Next week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; and at Mass at the Oratory this evening, Fr Harrison made the point that, this year, the Holy Father has taken a major step in that direction by offering the possibility of 'corporate reunion' to Anglicans and ex-Anglicans throughout the world, who can now come into full communion with the Church whilst retaining much of their own patrimony of liturgy and spirituality.
As Fr Harrison is himself - like me - an ex-Anglican, he knows of what he speaks; and undoubtedly the Anglican tradition does have things to offer the Catholic Church; things for which the Church will undoubtedly be grateful, even if only 'in time'.
However, pondering what he had said reminded me of a point which many - if not most - 'cradle Catholics' perhaps do not realise, and which is beautifully summed up by Ann Widdecombe in her Foreword to 'The Path to Rome' :
'The convert is in a very different position from the cradle Catholic. Someone who is born into the Church and who later develops doubts about its doctrines remains a Catholic, but the convert has to state at the point of reception that he or she believes that what the Church teaches is revealed truth. That, saving a significant act of perjury, leaves no room for any lingering doubts at all.'
The fact is that, in common with every other convert, when I was received I not only had to recite the Creed, as a statement of my belief : I also had to make a very clear Profession of Faith in the Church and its authority - and whilst the Creed formed part of the Mass, and I might have fudged some part of that with which I had problems, the Profession of Faith was my 'solo spot', with everyone listening to me; so no possibility of any sort of equivocation at all. (I might say that I almost, inadvertently, did what Ms Widdecombe apparently did, and recited the extended Profession of Faith which is required for those to be consecrated as Bishops . . . fortunately I was warned in time that I didn't need to go quite that far, at least yet !)
Ms Widdecombe continues 'Thus it is possible to feel utterly in communion with the Holy See but to be obliged to remain out of communion on the basis of some doctrinal difficulty.'
For me, happily, there were no such problems - one of the benefits of being prepared by a Dominican, probably ! - but I know of others who have exactly that problem, and who face an increasingly uncomfortable future torn between where they want to be, and where they feel 'stuck' by some (probably quite minor) perceived theological problem.
During this coming week, let us pray that the Holy Father's generosity in offering this accommodation to Anglicans will be rewarded by many new members of the Church; many more who, as I - and Fr Harrison - have already done, 'find their way home'.
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for them.