FAIRFAX, Va. (RNS) About 30 people are gathered in a dark, makeshift sanctuary at St. Anthony of Padua Church as the sun dips into the horizon. The service follows the familiar pattern of a Catholic Mass, but something is different: The worshippers are dressed casually, many in jeans, and the priest speaks directly and informally to his parishioners. Even the words of the liturgy seem slightly off.
This isn’t a typical Roman Catholic Mass. The church is barely a year old, and it’s part of a new independent Catholic movement, the American National Catholic Church, and bills itself as a home for “Contemporary Catholics.”
Founded in 2009 by a bishop and a group of priests seeking a more inclusive religious experience but not ready to leave the Catholic tradition completely, the ANCC aims to follow the spirit of reform established by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
While the sacraments and many fundamental beliefs remain identical to those of Roman Catholicism, the ANCC presents a more progressive version of Catholicism: divorced members can take Communion, women and gays can be ordained, and priests can marry.
Mass is conducted in the “Novus Ordo” liturgy that was widely practiced in Catholic parishes until last year, when revamped — some say clunky — language was introduced by the Vatican. The movement follows a “congregational model” of governance, which means that parishes make decisions largely independent of the national group. And no church leader — including the pope — is viewed as superior.
Read on at Religion News Service.