The Holy See took the ecumenical imperative out of the hands of ecumenists, with the result that the reunion of Christians -- at least in one limited area of schism -- ensued. From the Vatican website:
With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion. In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.
The Times of London, with its dizzyingly reckless Monty Python approach to religion stories, headlines its article Vatican Moves to Poach Traditional Anglicans, but the "poaching" metaphor is an odd choice of images when the "rabbits" in question have been pleading, sometimes for decades, to jump into the hunter's game bag. After all, the decisions that changed the playing field were made by the Anglican churches, not the Pope. The Vatican's explanatory statement does not hesitate to point to the shattering effect of Anglican capitulations to Left/liberal secularism:
In the years since the Council, some Anglicans have abandoned the tradition of conferring Holy Orders only on men by calling women to the priesthood and the episcopacy. More recently, some segments of the Anglican Communion have departed from the common biblical teaching on human sexuality -- already clearly stated in the ARCIC document "Life in Christ" -- by the ordination of openly homosexual clergy and the blessing of homosexual partnerships.
While in recent years the Catholic Church has lost some members to Anglicanism, she has benefitted overwhelmingly from the inbound traffic. As your Uncle Di has pointed out before: the dissatisfied Anglican leaves because his Church ain't what she used to be. The dissatisfied Catholic leaves his Church because she is.
Orthodox Catholics deserve to feel satisfaction at today's development. Yet it's easy to exaggerate the advantages. On one hand, the Anglicans coming home to full communion will be active in practice, theologically aware, and proportionately resistant to gay and feminist faddishness. On the other hand we have to admit that a sizable minority of (nominally) Catholic clergy envy the Church of England for precisely the reasons its orthodox are bolting. Who knows how many of our own ecclesiastics, even unindicted ones, are gazing wistfully at the lighted windows of Gene Robinson's honeymoon suite while Rembert Weakland's autobiography slumbers in their lap?
By the same token, under the earlier dispensation most Anglican converts found themselves in ordinary Catholic parishes -- with the ordinary attendant problems -- and they gave a boost to the orthodox cradle Catholics in the customary street-fighting for decent liturgy, decent catechesis, decent clerical deportment, etc. Yet those potential allies who convert under the terms of the Personal Ordinariate will in one sense be in quarantine, hived-off with their own clergy and their own bishop, able to help out in the Catholic culture wars only indirectly if at all. Were I a Robert Lynch or a Roger Mahony I'd feel relieved that these new Catholics, even those domiciled in my diocese, were not under my "pastoral care" -- which means I'd have no need to respond to their articulate and well-informed pleading for the redress of grievances.
Based on who's sputtering in indignation at the Holy See's move and who's not, the Personal Ordinariate is a score for right team. The Church is perpetually and perfectly one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic, but by today's action the attributes "one" and "Catholic" are realized that much more visibly. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
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Posted by: Brennan -
Oct. 20, 2009 8:17 PM ET USA
I do think the incomiong Anglicans will help out fighting the culture wars even, perhaps especially, if they are "quarantined" and have their own churches with an Anglican style liturgy. Their presence may provide a haven for those who desire a more profound liturgy and stronger catechesis. If they had been incorporated into regular parishes, paritcularly the laypeople, they may not have made any more leeway than orthodox Catholics have in trying for better liturgy and catechesis.