Oy. Check out this lede to CNN’s story about the Vatican overture to traditional Anglicans:
The Vatican said Tuesday it has worked out a way for groups of Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their faith to join the Catholic Church
Kind of makes you wonder if the reporter understands the Christian understanding of faith. For the Christian, faith always has an object. Luther wrote “Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace . . .” The first dictionary I looked it up in (Random House) refers to it as “the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.”
So while traditional Anglicans may be dissatisfied about any number of things having to do with their church, by definition they are not dissatisfied with their faith in God.
Still, the story did a good job of identifying that particular niche of traditional Anglicans outside of the Anglican Communion that will likely be the earliest to take advantage of the offer. Too many stories have almost been making it seem like everyone with a beef with the Anglican Communion will immediately swim the Tiber. A quick visit to some of the congregations of Convocation of Anglicans in North America, for instance, would dispel that notion — they don’t lean toward Catholicism so much as evangelicalism. Or read the statement from Archbishop WIlliam Duncan or other bishops.
And at least the CNN lede is less dramatic than has been seen elsewhere. This AOL News story was headlined:
Catholic Church Makes ‘Stunning’ Move
Now maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading stories in the British press predicting this move roughly every three weeks for the last several years, but this news isn’t exactly stunning unless you haven’t been paying attention to the work that traditional Anglican bishops and then-Cardinal Ratzinger have put into this effort. Here’s an old tmatt column on the matter from 2005. But the “stunning” refers to the quote of a Notre Dame professor, for what it’s worth. Other stories said, simply, that the Anglican Communion itself was “stunned.”
The AOL story focuses on the angle that the new arrangement will permit married Anglican priests:
“It’s a stunning turn of events,” says Lawrence Cunningham, theology professor at Notre Dame University. “This decision will allow for many more married clergy in Western churches, and that’s going to raise anew the question, ‘If they can do it, why can’t the priests of Rome?’” says Cunningham. “I can already picture the electronic slugfest on the Internet in coming days and weeks.”
The Catholic church already allows clergymen who convert from Protestant denominations to remain married on a case by case basis, and married priests are common in the Eastern Rite, a group that uses Orthodox traditions but is loyal to Rome.
But the arrangement with the Anglican Communion goes much further. Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, announced in Rome that the church would set up a personal ordinariate — in essence a diocese defined not by geography, but by function, like the division that serves Catholics in the military — for converted Anglicans.
The one question that I’m not seeing asked much or answered at all is whether married priests will always be allowed in the Anglican personal ordinariates or whether you have to be grandfathered in, so to speak. Or will they always be allowed so long as they were married prior to their ordination? I think that many of the interesting repercussions to this “stunning” move depend on the answers to these questions.