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.