WASHINGTON (October 30, 1997) — The fall session of the Polish NationalCatholic-Roman Catholic dialogue took place in Scranton, October 28-29. The meeting was hosted by the Roman Catholic diocese of Scranton and was held in the diocesan chancery.
Members attending from the Polish National Catholic Church included Bishop Anthony M. Rysz (co-chairman), Bishop Thaddeus Peplowski, Bishop Robert Nemkovich, Very Rev. Stanley Skrzypek, Very Rev. Sigmund Peplowski, Very Rev. Marcell Pytlarz, and Very Rev. Waine Kargul. His Grace John F. Swantek, Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, also attended the meeting. Roman Catholic participants includedBishop James C. Timlin of Scranton, (co-chairman), Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, Msgr. Thomas Green, Rev. Joseph F. Mytych, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP., of the Secretariat of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Bishop Edward M. Grosz and Msgr. John Strynkowski were unable to attend.
In view of recent claims by some church groups in the United States to be in full communion with the PNCC, the PNCC delegation stated that it is not in communion with any other church other than those that are members of the Union of Utrecht. There is no other such church in the United States or Canada.
The dialogue also heard a paper by Professor Thomas Green concerning the extent to which the Roman Catholic Church could consider the PNCC to be equivalent to the Eastern Churches not in full communion, beyond the permission already given to PNCC faithful to receive the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick in the Roman Catholic Church in some circumstances. The discussion touched on such matters as participation by Roman Catholics in the sacramental life of the PNCC and interchurch marriages.
Father Roberson presented the text of a letter from His Eminence Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which the Cardinal informs Bishop Pilla that the 1996 Guidelines Between the Union of Utrecht and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unityconcerning the transfer of clergy are to be considered suspended indefinitely due to misunderstandings regarding their canonical status. The members of the dialogue understood the reasons for the suspension and looked forward to the drafting of a new text dealing with this difficult question.
Father Skrzypek described the state of current relations between the PNCC and the Union of Utrecht. After the Old Catholic Church in Germany proceeded to the ordination of women in May, 1996, the PNCC terminated communion with it. The PNCC has made it clear that it will break communion with any other churches of the Utrecht Union that do the same.
A wide ranging discussion took place concerning aspects of the full communion that the two churches are seeking to restore. This question has gained new pertinence in view of the recent resolution of the PNCC clergy and bishops to seek restoration of full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. What is being sought is not “return” or “submission,” but recognition of one another as sister churches in full communion, united in the same faith and sacraments, with full respect for one another’s identity. Members of the dialogue felt this goal can only be achieved with deliberation and prudence. They rejoiced in the steps already taken towards full communion, and look forward to new ones in the future.
The members of the dialogue expressed gratitude for the hospitality of Bishop Timlin. The next meeting is scheduled to take place April 20-21, 1998, at the National Church Center of the PNCC in Scranton.