How many Anglicans will switch to the Roman Catholic Church?
Disaffected Anglican Dioceses in Papua New Guinea, the United States and Australia might consider switching to Roman Catholicism under a new constitution offered by Pope Benedict, according to Forward in Faith (FiF), a worldwide association of Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women priests or bishops. About a dozen bishops from the Church of England, the Anglican mother church, are also likely to convert, it says.
(Photo: Vatican Cardinal William Levada announces offer to Anglicans, 20 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)
The Church of England could not comment on numbers likely to convert, with one source adding: “It’s all guesswork.” But Stephen Parkinson, director of FiF, said a figure of 1,000 Church of England priests, reported in the media, was “credible.” Read our news story on this here.
Estimates of laity are “much harder,” Parkinson said. “Inevitably if you say 1,000 priests you are then talking about several thousand laity.”
But he said he “would not be at all surprised at a dozen” bishops in England switching. However, in England, bishops were likely to move individually rather than take their entire dioceses, which tend to have diverse views, with them. Some Anglican clergy anticipated numbers would not be great, pointing to the early 1990s when about 500 switched over the ordination of women priests. Some later returned to Anglicanism.
Outside the Anglican Communion, a breakaway group called the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) looks keen to join the Catholic Church along with its 400,000 followers. Archbishop John Hepworth, the Australia-based head of the TAC, posted a delighted reply to Pope Benedict’s offer on his website. The TAC petitioned the Vatican to be received into the Church two years ago. Archbishop Hepworth wrote:
“We are profoundly moved by the generosity of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI… May I firstly state that this is an act of great goodness on the part of the Holy Father. He has dedicated his pontificate to the cause of unity. It more than matches the dreams we dared to include in our petition of two years ago. It more than matches our prayers… I have made a commitment to the Traditional Anglican Communion that the response of the Holy See will be taken to each of our National Synods. They have already endorsed our pathway. Now the Holy See challenges us to seek in the specific structures that are now available the “full, visible unity, especially Eucharistic communion”, for which we have long prayed and about which we have long dreamed. That process will begin at once.”
What do you think? Will large numbers of Anglicans switch to Rome?