WASHINGTON (April 7, 2003) — The thirty-sixth meeting of the Roman Catholic-Polish National Catholic Dialogue took place at the Washington Retreat House in Washington, DC, on March 26 and 27, 2003. It was presided over by Bishop James C. Timlin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton and PNCC Prime Bishop Emeritus John F. Swantek.
At the first session, Bishop Timlin announced that the new book about this dialogue, Journeying Together in Christ: The Journey Continues, has been completed and will likely be published in the fall. Covering developments in the relationship between the two churches from 1990 to 2002, this new volume will be an invaluable resource for the faithful of both communions.
The members then undertook a detailed examination of the Decree issued by the Congregation of Bishops on January 18, 2002, which set up the special Apostolic Administration within the diocese of Campos, Brazil, for the members of the Union of St. John Mary Vianney who wished to be received back into full communion with the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Administration, which appears to be a permanent structure, was established to accommodate the special needs of this group which continues to celebrate the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass. Msgr. Thomas J. Green of Catholic University’s School of Canon Law presented an overview of the Latin text, which contains elements that might be drawn upon in view of a future reconciliation between the churches.
Msgr. John Strynkowski, Executive Director, Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), presented an overview of Jon Nilson’s 1995 book, Nothing Beyond the Necessary: Roman Catholicism and the Ecumenical Future. Nilson builds on theses developed by the theologians Karl Rahner, S.J., and Heinrich Fries, who suggest that churches could establish full communion on the basis of the common faith they already share and leave other doctrinal differences to a future consensus. Partners in such communion would neither impose their doctrines on the other partners nor reject the doctrines of their partners. This proposal, however, has met with strong criticism from other theologians. The discussion concluded with the recognition that, as Rahner and Fries themselves acknowledge, only Church authorities can determine whether the proposal could serve as a way forward to full unity.
The second session was devoted entirely to the document “The Sacrament of Matrimony in the Polish National Catholic Church,” which was adopted formally by the PNCC General Synod in October 2002. The text itself was presented by Revs. Anthony A. Mikovsky and Robert M. Nemkovich, Jr. On the Roman Catholic side, Professor John Grabowski of the School of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America was invited to present a theological reaction to the text, and Msgr. Thomas Green offered a reaction to it from a Roman Catholic canonical perspective. A number of divergences were noted on such questions as the minister of the sacrament, notions of indissolubility, and grounds for dissolution and annulment. Broad areas of agreement were also identified.
The discussion of matrimony will continue at the next session of the dialogue, which is scheduled to take place on October 29 and 30, 2003, at St. Joseph’s Polish National Catholic Parish in Davie, Florida.
The dialogue between the Polish National Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church has been meeting semiannually since it was established in 1984. The present PNCC members include Most Rev. John F. Swantek (Co-Chairman), Very Rev. Marcell W. Pytlarz, Very Rev. John Z. Kraus, Very Rev. Paul Sobiechowski, Rev. Anthony Mikovsky, and Rev. Robert M. Nemkovich, Jr. The Roman Catholic team is composed of Bishop James C. Timlin (Co-Chairman), Bishop John M. Dougherty, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Msgr. John Strynkowski, Msgr. Thomas J. Green, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff).