WASHINGTON (November 2, 2001) — The fall session of the dialogue between the Polish National Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church took place at the PNCC National Church Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on October 24 and 25, 2001. The dialogue was co-chaired by Bishop James C. Timlin of Scranton, and Bishop Robert Nemkovich of the PNCC’s Western Diocese in Chicago.
At the beginning of the meeting Bishop Timlin led the members in prayer for the repose of the soul of Father John Hotchkin, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, who died unexpectedly on June 24, 2001. Father Hotchkin had been one of the founding members of the dialogue and participated in it regularly from its foundation in 1984 until 1995. Bishop Nemkovich also introduced a new member of the PNCC team, Rev. Robert Nemkovich, Jr., pastor of Blessed Trinity parish in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Since 1999 the dialogue has been elaborating a draft set of guidelines that would spell out in greater detail the circumstances under which it is possible for the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church to receive the sacraments of the Polish National Catholic Church to complement the guidelines issued in 1996 by the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA) regarding those cases when PNCC faithful could receive Roman Catholic sacraments. Bishop Timlin informed the group that upon further consultation the BCEIA had determined that it would not be possible to move forward on this proposal. There was a feeling among the bishops that the dispositions on sacramental sharing found in the Code of Canon Law and the 1993 Ecumenical Directory give sufficient guidance on the questions that the proposed guidelines addressed.
A project was set in motion to update Journeying Together in Christ, a report on the Polish National Catholic-Roman Catholic dialogue from 1984 to 1989 that was published by Our Sunday Visitor press in 1990. It is anticipated that the updated volume will include material from the subsequent twelve years of dialogue illustrating the continuing progress that has been made towards the reestablishment of full communion.
The PNCC members reported on their church’s national clergy conference that took place on October 16 and 17, 2001, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A number of topics were discussed there, including mission and evangelism, the Sacrament of Matrimony, plans for the church’s next General Synod, stem cell research and the progress of our dialogue. Prime Bishop Swantek then reported that the next General Synod, scheduled for October 2002, will select his successor and possibly elect other PNCC bishops. Rev. Ronald Roberson gave a brief presentation on the recent visits of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine and Armenia.
Msgr. John Strynkowski presented an overview of an article by Walter Cardinal Kasper, AOn the Church, which appeared in the April 23-30, 2001, issue of America magazine. He described the ecclesiological issues being discussed in a dialogue between Cardinals Kasper and Ratzinger, and the implications of these discussions for ecumenical relationships between the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.
Msgr. Thomas Green presented a summary of Francis G. Morrisey’s APapal and Curial Pronouncements: Their Canonical Significance in Light of the Code of Canon Law, (Ottawa: Faculty of Canon Law, St Paul University, 1995). This was done in the light of earlier discussions about the content, significance and authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent Declaration, Dominus Iesus.
At this session there was also a discussion of the role of sponsors at Baptism in our churches and the possibility of accepting members of the other church in this role. The PNCC allows any baptized Christian to be a sponsor at its baptisms, but this is not the case in the Roman Catholic Church. There was a desire to address this topic more fully in the future. There was also an initial discussion about the ways in which our churches receive the members of the other into full communion.
The next meeting of the dialogue is scheduled to take place on May 15 and 16 in Nashville, Tennessee, at the invitation of Bishop Edward Kmiec.
In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Roman Catholic members of the dialogue include Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Nashville, Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty of Scranton, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Msgr. John Strynkowski, Msgr. Thomas Green, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff). Additional PNCC members include Very Rev. Marcel Pytlarz, Very Rev. John Z. Kraus, Very Rev. Paul Sobiechowski, Rev. Anthony Mikovsky, and Rev. Robert Nemkovich, Jr.