There was a risk that the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus ("Groups of Anglicans"), allowing for the corporate integration of Rome-leaning Anglicans, would chill some of the warm reactions which its announcement three weeks ago generated. The damp had already set in with the CDF's "clarification" last week, and I feared that behind the scenes twitchy canonists had been busy closing the door the Pope had suddenly and without warning opened. I particularly wondered whether my America article -- written after the announcement, but before today's publication -- would not seem, in retrospect, over-excited.
But I don't think so. Neither the Constitution and the Norms are less than what was promised, and in some respects they go further. Both Ruth Gledhill at The Times and Damian Thompson at the Telegraph draw attention to the fact that, while Anglican bishops cannot be Catholic bishops, as heads of Personal Ordinariates they get similar powers and privileges, allowed to sit on the bishops' conference and using the insignia of episcopal office. "This leaves the path clear", says Ruth, "for Bishop of Fulham Father John Broadhurst, married father of four, to head the new Ordinariate in Britain."
Bishop Broadhurst is chairman of Forward in Faith, which claims around 1,000 priest members. In an "interim statement" today, he says:
What Rome has done is offer exactly what the Church of England has refused ... We all need now to ask the question: 'Is this what we want?' For some of us I suspect our bluff is called! This is both an exciting and dangerous time for Christianity in this country. Those who take up this offer will need to enter into negotiation with the Church of England about access to parish churches and many other matters. This situation must not be used to damage the Church of England but I do believe we have a valid claim on our own heritage in history.
The doctrinal standard demanded by Rome is the New Catechism which most of us use anyway. We would be allowed to use Anglican or Roman rites and our ordinaries would have jurisdiction. We will all need to meet and talk. I would hope that this could take place in collaboration with the PEVs and other Catholic bishops. It is not my style to give a expansive analysis of a document that I have only received today nor will I answer the question 'What are you going to do?' That is something we need to work out together.
There is no response yet from the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), but its reaction to the announcement on October 20 was fulsome. The TAC, which is not in communion with Rome, is headed by Archbishop John Hepworth. As it happens, Hepworth wold be unable, under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, to be an Ordinary, because an Ordinary must be either a validly ordained (and unmarried) bishop or a priest. Hepworth would not be eligible to be reordained as a Catholic priest because, as David Gibson puts it at dot.Commonweal, "he was a Catholic priest before, became an Anglican priest later, married and divorced and remarried, and thus has too many impediments".
The Daily Mail typically gets it wrong when it reports that, "The decision to allow Anglican converts to keep their tradition of married priests is a break with rules that have applied in western Catholic churches for nearly 900 years".
There are, of course, plenty of examples of married Catholic priests in the past 900 years, not least in the eastern-rite churches. And Rome has been at pains to stress that this is NOT a break with the clerical celibacy rule. When I caught Archbishop Vincent Nichols today after a press conference on the beatification of John Henry Newman, I asked him if we were right to interpret the Constitution as closing the gap in the future on married clergy. He agreed, saying the "objective norms" were still to be worked out, but that, yes, the regula was clear: the clergy would need in future to be celibate.