October 24, 2009
The Anglican blogosphere is full of little other than commentary on what exactly the Vatican has done or not done with its overture to unhappy Anglicans. The news is apparently of such significance that the New York Times has even devoted space to correspondence about it. A little digging suggests that the legal mechanism that makes possible receptions of groups of Anglicans (as opposed to individual clergy and lay which has been possible for some time) within an ‘Anglican Use’ is in part a response to a breakaway Australian group called the Traditional Anglican Church. Apparently this lot petitioned the Vatican for some kind of recognition over two years ago.
The meaning of ‘Papa Ratzi’s’ (as he is affectionately known in some circles) move appears to be very much in the eye of the beholder. Archbishop Duncan of the breakaway Anglicans in North America has welcomed the pastoral accommodation but points out that there are ‘doctrinal differences’ about such things as clerical celibacy and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (interestingly, sex and power) that continue to divide ‘orthodox’ Anglicans from their RC bretheren. I had thought that most of the separatist groups Had merged into one North American province but apparently they continue to keep distinct identities so that we have Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA issuing his own statement that appears to claim the RC move is somehow a recognition of that outfit distinct from others. In spite of the predictions of various pundits, I think it unlikely that there will be huge numbers of Anglo-Catholics and other conservatives going en masse to Rome.
I continue to dislike the claims implicit in much of the Roman language of ‘reuniting with the Catholic faith’ and the like. Anglicanism has long represented an alternative expression of catholicity to Rome (even if we debate amongst ourselves what exactly is the difference) and one which I see as allowing local relationships to shape catholic expression, worship and doctrine rather than being defined first by doctrine promulgated from on high. I am also concerned that this move seems to be about recognizing and welcoming those who do not like women clergy, and anything resembling the affirmation of GLBT people especially where the episcopate is concerned. If I was looking to unite with ‘like-minded believers’ as one letter in the NYT would have it, I would expect hundreds of thousands of faithful RC adherents to come en masse to Anglican faith and worship even with all the complications of our various commitments.