Why are we Roman Catholics?

There are many, many sincere, fervent lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ who are not Roman Catholics.

When we were Episcopalians, we believed as many still do that in the true sense we were Catholics, although not in communion with Rome. There are still Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church who believe that of themselves, and there are members of other denominations (such as the “Evangelical Catholics” in the Lutheran Church) who believe that as well. Many of them would look with dismay at our decision to seek reception into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church, because to them it would seem unnecessary.

On the other hand, there are other, equally sincere and fervent Christians who come from very different Christian traditions. For them, the term “catholic” is seldom if ever used; they would look to Scripture as their only doctrinal standard, and from their point of view the Catholic Tradition requires belief in so many teachings and customs that it seems to them a completely foreign religion.

But, here we are, a group of Roman Catholics worshipping as the Anglican Use chaplaincy of the Archdiocese of Boston. We deliberately chose to embrace Roman Catholicism, believing that this was necessary if we were to live a full Catholic, Christian life. Why?

Evangelical Christians troubled by churches which seem to insist on practices and beliefs not explicitly found in Scripture will not understand us unless they realize how important the continuity of the Christian tradition is to us. Scripture plays a very prominent part in our worship — both as we celebrate the Eucharist and as we pray the Daily Offices. But, we treasure the witness of Christians of every age who have sought to live the Faith of Jesus. We can go back to the letters of Justin Martyr, written in the second century, and reading his account of the early Christian worship we see clearly the celebration of the Mass. Reading Christian history, and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, we see how in every age godly men and women sought to come to grips with the saving Gospel, be faithful to its teaching, worship in spirit and in truth. Every age’s contribution to the tradition is reverently preserved and studied. “Tradition” is not something dead; it’s a living heritage which we are privileged to inherit.

Some groups of Christians point to Catholicism with its “man-made traditions” and are critical of the place in Catholic life occupied by teachings and customs which they cannot find in Scripture. But, they have, surprisingly, forgotten something which the Bible believers should be expected to remember — The Old Testament. The Old Testament is an authentic revelation from God. But, the devout Jew who sought in the time of our Lord, or who seeks today to live a life faithful to that revelation simply won’t find everything he needs to do set out in the first part of the Bible! There are many customs, many feasts, many traditions not contained in the Hebrew Scripture, and for which the devout Jew looks to the tradition of the sages for instruction.

So — there’s no reason for a biblically-believing Christian to expect that everything in the revelation of Christ would be set forth in writing in the New Testament. The one other example of divine revelation we have — the Old Testament — is NOT contained exclusively in Scripture. The unfolding Tradition of God’s People, guided by His Spirit, was necessary then, as it is now!

That’s how He works.

For Christians on the other end of the spectrum — Anglicans, Lutherans, and others who have regarded themselves as somehow part of the Catholic Church, and see no reason to seek the full Communion of the Roman Catholic Church — we understand your position, and respect and revere the lives of prayer and service you lead.

But, we found ourselves impelled to seek the full Communion of the Catholic Church. In a society increasingly in turmoil and experiencing the erosion of common values, we found that the mind of the world seemed to have invaded the church in which we had lived and served, that voices within the church who claimed to be speaking “prophetically” were actually doing nothing of the sort, but were urging the wholesale adoption by the church of the bankrupt values of the world.

We watched this with sorrow, but it got clearer every day. It is as though there had been a sort of principle of inertia at work in our Anglican Communion. While the body was at rest, it tended to stay at rest; but when it began to move, when the common bonds of an innate conservatism began to loosen, we found that there was no check, no brake to the flood of revisionism. Gradually we found that the church would tolerate clergy who denied fundamental Christian doctrines; we watched as the marriage discipline of the church crumbled, then as traditional Christian sexual morality was no longer even spoken of, and as the traditional doctrine of sacraments was overturned.

As we recount these sad memories, we hasten to add that they were so many good, holy, precious gifts we had received in our years in the Episcopal Church. The time came when we saw quite clearly the paradox: if we were going to be true to the best things we had learned and received in that church, we had to leave, for these things were no longer taught or treasured there, and we certainly could no longer convince ourselves that we were witnessing to the world the truth of the Catholic Faith by remaining outside the full Communion of the Catholic Church.

We were blessed in the loving guidance and support of our Bishop, his Eminence Bernard Cardinal Law. The Cardinal firmly believed that everything which is good, and true, and holy finds its home in the holy Catholic Church, and he encouraged us to bring our gifts, the treasured elements of the tradition in which we have lived for so long, which helped us to serve the Lord Jesus, to bring all of this to enrich the life of the Catholic Church. And so, there is a congregation worshipping in Boston today that is the Anglican Use Chaplaincy of the Archdiocese. We are fully committed, believing Roman Catholics, worshipping according to the traditional Anglican Liturgy with the modifications which the Holy See directed. If you come to join us for Mass some Sunday, you will find a group of joyful, committed Catholics eager to share their joy with you.

So — why not join us some Sunday?

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