The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict is setting up special provision for Anglicans, including married clergy, who want to convert to Rome together, preserving aspects of Anglican liturgy. They will be given their own pastoral supervision, according to this press release from the Vatican:
“In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.”
This is very big. If this reconnection is well-facilitated, we may see the entire African arm of the Church of England (which is currently its most vibrantly-growing branch) cross the Tiber, and that will be a very interesting development, especially as Catholics are exposed to the Anglican-use liturgy, which will remind many of everything they loved about the Latin mass, but in the glorious language of the Anglican liturgy. This may accelerate the already-growing movement within the Catholic church to correct some of the liturgical excesses and errors we’ve seen in the last 40 years.
As I said earlier, as secularism and evangelical atheism gain in influence and power, we may well see the a new unity among Christians, ut unum sint, (that they all may be one). I have written before about the coming “schism” which will manifest itself here in America with the creation of an American Catholic Church:
…which will look quite a lot like the Church of England or the Anglican church – rites, rituals, “sacraments” etc, [plus female priests, gay marriage, divorce and a more pro-choice stance] and it will even have the imprimatur of the government insofar as it may – and it will be a church that the majority flock to; it will be seen by many as the “victory” over that stuffy old, stubborn Church of Rome. People will go on Oprah and say “I always loved God but I never felt accepted, but this enlightened American Catholic Church tells me what I need to hear, that God loves me and that divorce, abortion and all that stuff doesn’t matter as long as I am a good person, and I AM a good person, Oprah, I AM, and now I am accepted, and (weep, weep) I feel like God finally makes sense in the world!”
“That’s right,” Oprah will declare, “there is no sin, except the sinfulness of not loving the self! God doesn’t make junk!”
It would not surprise me at all to see Christians eventually forced underground. That, paradoxically, will be a time of great strength and growth, as distinctions are made between the churches that teach the era throughout the faith, and those that teach the faith throughout the age.
Then again, Brian Saint-Paul says atheists are facing a schism of their own.
Instalanche! Thanks, Glenn! Updates below:
Forbes (Via AP’s Nicole Winfield):
Vatican creates new structure for Anglicans
The new church structure, called Personal Ordinariates, will be units of faithful within the local Catholic Church headed by former Anglican prelates who will provide spiritual care for Anglicans who wish to become Catholic.
“Those Anglicans who have approached the Holy See have made clear their desire for full, visible unity in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” [Cardinal William] Levada said. “At the same time, they have told us of the importance of their Anglican traditions of spirituality and worship for their faith journey.”
. . .the Vatican’s archbishop of Westminster and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the global Anglican church, issued a joint statement, saying the decision “brings an end to a period of uncertainty” for Anglicans wishing to join the Catholic Church. The statement said the decision in fact could not have happened had there not been such fruitful dialogue between the two.
“The ongoing official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing cooperation,” the joint statement said.
Damian Thompson notes that the Archbishop of Canterbury seems less than pleased
UPDATE II: The indispensable John Allen (via equally indispensable New Advent has numbers and more details on how things will work: Vatican Revelas Plan to Welcome Disaffected Anglicans:
In a move with potentially sweeping implications for relations between the Catholic church and some 80 million Anglicans worldwide, the Vatican has announced the creation of new ecclesiastical structures to absorb disaffected Anglicans wishing to become Catholics. The structures will allow those Anglicans to hold onto their distinctive spiritual practices, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests. . . . the main American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. American Episcopalians are said to number some 2.2 million.
today’s move creates the possibility that 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.
. . .former Anglican clergy who are married may serve as priests in the new ordinariates, but they may not be ordained as bishops. Seminarians for the new ordinariates must be trained alongside other Catholic seminarians, though they may have separate houses of formation.
The details will be presented in a new apostolic constitution from Pope Benedict XVI, expected to be issued shortly. Popes issue apostolic constitutions in order to amend the church’s Code of Canon Law, in this case to create new legal structures.
The Vatican note described the new “personal ordinariates” as 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.
You’ll want to read it all.
America Magazine’s Austen Ivereigh:
By creating a parallel jurisdiction which helps to safeguard their identity as Anglicans, Pope Benedict has dealt with many of their key fears — and allowed for a corridor to Rome which thousands will go through over the next few years, leading to a gradual diminution of the Anglo-Catholic element in worldwide Anglicanism.
The experience of the new emigres will be closely watched by other Anglicans — and will strongly affect the prospects of long-term Anglican-Catholic unification. History is being made.
UPDATE IV: Interesting question that is popping up in email: does this mean that men who cross the Tiber via this method will also be able to be ordained, even after they marry? That would make it “rubber to the road” time for a lot of young Catholic men who have said, “I’d be a priest, if only priests could marry…” As one correspondent writes: I was wondering the same thing. The Eastern churches can [they must be married before ordination -admin], but they have a history Anglicans don’t. But this appears to be a pretty generous provision, so who knows?
Another correspondent -an “in the know” priest- says “apparently the answer is ‘yes.’”
Creative Minority Report continual updates and notes:
While this move is clearly in response to the TAC, it is not limited to it. This allows for any group of Anglicans who seek unity, whether Episcopalians or other Anglicans, to come into unity intact. This is potentially much much bigger than just the Traditional Anglican Communion.
Ruth Gledhill: UK Times Online: has more on the reaction of the Archbishop of Canterbury: Pope unity move ‘not act of proselytism or aggression’ says Rowan Williams
Rowan Williams says in the letter however that this should not be regarded as an act of proselytism or aggression by Rome.
He admits he only knew of this at a very late stage, which just goes to show he doesn’t read the newspapers as we all wrote last year that traditionalists were in talks with Rome about doing something like this. The flying bishops confess as much in their statement.
Damian is so excited, he’s written even more, and sort of addresses the question in update IV:
The Pope is now offering Anglicans worldwide “corporate reunion” on terms that will delight Anglo-Catholics. In theory, they can have their own married priests, parishes and bishops – and they will be free of liturgical interference by liberal Catholic bishops who are unsympathetic to their conservative stance.
There is even the possibility that married Anglican laymen could be accepted for ordination on a case-by-case basis – a remarkable concession.
The most important point to stress is that the Vatican is responding to a request from others who wish to join the Catholic Church. They are not merely going out to pick some low-hanging Anglican fruit or, as Cardinal Walter Kasper put it, “We are not fishing in the Anglican lake.” . . .But, I worry, too, that some of these newcomers will also be nostalgists, anti-feminists, and anti-gay bigots.
Get Religion notes this has been in the works for far longer than recent ordinations may indicate.
A joyful statement: by some Anglican Bishops and other reactions
Deacon Keith Fournier: waxes lyrical
DaTechGuy has a good round up
Fr. Z: Very “Inside Baseball” and instructive
Reuters: Pope makes it easier for Anglicans to convert
Midwest Conservative Journal
Fr. Dwight Longnecker
Deacon Greg: Has A statement from Fr. George Rutler