My friend and colleague Charlotte Hays has a Wall Street Journal commentary up today, in which she reflects on Pope Benedict’s recent outreach to disaffected Anglicans. This passage, about Father Eric Bergman, a former Episcopal priest turned Catholic priest, caught my attention:
Father Bergman and his wife, Kristina, have six children. They and more than 60 members of his Episcopal parish came into the Catholic Church in 2005. He is now chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society in Scranton, Pa., which seeks to establish Anglican Use parishes.
Naturally, many liberal Catholics are less than thrilled at the prospect of stodgy former Episcopalians importing traditional opinions along with their non-Catholic thou’s and thy’s. In a Nov. 23, 2009, story “Where Hype Meets Reality,” the liberal National Catholic Reporter pooh-poohed the idea of large numbers of Anglicans coming in under the pope’s new rules.
But Father Bergman not only predicts a mass movement toward Rome. He believes Anglican Use may mark the beginning of the end of the Reformation. There will be “a flourishing of this throughout the world,” he says. “Wherever there are Anglicans, there will be people who want to enter Holy Mother Church.” As he told a rapt audience at St. Mary’s, “If we look at histories, heresies run themselves out after about 500 years. I believe we are seeing the last gasp of the Reformation in the mainline Protestant groups.”
I’d love to hear what my readers think about Father Bergman’s statement. Let’s discuss this calmly and coolly, in a historical mode. What do you think he meant by that? Naturally he is a partisan in this discussion, but he nevertheless raises an interesting question. What would it mean for the Reformation to end, at least among the mainline Protestants? Can the Reformation ever end as long as there are Christian churches outside of Catholicism and Orthodoxy? I ask out of genuine curiosity, and I would very much appreciate answers that are not offered in a spirit of triumphalism or polemical combat, but in one of seeking to understand a historical process.