Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

Traditionalists welcome change

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The news is that Pope Benedict has opened a path for ‘traditionalist’ Anglicans (read ‘misogynists’) to join the Catholic Church without getting too Catholic about it (read priests keeping their wives and their ‘Anglo-Tridentine’ liturgy). He has issued an Apostolic Constitution to provide for Personal Ordinariates for disaffected Anglicans. These mean that Anglicans can join the Catholic Church while retaining their rites and uses, much in the same way Eastern Catholics retain various Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Armenian liturgies).

My first reaction is: please go, we’ve had enough! The Church of England has done all it can and more than it should to keep discontents happy. A few of them have even been gainfully employed as flying bishops. The move towards recognising the equality of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in women has been painfully slow due to the foot dragging of these old boys. Their arguments are roadblocks rather than litanies of reason, their actions are Pharisaic rather than Christlike. Just like the last Anglican exodus, I’m sure the Catholic parishes will not be best pleased with the quality of the new intake. So, if you would like to leave, please form an orderly queue.

Disunity in the church is sinful, but the church is more than any one organisation or denomination, and disharmony is just as sinful. As Bishop Alan Wilson points out so well, the Anglicans who follow this new route will either be very good Catholics who should have been there in the first place (and would be better fully integrated) or the kind of murmurers who will be problematic wherever they are. Perhaps the Anglican practice of trying to find a middle ground, might be best served by allowing the pitch to extend into the Catholic Church. Perhaps it’s ecumenical to trade clergy thus rather than get all schismatic about it.

Archbishop Vincent is left to explain, while Archbishop Rowan looks on

Archbishop Vincent is left to explain, while Archbishop Rowan looks on

However, as usual Pope Benedict did not distinguish himself in ecumenical diplomacy or thoughtful research. In the end, Archbishop Rowan, without prior warning had to leg it round to Archbishop Vincent’s to face the press. I think clayboy’s imagined response from Rowan is spot on. The pope acted in a wholly authoritarian way to encourage the membership into his church of those who have demanded ever greater latitude in ours. Of course, the ‘Anglican Use’ of the new Personal Ordinariates (which I have added to my Christmas wishlist) is not very Anglican, nor is it in line with the magisterium of Great Rome.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

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