It may be a while before anybody can speak with any real knowledge about the impact of the development described in the AP story below, which contain a major error in its first paragraph.
Pope Benedict XVI has created a new church structure for Anglicans who want to join the Catholic Church, responding to the disillusionment of some Anglicans over the ordination of women and the election of openly gay bishops.
The new provision will allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while maintaining their Anglican identity and many of their liturgical traditions, Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal official, told a news conference.
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,” 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 problem is that the group that has petitioned the Catholic Church for this new status, the Traditional Anglican Communion, broke from Canterbury in 1991, twelve years before Gene Robinson was made a bishop. But hey, the fact that the Anglican Communion was going to break up over the gay issue is such a well-established article of faith among so many journalists that Nicole Winfield decided not to let the facts get in her way.
The Guardian’s story is a little better. It gets at the nub of the matter:
… [U]nder the new arrangements, Anglican communities that joined the Catholic church would be able to keep their own liturgy while remaining outside the existing dioceses. Their pastoral care would be entrusted instead to their own senior prelates, who would not necessarily become Catholic bishops.
The question is whether there are large numbers of people who want to do this. The Traditional Anglicans claim 500,000 worldwide. That wouldn’t make it a significant denomination in the U. S., let alone worldwide. So the question is whether larger numbers of theologically conservative Anglicans have been waiting for an opening from Rome to make their move.
A joint statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster seems almost willfully obscure.
The National Catholic Reporter’s story is solid, but again, how anyone knows that “sweeping” changes are coming is beyond me.
UPDATE: comments from the UK:
All I would add is that this is marvellous news for the Church of England’s prospects for making up women priests to bishops, without creating an Anglican schismatic bloodbath. Traditional Anglo-Catholics, many of whom do not want to relinquish their Anglican identity, have had nowhere to go on this issue, other than conversion to Rome with a complete abandonment of Anglicanism.
Pope Benedict has thrown them a timely lifeline. He has also thrown one to Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. The issue of women bishops, approved by the Church of England’s Synod, was running into the sand, with a controversial proposal this month to impose a two-tier structure, with male bishops still having oversight in dioceses over those Anglicans who couldn’t accept women’s episcopacy. Women priests quite rightly resisted the suggestion that they would be second-class bishops.
Damien Thompson writes that the ABC is humiliated.
Reform has put out a less than enthusiastic response to the Vatican announcement (see below). Seems there will not be wholesale defections regardless of the popular press prognostications. h/t to Maggie Dawn
See statement by The Episcopal Church below. According to Bishop Christopher Epting, this formalizes what has already been happening informally, and “we will … continue to explore the full implications of this…”
Simon has quite a round-up at Thinking Anglicans. And, as Peter Owen points out in the comment section there, something akin to what is on offer has been available to dissatisfied Episcopal priests for 25 years. Andrew Brown sees this development as “the end of the Anglican Communion,” which I don’t get at all. Although he is the first one to begin to guess at the numbers the Church of England might lose. (One thousand priests, two?)
Statement from the Episcopal Church Ecumenical Officer:
We have received the Vatican’s statement and the joint statement signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster. We are in dialogue with the Archbishop’s office and will, in the coming days, continue to explore the full implications of this in our ecumenical relations.
The announcement reflects what the Roman Catholic Church, through its acceptance of Anglican rite parishes, has been doing for some years more informally.
We in the Episcopal Church continue to look to the Holy Spirit, who guides us in understanding of what it means to be the Church in the Anglican Tradition.
We continue to remain in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church through participation in the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation (ARCIC) and the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the USA (ARC-USA).
The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and works together with other Provinces and with our ecumenical and interfaith partners to promote God’s reign on earth.
Bishop Christopher Epting
Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
The Episcopal Church
October 20, 2009
Reform Initial Response To ‘Apostolic Constitution’ Announcement
Revd Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, makes four points as an initial response to today’s announcement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster: “Anglicans concerned about protecting the basic Christian faith need not go to Rome, because we now have the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA (UK)) which holds together those who want to stop the orthodox faith being eroded. We can remain Anglican. Furthermore, the FCA Primates have recognised that problems with episcopal oversight are arising here in the UK. They have expressed the hope that these will be solved locally, but if not, they are willing to step in.” “This development highlights the need for robust legislative provision to cater for those who cannot agree to women bishops, such as that recently suggested by the Revision Committee.” “If priests really are out of sympathy with the C of E’s doctrine (as opposed to the battles we are having over women’s ministry and sexuality), then perhaps it is better they make a clean break and go to Rome. However, when they do, they will have to accommodate themselves to Rome’s top-down approach to church life, whereas the C of E has always stressed the importance of decision making at the level of the local church.” “It is illusory to pretend that this development is an outcome of ecumenical dialogue. It illustrates the difficulties the C of E faces and the need for stronger leadership, rather than the ‘softly softly’ approach so far taken to those holding liberal views who are splitting the church.”