Vatican Welcomes Traditional AnglicansOctober 27, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
Tags: "Benedict's Gambit", A.N.Wilson, Anglican Communion, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bob Abernathy, Established Church, Irish Catholics, John Allen, National Catholic Reporter, Opus Dei, Personal Ordinariates, Personal Prelature, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Ross Douthat, Traditional Anglican Communion
Well, Pope Benedict XVI’s recent announcement that traditionalist Anglicans–including married priests, bishops (sort of), parishes and dioceses–will soon be welcomed into the Roman Catholic communion is certainly getting a lot of press. For Ross Douthat, in the October 25 New York Times, “Benedict’s Gambit,” as he calls it, may be geared to a deeper conflict than the presenting intra-Christian one ( sex)–“Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.”
For the British novelist A.N. Wilson, in the Op-Ed section of that same issue of the Times, the Pope’s gambit may be a good thing, despite its conservative motivation. By weakening Anglicanism in Britian, the overture may bring about the demise of the Established Church there, a “move toward the complete secularization of Britain, and an acceptance of its new multicultural identity.”
And in response to Bob Abernathy’s question on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly about whether the Vatican is “fishing” for converts here, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter replied that “the Vatican’s line is that even though we didn’t solicit them, when people knock on our door we have a responsibility to open it up.” If Allen’s personal interpretation of these developments deviates at all from this Vatican “line,” he certainly doesn’t share it in this interview.
I don’t want to waste my time reiterating what these and many other commentators have said about the pope’s “gambit,” but I do want to make two ponts of my own:
The first is that I am deeply ashamed of the actions of the leaders of my church. To my many Episcopal friends and former students, I apologize. Commentators can talk till hell freezes about how none of this was the Vatican’s idea, but it’s hard to deny that the Roman Catholic Church is interfering here in the affairs of another Christian communion at a time when that sister-church is confronting great internal conflict. This I believe is a violation of the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. To suggest that it is somehow the culmination of years of ecumenical dialogue seems to me a travesty. With this in mind, I look forward to reading soon some analyses of the Vatican’s actions in light of the Vatican II document on ecumenism.
Secondly, that the particular Christians ostensibly to be welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church are Anglicans is of some significance to me. I am a second generation Irish Catholic; my father’s parents emigrated to the US sometime before the 1916 Easter uprising in part at least to escape English (and Anglican) oppression. (Also poverty, for sure.)
One of the reasons I have remained a Catholic over these many less than easy years is because of my loyalty to Irish Catholicism (and to the working class culture to which that Catholicism was linked for more than a century). As a Catholic women’s ordination activist I am often asked why I don’t just become an Episcopalian; because, I respond, my grandparents would turn over in their graves.
Now, however, it would seem that not just Anglicans, but extremely traditional (misogynist, homophobic) Anglicans are going to be welcomed into the Church to which I and many other Irish American Catholics have remained loyal for a century and a half. So here’s my question: are these guys going to become pastors of Catholic parishes, the ones my ancestors built with their 25-cent-a-week contributions over entire lifetimes , the ones Protestant mobs in Philadelphia tried and is some cases succeeded in burning down in the 1840s because we didn’t want to read the (Anglican) King James Bible in the public schools?
In an article in the National Catholic Reporter, the optimistic John Allen suggests that this will not be the case. Instead, “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.” Such “personal ordinariates” are “similar to the structures created throughout the world to provide pastoral care for members of the military and their families. The structures are in effect separate dioceses, presided over by a bishop and with their own priests, seminarians, and faithful. They are also similar to “the canonical status of a ‘personal prelature,’ currently held by only one Catholic group: Opus Dei.”
I note, however, that the current bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Nicholas DiMarzio–the one who kept wondering in public, before the 2008 election, how good Catholics could possibly vote for Obama–is a member of Opus Dei. So “personal prelatures” aren’t all that separate. And since some commentators have hypothesized that this move by the Vatican is at least in part an attempt to solve the priest shortage, I guess it all remains to be seen, doesn’t it?