Up to 50 Anglican clergy, some of whom oppose women bishops, could convert to Catholicism by Easter under a new scheme approved by the Pope.
The first of the converts, including three former Anglican bishops, two of their wives, and three former Anglican nuns, were applauded after they received holy communion before a packed congregation at Westminster Cathedral at New Years Day mass.
Opposition to women bishops was one of the reasons for their resignations from the Church of England, which became effective from Friday, Catholic Bishop Alan Hopes said.
More importantly, he added, ‘most of them have been journeying, seeking the fullness of truth, and they found it in the Catholic Church.’
One of the nuns, Sister Wendy Renata, said she felt ‘fantastic’ after formally being welcomed by the Catholic Church.
‘I’ve wanted to do it for years. I’ve finally done it,’ she said.
This, of course, is under the new Ordinariate which the Pope promulgated last year.
Converting from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism is one of the top topics that people come to this blog for, so my thoughts on this are as follows:
- In a strictly logical way, this makes sense. Anglo-Catholics spend their lives wanting to move towards unity with Rome, so why not just do it? Much of the holding back is clergy driven, i.e., because of celibacy. But Rome has accommodated that for years and the Ordinariate makes it even better.
- The reality of Roman Catholicism is different from the Anglo-Catholic ideal of same. The Roman Catholic Church is an authoritarian structure where freedom comes because it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. Most Anglican churches have some kind of representative mechanism built in, although KJS is working awfully hard to push TEC into the Roman Catholic mould. Roman Catholic churches are traditionally more ethnically diverse than Anglican ones, although that’s been blunted in the last fifty years. And if Anglo-Catholics think that every Mass is a “smells and bells” affair, they’ve got another thing coming. (For me when I was Catholic, that was the good part!)
- In some ways, the Anglo-Catholics are pawns in a move by the current Pontiff to push the RCC back into a more “pre-Vatican II” mould. That’s especially true in the UK, to a lesser extent in the US. He’s had to work around the relatively liberal UK RCC hierarchy to get to this point with the Ordinariate. The numbers suggest that their impact will be minimal, but every little bit helps. Anglo-Catholics are, in many ways, more Catholic than the Pope, but that’s what this Pontiff is looking for.
- Depending upon the scope of the defection, that leaves the Evangelicals to man (and woman) the ramparts against Affirming Catholicism and the other left-wing plagues that CoE and other Western Anglican churches experience. That may simplify the conflict, but despite their thriving parishes I don’t see Evangelicals winning this, not within the “official” structures. The Americans have for the most part figured this out and the last decade has seen this unfold in the process leading to the ACNA and beyond. How the Brits will do this considering they’re part of the state church is more problematic.