The Anglican Right

Will the present melt down in the Anglican Church cause more Episcopalian priests and people to come home to Rome? It looks like the snazzy new website for the Pastoral Provision is making things easier.

The Pastoral Provision is Rome’s procedure for allowing married former Episcopalian and Anglicans to be dispensed from the vow of celibacy so they can be ordained as Catholic priests.

This could be a very positive way forward for many Anglicans who are already close to the Catholic Church in their beliefs and practices and who have come to realize that Anglicanism is now so compromised in every way as to be, for all practical purposes, more of a politically correct set of rules than a Christian church.

More interestingly, is the snazzy new website another sign that something is cooking at the Vatican regarding Anglicanism? In 2003, when he was still Ratzinger, Pope Benedict sent a very encouraging and supportive letter to conservative Anglicans meeting in Plano Texas as a result of the consecration of gay bishop Gene Robinson.

Ratzinger wrote on behalf of John Paul the Great, “I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this city from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ’s Gospel in England.”

Since then Rome has approved the Book of Divine Worship–a complete set of Catholic ritual that has grown out of Anglican traditions. This is the authorized rite for those parishes that wish to come over to Rome together and keep their priest and their Anglican traditions.

Is the Vatican meeting on celibacy of priests tomorrow connected with an extension of the Anglican rite worldwide? Is Rome offering a road home for disenchanged Anglicans throughout the world? There are some tantalizing rumours over at Amy Welborn’s site which take this further. For ten years I have worked in England with the St Barnabas Society–a Catholic charity that works with convert clergy. I know from being ‘on the inside’ there of very high level discussions between Rome and ‘continuing’ Anglican leaders that have been going on for some time. If you would like to read more check out this fascinating essay by English convert from Anglicanism, the Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols.

It seems clear to me that the Church is bending over backward to woo the Anglicans. The Catholic Church is saying to Anglicans worldwide, “Come home. What is keeping you from unity with the Church? You may retain married priests. You may retain your own liturgy. You may retain your own buildings. What are your obstacles?”

This seems to apply most obviously to Anglo Catholics, but as a former Evangelical, I would argue that low church Anglicans should also consider the option. If Evangelicals but consider what Catholics really believe they would find their objections far, far smaller than they imagine.

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  • Anonymous

    I don’t know, Fr. Dwight. I would love nothing more than for a whole slew of my Anglican brethren to cross the Tiber, but I have to say that I don’t find the BDW or the AU themselves to be strong enticements. Most of those who cross over, clergy or lay, do so individually. What that means is that the vast majority of clergy are coming over as PP priests saying the Novus Ordo mass. At most, there are 7 AU parishes, and I understand the SC parish has “reverted” to Novus Ordo (not sure how or why that happened).For an entire congregation to cross over would obviously require a lot of internal dialogue and discernment, and given the climate in TEC, that would create a lot of flack. It’s quite frankly much easier for parishes to “cross the Niger,” and join the Global-South bandwagon. In my old TEC diocese, a very conservative bishop was replaced by a more liberal one (ordained the same weekend as VGR), and many conservatives have fled, but they have all gone AMiA or under Uganda and Nigeria. One priest was received into the Catholic Church and is in discernment about the PP, and a few laity have trickled over, but there really hasn’t been a huge impetus.As far as liturgy, I of course miss the BCP language. I would love nothing more than to attend some kind of “indult” BDW mass, but there’s really no motivation for the bishop to allow it or for parishes to offer it. I assume you’ll be saying mass from the Pauline missal yourself?

  • I agree. It is unlikely to happen. This is because discontented Anglicans rarely have the time or courage to really examine the underlying problem–which of course, is the question of authority. They will go anywhere and agree to the most ludicrous kind of ecclesiology in order not just to retain the religion they want, but most of all to avoid Rome.Sadly, many Anglicans conceive of the modern Catholic Church must like the Catholic Church of their childhood. They think it is still all dark churches wreathed in smoke with candles guttering before lurid statues…Italian ladies muttering rosaries and Irishmen yelling out drunken prayers to Jesus Mary and Joseph.The level of true ignorance about the modern Catholic Church is astounding. They really cannot see the New Catechism, JP2, B16, the new ecclesial movements or any of the other great things about the church of the 21st c. They are therefore, bound, most of them, to remain in their Anglican backwater–a backwater that becomes more shallow and brackish by the day.Yes, I will be celebrating the Novus Ordo–with dignity and love I hope. I don’t mind learning the Tridentine Rite if it is pastorally necessary, and here at St Mary’s Fr. Bart wants me to learn to say the Maronite Rite. With all that, plus having to learn Spanish to minister to the Hispanic population, I fear the Anglican rite is pretty low down my list of priorities!Thanks for your comment.

  • I’m leaving this comment partly as a test, and partly to say the above comment was mine. I don’t know why my comment showed up as “anonymous.” I’m still having trouble posting here, I think because of Blogger Beta issues.Frank