This is not a surprise. As a former Lutheran pastor, much of our seminary training revolved around things Catholic (and where they had gone off the rails). Just as in Anglicanism, there are “high church”, middle church, and low church Lutherans. As with American Anglicans and Episcopalians, a majority of Lutherans are middle or low church.
Last time I checked, probably more Lutherans than Anglicans remain suspicious of or simply ignore Catholicism. The training of pastors, confirmation classes, and many sermons have reinforced this bias. This negative view of Catholicism is weaker in the ELCA than other Lutheran bodies. In general, however, it is a matter of degree. All Lutherans historically have considered themselves as separate and distinctive from “main line” Protestant bodies as well as Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
ELCA Lutherans have initiated degrees of altar and pulpit fellowship with several mainline Protestant denominations. This has moved them further away from their Reformation heritage. Their diminishing distinctiveness as Lutherans widens the gap between ELCA Lutherans and Catholicism, especially as practiced in Roman Catholicism. High Church and orthodox Lutherans will probably examine any concrete approach with Rome, much as Anglo-Catholics have done.
January 15, 2013
More hints of an Ordinariate for Lutherans. Last October, Cardinal Kurt Koch mentioned the Vatican being open to the idea. Now, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, is at it:
The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said that the Vatican might consider an ordinariate for Lutherans wishing to return to full communion with the Catholic Church, similar to the structure established by Pope Benedict XVI for Anglicans.
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller conceded that “the Lutheran world is a bit different from the Anglican one, because among Anglicans there has always been a sector closer to Catholicism.” However, he said, some Lutherans hope for a restoration of full communion with Rome, and the Church should be ready to receive them. He suggested that, as with Anglicans, the Catholic Church might allow Lutherans to preserve “the legitimate traditions they have developed” while becoming members of the Catholic Church.
In the eyes of some Lutherans, the archbishop observed, Martin Luther intended merely to reform the Church, not to cause division among Christians. Archbishop Müller added that some Lutherans believe the necessary reforms were completed by Vatican II. He added that in his own native land, Germany, “Protestants are not just opposed to Catholicism, because they have retained many Catholic traditions.”
Archbishop Müller made these remarks during an appearance at a Roman bookshop marking the release of his own new book on the thought of Pope Benedict XVI.