WASHINGTON (October 21, 2004) — The Polish National Catholic – Roman Catholic dialogue met at San Pedro Retreat Center in Orlando, Florida, on September 16 and 17, 2004. This was the first meeting since October 2003 because the session scheduled for March 2004 had to be cancelled because of technical difficulties.
Msgr. John Strynkowski, Executive Director, Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, began the meeting with a summary of “The Notion of ‘Hierarchy of Truths’: An Ecumenical Interpretation,” issued by the Joint Working Group of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church in 1990. This presentation led into a discussion of the relative importance of various church teachings, also in the context of the Catholic understanding of primacy as expressed in the opening address that Cardinal Walter Kasper, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, delivered in May 2003 at a symposium on the Petrine Ministry in the Vatican. This enabled the dialogue to sharpen somewhat its understanding of this issue which remains at the heart of the division.
The members also heard an update on an agreement between the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Germany and the Old Catholic Church in that country regarding the transfer of clergy from one church to the other. The German agreement emphasizes the usefulness of consultation with the priest’s former bishop before his reception into the other church. This advice is particularly appropriate at a time when the hierarchies of both our churches are increasingly vigilant concerning the reception of clergy from other churches or jurisdictions.
The dialogue members warmly welcomed the publication of Journeying Together in Christ: The Journey Continues, edited by Most Rev. Robert M. Nemkovich and Most Rev. James C. Timlin (Our Sunday Visitor Press) in late 2003. The volume covers the progress of the PNCC-Roman Catholic dialogue from 1989 to 2002, and includes extensive documentation on our relationship.
Bishop John F. Swantek, PNCC Prime Bishop Emeritus and Co-Chairman of the dialogue, updated the members on the relationship between the PNCC and the Union of Utrecht. As of November 2003 the PNCC is no longer a part of the Union, and as a consequence it has cancelled the previously-enacted guidelines on the reception of communion between the PNCC and the other churches of the Utrecht Union. It was noted that this creates a new situation for our dialogue since the PNCC is no longer party to the dialogue at the international level between the Holy See and the Union of Utrecht.
At this meeting the possibility of Roman Catholics in the military receiving the sacraments from PNCC chaplains was also discussed. The members recalled that since the Roman Catholic and Polish National Catholic Churches recognize the validity of each others’ sacraments, the provisions of canon 844.2 and number 123 of the 1993 Ecumenical Directory would apply, especially in areas where troops are deployed and Roman Catholics do not have access to their own ministers.
The members of the dialogue were particularly grateful to Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Coadjutor Bishop of Orlando, for hosting a dinner at his residence on the evening of September 16.
It was announced at the Orlando meeting that Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton and his auxiliary bishop John M. Dougherty have resigned from the dialogue. Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Nashville, Tennessee, soon to be transferred to Buffalo, New York, agreed to serve as Interim Co-Chairman. The next meeting was scheduled for May 10 and 11, 2005, in Buffalo.
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 participants include Bishop Edward U. Kmiec (Interim Co-Chairman), Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Msgr. John Strynkowski, Msgr. Thomas J. Green, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff).