The Times has a piece by their religion writer Ruth Gledhill about the Anglican Provisions being offered by Rome.
My emphases and comments.
From The Times
October 21, 2009
Desperate bishops invited Rome to park its tanks on Archbishop’s lawn
by Ruth Gledhill
Rome has parked its tanks on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lawn after manoeuvres undertaken by up to fifty bishops and begun two years ago by an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth. [She makes it sound like the Anschluss.]
As leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a breakaway group claiming to represent up to 400,000 laity worldwide, he went to Rome seeking a means to achieve full, visible unity for his flock.
As a former Catholic priest himself, divorced and remarried with three children, he would be unlikely to be recognised by Rome as a priest or bishop, [d'ya think?] even under the structures brought in by the new apostolic constitution. He has nonetheless always received a warm welcome in Rome — in particular from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who has made the running in Rome with the backing of his predecessor at the Congregation, Pope Benedict XVI himself.
In England, negotiations with the Vatican have been led by two of the “flying bishops” [I love that term. I can picture these guys, with those old leather cap and goggles... somewhere in the background someone is turning the crank on the motor of the biplane. The "flying bishop" sets that sherry glass down on the silver tray in the hands of an aide, flicks the white silk scarf around his neck, and with a look of resolve looks up at the sky as the engine cough its way into smoky life... ] — the AngloCatholics sanctioned to provide pastoral care for opponents of the ordination of women as priests. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, [gotta love that] the Right Rev Andrew Burnham, and the Bishop of Richborough, the Right Rev Keith Newton, visited Rome at Easter last year for talks with Cardinal Levada.
Then in July last year Cardinal Levada wrote to Archbishop Hepworth assuring him and his flock “of the serious attention which the Congregation gives to the prospect of corporate unity” and promising that “as soon as the Congregation is in a position to respond more definitively concerning the proposals you have sent, we will inform you”.
Later that month, the by now desperate flying bishops appealed again to Rome for help. The General Synod of the Church of England had voted to consecrate women bishops without providing statutory protection for traditionalists. A synod revision committee overturned that this month, but too late to shut the gate.
At the start of this year Vatican sources began predicting that the announcement of some form of accommodation for Anglicans was close. But it never came, and less optimistic Anglicans assumed the whole thing was no more than a puff of grey smoke. [From the engine of that biplane.]
They dismissed the hopes of the traditionalists too soon. The reason for the delay was twofold.
Within the Vatican City’s frescoed ceilings and marbled corridors, in the Curia itself and in particular in the College of Cardinals, there were — and there remain — deep divisions about the appropriate response to Anglicans and former Anglicans seeking some form of corporate unity.
The liberals, among them [wait for it!] Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who at the time was Archbishop of Westminster, were reluctant to open the door wide to the traditionalists, partly because of their “more Roman than the Romans” style of churchmanship, but also for fear of upsetting Anglicans and the Church of England in particular. [And his own legacy?]
In the US, where a similar “Anglican usage” model has been in operation for years and will now be incorporated into the new ordinariate structures, there are 77 million Catholics alongside a mere 1.8 million Episcopalians. A few incoming conservative Anglicans have made little difference. [But a whole bunch more just might! And they can have seminaries.]
In England and Wales, the proportions are reversed, with 25 million baptised Anglicans but four million Catholics. Not only would a big influx of traditionalist ex-Anglicans undermine ecumenical harmony, it could challenge the identity of the Catholic community itself. [Right! They might make the English Catholic Church even more Roman!] Set against this, however, is the more confident American-style Catholicism that this initiative represents.
And while the shortage of Catholic priests would be alleviated by the influx of so many Anglicans, the acceptance of married clergy with families would inevitably shift the focus to a questioning of the insistence that cradle-Catholic priests be celibate. [Maybe for a little while.]
The Orthodox Church, with which the Pope is also desperate to achieve unity, does not demand a celibate priesthood although its bishops cannot marry. Celibacy is a requirement that is becoming increasingly hard to justify. [Interesting.]
So it seemed as though nothing would happen. But in May, with the retirement of Cardinal MurphyO’Connor, who is in Rome this week, Archbishop Vincent Nichols was installed as his successor.
Archbishop Nichols is a priest in the same mould as the late Cardinal Basil Hume, who led the moves to welcome in opponents of women priests back in 1994. It was predicted then that 1,000 would go but in the end a mere 441 took the financial compensation package on offer. A priest of remarkable charisma, Archbishop Nichols could easily end up in a senior position in Rome himself, if not the most senior. [ROFL! Papabile? ROFL!]
He was clearly “in charge” at the joint press conference at the Catholic Church’s Eccleston Square administrative offices yesterday, at one point interrupting to answer a question addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He appears to have no compunctions about unsettling a few Anglicans. [nice!]
Many Catholics believe that their churches and cathedrals were “stolen” from them at the Reformation and want them back. [Count me among them. After all... they were stolen!]
Although the established status of the Church of England means this could never be a straightforward process, Rome’s new move undercuts all that by allowing for unity to evolve upwards organically, from the grass roots, as forseen by an ecumenical report produced a few years ago.
Every church leader speaks about unity, but they all want it on their terms. Pope Benedict XVI is the first since the Reformation who seems to have hit on a realistic way of turning the clock back by moving it forwards. [Which is exactly what he did with Summorum Pontificum. It is called continuity. Analogy: Think of the movie African Queen. Consider the case faced by Kate and Humphrey, or "Rose" and "Charile". They are stuck on a river after going over rapids The propeller is damaged. They must fix the prop so that they can go faster than the water current. If they are not able to go faster than the current, they won’t be able to steer the boat. The current will sweep them to their doom. Without a working engine and prop, you either crash on the rocks or, as Charlie must, you drag the boat by a rope and get leeches all over you. And who wants that? "But Father! But Father!" you are surely saying in exasperation. "What does this have to do with anything in the Church? The propeller of the boat is the very last part of the boat. It is simultaneously your connection to the past as it impels you into the future. With a propeller, you can steer a course. Without it you are doomed. You must keep moving to remain alive and come through safely to your desired port. It is your connection to the past that allows you to chart your future course. To move the clock forward, you turn it back.]
As evangelicals defect in one direction and traditionalists in the other, and disestablishment beckons with the reform of the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury faces being left with a dwindling number of liberals in the centre struggling to maintain a heritage of ancient, Grade I listed churches. [Hey! We can send the Anglicans a whole bunch more!]
Church-sharing already takes place between Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, the Orthodox and others. The Catholic Church could, through its new Anglican ordinariate, find itself repossessing its churches, almost by default. [I'd be happy to take one.]
There was bewilderment yesterday among Anglicans as they struggled to make sense of Rome’s initiative.
It was left to the National Secular Society to say publicly what many Anglicans would only admit privately. “This is a mortal blow to Anglicanism which will inevitably lead to disestablishment as the Church shrinks yet further and become increasingly irrelevant,” it said. “Rowan Williams has failed dismally in his ambitions to avoid schism. His refusal to take a principled moral stand against bigotry has left his Church in tatters.”
In the meantime, also in The Times…
Hundreds of Anglican clergy who oppose women bishops are meeting this weekend to discuss whether to abandon the Church of England for the Roman Catholic church.
About 500 members of Forward in Faith, the leading traditionalist grouping, will be in London to debate Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an Anglican “ordinariate” or diocese to operate under a new Apostolic Constitution.
Many are waiting for the publication of a Code of Practice by Rome to flesh out the detail of what is on offer before deciding whether to go.
More than 440 took the compensation package on offer and left the Church of England, most for Rome, after the General Synod voted to ordain women priests in 1992. Some subsequently returned.
The Pope has made it it significantly more attractive for Anglicans to move over this time by allowing them to retain crucial aspects of their Anglican identity and allowing them to set up seminaries which will, presumably, train married men for the Catholic priesthood. [Maybe not.]
But any serving clergyman would face a marked loss of income. [This is a fairly big issue. Some of these guys have families.]
A job as a clergyman in the Church of England comes with a stipend of £22,250 and free accommodation. Catholic priests earn about £8,000, paid by their parish and sometimes topped up by a diocese.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams indicated there will be no compensation package on offer this time. It was only introduced at the last minute previously as a way of getting the whole women’s ordination package through the General Synod with the necessary two-thirds majorities.
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Catholic who retired earlier this year as the Church of England’s Bishop of Rochester, today welcomed the Roman Catholic Church’s “generosity of spirit” its recognition of Anglican patrimony.
But he made clear that many issues needed to be resolved before decisions about leaving could be made.
“Orthodox Anglicans should see this recognition of patrimony by another church as affirming the elements of apostolicity and catholicity in their own church, for which they have always stood.
“In the meantime, there is a need to build confidence in the evangelical basis of the Anglican tradition and to make sure that it survives and flourishes in the face of the many challenges it faces. However, before some fundamental issues are clarified it is difficult to respond further to what the Vatican is offering.”
The two “flying bishops” appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to care for opponents of women priests also said this was not a time for “sudden decisions”. [Yah... because dithering has really helped in the past.]
Bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham and Bishop of Richborough Keith Newton, who went last year to Rome to begin talks with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: “Anglicans in the Catholic tradition understandably will want to stay within the Anglican Communion. Others will wish to make individual arrangements as their conscience directs.
“A further group of Anglicans, we think, will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land.” [But... without the Ark or Moses.]
They suggested February 22 next year, the Feast of The Chair of Peter, as an appropriate day for priests and people “to make an initial decision as to whether they wish to respond positively to and explore further the initiative of the Apostolic Constitution”.