Vatican takeover or lifeline to Anglicans?

The Church of Ireland has always been comfortable with its Protestant identity and has played down the fact of Anglicanism as a whole’s far more complex nature as both “high” and “low” church, Anglo Catholic and evangelical, and several stages in between. The world wide Communion led by the Archbishop of Canterbury had seemed to be holding together, just about, despite the chasm that opened up over gays and women as priests and bishops. But now and with minimum notice the Vatican has thrown a grenade at Archbishop Williams’ tortuous efforts to hold the factions together by suddenly announcing an easier route to Rome for “ traditional” ( now where else have we heard that word recently?) Anglicans, not by yielding to long standing Anglican pleas for their Holy Orders to be recognised, but by suggesting that Anglican traditionalists might retain some of the Cof E liturgical forms in the Book of Common Prayer. Archbishop Williams’s efforts to spin this favourably hasn’t worked with the serious press. Ruth Gledhill of the Times.

“Anglicans privately accused Rome of poaching and attacked Dr Williams for capitulating to the Vatican. Some called for his resignation. Although there was little he could have done to forestall the move, many were dismayed at his joint statement with the Archbishop of Westminster in which they spoke of Anglicans “willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church”.
In a letter to bishops and clergy, Dr Williams made clear his own discomfiture. He wrote: “I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this. I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage.”

A scathing verdict in the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

“One of the things that this development means is that the Roman Catholic church is no longer even pretending to take seriously the existence of the Anglican Communion as a coherent body.”

A Daily Telegraph editorial takes a measured view :

“..it would indeed be intolerable if Anglo-Catholics felt they could no longer be members of the Church of England, because the Pope had annexed that tradition. On the other hand, he might well have thrown Dr Williams a lifeline, since contentious issues were never going to be resolved other than through the most convoluted mechanisms, such as so-called flying bishops and “third provinces”.

So the initial verdict is split. on whether it will now become easier or more difficult to hold the Communion together, for there is at least logic in “traditional “ Anglicans going over to Rome and the Cof E giving up its attempts to contain them. The shock felt by the Vatican announcement may or may not have been intentional – PR is the least of its concerns – but the comparative crispness over the “Apostolic Constitution” as its called, contrasts starkly with its floundering and evasion over the child abuse scandals. Where an institutional advantage is to be gained, the old supremacist reflex is as strong as ever.

  • Martin Luther

    Does this bring forward the day when all Catholic priests can marry?

  • Greenflag

    Is the Queen high or low ? -Church I mean . If she’s traditional and high and becomes one with Benny & Co will it become ok for RC’s traditionals to inherit the monarchy? Will traditional Anglicans then be expelled from the Orange Order. Will they be able to join the AOH instead ?

    The idea of an ex Wehrmacht soldier singlehandedly annexing the Church of England with the indirect assistance of gay anglican bishops and women priests sounds like a good basis for a new Dan Brown novel or better still a Spike Milligan skit if only he were still around ;( .

    Suggestions for a title anyone ?

    Oh what a tangled web we weave
    When we have to practice what we believe :

    In the declining market for spiritual services and other religious products it seems that just like any other contracting business sector the only way to ensure longer term financial security is to poach from competing brands customers . Hey it’s just business as usual -never mind the arcane philosophy and theological arguments -mammon is what it’s about .

  • Padraig

    [b]’an ex Wehrmacht soldier'[/b]

    Was the Pope in the Wehrmacht Greenflag?

    …but don’t let facts get in the way of a good rave.

  • DerTer

    “…but the comparative crispness over the “Apostolic Constitution” as its called, contrasts starkly with its floundering and evasion over the child abuse scandals. Where an institutional advantage is to be gained, the old supremacist reflex is as strong as ever.”
    Sad to say, Brian, you are spot on. What I can’t understand is Rowan Williams quiescence. I suppose the other possible reaction is why should anyone care? – I want to, but I can’t.

  • DerTer

    Sorry about the missing apostrophe – and why did my bit come up in bold?

  • Henry Joy

    Speaking from the US as a “mainstream” broad church Episcopalian and former C of I congregant, I have never had a problem with the church engaging with Rome on an EQUAL basis but that has not been the case before and is not now. This conservative Pope and his predecessor still see themselves as the “mother” church which is nonsense and with the Pope as CEO of all!
    The Reformation changed all this. What free thinking Protestant would want closer theological or doctrinal ties with Rome ? The C of E doesn’t count. Hardly anyone goes to church in England. And while a small minority (5-10 per cent max) have opted out of the US Episcopal Church over gay clergy etc the majority of Episcopalians believe in a married clergy, the priesthood of all believers (Luther), no transubstantiation, no question of infallibility, open to divorce/breakdown of marriage, open to family planning, primus inter pares for laity etc. and most congregations are slowly moving towards more inclusion for gays within our church. Protestantism has often meant schism and it doesn’t all have to be negative ! It’s a spectrum of beliefs — not a monolith. I am all for ecumenical outreach among churches but we can only engage with one another on the basis of accepting one another as equal players. Rome doesn’t accept that for a moment even in 2009.
    So for those C of E clerics who want to join the RCs, go ahead. There will be very few takers over here and maybe not many over there either. There IS growth for the Anglican communion with frustrated Catholics crossing over in the other direction. That’s my take on it. Poor Rowan Williams, forced like the UN Secretary General to go for waffle in response to being caught unawares and before that farming out to ultimate C of I “diplomat” and fudger Robin Eames the issue of gay bishops/clergy with the expected fudge on that.
    Progressive Christianity doesn’t mean waffle but it does mean inclusion and pluralism. Rome doesn’t get that.

  • Pete Baker

    “Rome doesn’t get that.”

    Indeed, Henry Joy.

    And they’ve been working towards this announcement for some time.

    As noted in this post, the Irish Times’ Patsy McGarry said it best.

    And now, from the people who brought us Limbo, then took it away. Who gave us Hell, took it away too, and have since tried to give it back to us. Who gave us the Latin Mass, took it from us, and gave it back last Saturday.

    Yes, from those same people we now have a repeat, summer-time restatement of why being Roman Catholic is “simply the best”. Furthermore, they explain again why being Protestant is to be a yellow-pack Christian.

    Yes, from the very people who under Pope Paul VI told us that Christians who were Protestant belonged to “sister churches” of the Roman Catholic Church, we are being told again that Protestant (Reformed) churches are not really sister churches at all.

    Now, they are not even churches “in the proper sense”. A bit like St Christopher, they have been demoted. They are now mere “ecclesial communities”. You could say they remain in something of an ecclesiological Limbo. If Limbo still existed.

    Pity our Anglicans, our Presbyterians, our Methodists, etc. They do not know it really, despite being told before, but their priests/ministers are not really priests or ministers at all. And as for their Holy Communion – it’s a sham! All a sham.

    Even if, when in 1997 Cardinal Desmond Connell used that word after President McAleese received communion at a Church of Ireland Eucharist service in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, he meant it was “a sham” for a Roman Catholic like her to do such a thing. But, let’s be frank, it is the Holy Orders and the Holy Communion of the Reformed Churches that Rome really sees as “a sham”.

    To be fair and as you would expect, Cardinal William Levada, current prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, put in somewhat differently in yesterday’s document (which was approved by Pope Benedict).

    He said: “According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.”

    All of which can be summarised in one pithy word – sham!

  • Greenflag

    padraig

    ‘Was the Pope in the Wehrmacht Greenflag?

    It was either that or the Hitler Youth I’m not sure .But I did’nt want to use the word Hitler in the post because of Godwin’s law 😉

    He was a young man at the time and like many others followed the herd wherever it was going . It’s a well know trait in human nature .

    I think oul Spike would have a field day with the current goings on within the Anglican Communion but then he was buried following service in an Anglican Church in England with an Irish tricolour draped over his coffin the cheeky bugger 😉

  • Greenflag

    pete baker ,

    ‘These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.”

    All of which can be summarised in one pithy word – sham!

    Wrong Pete

    the word is – wait for it

    Gobbledegook

  • Pete Baker

    Watch that knee of yours, Greenie.

    It has a tendency to slam into your mouth.

    Take the time to read and consider what is being said before responding.

  • Erasmus

    Greenflag,
    He was 15 at the time and not a ‘young man’ and it was the Hitler Youth not the Wehrmacht. Mind you if I had the choice of joining the HY or being put up against a wall and shot I would probably plump for the former.

  • Erasmus

    Will this have any implications for the religious balance in NI?

  • Billy

    Greenflag

    As Erasmus has pointed out “He was 15 at the time and not a ‘young man’ and it was the Hitler Youth not the Wehrmacht. Mind you if I had the choice of joining the HY or being put up against a wall and shot I would probably plump for the former”

    At the time, boys of 14 years or more were conscripted into the Hitler Youth so he had no choice. As far as I am aware, he refused to attend HY rallies. He was drafted into the German army but never saw active service. He eventually deserted from his Unit.

    I’m not a fan of the current Pope – however, I have never seen any evidence that he supported Nazism or particiapted in Nazi attrocities unless you can provide some.

    There is more evidence that members of the British Royal family agreed with Hitler and large parts of his philosophy.

    Of course, most Unionist posters here prefer to perpetuate untruths about the Pope and ignore the truth about their beloved Royal family despite the evidence to the contrary.

  • Brit

    I dont think there is any suggestion that he is some kind of Nazi or was in any way responsible for any crimes during WW2.

    It is his views on homosexuality and contraception which I have a particular problem with.

  • DR

    “yellow pack Christians”
    Had almost forgot about yellowpack, the stick you used to get if you dare have anytihng yellow pack in your lunch, Tescos own brand just dosnt have the same stigma, as for the subject, cant really see it having much effect on the ground in NI, or even the South, the Anglo-Catholic tradition was never that big here and off hand cant think of any “high church” Anglicans, would strongly doubt the Queen is either, and remember she becomes Presbyterian when she crosses the Scotish border.

  • kensei

    And they’ve been working towards this announcement for some time.

    Which misses a greta big whack of the story, Pete:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/6403586/The-Vatican-opens-its-arms-to-Anglicans—and-tightens-its-grip.html

    These details may seem trivial, compared to the mighty theological disputes that have divided Rome from Canterbury. They are not. For well over a century, hardline Anglo-Catholics – many of them occupying grimy Victorian Gothic buildings in inner-city parishes rather than medieval rural churches with lovely rectories – have accepted nearly all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Increasingly, as the authority of successive Archbishops of Canterbury has crumbled, they have been won over to papal supremacy.

    The biggest stumbling blocks are not doctrinal; nor does the question of married priests loom large, since the Vatican is happy to ordain married former Anglican clergyman. Intriguingly, under the new arrangements, Rome may agree to ordain some married laymen – a startling departure from tradition, unknown in the West since the Middle Ages.

    ….

    Which is why Pope Benedict has effectively cut his bishops out of the picture. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he made friends with High Church Anglicans; he is the first Pope in history to understand their concerns. He watched in dismay as liberal Catholics and liberal Anglicans engaged in ecumenical dialogue that led nowhere: the Church of England voted to ordain women priests in 1992, and now seems certain to ordain women bishops, too.

    Last year, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, desperately pleaded with the Lambeth Conference to pull back from ordaining more women bishops or openly gay men. But Pope Benedict had already made up his mind. A succession of Anglican bishops had asked for a new home, free from interference by Catholic liberals. Now he has given them what they wanted – and more.

    Lots of interesting stuff there, but key point highlighted.

    I am also unsure why the Catholic Church has to accept Protestant Churches as an equal. It doesn’t seem like it be, you know, much of a Church si if didn’t think it was right and others wrong, at least by degrees. Quite a lot of Protestant Churches would have no problems claiming the Catholic Church was not a true Church. Anywho: Anglicans have always been a bit yellow pack. The more evangelical churches might hold some crazy beliefs but at least they’ve got conviction.

    Also confused as to why you pay such rapt attention to disputes between “supernaturalists” anyway, Pete.

  • Fabianus

    kensei

    Also confused as to why you pay such rapt attention to disputes between “supernaturalists” anyway, Pete.

    Maybe like me Pete is fascinated by the unedifying spectacle, in the way one might watch two moronic boxers slug it out in the ring.

  • DR

    why the fasination Fabianus? ok Religion does set itself extremly high standards but its squabbles and fights are no worse than those in politics, business, sports or families, if your not interested in it then ignore it, like I ignore the debate on some silly beach ball incident.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I am very interested in the issue of Anglican rites and traditions – how will this square against Quo Primum?

  • Fabianus

    DR

    Of course such moronic squabbles are fascinating. They remind us that not all too long ago the losers would have been treated to a hideous death by torture. I sometimes have the feeling that certain supernaturalists would like a return to those dark days.

    And of course such tiffs are relevant. How many people would be alive in the world today if the pope hadn’t brought his medieval mindset to bear on the question of contraception/AIDS?

  • kensei

    Fabianus

    And of course such tiffs are relevant. How many people would be alive in the world today if the pope hadn’t brought his medieval mindset to bear on the question of contraception/AIDS?

    How many would have been alive if they had have followed his teaching of no sex before marriage.

    As much as I disagree with the Church on this, people want it both ways.

  • Fabianus

    kensei

    How many would have been alive if they had have followed his teaching of no sex before marriage.

    Equally unnatural. Sex is natural, a biological phenomenon; marriage has little to do with it and is a societal construction.

    The pope might equally teach that the keeping of livestock is contrary to God’s will and thereby save us all from the global warming associated with methane emissions.

  • DR

    lets just say the counties that “abolished” religion are hardly shining examples, and condoms in Africa dosnt have to be dragged into every discussion.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Oh no! Now poor auld Nelson McCausland has to avoid the Anglicans as well. Is there anywhere he can go now to avoid the rising tide of papacy?

  • kensei

    Fabianus

    Equally unnatural. Sex is natural, a biological phenomenon; marriage has little to do with it and is a societal construction.

    Forgive me, could you tell me where you get those natural growing condoms?

    Try and keep them goal posts from shifting, there.

  • Brit

    Kensei

    You are trying to defend an illogical, irrational and arbitrary rule by reference to a consequentialist argument.

    I.e. the ruling against sex before marriage is good because if we all followed it (God forbid), particulalry in places were Aids is prevalent, lives would have been saved.

    Now that’s dishonest because the rule, as I understand it, has nothing to do with consequences and certainly nothing to do with preventing death and suffering caused by the spread of STDs. The Rule is there because a putative God put it in the Bible and the reason for that is something to do with sex not being fun but something to be done to create new lives in a marriage made before God.

    Its also dishonest because the Pope and any “good” Catholic / Christian would not be willing to amend or revoke the rule if faced with evidence that actually in consequentialist terms it did more harm than good. There is no debate about God given truths and rules, and no possiblity of falsification. That’s the whole point.

    Now a strategy for harm reduction and minimisation in Aids ravaged areas which highlighted the risks of promiscuity and multiple partners, as well as the importance of using condoms, would be reasonable but not one which said that sex before marriage was morally wrong on principle (even if with a partner who had never had sex before!).

    The no sex before marriage rule has a number of harmful consquences.

    First it means people get hitched without knowing whether they are sexually compatible

    Second it means people don’t get to practice in order to get to a decent level of competency and consequently may be anxious about their performance after marriage.

    Third it prohibits a natural, healthy and enjoyable activity for no good reason.

    It also leads peole to rush to get hitched so they can get it on rather than for the right reasons of waiting for a soul mate.

  • kensei

    Brit

    It’s very simple. How “natural” something is irrelevant. The motivations behind the rule is irreelvant. People are arguing”The Catholic Church si promotingthis rule, look what harm it causes”. They conveniently omit the fact thatt here are lots of other rules, which if followed mean that the harm they get excited about doesn’t happen.

    There are still grounds to argue against the rule, even within that. But not on what gets people excited. You are also wrong that there isn’t debate within the Catholic Church on the matter, or that rules from on high can be ignored at lower levels.

    Neat line in spin, though.

  • Brit

    K I think you are the one who is spinning

    The justification for the Catholic Church’s position is not reason, logic or evidence it is faith, it is a theological rule.

    As such the rule could be modified as a result of a re-interpretation of your holy book but not by reason of argument based on reason, rights, logic, justice or evidence – at least not directly.

    As an athiest I think that Catholicism, like all religions, is a human creation. It comprises aspects of culture, moral rules, politics, philosophy, psychology, self-help, art, archichicture, group therapy and a lot more besides. The fact that I reject the concept of a God and the truth of the precepts in the Bible does mean that all religion is wrong let alone harmful or evil.

    Many Catholics live moral lives and do lots of good things. Many of the values and rules in Catholicism have much value in them. Others are irrational and others are harmful.

    Once freed from your speculative hypothesis of a very low order of probability you can pick and chose what is right, from what is not, on the basis of logic, argument, evidence etc. If not you are stuck with accepting it on the basis of faith (albeit that interpretation allows a fair bit of wriggle room)

  • kensei

    Brit

    The justification for the Catholic Church’s position is not reason, logic or evidence it is faith, it is a theological rule.

    It’s a Church.

    The justification is irrelevant. The justification for respect to the Eurcharist is theological. People do not dance up and down about it.

  • Padraig

    I see once again that anti Catholicism is the anti semitism of the chattering classes

  • Reader

    kensei: As much as I disagree with the Church on this, people want it both ways.
    People who disagree with both rules may still find it very difficult to buy condoms in repressive, theocratic, regimes.

  • Fabianus

    kensei

    Forgive me, could you tell me where you get those natural growing condoms?

    Sorry no, I don’t forgive you. That’s a stupid question. I’m saying sex before marriage is natural. So is AIDS but it can be held in check by condoms. (Somehow I think you knew that.)

    Try and keep them goal posts from shifting, there.

    I was asked why we atheists find the religious fascinating. I answered that it’s partly on account of the religious making irresponsible pronouncements that affect the lives of tens of millions. That’s hardly shifting the goalposts is it?

  • Greenflag

    pete baker ,

    ‘Watch that knee of yours, Greenie.’

    Why ? It doesn’t bend 🙂

    Nor King nor Pope , despair nor hope
    Can make us bend the knee
    From Liffeyside we draw our pride
    From Liberties pedigree .

    ‘Take the time to read and consider what is being said before responding.’

    I did -it took about 45 seconds such is my interest but the Irish times article by McGarry was fine .

    But as I look forward I see future would be Catholic priests eschewing Catholicism for Anglicanism and then being allowed to become ‘married ‘ priests ? I guess the clerical recruitment situation in the RC Church is now becoming so desperate that ending mandatory ‘celibacy’ is probably the last trick the Vatican has up it’sleeve to hold on to it’s market share .

    Not good news for gays or would be women bishops of the Anglican communion or indeed those ‘revolting ‘ Catholic women who protest at being barred from the priesthood .

    All a lot of oul humbug anyway . Celibacy is a nonsense for the vast majority of males . And it has caused the RC church more trouble than it’s worth .

    I was listening to the radio today and some catholic reporting gobshite said that priests could’nt marry women because they were already married to Christ ? Now I understand that Christ was male and Catholic priests are male so is the RC Church in favour of same sex marriage or what ?

    Stuff and nonsense the whole lot and probably more to do with the Vatican getting it’s hands on another revenue source as a quid pro quo for traditional Anglicans not having to put up with such ‘abominations ‘ as either gay or women bishops , priests etc .