Benedict XVI: Desperate for recruits, lays out welcome mat for misogynic &/or homophobic Anglicans Print E-mail

 Monday, 26 October 2009

From Vatican, a tainted olive branch

By James Carroll

THE SINGLE most eloquent expression of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in 1965 was a preposition - the word “in.’’ The title of the council declaration “The Church in the Modern World’’ could readily have been expected to be “The Church against the Modern World,’’ reiterating a long-held opposition. Or, a little more positively, it might have been “The Church and the Modern World,’’ defining a gulf between the sacred and the secular that devalues both realms. But instead, the council fathers stated their conviction that the church, neither above nor detached, is integrally a part of the contemporary human condition - happily so. The decree’s Latin title “Gaudium et Spes’’ translates as “Joy and Hope’’ - an even stronger signal of the council’s affirming mind-set.

Last week’s anti-Anglican salvo from Rome shows how far the Catholic leadership has fallen from the heights of Vatican II. The invitation to “disgruntled’’ members of the Church of England’s extended family to abandon the Thames for the Tiber is a rejection of contemporary human experience, a resounding response of “No!’’ The church against the modern world, after all. Not only a cruel assault on a fellow Christian communion that is valiantly struggling to strike a balance between liberal and conservative impulses; not only an insult to loyal Catholic liberals who will be denied what converted Anglicans are offered (notably a married clergy); not only a slap at women and homosexuals whose progress toward equality is a global measure of justice; not only a stark contrast with the common Anglican practice of fully welcoming alienated Roman Catholics, while eschewing any pressure on them to convert - there is more.

Equally damaging, the Vatican’s preemptive exploitation of Anglican distress explicitly ducks the large and urgent challenge facing every religion and every religious person, which is how to positively reconcile tradition with the massive changes in awareness, knowledge, and communication that come with the scientific and technological breakthroughs that daily alter the meaning of existence.

From the misfit fringe of another denomination, Rome recruits the naysayers it needs to bolster what has become its own place on the margin of Catholic life. First there was Opus Dei, with its crypto-fascist origins, then there were the Holocaust-denying lovers of Latin - and now the Anglo-fundies. Come on over, guys!

While the Vatican and its recruits just say no, the rest of us attempt to apply tested modes of ethical reasoning to revolutions, for example, in genetic science that separate reproduction from sexuality. While the Vatican just says no, the rest of us reckon with the ways in which the worldwide status of women emerges as the key to development and a hoped-for eradication of poverty. While the Vatican just says no, the rest of us see the link between triumphalist rejection of pluralism and the intolerance that undergirds most of the world’s violence.

The story of the Vatican raid on the Anglican communion was front page news because these issues go deeper than religion. Nothing less than the survival of the human species is at stake. Will 21st-century fundamentalism thwart science across the globe? Will old habits of tribalism, nationalism, and excluding religious denominationalism prevent a new world humanism from emerging? Will the ancient wisdom of moral philosophies embedded in the great spiritual traditions be available as guides to future decisions? Or will rational, self-critical, ecumenically minded religion self-destruct just when humanity most needs its positive influence? Positive is the point.

Catholicism is only part of this story, yet the affirming spirit of Vatican II was a resounding yes to the human future. The Catholic Church, with due modesty, embraced its role as a builder of that future in equal partnership with other believers and all people of good will. That meant not just tolerance for differing religious bodies, like the Anglican communion, but a compact of mutual advancement.

That respectful mutuality is now betrayed, but only partly so. The affirmative spirit lives on outside the Catholic Church - notably among Canterbury’s affiliates - but it is alive inside Catholicism, too. Nothing defines the ongoing triumph of Vatican II more clearly than the way the Catholic people - who are the church - are taking this latest demonstration of the Vatican’s rampant fallibility. Rome has spoken. Now, let the conversation begin.

James Carroll’s column appears regularly in the Globe. © Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

THE AGE Melbourne ~ Thursday October 22, 2009

The Vatican finally gets its revenge on Henry VIII


(Includes Video: Vatican now accepts Anglicans: Pope Benedict XVI has created a new church structure for disillusioned Anglicans wanting to join the Catholic Church)

Trouble comes in a female form if you're a conservative Anglican.

THE trouble women cause! Following representations from English Anglicans alarmed by the prospect of women bishops, the Catholic Church has offered them the ultimate bolthole. In an extraordinary move and with no forewarning, Pope Benedict XVI has created a structure that will allow conservative male clergy and their congregations to remain Anglican in all but name under female-free Vatican protection.

The details of the new structure have not yet been announced, but presumably the erstwhile Anglicans will be allowed to continue using Anglican worship services in Anglican-style parishes while being officially members of the Catholic Church.

For some time, married Anglican priests have been accepted by Rome while retaining their wives, but only on a case-by-case basis. Apart from their married status, they have had to forgo the culture of Anglicanism and embrace the fullness of Catholic polity. The new structure seems to offer conservatives the best of both worlds from their perspective.

This is not by any means the first split in the Anglican Church, a church created as a separate entity by Henry VIII in 1534 when an earlier Pope refused to give him permission to divorce Katherine of Aragon. There have been numerous others, caused by disputes over the relationship between church and state, or by clergy such as the Wesley brothers in the 18th century who dreamed of a church more attentive to the needs of ordinary people. But this one, like the original split, can be attributed to women.

King Henry wanted his divorce so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Centuries later women bishops are fast becoming a reality for the worldwide Anglican Church. Twenty years after the first woman bishop was consecrated in the US, and 65 years after the first woman priest was ordained by the Bishop of Hong Kong, there are now 24 women bishops around the world, including two in Australia: Kay Goldsworthy in Perth and Bishop Barbara Darling in Melbourne.

A vociferous minority protests that women are not acceptable as leaders in the Anglican Church. This is ironic, given that a woman - Queen Elizabeth II - has been Supreme Governor of the Church of England for the past 57 years, and her ancestor Elizabeth I - Anne Boleyn's daughter - was the monarch who entrenched a reformed Church of England.

Despite these female leaders, some argue that a few verses in the Bible deny women authority over men; these verses were used for centuries to prevent women from having an equal role in society, not just in the church. (Other verses, including the example of Jesus himself, support the full equality of women.) It is strange that people no longer fulminate against women in secular leadership, seemingly quite happy to accept a woman as governor-general, as deputy prime minister, as premier, or as chief justice. Just no women in church leadership.

Those bishops and clergy who petitioned Rome for this indulgence are no doubt mostly conservative clergy who have longed for the security of the Catholic Church for aesthetic, theological and psychological reasons. They want to belong to what they see as the ''true'' church, but either their married state or their sentimental attachment to cultural Anglicanism has held them back. Such longings well pre-date the emergence of women clergy in the Anglican Church.

But the emergence of women bishops has persuaded Rome to give them Anglican parishes within a Catholic world order. From the Roman perspective, it is a means of demonstrating to its own restive nuns and lay women that there is no hope of female equality in the foreseeable future. It may, however, lead to some heart-searching for Catholics concerned about the impact that priestly celibacy continues to have on their Church. How can it be unacceptable for home-grown clergy to marry but quite OK for the imports from Anglicanism?

It will be interesting to see how many Anglican clergy and laity actually go over to Rome. The Anglican Church has a much more democratic polity than the Catholic Church. Anglican vicars and parishes have a significant degree of autonomy and Anglicans have decision-making powers through diocesan and national synods. They participate in the election of their bishops. They help decide how church finances will be spent. Will they adjust easily to the complete obedience required by Papal autocracy?

Is it any wonder that the strident voices of atheism are attractive to contemporary people when churches split apart over the irrational fear of the feminine?
Dr Muriel Porter
is a member of the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.
  London ~~ Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Big Question: Why is the Catholic church offering a home to congregations of Anglicans?

By Paul Vallely

independent graphics

Why are we asking this now?
Pope Benedict XVI has just announced his intention to allow Anglicans to convert in groups to the Roman Catholic Church. Whole congregations would be allowed to move to Rome, while retaining elements of Anglican spiritual and liturgical practice.

This is a significant change. Those who left the Church of England in the past, such as those who would not accept the ordination of women, were told that they would have to become Catholics as individuals. Now Anglicans will be allowed to join as groups. They will even be allowed their own church within a church, called something like the Anglican Ordinariate but which would be subject to the discipline of Rome. Some fear that this will decimate the Church of England.

What changed?
For years Catholic bishops in England were reluctant to open the door wide to traditionalist Anglicans, partly because their "more Catholic than the Pope" smells-and-bells churchmanship was out of step with modern Catholicism. They also did not want to upset Church of England bishops with whom they had developed strong ecumenical relations.

But then last year the Church of England's General Synod voted to allow women to become bishops. More importantly it also voted for no special provision to be put in place to allow traditionalists to bypass a woman bishop and seek episcopal oversight from a man. The decision radically shifted attitudes in Rome.

So whose initiative is this?

It began with Anglican dissidents for whom women bishops were the final straw but who were already alarmed by women or gay priests.

Two years ago an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth, leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion which claims to represent 400,000 worshippers worldwide, went to the Vatican to seek terms for his flock to be accepted into full communion with Rome. Part of the Roman Curia received him sympathetically, but the dominant group of Vatican bureaucrats were against him.

But then came the Synod vote. After it, six Church of England bishops approached the Vatican and said they were being frozen out of the Anglican communion. They pleaded for some sort of structure to be created inside the Catholic Church for their wing of Anglicanism.

So is Rome being generous – or predatory?

The spin is that the Pope is just being helpful. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, wrote to his bishops to say that the move was not "an act of proselytism or aggression" or "at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions". But when he and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, appeared together to launch the initiative, both men looked uncomfortable.

In Rome the announcement was made by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog. Cardinal Walter Kasper, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was noticeable by his absence. The word was that the Vatican's leading ecumenists had fought the move behind the scenes – and lost.

Is this a snub for Rowan Williams?
Certainly the Archbishop was caught unawares by the move. Until now Rome has privately taken the view that it did not want to undermine his attempts to maintain Anglican unity. They even sent, unprecedentedly, three cardinals to support him at the last Lambeth Conference. Cardinal Kasper told Anglican bishops that they had to choose between being a church in the first-century apostolic tradition, or one in the 16th-century reformed tradition.

Rome decided that the Synod vote had answered that question decisively. Anglicanism was a lost cause. Vatican officials told Dr Williams about their plan just three weeks ago. Cardinal Levada came only last weekend to spell out the detail of the radical proposal to him. Publicly Dr Williams insists that the Pope's plan was in no way a "commentary on Anglican problems". Privately he is said to be rather cross.

What does it mean for Anglicanism?
Some think it bad news. Evangelicals are already creating a major split in the Anglican Communion over liberals' embrace of gay priests. The Pope's plan will allow traditionalists to defect in the other direction, leaving the Archbishop of Canterbury and a dwindling centrist core with an ever more difficult job to fend off calls for disestablishment from increasingly aggressive secularists.

But other Anglicans are delighted. They argue that it will mean the CofE can stop tying itself in knots trying to make concessions to traditionalists. They can be told, accept the Anglican way or shove off to Rome. Some hardline liberals even want to see the dissident bishops disciplined over their negotiations with Cardinal Levada, which they say breached the oath of obedience they took at their consecration. And there have been calls for the Queen to refuse to meet the Pope and for plans for next year's papal visit to England to be scrapped.

Probably, compromise being the Anglican genius, nothing so extreme will happen either way.

How many people will leave?
It is in many people's interests to big this up. There has been talk of as many as a thousand CofE priests leaving, plus thousands more in America and Australia. The 1,000 figure comes from the church's traditionalist Forward in Faith faction (whose critics call it Backward in Bigotry).

But how many will carry out the threat?
When women priests were first ordained it was said 1,000 priests would quit. In the event only 441 took the financial compensation package on offer, and scores of those have returned from Rome disillusioned since.

The main movement will probably not be in England. Of the 50 Anglican bishops who have made tentative approaches to Rome, only half a dozen are from England. Rome is taking more notice of the concerns of the US rather than UK Catholic bishops on how to handle all this.

As a counterbalance, women priests who were unhappy at the prospect of second-class female bishops will now probably withdraw their threats to leave, though they numbered only dozens.

What does it signify for Rome?
That's hard to read. It may want a separate Anglican Ordinariate in order to quarantine the newcomers from cradle Catholics. Rome doesn't want the influx of married priests to add legitimacy to the call for married priests among mainstream English Catholics. But it may also reflect the emerging difference in style between Pope John Paul II, who loved to do battle with those who disagreed with him, and his successor, who prefers to ignore his mainstream liberal critics and instead promote those who unquestioningly accept his view of the church and the world.

On Monday Vatican officials begin talks with the extreme Lefebvrist traditionalists in the Society of Saint Pius X, whose Holocaust-denying bishop the Pope controversially readmitted to the church earlier this year. The structure of an Anglican Ordinariate might offer a useful precedent for their readmission to the bosom of Rome.

Has the Pope overstepped the mark?


  • * He sprang his plan on the Archbishop of Canterbury with no consultation and hardly any warning.
  • * The Vatican officials responsible for Christian Unity tried to block the move – but they were over-ruled.
  • * He could have stuck to the policy of welcoming individuals but he is now trying to entice whole congregations.

 London ~ October 21, 2009

Desperate bishops invited Rome to park its tanks on Archbishop’s lawn

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Rome has parked its tanks on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lawn after manoeuvres undertaken by up to fifty bishops and begun two years ago by an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth.

As leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a breakaway group claiming to represent up to 400,000 laity worldwide, he went to Rome seeking a means to achieve full, visible unity for his flock.

As a former Catholic priest himself, divorced and remarried with three children, he would be unlikely to be recognised by Rome as a priest or bishop, even under the structures brought in by the new apostolic constitution. He has nonetheless always received a warm welcome in Rome ­ in particular from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who has made the running in Rome with the backing of his predecessor at the Congregation, Pope Benedict XVI himself.

In England, negotiations with the Vatican have been led by two of the “flying bishops” ­ the AngloCatholics sanctioned to provide pastoral care for opponents of the ordination of women as priests. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Right Rev Andrew Burnham, and the Bishop of Richborough, the Right Rev Keith Newton, visited Rome at Easter last year for talks with Cardinal Levada.

Then in July last year Cardinal Levada wrote to Archbishop Hepworth assuring him and his flock “of the serious attention which the Congregation gives to the prospect of corporate unity” and promising that “as soon as the Congregation is in a position to respond more definitively concerning the proposals you have sent, we will inform you”.

Later that month, the by now desperate flying bishops appealed again to Rome for help. The General Synod of the Church of England had voted to consecrate women bishops without providing statutory protection for traditionalists. A synod revision committee overturned that this month, but too late to shut the gate.

At the start of this year Vatican sources began predicting that the announcement of some form of accommodation for Anglicans was close. But it never came, and less optimistic Anglicans assumed the whole thing was no more than a puff of grey smoke.

They dismissed the hopes of the traditionalists too soon. The reason for the delay was twofold.

Within the Vatican City’s frescoed ceilings and marbled corridors, in the Curia itself and in particular in the College of Cardinals, there were ­ and there remain ­ deep divisions about the appropriate response to Anglicans and former Anglicans seeking some form of corporate unity.

The liberals, among them Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who at the time was Archbishop of Westminster, were reluctant to open the door wide to the traditionalists, partly because of their “more Roman than the Romans” style of churchmanship, but also for fear of upsetting Anglicans and the Church of England in particular.

In the US, where a similar “Anglican usage” model has been in operation for years and will now be incorporated into the new ordinariate structures, there are 77 million Catholics alongside a mere 1.8 million Episcopalians. A few incoming conservative Anglicans have made little difference.

In England and Wales, the proportions are reversed, with 25 million baptised Anglicans but four million Catholics. Not only would a big influx of traditionalist ex-Anglicans undermine ecumenical harmony, it could challenge the identity of the Catholic community itself. Set against this, however, is the more confident American-style Catholicism that this initiative represents.

And while the shortage of Catholic priests would be alleviated by the influx of so many Anglicans, the acceptance of married clergy with families would inevitably shift the focus to a questioning of the insistence that cradle-Catholic priests be celibate.

The Orthodox Church, with which the Pope is also desperate to achieve unity, does not demand a celibate priesthood although its bishops cannot marry. Celibacy is a requirement that is becoming increasingly hard to justify.

So it seemed as though nothing would happen. But in May, with the retirement of Cardinal MurphyO’Connor, who is in Rome this week, Archbishop Vincent Nichols was installed as his successor.

Archbishop Nichols is a priest in the same mould as the late Cardinal Basil Hume, who led the moves to welcome in opponents of women priests back in 1994. It was predicted then that 1,000 would go but in the end a mere 441 took the financial compensation package on offer. A priest of remarkable charisma, Archbishop Nichols could easily end up in a senior position in Rome himself, if not the most senior.

He was clearly “in charge” at the joint press conference at the Catholic Church’s Eccleston Square administrative offices yesterday, at one point interrupting to answer a question addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He appears to have no compunctions about unsettling a few Anglicans.

Many Catholics believe that their churches and cathedrals were “stolen” from them at the Reformation and want them back.

Although the established status of the Church of England means this could never be a straightforward process, Rome’s new move undercuts all that by allowing for unity to evolve upwards organically, from the grass roots, as forseen by an ecumenical report produced a few years ago.

Every church leader speaks about unity, but they all want it on their terms. Pope Benedict XVI is the first since the Reformation who seems to have hit on a realistic way of turning the clock back by moving it forwards.

As evangelicals defect in one direction and traditionalists in the other, and disestablishment beckons with the reform of the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury faces being left with a dwindling number of liberals in the centre struggling to maintain a heritage of ancient, Grade I listed churches.

Church-sharing already takes place between Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, the Orthodox and others. The Catholic Church could, through its new Anglican ordinariate, find itself repossessing its churches, almost by default.

There was bewilderment yesterday among Anglicans as they struggled to make sense of Rome’s initiative.

It was left to the National Secular Society to say publicly what many Anglicans would only admit privately. “This is a mortal blow to Anglicanism which will inevitably lead to disestablishment as the Church shrinks yet further and become increasingly irrelevant,” it said. “Rowan Williams has failed dismally in his ambitions to avoid schism. His refusal to take a principled moral stand against bigotry has left his Church in tatters.”

UK ~ Issue 7649 - 23 October, 2009

Leader: On the road to Rome

THE PROVISION of a Roman Catholic haven for traditionalist Anglicans, announced on Tuesday by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was described as an ecumenical gesture. It may be so, but it does not resemble any ecumenical move we recognise. The lack of consultation, the shortness of notice (for English and Welsh RC bishops, as well as for Dr Williams), and the reference to its being a “necessary” response to the “abandon­ment” of tradition by Anglicans, the embarrassment to Dr Williams as a co-signatory to a statement that talked of “the Cath­olic Church and the Anglican tradition” (our italics) ­ all point, instead, to a move made in spite of ecumenical dialogue rather than because of it. Nor does it resolve the largest stumbling block to closer unity, the refusal of Rome to recognise Anglican orders. Nor ­ despite Newman’s example ­ will an influx of dis­affected Anglicans into the RC Church necessarily improve that dialogue in future. It is easy to put an cheerful gloss on the news: church­going is a voluntary activity, after all, and it is good that wor­shippers should belong to a Church with which they broadly agree rather than one that pains them. This does not disguise the fact, none the less, that the move exposes a flaw in the Anglican project.

For Anglicanism to work in the absence of authoritarian sanctions requires tolerance of, and respect for, the many ways in which believers interpret the central tenets of Christianity. Without this tolerance, as history has shown repeatedly, separa­tions are hard to avoid. Given the drift towards interrogation and confrontation within the Communion (the production of the Anglican Covenant is part of this process), the hierarchy has rejected quasi-separations ­ parallel jurisdictions, alternative oversight, and the like. But suddenly this proposal is on the table, and from a Church that supposedly brooks no interference with its pattern of authority. The ordinariates in question appear to be nothing less than parallel jurisdictions set up to protect the integrity of the majority as well as the minority, but this time over the issue of priestly celibacy rather than women bishops.

The General Synod can, in theory, halt the exodus by revisiting the idea of parallel jurisdictions for traditionalists at its sessions next February. In practice, however, it is not good at responding to ultimatums, especially from a constituency some of whose members appear to have had an active hand in brokering this deal with Rome. An all-Anglican solution would allow the possibility of continuing traffic between the different jurisdictions, but the evidence of this week is that a significant number of traditionalists are willing to sacrifice this, and the validity of their existing orders, in favour of a quick fix with Rome. If the Synod is to be asked again to accommodate those opposed to women bishops, it will need to hear from them that the effort will be worth while. 

 London ~ Thursday October 22 2009, page 38


Church of England: Imperial Rome

"It is not an act of aggression," the Archbishop of Canterbury insisted as the Vatican's metaphorical tanks drew up outside Lambeth Palace on Tuesday. Not even his admirers quite believed him, and few saw Pope Benedict's back-channel deal with Anglo-Catholics opposed to women bishops as "not a vote of no confidence". It looked much more as if the Pope had launched a small craft to ferry the disaffected back across the Tiber, a move to asset-strip the Anglican communion of those bits the Vatican might find useful. It was an uncompromising recognition of the fissiparous state of Anglicanism and the failure of Rowan Williams' long, hard struggle to hold it together.

Lambeth rightly insisted yesterday that until the publication in February of the terms of the dispensation by which Anglican priests – and perhaps their congregations too – can be admitted to Rome while retaining much of their own liturgy, it is impossible to predict what its impact will be. They also have a case when they point to the wild predictions of mass migration to Roman Catholicism after women were first ordained in the Church of England 15 years ago.

In the event, perhaps a total of 400 Anglican priests either converted, or left the church altogether, joined by Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer. Perhaps yesterday's reports of 50 bishops leaving, taking with them congregations in the thousands, are similarly overheated. Lambeth was on dodgier ground trying to explain why the Vatican should appear to ride roughshod over 40 years of ecumenical work, and why it was given only a fortnight's notice, leaving a visibly uncertain Archbishop of Canterbury to lean on the protection of the Archbishop of Westminster at their joint press conference.

Pope Benedict's Vatican is not diplomatically sure-footed, as the recent decision to readmit a bishop with a record as a Holocaust denier shows. The Pope is driven by an urgent search for unity against liberalism and the rapid rise of secularism. But preserving space for faith is one of Rowan Williams' central concerns, too. It lies behind the thoughtful and well-received speeches he has made on the economic crisis and the environment, as he tries to show Anglicanism's potential to contribute to public debate. Now the Vatican has shaken the ground beneath him, and by diminishing him risks diminishing his power to persuade. But perhaps it will also liberate him a little. His fiercest critics, the most bitter opponents of women bishops and gay priests, are not the Anglo-Catholics but the evangelicals. If the Pope's wooing were successful, the evangelicals would be on their own in their disaffection. And they have nowhere to go.

London ~ October 22, 2009

Converts may choke on raw meat of Catholicism

Libby Purves: Analysis

The welcoming of Anglican clergy into the Catholic Church highlights the differences, and difficulties, of approach Attack is the best form of defence. On the eve of another damning report on clerical abuse and cover-up in Ireland, that seems to be Pope Benedict’s tactic. His sudden invitation to Anglican defectors will certainly take the spotlight off a continuing child abuse scandal fed, for decades, by the masculine and intimidating structures of authority in the Catholic hierarchy. Words like “poaching” may seem harsh, but there is more than a whiff of power politics in this move. A “rush to Rome” would resolve Catholicism’s shortage of priests, win back some ancient church buildings annexed at the Reformation, and reduce Anglicanism to an anxious, liberal rump. Result! It is not, after all, so long since Catholics prayed weekly for “the conversion of England”.

But wavering clergy should beware. Apart from anything else, onlookers might accuse them of two opposing faults: an illiberal lack of elasticity over human beings ­ notably women and gays ­ yet a woefully pliable attitude to belief. Growing up as a Catholic in Protestant Britain, we were taught the differences between us. “We” believed in Papal infallibility; “they” didn’t, but reckoned the Queen was head of the Church. We were taught the weird doctrine of transubstantiation ­ the miraculous change of bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood. They regarded Communion as symbolic. However, they could believe in transubstantiation if they wanted, just as they could opt to join us in crediting Mary’s sinless Immaculate Conception and Assumption. To the beady schoolgirl eye, Anglicanism seemed free and easy after the corset of Catholic dogma; they could even choose high or low church, be evangelically dour or all a-tinkle with bells. Catholicism came in just one flavour. And their priests could have family lives, ours couldn’t; Anglican couples could use contraception.

We marched to different drums. So when the General Synod accepted women priests and many Anglicans crossed the floor, we cradle Catholics (however renegade) were baffled: did Papal authority, transubstantiation, tough teachings on divorce and the contraceptive ban not bother them? Their priests breezed across the divide, complete with wives and children ­ a concession insulting to Catholic clergy who had, with difficulty, accepted celibacy and who were told that this would not change for them. Under the new dispensation, the only proviso is that married priests can’t be Catholic bishops. Promotion, I suppose, must wait for widowerhood.

But convert clergy may not find life as good as they had hoped, despite being freed from the terror of meeting woman priests and having to bless civil partners rather than excoriate them, Vatican-style, as “intrinsically disordered”. Despite the modified prayer book they will find their style and even pastoral advice gravely restricted; they may flinch at the uncompromising voice of the Vatican after the gentle bleating of Cantuars.

Anglicanism was founded on uneasy compromise, and this has, over centuries, made it kindly and even humble: a mixed salad of a faith. Catholicism is older, darker, strong raw meat. It may choke them.

 London ~ October 21, 2009

Pope's gambit could see 1,000 quit Church of England

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent, and Richard Owen in Rome

Dr Rowan Williams: the plans were a serious blow to his attempts to stop the Church of England fragmenting further

As many as 1,000 priests could quit the Church of England and thousands more may leave churches in America and Australia under bold proposals to welcome Anglicans to Rome.

Entire parishes and even dioceses could be tempted to defect after Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to offer a legal structure to Anglicans joining the Roman Catholic Church.

His decree, issued yesterday, is a serious blow to attempts by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to save the Anglican Communion from further fragmentation and threatens to wreck decades of ecumenical dialogue.

Dr Williams was notified formally only last weekend by the Vatican and looked uncomfortable at a joint press conference with the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, to announce the plan.

In every point of view this movement must be the subject of deep regret

Anglicans privately accused Rome of poaching and attacked Dr Williams for capitulating to the Vatican. Some called for his resignation. Although there was little he could have done to forestall the move, many were dismayed at his joint statement with the Archbishop of Westminster in which they spoke of Anglicans “willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church”.

In a letter to bishops and clergy, Dr Williams made clear his own discomfiture. He wrote: “I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this. I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage.”

The Bishop of Fulham, the Right Rev John Broadhurst, chairman of Forward in Faith, which opposes women bishops, hailed it as a “decisive moment” and predicted that, based on his group’s membership, up to 1,000 Church of England clergy could go.

Christina Rees, of the pro-women group Watch, described the Vatican’s move as poaching. She said: “It is one thing to offer a welcome, but this seems to be a particularly effusive welcome where people are almost being encouraged. In the Anglican Church we like to operate with transparency. If this has not been done here that will add to the sense of this being a predatory move.”

Pope Benedict wants to make Christian unity an enduring legacy of his papacy. He is due to visit Britain next year; Dr Williams will visit Rome next month. The Pope has already shown his determination to reunite Christendom at almost any price, welcoming back the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X despite a Holocaust-denying bishop in its ranks.

Under the plan, the Pope will issue an apostolic constitution, a form of papal decree, that will lead to the creation of “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans who convert to Rome.

These will provide a legal framework to allow Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving distinctive elements of their Anglican identity, such as liturgy. Clergy will have to be retrained and re-ordained, since Rome regards Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void”, but they will be granted their own seminaries to train future priests for the new ordinariate.

This deal was done with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Holy Inquisition that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself headed before he became Pope.

The Council for Christian Unity was not represented at simultaneous press conferences in Rome and London, suggesting that the Pope has had enough of dialogue focusing on canonical moves towards unity. Dr Williams was briefed formally only when Cardinal William Levada, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, flew to London at the weekend to tell Anglican and Catholic leaders of the plans. It is understood that leading members of the council and other senior Anglican and Catholic figures tried desperately to block the decree.

One result of the Vatican’s move is that women bishops are likely to be consecrated sooner rather than later in the Church of England. This is because Parliament and the General Synod will not sanction legal structures to “safeguard” opponents of women priests within the Church if Rome is offering an open door with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s blessing.

Dr Williams said that the announcement did not disrupt “business as usual” in relations between the two churches. It would be a serious mistake to view the development as a response to the difficulties within the Anglican Communion, he said. It was aimed at people who had reached a “conscientious conviction that visible unity with the Holy See was now what God was calling them to”, he said. “It is not a secret that in this country the ordination of women as bishops is one of those test issues.”

 Wednesday October 21 2009

Vatican fishing for disgruntled Anglicans

Catholic invitation to join church allows for married priests

By Jacqueline L. Salmon and William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writers

In a remarkable bid to attract disillusioned members of the Anglican Communion, the Vatican announced Tuesday that it is establishing a special arrangement that will allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while preserving their liturgy and spiritual heritage, including married priests.

The worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the 2.3 million-member U.S. Episcopal Church, has been racked by years of conflict over the interpretation of Scripture that has led to clashes over female clergy and, more recently, gay clergy.

The Catholic Church's plan "reflects a bold determination by Rome to seize the moment and do what it can to reach out to those who share its stance on women priests and homosexuality," said Ian Markham, dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary, an Episcopal seminary in Alexandria. "It is very, very bold and very interesting."

The new system will give the Catholic Church a way to capitalize on tensions within the Anglican Communion and make potentially large inroads into its worldwide network of 80 million members.

The Communion broke from the Catholic church in 1534, when England's King Henry VIII was denied a marriage annulment. In more recent times, Anglicans and Catholics have made attempts to reconcile, but Tuesday's move could jeopardize those efforts, according to theologians.

In establishing the new structure, Pope Benedict XVI is responding to "many requests" from individual Anglicans and Anglican groups -- including "20 to 30 bishops," said Cardinal William J. Levada, the Vatican's chief doctrinal official.

At a joint news conference in London, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican spiritual leader, sat next to the Catholic archbishop of Westminster. But Williams said he had no role in developing the plan.

Nevertheless, Williams said the move "is not an act of aggression. . . . It is business as usual."

For years, the Anglican Communion has struggled to reconcile its warring factions. Racial and class tensions have grown between the Communion's wealthy but shrinking Western congregations and its rapidly growing, more conservative, membership in the developing world, particularly Africa.

Under the new system, the Catholic Church will create "personal ordinariates" -- separate units headed by former Anglican priests or bishops. Although married Anglican priests would be permitted to head the ordinariates, married bishops, who are not in keeping with Catholic tradition, would not be permitted. Potentially, entire former Anglican parishes or dioceses could move under the wing of the Catholic Church.

The former Anglicans would be considered theologically Catholic but with their own traditions, such as use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

The plan is not without precedent. The Catholic Church has, in rare instances, allowed married Anglican priests to join under strict conditions. For centuries, the church has included Eastern Rite Catholics, who maintain their own traditions.

Between 100 and 200 of the 7,000 Episcopal congregations have broken away from the denomination over the 2003 ordination of Gene Robinson, a gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire. The ordination of female clergy and the church's definition of salvation also have been issues in the conflict. Many of the breakaway congregations allied themselves with conservative Anglican primates in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda, where Anglicanism was introduced by British missionaries in the 19th century.

Conservative Anglican leaders in the United States said the impact will be greater in England than it will be here.

"The British papers are saying it's the biggest thing since Henry VIII, and in some ways, it is for them," said the Rev. Martyn Minns of Fairfax City, leader of a group of conservative congregations that broke from the Episcopal Church three years ago. "Over there, you have bishops, congregations, even whole dioceses that may shift. Here in the U.S., we've already faced the division and what came out of it was the Anglican alternative. . . . What the pope said affirms what I'm doing but doesn't mean I'm going to become Catholic."

Other conservative Anglican leaders, including those with strong Catholic leanings, said Tuesday that they are unlikely to join the Catholic Church.

Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, for instance, led one of the founding dioceses in the umbrella group of breakaway U.S. conservatives and has strong ties to the Catholic Church. But on Tuesday, his spokeswoman, Suzanne Gill, said that "while it's true he's an Anglo-Catholic bishop with many friends in the Catholic Church, we don't have any plans to convert into the Catholic Church."

Nonetheless, the Vatican's move could strain sometimes delicate alliances within the breakaway conservative churches, Markham said. One camp sees Anglicanism as a version of Catholicism; the other is more evangelical and suspicious of Catholicism.

"This offer by Rome could peel off some of those Anglo-Catholics," he said. "I think some of them will be tempted to go."
 London ~ Tuesday 20 October 2009
Also at:Thursday October 22 2009

Roman Catholic church to receive Anglicans

Riazat Butt and John Hooper

Tens of thousands of disaffected Anglicans could become Roman Catholics following a decree made by Pope Benedict.

AWKWARD MOMENTS: The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, listens as the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, speaks during a news conference in London (AP)

The move surprised many as it was unveiled simultaneously in the Vatican and in London, where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was forced to admit that he had not known about it until a fortnight ago.

Pope Benedict’s initiative ­ set out in an apostolic constitution, the highest form of pontifical decree, and unveiled by a senior Catholic cardinal ­ allows Anglicans worldwide, both clergy and worshippers, to convert en masse while still maintaining part of their spiritual heritage.

Both Williams and the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who was sitting next to him in a show of unity, refused to concede that the Vatican was passing judgment on the troubles within the Anglican communion.

“It is not an act of aggression, it is not a statement of no confidence. It is business as usual,” said Williams, who nevertheless apologised to Anglicans that there had not been prior debate. The Vatican sought no input from Lambeth Palace. The papal decree comes after many years of approaches to the Vatican from Anglicans unhappy with the ordination of women and gay people.

There was scarce detail about how the new structure would work ­ there could be separate services in Roman Catholic churches for breakaway Anglicans, though control would lead back to Rome. It creates not so much a church within a church as an enclave operating under the auspices of the Vatican. The most significant part of the decree is that it will allow married Anglican clergy to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests, waiving the requirement of celibacy.

The pope’s chief theological adviser, the U.S. cardinal William Levada, said that he would put the number of Anglican bishops in the world who were poised to become Catholics “in the 20s or 30s.” Later, Joseph Di Noia, the deputy head of the Vatican’s liturgical department, said he believed the figure was closer to 50.

Williams appeared on Tuesday alongside Archbishop Nichols in Eccleston Square, the central London administrative HQ of the Catholic church in England and Wales, and there were awkward moments. When Williams was asked if the Vatican move was a “massive vote of no confidence” in his leadership, it was Nichols who jumped in with an answer. Several times they both said the apostolic constitution was not a commentary on the internal disputes ravaging the world’s second biggest Christian denomination ­ despite years of Roman consternation over the ordination of women and gay people.

At an Anglican conference last year several cardinals swooped into Canterbury to air their concerns about the impact such innovations would have on relations between the two churches and how undesirable an Anglican schism would be.

But on Tuesday in a basement room, faced with the press, Williams was optimistic and resolute, though his complexion reddened. “I do not think this constitution will be seen as in any sense a commentary on Anglican problems offered by the Vatican. It is a response to this range of requests and inquiries from a very broad variety of people. In that sense it has no negative impact on the relations of the communion as a whole to the Roman Catholic church as a whole.”

Williams was also forced to reveal his ignorance about the move to Anglican bishops and archbishops, a number of whom are dissatisfied with his leadership. In a letter he wrote: “I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage, and we await the text of the apostolic constitution ... in the coming weeks.”

Two bishops from a prominent Anglo-Catholic movement in the U.K., Forward in Faith, welcomed the apostolic constitution, but said it was not a time for “sudden decisions or general public discussion.”

The bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough, who provide pastoral and spiritual care for people opposed to women bishops, also confirmed their 2008 meeting with Vatican officials, an event previously denied by Lambeth Palace.

They said some would want to stay in the Anglican communion, while others would make arrangements according to their conscience. They said they had chosen February 22 “to be an appropriate day for priests and people to make an initial decision as to whether they wish to respond positively” to the apostolic constitution.

“We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart. It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome. We were neither the first nor the last Anglicans to do this in recent years. Following the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England in July 2008 to proceed with the ordination of women ... we appealed to the Holy Father and have patiently awaited a reply.” The initiative is not without problems for the Vatican. The Catholic Church will accept married Anglican vicars who agree to be reordained, just as it includes married priests of the so-called Uniate churches that belong to the Orthodox rite. But, like the Orthodox, it draws the line at married bishops.

However, under the arrangements Anglicans can be taken into so-called “personal ordinariates” in each country, similar to military chaplaincies. Each would be headed by a former Anglican prelate, who does not have to become a bishop in the Catholic church, and so could be married.

By accepting numbers of married clergy, some with the responsibilities and status of bishops, the Vatican risks reigniting the debate among Catholics over its insistence on celibacy for the vast majority of its priests who belong to the western, or Latin, rite.

­ © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009