New Anglican News

I apologize if my posts are all on Anglicanism at the moment, but truly historic things are happening, and it should be of interest to all Catholics.

Damian Thompson reports today that one of the traditionalist Anglican bishops, Andrew Burnham, is preparing to lead Anglo Catholics to Rome en masse. He is already in discussions with the Vatican about the ways forward. They seem to want to come in with their Anglican churches and congregations. Whether or not this means an expansion of the Anglican Use liturgy to England is uncertain. Most of these Anglo Catholics already use the Roman Rite, and for them to revert to the old Anglican prayer book is not something they are asking for.
It all sounds wonderful, but I fear there are far too many problems for it to work. First of all, it seems very unlikely that the Anglican Church would give up their buildings without a fight of some sort, and it also seems unlikely that the English Catholic hierarchy would c-rountenance some sort of Anglo-Catholic church within a church. Furthermore, the Anglo-Catholics are not spread neatly and evenly around England. There are some in every diocese, but there are large concentrations of them in the Dioceses of Blackburn, Chichester and London. The Catholic Dioceses in those areas could not suddenly take on a huge number of churches and clergy without radical re-ordering. In my experience of the English Catholic Church, they don’t really have the imagination and drive to make the changes necessary. 
There are other problems. Not all English Catholics want a large influx of Anglo Catholics. This antipathy is from both the conservatives and liberals. Conservatives aren’t keen on a load of people they perceive as intrinsically Protestant suddenly coming into the Catholic Church. Liberal Catholics don’t want them because they think they are all ‘dangerous misogynistic conservatives.’
Added to that is the fact that the Anglican clergy cannot be ordained as Catholic priests suddenly. They will need to do some re-training. The married ones will have to apply for a dispensation from the vow of celibacy. The English Catholic church already has more married former Anglican priests than anywhere else in the world. The Catholic priesthood in England would be overbalanced with too many married men. Then there is the practical problem of finding suitable jobs for the married men to be able to support their families. Many Catholic bishops will simply say ‘no thanks’.
Finally, there is the problem of marriage discipline. Many Anglican clergy and laity alike are in marriages that are irregular. Unless Rome grants some sort of amnesty or allows local clergy to grant decrees of annulment, each irregular marriage will have to be dealt with before the person can come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
It’s far more likely that Bishop Burnham’s move is another political gambit–trying to force the Anglicans to grant their wishes anyway. In the end, I fear the good bishop will have to convince all his followers–clergy and laity alike– to simply bite the bullet and take the difficult step of being reconciled to the Catholic church on an individual basis.
But we are living in exciting times. It is possible that the rumors are true, and following the overtures from the Traditional Anglican Communion that Rome has already devised a plan to reconcile as many Anglicans as possibless as easily as possible. The rumor was that this plan is in place, and the Vatican is waiting until after the Lambeth Conference to announce it.
I doubt it, but it may be so.

  • alphonsus rodriguez

    The difficulty I’ve always had with the idea of an entire parish of Anglicans being received into the Catholic Church is this: I find it implausible that a large group of Anglicans can all at the same time decide that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Our Lord and that the entire group all at the same time should therefore be willing to accept all of the teachings of the Catholic Church–especially those which differ from what they had believed as Anglicans. When an individual Anglican discovers that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Our Lord, he has no option but to immediately seek to be received into the Church. It would not be a legitimate option for him to delay for any reason (e.g., in hopes of some corporate union between an Anglican body and the Catholic Church). There is no “in between” position between not believing the claims of the Catholic Church on the one hand and accepting these claims on the other. Anglo-Catholics inevitably pretend to exist in this nonexistent “in between” position. Before anyone points to the example of the eastern rite churches that were at one time not in communion with Rome, I can only say that in these instances the situation was quite different. There was no question that these churches were churches “in the proper sense” with valid orders and sacraments. On what legitimate basis can any Anglican who believes the claims of the Catholic Church defer seeking full communion with the Catholic Church?

  • Augustine

    “Many Catholic bishops will simply say ‘no thanks’.”God forbid.

  • nealleyn

    The disintegration of the Anglican communion, and of the Church of England in particular, has been clear for some time. I suspect Rome has had a clear way forward in place for several years, perhaps even in the form of a personal prelature under canons 294-297 of the Code of Canon Law. A personal prelature would seem to me to be the easiest way to absorb so many (clergy especially) at one time. If Rome acts quickly to receive Bp Burnham and his followers, the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales will have to adjust, whether they like it or not.Deacon Nathan Allen

  • Fr. Jeffrey Steel

    The ideal way to do this will be to do so en masse with ordinations being dependent individually. Rome cannot accept irregular marriages and men having been divorced and remarried unless this is properly dealt with. In those individual cases it will take more time. But for those of us who are married and have children (I have six) it will also be a concern for the Church if I were to die. That is why I can assure the Church of a large life insurance policy on me in case I do die so that my wife doesn’t have to remarry and can support the family. There are ways around the issues that you bring up and England is so very short of priests that even if all 1,333 priests came it would supply the need for evangelisation of this Catholic land again. The Vatican needs an imaginative vision and so do the local bishops. This could be so exciting for the kingdom as England becomes a Catholic nation once again. If not, then Fr. Dwight is correct. Individual conversions will be the requirement. God give us wisdom and direction!

  • motuproprio

    Perhaps this will accelerate the appointment of an imaginative Archbishop of Westminster who can carry through all that Benedict deems to be wise for the Catholic Church in England.

  • Richard Ballard

    Dear Fr. Dwight,I suspect that you are correct that the Church of England will not easily give up its parish properties to the Catholic Church. However, we should remember that many of those properties belonged to the Catholic Church to begin with and were stolen in the 16th century. Perhaps this would be an opportunity for the Anglicans to clear their consciences on this matter!Richard

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Actually, many of the best Anglo Catholic churches are beautiful 19th century buildings. We could do a deal: CofE gets to keep all the medieval buildings for the time being. We’ll have the nice 19th c. ones.

  • Padre Steve

    Wow… things are really moving over there!

  • dianonymous

    Alphonsus: I see it playing out somewhat the way it did for Pentecostal preacher Alex Jones, who led his congregation into the Catholic Church. (He is now a married deacon.) Those who wanted to follow him did so (about half the church). The rest did not. It was difficult but it worked. I think that’s the only way it can be done…obviously no parish is a monolith, so not every member will go along for the ride across the Tiber. But enough will, methinks. I for one say, “Welcome!”

  • alphonsus rodriguez

    Dyanonymous: Without knowing the particulars of the incident to which you refer, I would guess that what was involved was a group of people seeking to come to some understanding of what the Church is. Once a certain number of them reached a decision together, they sought full communion with the Catholic Church. It seems to me that the situation with the Anglo-Catholics is quite different from this. They were apparently content to remain in the C of E amidst all of its lunacy until this business with the women bishops became the last straw. By their own admission if they had been granted “flying bishops” or some other accommodation, they would not be thinking of making the move to Rome. I simply can’t see what recent developments in the C of E has to do with the question of whether or not the Catholic Church is the Church established by Our Lord.

  • Catholicdude

    “and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Please, my fellow Catholics, pray for the English Catholic Hierarchy! Pray for the reconciliation of these conservative Anglicans with Rome. Don’t be negative. Just trust in the Lord! He will make a way for these folks, and the Lord knows that Pope Benedict is more than willing to make provision for all these folks. This is a move of the Holy Spirit to bring scores and scores of people to conversion to the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. All that we can do here on the ground is offer our prayers, sacrifices, and alms for the intention of a smooth reception for these folks. Let it be, dear Lord, let it be!

  • Jeffrey Smith

    I’m inclined to be skeptical, but after seeing a profile photograph I don’t think I’d want to underestimate this man. He looks like one of those old medieval bishops who were fully capable of using their crosiers as battering rams if all else failed.

  • Fr Lee Kenyon

    Father,Many thanks for your comments. You might also be interested my own blog, Anglican Wanderings: and our take on the current situation.

  • dianonymous

    Alphonsus: Google Alex’s book and video, “No Price Too High.” (Please do not confuse this Alex Jones with the conspiracy-theory nutburger of the same name, BTW! i heard of the latter only recently, and believe me, they are two completely different people. :))Anyway–the long and short of it is: Alex read the Church Fathers (and thereby read himself into the Church); over time he shared his discoveries with his congregation; some members went along, others didn’t. It’s a fascinating story…well worth reading!

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Here’s an interesting thought: Could Rome use the European Union’s courts of Human Rights to demand the properties taken from her during the reign of England’s murderous tyrant Henry VIII? Could break away Anglicans, on those grounds, demand that their churches remain in their hands?I agree with you. Once an organization, like SSPX, has its own property, its owners never come home to Rome voluntarily. Property and schism go hand in hand. The Anglicans are in fact schismatics, just as the Chinese nationalized catholic churches will someday be. They pretend towards democracy, but those liberal anglicans will never, ever give up property democratically.

  • MAB

    Father, please don’t apologize for covering the Anglican issue as you have been. And keep it up. This is so important to us as Catholics, and you have quite a unique insight into the whole thing. I look forward to your posts on it for explanation and analysis.

  • kentuckyliz

    Here’s a via media for the via media. A former RC priest friend of mine, who was divorced before ordination and remarried since, founded the Catholic Anglican Church. Get in on the ground floor!