Thursday, October 22, 2009

Catholic Church May Regret Benedict's Anglican Ploy, British Writers Say

The British blog Thinking Anglicans has links today to additional U.K. commentaries on Pope Benedict's move to bring disaffected Anglican congregations into a structurally modified Roman Catholicism. Several suggest that the Catholic church will live to regret the pope's surprise, not only because its consequences were not well thought out, but also for the important players it excluded in both communions.

The Guardian editorialized that not even Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William's supporters quite believed his press-conference remark that the Vatican's ploy was "not an act of aggression." The Guardian said the radical new policy smacked of "a move to asset-strip the Anglican communion of those bits the Vatican might find useful." The newspaper cautioned that the full impact of the policy will not be known until it is published in February. But it said the Vatican had seriously undermined Williams' efforts to hold the Anglican Communion together.

In a commentary in The Telegraph Damian Thompson said that the Anglican bishops of the United Kingdom were not the only church officials angry at being excluded from Rome's discussion. Their anger is shared by a number of Catholic bishops and theologians whom the Vatican also ignored. These included the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, regarded as too progressive to deal with conservative Anglicans directly, and even "the Vatican's own professional ecumenists in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity."

In a commentary in The Independent Paul Vallely noted an important figure was absent when the pope's initiative was announced in Rome by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "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." Ironically, Vallely says it was Kasper who told the last Lambeth Conference, evidently on orders from Benedict, that the moment of truth was at hand: "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." Vallely says Pope Benedict felt they chose the reformed tradition, and the new policy is his response.

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