By Christian P. Hansen
LAMBETH PALACE, Thursday, October 22, 2009. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, held a second joint press conference this morning. Dr. Williams announced that, with immediate effect, the Church of England would permit parish churches to establish a "Vatican Use" liturgy to allow disaffected Roman Catholics to find a church home more to their liking.
The Roman Catholic Church has for centuries refused to ordain women, refused to allow priests and bishops to be married, and demanded that its followers acknowledge that the Bishop of Rome is unable to err in matters of defined faith and doctrine. In addition, the celibate hierarchy of the Roman communion forbids Roman Catholics from using artificial means of birth control or using condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV.
"The establishment of 'Vatican Use' in the Church of England will allow those who, in conscience, cannot accept all of the doctrinal and ecclesiological positions of the Pope of Rome to move to the Anglican communion, where you are not required to check your conscience and reason at the door of the church." said Dr. Williams, while Archbishop Nichols looked on from the side. "We in Anglicanism have a tradition of accepting people of rational faith from whatever background. We are especially welcoming to Roman Catholic priests who have been forced out of the active priesthood because they wish to be married, or just have a girlfriend like that priest in Miami. Keeping the 'Vatican Use' will allow like-minded refugees from Rome who have swum the Thames to be in community with others who have made that same journey."
Dr. Williams continued, "As we have also been in the forefront of ordaining women to the historic priesthood and, in many provinces, the episcopate, we welcome those Roman Catholic women who feel that God is calling them to a vocation as priests and bishops in the Church of God. We feel that the Roman Catholic Church would welcome this reshuffling of people from each side, from Anglicanism to the new Personal Prelature and from Romanism to the welcoming folds of the Anglican Communion."
Archbishop Nichols said, "We believe that the presence of former priests who are married in the Roman Catholic church is detrimental to the future development of Holy Mother the Church. In addition, allowing women who feel called to a vocation as priests or bishops to remain Roman Catholic means that a dangerous third-column of dissenters would exist in each parish and diocese across the land, distracting us from our mission to build up the Church of God that Jesus intended, with a male priesthood and episcopate as well as fecund parishioners who raise up large families of children and encourage them to enter the priesthood or the convent as appropriate."
He continued, "We welcome this historic realignment of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches into two distinct confessions, allowing people to make a clear choice between the two. The Holy Father has sent his personal blessings on the 'Vatican Use' to his Grace the Archbishop and expressed his hope that this initiative will be duplicated throughout the world."
Archbishop Williams thanked Archbishop Nichols for the kind words and blessings on 'Vatican Use' Anglicanism, and concluded with a request that other provinces of the Anglican communion share in 'Vatican Use' and give Roman Catholics in their provinces the opportunity to share in this historic initiative.
Their Graces then repaired to the Library at Lambeth Palace for a lunch of humble pie washed down with Bishop's Finger.
Chris Hansen is an Episcopalian transplanted to London now coping with the Church of England as a lay leader in his Diocese. This essay originally appeared on his blog.