Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pope Benedict invites Traditional Anglican Union to Cross the Tiber

It was announced today in Rome that Pope Benedict had created a structure so that the Traditional Anglican Union, an assemblage of Anglican parishes mostly in Australia, Canada and the Third World, unhappy with the liberalism of the Church of England, may join with the Roman Catholic Church and retain their "Anglican usage." Their numbers total 400,000, with 5,000 being in the United States. Details below and to come.

A quick glance at the internet shows that the Anglican Church of St. Dunstan in St. Louis Park is the only T.A.C. parish in Minnesota

Parishioner's of St. Dunstan's would have to meet no Roman Catholic admission standards. Their pastor, even if he is married, may become the pastor of the new parish but he will have to pass a "Theology Test." No married priests may become Bishops under the new structure. One suppose that if a member of another Episcopal Church wanted to join St. Dunstan's, there would be no "test" other than the usual parish registration forms. Roman Catholics would be able to satisfy their "Sunday Obligation" by attending Mass at St Dunstan's or any other parish in the Traditional Anglican Union if the are traveling. All seven sacraments are valid.

Vatican reveals plan to welcome disaffected Anglicans --- John Allen, Nat'l Catholic Reporter
In a move with potentially sweeping implications for relations between the Catholic church and some 80 million Anglicans worldwide, the Vatican has announced the creation of new ecclesiastical structures to absorb disaffected Anglicans wishing to become Catholics. The structures will allow those Anglicans to hold onto their distinctive spiritual practices, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests.

Those structures would be open to members of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the main American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. American Episcopalians are said to number some 2.2 million.
. . .

Though the announcement did not single out any specific group of Anglicans, it responds to a request made two years ago by a breakaway group known as the “Traditional Anglican Communion,” a network claiming to represent some 400,000 Anglicans worldwide, including more than 5,000 in the United States, unhappy with liberalizing moves in the Anglican Communion, including the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the ordination of openly gay clergy and bishops, and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Rather than absorbing that bloc en masse, today's move creates the possibility that bishops' conferences around the world can create personal ordinariates, a special structure that's tantamount to a non-territorial diocese, to accept
Anglicans under the leadership of a former Anglican minister who would be designated a bishop.

According to a Vatican “note” released this morning, former Anglican clergy who are married may serve as priests in the new ordinariates, but they may not be ordained as bishops. Seminarians for the new ordinariates must be trained alongside other Catholic seminarians, though they may have separate houses of formation. . . .

Last week, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top ecumenical official, went out of his way during a Vatican news conference to insist that, “We are not fishing in the Anglican lake.” Yet out of respect for freedom of religion, Kasper said, the Catholic church has a responsibility to respond when someone knocks on its door.

In an unusual move, the Vatican this morning issued a joint statement from the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, attempting to calm the waters.

“The apostolic constitution [creating the new structures] is further recognition of the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition,” that statement said. “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. . . .

One apparent implication of today's announcement is that the current leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion, Australian Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth, could not be recognized as a bishop in a new personal ordinariate. Hepworth, a former Catholic priest, has been married twice and has three children. . . . [more]

Damian Thompson is the Editor of the Catholic Herald in England and blogs editor of the Telegraph in the UK.

October 20th, 2009 10:20

Pope announces plans for Anglicans to convert en masse

The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict is setting up special provision for Anglicans, including married clergy, who want to convert to Rome together, preserving aspects of Anglican liturgy. They will be given their own pastoral supervision, according to this press release from the Vatican:

“In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.”

More on this very important story later. But this is clearly a historic gesture by Pope Benedict which will encourage thousands of disaffected Anglicans to become Roman Catholics.

This is astonishing news. Pope Benedict XVI has created an entirely new Church structure for disaffected Anglicans that will allow them to worship together – using elements of Anglican liturgy – under the pastoral supervision of their own specially appointed bishop or senior priest.

The Pope is now offering Anglicans worldwide “corporate reunion” on terms that will delight Anglo-Catholics. In theory, they can have their own married priests, parishes and bishops – and they will be free of liturgical interference by liberal Catholic bishops who are unsympathetic to their conservative stance.

There is even the possibility that married Anglican laymen could be accepted for ordination on a case-by-case basis – a remarkable concession.

Both Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Rowan Williams are surprised by this dramatic move. Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was in Lambeth Palace only yesterday to spell out to Dr Williams what it means. This decision has, in effect, been taken over their heads – though there is no suggestion that Archbishop Nichols does not fully support this historic move.

Incidentally, I suspect that Rome waited until Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s retirement before unveiling this plan: the cardinal is an old-style ecumenist who represents the old way of doing things. His allies in Rome, and many former participants in Anglican-Catholic dialogue, are dismayed by today’s news, which clears away the wreckage of the ARCIC process.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is unlikely to be pleased, though he was vigorously concealing any displeasure at a press conference this morning. (There was a lot of spin about this decision “arising out of dialogue”.) The truth is that Rome has given up on the Anglican Communion. With one announcement, the Pope has given conservative Anglicans a protected route to union with Rome – and promised that, even once they are members of the Catholic Church, they will be offered a permanent structure that allows them to retain an Anglican ethos.

Thousands of Anglicans who reject women bishops and priests and liberal teaching on homosexuality are certain to avail themselves of this provision. Within a few years, there will probably be “Anglican ethos” Catholic parishes in England and Wales (and one wonders how many conservative cradle Catholics will gratefully start attending Mass there).

Under the supervision of a “Personal Ordinary”, who can be a priest or unmarried bishop, ex-Anglicans will be able to put forward their own candidates for ordination. In the short term, there will be no difficulty in ordaining married former Anglican clergy.

The Vatican would not use the phrase, but this is very close to the setting up of a “Church within a Church”. Yet that is not as unusual as it might seem: Eastern-rite Catholics have their own liturgy and church structures, and in America a small number of ex-Anglicans use service books that borrow from the Book of Common Prayer.

Anglicans will have to request their own “Personal Ordinariate”, to use the Vatican’s clunky term. How might that play out in England? This is just a guess, but the most pro-Roman C of E bishop, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, could submit a request to Rome. He would be ordained a Catholic priest, and might himself be made “ordinary” (bishop in all but name) of ex-Anglican clergy and lay people who have been received into the Catholic Church together.

This unprecedented canonical structure will affect different countries and dioceses in different ways. But we are not talking about the creation of an “Anglican-Rite” Catholic Church. Although some parishes will want to use the Anglican-usage liturgy, in England many ex-Anglican congregations will be only too happy to avail themselves of the new English translation of the Roman Rite, to be introduced next year.

This is a decision of supreme boldness and generosity by Pope Benedict XVI, comparable to his liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass. The implications of this announcement will take a long time to sink in, but I suspect that this will be a day of rejoicing for conservative Anglo-Catholics and their Roman Catholic friends all over the world.

Pope throws a lifeline to the Church of England for women bishops

George Pitcher is Religion Editor of Telegraph Media. He is an Anglican priest and serves his ministry at St Bride's, Fleet Street, in London – the "journalists' church".

I have little to add to my colleague Damian Thompson’s analysis of Pope Benedict XVI’s bold initiative to offer Anglo-Catholics a home under Roman Catholic jurisdiction, without losing their Anglican liturgical identity.

All I would add is that this is marvellous news for the Church of England’s prospects for making up women priests to bishops, without creating an Anglican schismatic bloodbath. Traditional Anglo-Catholics, many of whom do not want to relinquish their Anglican identity, have had nowhere to go on this issue, other than conversion to Rome with a complete abandonment of Anglicanism.

Pope Benedict has thrown them a timely lifeline. He has also thrown one to Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. The issue of women bishops, approved by the Church of England’s Synod, was running into the sand, with a controversial proposal this month to impose a two-tier structure, with male bishops still having oversight in dioceses over those Anglicans who couldn’t accept women’s episcopacy. Women priests quite rightly resisted the suggestion that they would be second-class bishops.

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.

And so the Church of England can proceed more freely with women bishops. Some will insist on staying within the Anglican Church, to whinge about women’s ordination, but it’s difficult to see why they should not be accepting the Pope’s generous offer to be Roman Catholics in an Anglican way.

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