Friday, October 23, 2009

Benedict's Anglican Ploy: More Reactions, and More Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The National Catholic Reporter today has an excellent article on further reactions to Pope Benedict's strategy for bringing disaffected Anglican congregations into the Roman Catholic Church. I'm gratified that I am not alone in some of the "unintended consequences" I warned about yesterday. Below are excerpts from the article that expand on my concerns and raise additional ones.

Andrew Brown, a columnist for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper called this "the end of the Anglican Communion."

"One of the things that this development means is that the Roman Catholic church is no longer even pretending to take seriously the existence of the Anglican Communion as a coherent body," Brown wrote. "Instead there are various sections of 'the Anglican tradition' (not 'church' or 'communion'), some of which are still properly Christian and so able to become Roman Catholic."

But traditionalists in the United States were more circumspect.

Robert Duncan, who as bishop of Pittsburgh led his diocese out of the Episcopal church and is now archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church in North America, issued a statement on the Web site

"We rejoice that the Holy See has opened this doorway," he wrote, but "we believe that this provision will not be utilized by the great majority of the Anglican Church in North America's bishops, priests, dioceses and congregations."

They still have problems with the Roman church, Duncan points out, namely: "historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the nature of Holy Orders."

According to Stuart Laidlaw, faith and ethics reporter for The Star of Toronto, conservative Anglicans in Canada showed no interest joining "the pope's new church."

"This is not just a matter of wearing different clothes or having a few more rules," Bishop Don Harvey of the Anglican Network in Canada told Laidlaw.

Harvey said while conservative Anglicans share many theological beliefs with Catholics — both oppose same-sex marriage and gay clergy, for instance — there are still many differences between the two.

Anglicans, he said, would chafe at any notion of the infallibility of the pope, and do not accept Catholic teachings about Mary's immaculate conception, her assumption body and soul into heaven, or the transfiguration of Christ.

The announcement left Roman Catholics, too, thinking about what this means for their church.

British Catholics are worried, according to Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for The Times of London. She wrote: "In the [Vatican] 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.

She notes that worldwide the number of conservative Anglicans who would take up the Vatican's offer would be miniscule compared to the number of Catholics. But in Great Britain, the proportions are reversed, with 25 million baptized Anglicans but 4 million Catholics.

Writing online for The Washington Post, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese said, "Catholic liberals, especially Catholic feminists, fear that an influx of conservative Anglicans will further discourage reform in the Catholic church."

In this regard, though, he suggested, "Someone should warn these Anglicans that two out of three U.S. Catholics support the ordination of women. They will not find in Catholicism a controversy-free zone."

Reese continued: "But if the new procedures are used by large numbers of Anglicans, the result will be a more liberal Anglican church and a more conservative Catholic church, especially if liberal Catholics decide to go in the other direction."

Picking up on this theme was NCR senior correspondent John Allen, writing for The New York Times: "There's also nothing preventing the Anglican Communion from creating similar structures to welcome aggrieved Catholics who support all the measures these disaffected Anglicans oppose. Certainly, after today, the Vatican would have no basis to condemn such a move as an ecumenical low blow."

1 comment:

Terence Weldon said...

Gerald, a useful collection of analyses I have not seen elsewhere.

I love unintended consequences - that there would be many, was my own initial reaction to this adventure, and remains the only feature of which I remain absolutely certain. I came across two this afternoon that I have not seen elsewhere. In addition to clerical celibacy, another topic likely to come under the spotlight is that of contraception - where Anglican teaching has differed from Catholic since 1930, and the overwhelming majority of Catholics agree with the Anglicans, not with the Vatican. (see Commonweal for more on this)

Another is the repercussions for the Anglicans. I understand that AN Wilson in the NY Times has suggested that this may lead to the disestablishment of the Anglican church in the UK. (As a foreign Catholic resident in the UK, such an outcome would not surprise me. I have a sense that the public mood has in any case been moving in that direction)