Fr. Tanghe's in some respects, "Was anybody listening?", quoting his blog post on August 3, 2003, while he was blogging the 2003 Episcopal Church General Convention that voted to approve the election of an actively gay bishop who had left his wife to live with his male lover.
An adequate response to those frustrations, I think, should consider at least one part of what Cardinal Kasper said in his address about the need for a new consideration of the writings of John Henry Newman (See Father Z's commentary on Cardinal Kasper's words too):
Ecclesiological questions have long been a major point of controversy between our two communities. Already as a young student I studied all of the ecclesiological arguments raised by John Henry Newman, which moved him to become a Catholic. His main concerns revolved around apostolicity in communion with the See of Rome as the guardian of apostolic tradition and of the unity of the Church. I think his questions remain and that we have not yet exhausted this discussion.
Whereas Newman dealt with the Church of England of his time, today we are confronted with additional problems on the level of the Anglican Communion of 44 regional and national member churches, each self-governing. Independence without sufficient interdependence has now become a critical issue.
I know little of Newman's work. On the consideration of Newman, I would defer to Fr. Alvin Kimel and his Pontifications category on Anglicanism, for one. In a post a couple of years ago, he too mentioned an aspect of Newman's writing that Fr. Kimel, somewhat like Cardinal Kasper, said has never been adequately answered:
Even Anglo-Catholicism, the most “successful” attempt at catholic recovery, had to abandon its goal to transform the Church of England and settle for party status. Within the churches of the Reformation, catholicity remains, and will always remain, an expression of private judgment. In 1850 J. H. Newman pleaded with his former Anglo-Catholic colleagues to recognize the irrationality in remaining a part of the Church of England. He has never been adequately answered:
In the beginning of the movement you disowned private judgment, but now, if you would remain a party, you must, with whatever inconsistency, profess it;—then you were a party only externally, that is, not in your wishes and feelings, but merely because you were seen to differ from others in matter of fact, when the world looked at you, whether you would or no; but now you will be a party knowingly and on principle, intrinsically, and will be erected on a party basis. You cannot be what you were. You will no longer be Anglo-Catholic, but Patristico-Protestants. You will be obliged to frame a religion for yourselves, and then to maintain that it is that very truth, pure and celestial, which the Apostles promulgated. You will be induced of necessity to put together some speculation of your own, and then to fancy it of importance enough to din it into the ears of your neighbours, to plague the world with it, and, if you have success, to convulse your own Communion with the imperious inculcation of doctrines which you can never engraft upon it.
Applied to the Lambeth Conference and other Anglican meetings over the past 5 years, I think what Newman was saying is this: Is it not necessarily the case that in these meetings -- when Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals necessarily argue for one position as Catholic or orthodox, while others argue for another, and there is no means of resolving the matter except by the continuation of that political process -- they have become inherently Protestant by the fact that their situation is inherently one of private judgment? Where a series of meetings on such central issues finds no solution, and each speaker, each group, has become a party lobbying for one position among others, with no means of resolution except by such political lobbying among parties, is that not then inherently Protestant, rather than what Anglo-Catholicism seeks to be?
While Fr. Kimel could better expound upon those aspects of Newman's thinking that challenge Anglicanism today, and Cardinal Kasper could well say more about those issues raised by Newman that he believes have not yet been exhausted, this must surely be one of them.