The process by which Christian doctrine was codified by the early Church councils, such as Nicea (325 CE), pruned from the diverse Christian writings to arrive at a relatively homogenous canon doctrinally. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas, which stresses Jesus’ teachings but does not contain the passion story was expunged as heterodox. Also, there is the spurned Gospel of Mary, which portrays a woman as a leader in the movement (i.e., the early church). So I was surprised to read today that in the Catholic Church’s decision to facilitate the inclusion of groups of Anglicans who want to become Catholic because of differences with the Anglican Church’s changing ordination qualifications (i.e., women, gays). The conservative Episcopalian congregations in North American have already formed the Anglican Church of North America, so they are Rome’s intended target. Rather, the Holy See is looking at the Anglican congregations in Europe that are dissatisfied with the ordination of women.
The Catholic Church is stressing the fact that unity does not require uniformity. The Anglicans will be able to continue their rites. Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that preserving Anglican traditions, such as mass rites, adds to the diversity of the Catholic Church. “The unity of the church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows,” he said. “Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” The key here is cultural. With regard to theology and doctrine, uniformity is still the norm, even with respect to the presumed salience of cognitive belief, or creed, in religion. I submit that the nature of religion is not primarily cognitive–nor is it inherently uniform in terms of belief. Cultural diversity is just the tip of the iceburg. Ironically, so much bloodshed has been done in the name of Christianity through the centuries precisely because uniformity was taken as necessary for Christian unity. In actuality, the enforced uniformity made for disunity, as the Reformation attests.
Sources: Vatican Welcomes Anglicans into Catholic Church