Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Anglican Follies, next Act: the Vatican Steps In.

Honestly, this has me chuckling. The Times of London leads with the headline, Vatican moves to poach traditional Anglicans. Apparently this is quite a surprise to the ABC, who found out two weeks ago this was underway. Doesn't look too happy, does he?

From the Guardian:
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, informed journalists that he only heard about the apostolic constitution "a couple of weeks ago" and that there was no input from or consultation with Lambeth Palace. His face reddened as he spoke and, at one point, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, answered questions relating to Williams's leadership and authority.
What it MEANS apparently is that those of Anglo-Catholic bent (and their married priests) can use familiar liturgies etc but be actual RC. (Those with a better understanding please correct me in the comments.) As the Times put it,
The Roman Catholic Church today moved to poach thousands of traditional Anglicans who are dismayed by growing acceptance of gays and women priests and bishops....

The announcement paves the way for thousands of Anglicans worldwide to join the Roman Catholic church while maintaining elements of their own spiritual heritage.

Although Dr Williams knew that talks had been taking place in Rome, he was unaware until two weeks ago of the radical nature of the proposals being drawn up by Rome.....

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.

One aspect of the announcement by Rome is that it clears the way for women bishops in the Church of England.

The General Synod and Parliament are unlikely to approve a legal structure to “protect” Anglo-Catholics from being “tainted” by the hands of a woman, if Rome is showing them an open door.

....The proposals will also regularise the place of former Anglicans in the US who already worship under the auspices of the US Catholic bishops by bringing them also into the new, central canonical structure of the Apostolic Constitution.....

There were signs of haste at the Vatican press conference, which was only announced on Monday evening instead of several days ahead, as is the usual practice.
For more, check out Ruth Gledhill's blog and a variety of views at Madpriest's site. As George Pitcher says in the Telegraph
Pope Benedict has effectively provided a province that the Anglican Church couldn’t. Traditional Anglo-catholic Anglicans can go there, under the oversight of former Anglican prelates; married Anglo-Catholics might even be ordained into the Roman Catholic Church. There really is no excuse for Anglo-Catholics who can’t accept women bishops now. They must accept the Pope’s offer, or stay in the Anglican Church and accept women bishops. It’s no longer a case of put up or shut up, but rather go with an Anglican blessing, or stay with the Anglican way.
This seems sensible, overall. Just as there are numbers of liberal Catholics moving to TEC, the conservatives may move back. If they prefer their women to cover their heads and be silent, their gays closeted, go for it. I suspect that the yoke of Roman authority might be a little harder to bear than they think, but whatever. Via con dios, amigos. Oh, and I'm sure they'll be leaving the keys. After all, the RCs have plenty of emptying church buildings, and as an episcopal structure themselves, they aren't going to advocate stealing churches lest someone do it to them. And this may be a way of cracking open the door towards non-celibate clergy for the RC. I suspect they might one day embrace the Orthodox view that clergy can marry but bishops can't. Of course, those of liberal bent who want to stay RC may be somewhat dismayed by the effects of an influx of fractious conservatives.

Still, don't underestimate the liberals who go the other way. I am confident that a significant fraction of the population in all of the Episcopal churches we've visited have been RC by background.... there are certain little "tells" in the handful of words that differ. (For example, in the creed, the occasional word change, e.g., "in fulfillment of the scriptures", vs. "in accordance with the scriptures". ) BP isn't the only one, not by a longshot. The number of people greeting BP at coffee with "I used to be RC too!" including one former priest....! And as BP has found, it's an easy transition to make, liturgically speaking.

No, I think the interesting thing HERE will be the schismatics. Because it's quite clear you can't be married and a bishop in the RC church....priests are one thing, bishops quite another. So those with power have no incentive to move. But the people they ostensibly represent....THEY might.

So pick up the popcorn.

And wait to see who gets assimilated.

Update Andrew Sullivan's take:
For now, however, it seems an almost baldly political move, made at a pace more reminiscent of modern politics and public relations than the traditional ecclesiastical creaking of the wheels. That is troubling to me. Churches are supposed to be about eternal truths and freedom of conscience, not what amounts to an unfriendly take-over bid for a franchise.

And it does not seem to have occurred because of some deep resolution of the theological disputes between Anglicans and Catholics, but merely by a shared abhorrence of women priests and openly gay ones. If you want to switch churches, prejudice seems a pretty poor reason for doing so. But this is so sudden it will take some time to absorb and it's a little hard to take in.

HatTip Mad Priest for the news and commentary!


David |Dah • veed| said...

Benny6teen said that he would most likely leave a smaller, purer Roman Church. He may well do the same for us!

it's margaret said...

Too bad we don't counter with an open invitation to the RC gay clergy or those having hetero affairs (as indicated in the stats you posted a bit ago), saying we will accept their ordinations and the lovers in their lives.... we already have a catholic tradition! Wonder how many would make the move?!

Ha! my word thang is cuties

PseudoPiskie said...

A formerly RC now Episcopal friend of mine says "We do Catholic right!". Our priest is still rostered because the RCs have never removed him and still write to him occasionally. But he doesn't think it would be cool to put that saying on our church mugs.

IT said...

Haha that's funny. BP would agree!

JCF said...

Give me a break: on CBS News report tonight, they spoke to a Popoid priest . . . and Robert effin' Duncan.

Do you think we could hear from an actual Episcopalian (y'know, one who could say there's precisely NOTHING new about this here, since 1982?). WTF?! O_o

[Word verification: "ressect". As the Romans become just another sect, like Duncan's!]

IT said...

JCF, in biochemistry, "resection" is the process by which a double stranded DNA is "chewed back" along one strand to leave an overhang. It is required in the process of genetic recombination, which can lead to exchange and rearrangement of DNA molecules.

brian said...

The final step to church farce would be for the Patriarchs of Stamboul and Moscow to announce the formation of a British Orthodox Church.

IT said...

Diana Butler Bass nails it:
A Catholic News service story from 2005 noted that the change was a "constant trickle," saying:

Among those changing denominations, the Roman Catholics generally say they long to breathe the "free air" of the Anglican Communion, with Catholic priests usually saying they plan to marry, the bishop said. The Anglicans usually say they have had enough of the "woolly thinking" of their leadership, he added. "Anglicans who become Roman Catholic generally become very conservative Roman Catholics, while Roman Catholics who become Anglican tend to become very liberal Anglicans," he said.

These observations have been backed up in a number of academic studies--including my own work. From 2002-2006, I conducted a Lilly Endowment funded research project on vital mainline churches (findings may be found in Christianity for the Rest of Us) and found that successful mainline congregations had large populations of former Roman Catholics, sometimes as many as a fifth of the members would have once been Catholic (in two Hispanic congregations, every member was a former Catholic). Several of the project pastors had also been Catholic. In every case, the former Catholics praised the intellectual and spiritual openness of the mainline church as the major reason for switching. And the mainline congregations had accommodated many Roman Catholic faith practices--everything from centering prayer to Marian devotion--to help converts be more comfortable in the new Protestant setting.

In western Christianity, religious switching is a way of life. That the Vatican has just figured that out only proves they read polls. That's it. This isn't really news. Churchgoers are a migrant lot--and they are voting for their favorite theologies with their feet. Sometimes they vote liberal (as in the case of RC's leaving their church) and sometimes they vote conservative (as in the case of Protestants becoming Catholic). But that they do it--and that their denominations engage in sheep-stealing to boast sagging membership rolls--should surprise no one. When liberal Anglicans join the Roman Catholic Church en masse or conservative Catholics chose to become Episcopalians....well, that would be news.

Grandmère Mimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grandmère Mimi said...

I hope that the Anglicans who swim realize that the rules concerning their liturgy and other matters could change once they're part of the family. I say to them "Godspeed". As the sonnet says, "Let me not unto the marriage of true minds admit impediment."

There. That's better.