UPDATED: See addendum at the bottom of this post as to substance of the meeting, and impending report on women bishops.
It serves someone's purpose to reveal that a delegation of Anglo Catholic bishops from the Church of England recently traveled to Rome to declare their earnest interest in joining the Catholic Church. The bishops are opposed to the impending approval of women bishops in the Church of England.
The Telegraph has two reports:
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that schemes to allow for an exodus of Anglican priests are being discussed at the highest levels of the Vatican. This is likely to prove highly embarrassing for the Pope and deepen suspicions that he is preparing to poach clergy from England only months before he visits Britain.
Anglican bishops in secret Vatican summit
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the [Catholic] Archbishop of Westminster, was unaware of the summit, which is likely to prove embarrassing to the Catholic Church ahead of the Pope's visit to Britain later this year as it will rekindle fears that it is trying to poach Anglican clergy. One source close to last week's discussions said that the Anglican bishops raised concerns with the Vatican officials that there is opposition to them defecting from Catholic bishops in England.The Vatican is learning something about its bedfellows. This is a fairly transparent attempt by Anglo Catholics to influence the synod to vote against letting women be bishops; that vote occurs in July. How serious can their threats be if they're willing to break the pledge of secrecy with the Vatican?
A leading Anglican cleric said: "This will seriously embarrass the Pope.
"It's a plot within the Vatican that they are desperate to keep quiet until they are ready to go public."
Speaking of the Ordinariate,
DOUBTS have been raised about whether former Church of England clerics would have distinctive “transferrable skills” to bring to the Roman Catholic Church, if they ceased to be part of the Anglican Communion.
[One speaker,] The Revd Philip North, Team Rector of Old St Pancras, London, warned that the opportunities for mission would be reduced because “we have the furniture of the Church of England,” which occupied a legal and cultural role. This was part of the nation’s self-understanding, responsible for whole communities. “Is that patrimony importable?” he asked. Clergy in the Ordinariate would have to be in secular employment because the Roman Catholic Church could not raise the money — £64,000 in his case in London — to keep them in a house and stipend. Fr North said that the Ordinariate could become irrelevant: “If we reach a point where staying is not an option, then traditional conversion is far more likely to offer the kind of enrichment and ministry that we know now.”
Rev. Keith Newton, the bishop of Richborough, said the trip consisted of "nothing more than exploratory talks" and denied a report in The Sunday Telegraph that he and his colleagues had secretly promised the Vatican they were ready to defect to Rome. [I.E., Damian Thompson is wrong.]Irish Times
Newton was joined in his most recent trip by Rev. Andrew Burnham, the bishop of Ebbsfleet, and Rev. John Broadhurst, the bishop of Fulham. Burnham did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but Broadhurst also confirmed that the trip had taken place, although he declined to say what was discussed. "I don't want to be drawn on it," he said, explaining that the issue "can damage both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church."
The Church of England also refuses to speak publicly about the issue, saying only that conversion is a matter for individual Christians to decide.
Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi was yesterday unable to confirm UK media speculation that leading Church of England bishops held a series of secret “conversion” meetings with advisers to Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican last week. Other senior Vatican officials claimed to have no knowledge of such meetings.The Times: The Church of England is expected to pave the way for the consecration of women bishops when it publishes final proposals this week. ... The proposed legislation is to be sent to members of the synod on Friday.
Three Anglo-Catholic bishops in the Church of England, including the Bishop of Fulham, the Right Rev John Broadhurst, met advisers of the Pope in Rome last week to discuss setting up an “Ordinariate” in England under the scheme announced by Benedict XVI for disaffected Anglicans. The number who leave is not expected to be as great as had been feared.