October 20, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side

I woke up this morning to learn that the Vatican announced today that it will allow Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining their liturgies and clergy. Under this arrangement, married Anglican priests could become Roman Catholic priests, but they would not be eligible to become bishops. According to the Guardian, the Vatican made it decision “‘to respond to the numerous requests that have been submitted to the Holy See by groups of Anglican clerics and believers from various parts of the world who wish to enter into full and visible communion’ with Rome.”

The announcement was surely not a surprise. A number of Anglo-Catholic groups in the U.S. and elsewhere have appealed to the Vatican for such an arrangement, and the Vatican has not been unsympathetic. (One immediately thinks of the letter of support sent to the so-called Plano meeting of Episcopal Church dissidents in October 2003 by the current holder of the papal office.)

And what has been the reaction from the leader of the Anglican Communion to this latest development? The Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster (i.e., the Roman Catholic archbishop) issued a statement applauding the move by the Vatican, explaining that it “brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups [former Anglicans wanting to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony] who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.” They continue:
The Apostolic Constitution is further recognition of the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition. Without the dialogues of the past forty years, this recognition would not have been possible, nor would hopes for full visible unity have been nurtured. In this sense, this Apostolic Constitution is one consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.
This is yet another indication that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a radical commitment to reunion with Rome. He cannot see the Vatican move for the parasitic act that it is. The only way Rome will unite with Anglicanism is by absorbing it. Perhaps Rowan Williams wants this. Perhaps the Church of England wants this. Episcopalians don’t.

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