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Michael Sean WintersOctober 20, 2009

The news from Rome about the establishment of special ordinariates for disaffected Anglicans should not be seen as a re-lighting of the fires at Tyburn. Indeed, Archbishop Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Rowan of Canterbury held a joint press conference to put the announcement in the context of the successful ecumenical discussions of the past 40 years, rather than as a threat to that dialogue.

The most important point to stress is that the Vatican is responding to a request from others who wish to join the Catholic Church. They are not merely going out to pick some low-hanging Anglican fruit or, as Cardinal Walter Kasper put it, "We are not fishing in the Anglican lake." There are members of the Anglican Church who have come to question the catholicity of their communion, and like John Henry Newman before them, their questioning is leading them to turn to Rome.

It is a fair question – and one that I worry these new structures are designed to obfuscate – why now? Were they not disturbed by their communion’s indifference to papal primacy all these years? When John Paul II sought some way to establish the validity of Anglican orders, but came up empty because the apostolic succession was clearly broken, why did they not seek incorporation into the Church of Rome then? I am sure that many of those who are now motivated to seek communion with Rome do so now primarily because the fractured nature of their own communion has become so manifest.

But, I worry, too, that some of these newcomers will also be nostalgists, anti-feminists, and anti-gay bigots. The ordaining of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire is not something I would have advised, but after all these centuries of schism, I am not sure why that should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. The first email I received this morning was from a Jewish friend who saw this aspect of the development when he wrote: "Do you think Pope B- might set up a Jewish rite if we asked him? We could call it Judaism. He could call it unity with church. Everyone's happy."

The other important point is that the Vatican is making pastoral provision for these Anglicans, it is not mandating anything. An ordinariate, similar to the personal prelature status given to Opus Dei, or to the Archdiocese of the military, recognizes an anomaly is present that calls for a specific remedy. The local bishops’ conferences will be able, or not, to establish these ordinariates for former Anglicans. A pastoral judgment will be made by those closest to the scene and Rome is merely changing the canons to permit facilitate that pastoral judgment.

It is a big church and there is room for everybody as I never tire of saying. And, at the risk of re-opening another can of worms, I suggest that we re-visit the liturgical translations of the Missal and borrow heavily from the Book of Common Prayer in devising our prayers, especially the Rite of Commendation which is so wonderful in their liturgy ("Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world…") while ours is so banal ("As we prepare to take leave of our brother…") Seriously, I think the presser by the two archbishops in England is measure of the statement in Rome. It would have been unthinkable 40 years ago that such a step would be taken. It would be unthinkable 60 years ago that Anglican and Catholic archbishops would hold a joint press conference. These new ordinariates may even advance the cause of ecumenical dialogue as they may provide a more intimate experience of the differences and similarities of the two faith traditions.

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Eugene Pagano
14 years 4 months ago
One wonders, when noticing the close timing between this move and such regressive actions as appointing Raymond Burke to to the Congregation of Bishops, whether some in Rome have an agenda of pushing liberal Catholics out and bringing conservative Anglicans in.
Steve Held
14 years 4 months ago
I'm surprised very little is being mentioned of the timing with respect to talks with the SSPX. This announcement by the Vatican certainly helps answer a complaint of the SSPX: What is the point of ecumenical dialogue?
Brian Volck
14 years 4 months ago
I am not an expert on either Catholicism or the Anglican Communion, but it may be helpful to recall that rifts in the Anglican Communion, which those in the industrialized North typically reduce to conservative vs. liberal splits, significantly predate the consecration of Bishop Robinson.  In North America, starting in the 1960s, Bishops Pike and Spong openly disavowed basic Christian creedal statements.  For some, the absence of significant ecclesial response to Pike and Spong was a triumph of modernity; for others, a giant step toward corporate apostasy.  How an informed observer reads the controversies over ordination of women and the acceptance of non-celibate gays in the clergy and now the episcopate depends in large part on how one reads this earlier history.
The global Anglican Communion, as far as I understand it, is quite complex, with Anglo-Catholics; mainliners (largely "liberal," in North American terminology),and Evangelical Anglicans (and perhaps more...), each working out  ecclesial commitments in specific national and cultural settings.  The Church of England was founded for a variety of reasons, the needs of the rising Tudor nation-state being key to most.  With the waning of the British Empire and the loss of English Culture as a transnational force, international divisons within the Communion were, I think, inevitable. 
African Anglicans, in their social setting and recalling the martyrs of Uganda, may reach different conclusions about gay bishops than those in North America, but I doubt the evangelical wing predominating in Africa (at least north of South Africa) will be taking advantage of the new Ordinariate. In the global North, discussions about the so-called "Roman Option" have been going on for decades. Anglican Fr. William Oddie's 1997 book, The Roman Option, relfects, in part, a response to the 1992 ordination of women in the COE, but it clearly goes farther and deeper than that. Reasonable persons may well disagree with Oddie, and I can't unpack his entire analysis here, but it is interesting to note his anticipation that self-described liberal Catholics in the UK would be particularly vocal in opposing any "realignment of English-speaking Christianity."        
Pearce Shea
14 years 4 months ago
I think Brian is right on to point out that this has a lot more to do with a general dissatisfaction with the Anglican/Episcopal Church than it has to do, necessarily with women of the cloth and gay bishops. 
I converted from the Episcopal Church and the impetus to do so had nothing to do with any sort of social conservatism, but a sense that the Anglican Communion has lost the thread. If catechesis has been bad in the Catholic Church this past couple of generations, it has been abysmal (non existent or, even worse, incoherent) in much of the Anglican Communion, especially in America. That Bishop Spong can go unanswered (largely) is the symptom of a larger problem: the Anglican Communion has done a wretched job of formulating a coherent identity and message for its people. 
As a self-described liberal Catholic, I also note the irony here. It's pretty clear, from the word choices and sources Austen and the rest of America (with the exception of MSW's great blog) that this is being painted at this publication and elsewhere as some sort of come-on to bigots (and how offensive is that? Anglicans dissatisfied with their faith must be so because they are anti-feminist bigots? yeesh. They should be ashamed to make these sorts of insinuations about converts.)
And why not now? Certainly, with a revised version of the ordinary form of the Mass promulgated just seven years ago and with the Pope's Summorum Pontificum two years ago, we've been given a pretty disctinct liturgical identity in very recent (in Church time, anyway) history. I would suggest that much of Benedict's "mission" has been to codify fundamental theological principles on which the Church rests, to create something like an universal Catholic identity. Pope Benedict has also been actively involved in engaging those religions which are most closely similar to ours (Judaism, the SSPX schismatics and Anglicans), so this certainly seems to make sense. I would imagine something similar may be extended to the SSPXers.
George C
14 years 4 months ago
I don't see this as an effort to push anyone out.  Rather, I think the Pope is sincere in seeking greater unity within the Church. 
I do wonder where this leaves folks like me, an episcopalian who has attended Catholic church for the last 12 years, but never formally converted.  I know anecdotally that there are many folks like me out there.  The church has always been a bit confused on these episcopalians. Some say that the church recognizes the sacraments delivered by episcopal priests,  Others say, for instance, that you can't take mass unless you were baptized catholic or converted.  Does this mean we can get full catholic status without enduring conversion classes simply by briefly switching parishes?     
Ashley Green
14 years 4 months ago
I am not an expert on these things, but as a baptized Christian who has attended mass for several years, you should not need conversion (RCIA) classes in order to formally join the Catholic Church.  You can be received into the Church and receive the sacraments of first communion and confirmation at the discretion of a parish priest, etc.  I have seen this done several times.
14 years 4 months ago
If this isn't about bigotry (not wanting women and gay clergy, etc.) and it's really about religious doctrine, why have those Anglicans not simply converted to Catholicism?  They want to, and it seems will be able to, keep their own beliefs .... this gives a whole new meaning to cafeteria Catholicism.
Bruce Hall
14 years 4 months ago
I think that the timing makes perfect sense, historically, generationally.  The Traditional Anglican Communion and many of the other Continuing Anglican churches were created in the 1970s, particularly out of the St. Louis conference, is response to many of the changes that occurred within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion since the 1960s. Also out of the 70s came the Pastoral Provision allowing married Episcopal priests to become Catholic priest and allowing Anglican Use liturgy. Now, a quarter-generation later, those pioneers are passing away, the Pastoral Provision has proven successful, and Vatican II's changes have taken hold, narrowing the difference between Catholic and Anglo-Catholic worship. A decision needed to be made.  At this time of generational shift, from the baby boomers to the post-boomers, should the Pastoral Provision be made permanent and sustainable?  The answer is yes.

n other words, the timing relates to the passing of the 60s Baby Boomer generation, of those who fought the battles of the 60s and 70s.  With the passing of the torch to a new generation, the question arose What now?  What should happen to the Pastoral Provision and the Catholic-minded Continuing Anglicans?  We now have part of the answer
Robert Galliher
14 years 4 months ago
Why are these Anglicans coming to the Roman Catholic Church now?  Based on my time observing some of the conservative Anglicans and listening to their stories, concern with schism isn't on the list of problems.
The simplest explanation is political.  They've given up hope on winning the culture war within the Anglican Communion, but they want to maintain some outward sign of universality.  The Roman Catholic Church is the denomination closest to their outlook. 
As Brian's comment indicates, the culture war has been going on since the 60's.  Individuals have been leaving since the 70's, and the matter has gathered steam since the Righter Trial, the several attempts to create same-sex marriage rites, and the ordinations of men and women living a gay lifestyle.  The ordination, as bishop, of Bishop Robinson served as a trigger along with the creation, by the Canadian diocese of New Westminster, of a same-sex marriage rite (called a rite of blessing).  The fact that the then Presiding Bishop of ECUSA presided over that ordination not six months after signing a statement that said, in part, that any such ordination would severely strain the bonds of communion further exacerbated the troubles.

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