Pope Offers “Personal Prelature” for the TAC. Who’d Have Thunk It?

Not me, for one.  But Damian Thompson obviously does:

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to recommend the Traditional Anglican Communion be accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei, if talks between the TAC and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed, it is understood.

The TAC is a growing global community of approximately 400,000 members that took the historic step in 2007 of seeking full corporate and sacramental communion with the Catholic Church – a move that, if fulfilled, will be the biggest development in Catholic-Anglican relations since the English Reformation under King Henry VIII.

TAC members split from the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion headed by Archbishop Rowan Williams over issues such as its ordination of women priests and episcopal consecrations of women and practising homosexuals.

The TAC’s case appeared to take a significant step forwards in October 2008 when it is understood that the CDF decided not to recommend the creation of a distinct Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church – as is the case with the Eastern Catholic Churches – but a personal prelature, a semi-autonomous group with its own clergy and laity.Opus Dei was the first organisation in the Catholic Church to be recognised as a personal prelature, a new juridical form in the life of the Church. A personal prelature is something like a global diocese without boundaries, headed by its own bishop and with its own membership and clergy.

Because no such juridical form of life in the Church had existed before, the development and recognition of a personal prelature took Opus Dei and Church officials decades to achieve.

Part of the problem, for me, was that, until this, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of “personal prelature,” and my guess is that many others are in the same boat.

If this becomes reality, it is big–very big, for a number of reasons:

  • It would make very official the Vatican’s displeasure at the direction parts of the Anglican Communion are taking, and probably send to the bottom ecumenical dialogue between the two.
  • It represents a very dramatic shift in Vatican policy towards the rest of the world.  The flap over the St. Pius X bishops is more publicised, but this pontiff basically has decided that the Catholic church’s “friends” aren’t doing it much good.
  • It’s a creative solution to a problem largely of the Catholic church’s own making (non-recognition of Anglican orders, celibacy of its own priests, etc.)

How all of the details of this will work out is going to be interesting.

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