Southern Religion

Roman Catholic Church to receive Anglicans [Update]

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has created an “apostolic constitution” – the highest form of pontifical decree – to make it easier for Anglicans, individually or in groups, to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The British Guardian wrote:

It will be the first time since the Reformation in the 16th century that entire communities of Protestants have reunited with Rome. The first group to take advantage of the new rules is expected to be the Traditional Anglican Community (TAC), which separated from the rest of the Anglican community in 1991 and has more than 500,000 members worldwide.

[Benedict’s chief theological adviser, the US cardinal William Levada,] said that, under the new arrangements, Anglican communities that joined the Catholic church would be able to keep their own liturgy while remaining outside the existing dioceses. Their pastoral care would be entrusted instead to their own senior prelates, who would not necessarily become Catholic bishops. This is a way around the problem that in the Catholic church, as in the Orthodox churches, married men are not allowed to become bishops.

The result is a new home for traditional Anglicans who are dissatisfied with growing acceptance of homosexuals and of women priests and bishops. Ruth Gledhill and Richard Owen of the London Times correctly term it a move by the Roman Catholic Church “to poach” thousands of traditional Anglicans:

Traditionalists, including up to six Church of England bishops, had visited and pleaded with Rome to provide some sort of structure inside the Catholic Church for their wing of the Church of England because of liberal moves towards women bishops and gay ordinations.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols of the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales at a press conference at Ecclestone Square, explaining how the new Apostolic Constitution will lead to Personal Ordinariates for defecting and ex-Anglicans.

The effect on Anglican/Catholic relations is not positive.

Foundations for distrust include last week’s statement by the Vatican’s top ecumenical official, Cardinal Walter Kasper. When asked about the Vatican’s negotiations with would-be converts, he told reporters: ”We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.”

Neither the Anglican Church of England nor the Episcopal Church in the U.S. is being welcomed into a new relationship. Andrew Brown argues with good reason that they are in effect being ceremonially discarded in a Vatican action which amounts to “thank you for the members and clergy. Bye:”

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.

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.

Even the conservative breakaway Anglican Church of North America responded with courteous coolness. The response from the decidedly conservative Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan, Archbishop and Primate, said in part:

We rejoice that the Holy See has opened this doorway, which represents another step in the growing cooperation and relationship between our Churches. This significant decision represents a recognition of the integrity of the Anglican tradition within the broader Christian church. While 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, we will surely bless those who are drawn to participate in this momentous offer.

With predictable bluntness, Keith Porteus-Wood of Great Britain’s National Secular Society said of matters there: “This is a mortal blow to Anglicanism which will inevitably lead to disestablishment as the Church shrinks yet further and become increasingly irrelevant. Rowan Williams has failed dismally in his ambitions to avoid schism. His refusal to take a principled moral stand against bigotry has left his Church in tatters.”

Those searching for ecumenism in this historic development will indeed find either tatters, or delusions.

  • A brief history of reunion talks.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury is quite displeased, Damien Thompson tells us, at having the announcement sprung on him.
  • The Archbishop of Westminster and The Archbishop of Canterbury have issued a joint letter
  • Fr. Z explains in detail and comments on the considerable implications for the SSPX negotiations and perhaps eventual reunion.
  • History is being made, concludes Austen Ivereigh for the Jesuit weekly America: “The experience of the new emigres will be closely watched by other Anglicans — and will strongly affect the prospects of long-term Anglican-Catholic unification.”

October 20, 2009 - Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion |


  1. […] U.S. Catholic/Episcopal reunification rush? Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says the American Church “stands ready to collaborate” with the Vatican in implementing a historic new provision to receive Anglicans into the Catholic Church. […]

    Pingback by U.S. Catholic/Episcopal reunification rush? « BaptistPlanet | October 20, 2009

  2. “…While 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, we will surely bless those who are drawn to participate in this momentous offer,” said Bishop Duncan. I can’t blame him for saying such, after all, he’s just witnessed the rug being pulled out from under him. On the other hand, this statement reflects the yearnings of an overly optimistic man making the best of what looks like a major body blow to his fledgling breakaway Communion. No matter how close these North American Episcopalians tried to edge towards Rome without becoming Catholic; they still represented yet an other example of what Protestantism is best at: Producing more splinter denominations and movements. I wonder if Dandy Don Meredith ever recorded “Turn out the lights, the party’s over…” in Latin.

    Comment by Steven Barrett | October 20, 2009

  3. […] and symbolic head of the Anglican Communion worldwide, said yesterday of Pope Benedict XVI’s creation of a new global institution to receive defecting Anglicans and Episcopalians into the Roman Catholic Church: I do not think this constitution will be seen as in any sense a […]

    Pingback by Rose-colored glasses award « BaptistPlanet | October 21, 2009

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