CORPUS has discussed informally the creation of a religious community or association over the last ten years. During that time, conversations with Episcopalian and Lutheran bishops explored the creation of an ecumenical community with CORPUS. This community, somewhat in the manner of Taize (the Catholic and Protestant monastic and vowed community in France accepted by the Vatican and Reformed Churches) would allow all members to maintain their original Church identity.
The new community would have three purposes:
It is the third of these purposes which may require further explanation.
The leadership of a validly and juridically defined Church would enter into a relationship with CORPUS and extend faculties or legal recognition to all members of the new ecumenical community. These members would be able to function as Catholics or as whatever their original Church identity happened to be. They would have civil standing or certification for ministerial service.
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion is an Old Catholic Church, with what Roman Catholics call valid orders and apostolicity. It is regarded by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican as a Church akin to the Orthodox or Polish National Churches, that is, a Church with a full sacramental life and a validly ordained episcopate and priesthood.
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion is a member of COR, the Catholic Organizations for Renewal. COR is a consortium or forum of some 30 Catholic reform and regional associations. It meets regularly and enters into dialogue and common action with its participating members. The Ecumenical Catholic Communion was recently admitted to COR because of its compatibility with COR's objectives and identities.
The CORPUS Board and the leadership of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion asked me to draw up a charter for a new religious and ecumenical community. It has the name of the Community of John XXIII. The charter is included as part two of this essay.
At the same time, COR asked me and a small committee to put together a theological reflection on how we, as Catholics, would enter into sacramental and ministerial relationships with other churches and still maintain our Catholic identity. The draft I am submitting to COR is included as part three of this essay.
I trust that these documents will assist CORPUS members as we enter into dialogue about whether CORPUS should form this new community. The CORPUS Board will give particulars, elsewhere in this issue of CORPUS REPORTS, about how the dialogue and the eventual vote of members will be conducted.
There are some concrete issues yet to be settled it and when the CORPUS membership accepts this proposal. A structure for regional contacts of religious community members and a regular national meeting must be put in place. A choice of a responsible person, acceptable to CORPUS and the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, to guide the new Community, must be made. A level of financing and contributions to enable this Community to function must be established. The process by which members will be accepted and ministerial certification, for those who wish it, will be offered, needs to be clarified. All of these issues, I submit, can be put in place with relative ease once the concept, the theology and the legal identity of the Community is approved. I trust that the materials provided in this edition of CORPUS REPORTS will be sufficient to allow us to go forward with a vote whether to approve this concept.
CORPUS gains from this initiative an emphasis on the central role the spiritual life plays in our identities and ministries. It also offers ministerial opportunities for the membership. It does all this, I believe, without the surrender of our Catholic or reform credentials.
- Anthony Padovano