Ecumenical Acumen Excurses Cont'd: A Note of Urgency
Anglicans hesitate on the path to Rome
From Damian Thompson, religious affairs correspondent for the Daily Telegraph
09 May 2008
At least one Church of England "flying bishop" is ready to convert to Catholicism, and so are thousands of Anglicans. What is stopping them?
...The Pope is waiting to welcome the latest converts
There are four provincial episcopal visitors, to give them their proper name, and my information is that one or perhaps two of them want to be Roman Catholics, sacrificing their status as bishops in the process.
There is tremendous enthusiasm for Pope Benedict among Anglo-Catholics, who love his theological emphasis on beauty in the liturgy. He, in turn, is anxious to welcome them into the Roman fold.
Some tremendously talented Anglican priests did cross the Tiber. Of those that remained, I think we can identify four broad groups:
1. Anglo-Catholics who now accept women priests - I would never have believed, 15 years ago, that so many "bells and smells" types would become reconciled to this innovation, but they have.
2. Anglo-Catholic clergy who, despite their extreme Roman ritualism, are in irregular relationships that would not be tolerated by the Catholic authorities, so they pull up the drawbridge.
3. Anglo-Catholics who still believe, against all the evidence, that they will be able to preserve their male-only priesthood until their fellow Anglicans see the error of their ways.
4. Anglo-Catholics who know the game is up, that there will never be corporate reunion with Rome, and that their future lies in submitting to the Holy See.
It is these last people who are enduring the worst pain. They want to seize the hour while the chair of Peter is occupied by a brilliant theologian who recognises the special qualities of Anglo-Catholicism. They admire Benedict's boldness in removing the power of diocesan bishops to block the traditional Latin Mass and encouraging the setting up of congregations using only the 1962 Missal. Could he make similar arrangements for ex-Anglicans?
The current hierarchy feels no more warmly towards conservative Anglo-Catholics than it does towards the Latin Mass Society. It will do the bare minimum to accommodate converts.
No wonder the flying bishops are unhappy and confused. If they submit to Rome, they would like to do so under a truly sympathetic papacy, but who knows how long it will last?
The best solution would be for the Pope to appoint a successor to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor who is in his own image - the Dominican writer Fr Aidan Nichols, say. But the chances of that happening are slim. We are heading towards another missed opportunity.