The Photo Of Rev Anne Robertson And Cardinal Sean O’Malley That Sent Shock Waves Through The Internet (And Church)

Not the greatest idea, Cardinal: An ecumenical baptism reaffirmation ritual (whatever that is?!)

Rev. Anne Robertson was the only female clergy member to assist at an ecumenical worship service that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the historic event when Cardinal Richard Cushing spoke at the Methodist church in Sudbury at a time of tension between Catholics and Protestants, reports The Patriot Ledger.

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley surprised many people when he asked Rev. Robertson, a pastor in the United Methodist Church, to anoint his forehead with consecrated water in an ecumenical baptism reaffirmation ritual at Sudbury United Methodist Church, reports The Patriot Ledger. The spontaneous and genuine gesture moved Robertson almost to tears.  She told The Huffington Post that she is “grateful for those times when people can see across the divide and see our common humanity– and in this case our common faith.”

Robertson wrote about the experience in her personal blog:

Ecumenical gatherings are not always warm, fuzzy events for women of the cloth.  Most of us have experienced many types of exclusion, even within our own congregations, let alone when we try to join with Christian groups that don’t believe women are fit for ordination.  And in this group there might well be those who wouldn’t have wanted such a blessing from any Protestant, even a male one.  I was deep in thought as I received my bowl.Our exit toward the overflow room took us directly past Cardinal O’Malley.  Fortunately, Tom’s [a fellow clergy person at the gathering] brain was more engaged in the moment, and he was not about to lose out on the chance to have the man who might well be Pope someday anoint him.  Tom stopped in front of the Cardinal and asked for his blessing.  I stopped with him and Cardinal O’Malley was gracious enough to anoint me, too.

And then, as the two of us stood there together, Cardinal O’Malley looked me in the eye and asked me to anoint him.  I did.  The divorced, Scotch Protestant clergywoman anointed the Irish Catholic Cardinal in front of a pew of Catholic clergy and a Catholic Bishop, any one of whom would probably have given their eye teeth to have the honor.  I choked back sobs all the way to the overflow room.

Reactions to the photograph have been mixed…

And understandably so… ‘The divorced, Scotch Protestant clergywoman anointed the Irish Catholic Cardinal…’

Says it all.


7 thoughts on “The Photo Of Rev Anne Robertson And Cardinal Sean O’Malley That Sent Shock Waves Through The Internet (And Church)

  1. Wow, a picture is worth a thousand words! And to think we or Catholics almost got O’Malley for Pope! (Ya know I could have lived with that, eh! 😉 Though of course O’Malley is not the most conservative Cardinal around, another Franciscan OFM Cap.) The issue is not at all Catholics and Protestants crossing lines and perhaps speaking in each others churches, but of course the fact that women are not called to be “presbyters”! More mixed signals from the Vatican and the papacy! But I wonder how many so-called conservatives & traditional Catholics really care? Speak up if you do care!

  2. Well, she did not minister a Sacrament. It was a ritual gesture of neediness and love on the part of Ms. Robertson and a gesture of leadership, compassion and humility on the part of the good Cardinal. This is a scene like where Mary anoints the feet of Christ in the Gospel. The Cardinal is being thoroughly Christ-like here.

  3. Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” One. Some of us shudder at that word – even in Christ’s own prayer to the Father, though it cannot be admitted aloud. It involves humility.

  4. Sadly often the layman does not get or understand the theological and historical issues from such an event and “picture” as this! Again, were not talking about the equality between men and women here, especially before the Throne of Christ, but the historical church ecclesiastical, and in this case something of the Church function in ritual and theological principle. And again quite simply Ms. Ann Robertson was in the visible Church function of the “presbyter”. In which at least in the RCC, as the Holy Bible and a few thousand years of church tradition, women are simply not called to be presbyters!

  5. what’s wrong with this picture? – everything!
    what seemingly appears as an humble gesture – a blessing of a shared ‘ecumenical baptism’, does indeed send mixed signals and fails miserably to emulate ‘Christ’s righteousness’ in the Jordan experience, if that was the message here.
    what was the good cardinal thinking? doesn’t he know he is not his own – that he belongs to and represents the entire RCC! for me It is embarrassing!

    1. Indeed Margaret, that Christ submits to the Law and Righteousness of God, at the Baptism of John, is the real “picture” of “Christ’s righteousness”. But it is done as the Man for Others! “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! And here is always the Gospel message, given first to the Church, and the Church’s Apostles and “presbyters”! But then is too the Gospel message of the whole Body of Christ! But each in his own order and place, (1 Cor. 15: 20-28). And yet, Christ has made us together “a kingdom of priests” unto God and His Father! (Rev. 1: 7) Here is our redemptive place all together! Which will not be fully seen on this earth until Christ Returns! So only in this sense do we have any “ecumenical” shared blessing, ‘In Christ’. So now we live as members together in the historical Church Catholic (universal), of which Christ is the Head, and He has given in His Visible Body!

      “To the Church of God which is at Corinth [all and any historical true Church of God], to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1: 2)

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