How many Anglicans will switch to the Roman Catholic Church?

October 23, 2009

levadaDisaffected 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:

Traditional Anglican Communion“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?

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This is a situation with both a carrot and a stick. The union with Rome is more bountiful than the Anglicans even imagine it to be. As it comes into reality, the experience will inevitably be that this good thing is better than the goodness to which they aspired. “When from our exile God leads us home again, we’ll think we’re dreaming.” Beyond that, at least in ECUSA, the state of the remnant of the Episcopal union is such an affront to the Gospel that it drives out those who aspire to the holiness of God. One has to wonder if anything will be left of the mainline churches in a few decades. Again, the psalmist comes to mind, ‘not so the wicked, not so. They are like dry grass which the wind scatters.” Pity that, but it is what we would expect of the end of the Reformation which is what we are witnessing. And there is this final note, the end of the Reformation is coming about as gracefully and mercifully as can be expected, sans judgment or violence, with opportunity for all those seeking Christ to step into union with His Church. Not bad at all. The best case scenario is that hundreds of thousands come to Rome if not millions, African Churches first.

Posted by Chas | Report as abusive

The beautiful thing about the Holy Roman Catholic Church is that NO ONE is forced to believe or join. All who wish to follow the tenets of our Faith are free to do so or not. Each must follow his or her own heart BUT each, if they decide to be Roman Catholic MUST be humble enough to be obedient to the Holy Father, the Magisterium and Tradition. One can and should question but when the Holy Father issues a final decision on any issue one must do as Jesus Christ did, be obedient to the Father. Welcome all Anglicans who join us and God bless those who choose not to.

Posted by Stella | Report as abusive

Yes, I think hundreds of thousands of former Anglicans will convert en masse to the Roman Catholic Church. At least 100,000 laity and over 1,000 “priests” from England.IN the USA, a tiny community of 12 Episcopalian nuns have already converted to the Roman Catholic Church in September, and there is rumor that another small Episcopalian Order in the USA (this time of contemplative nuns and brothers) is likewise preparing to convert.Most Episcopalian/Anglican religious Orders have only a handful of members. But their conversion to Roman Catholicism is significant….especially since there are not many Anglican/Episcopal religious Orders of male or female religious left. Converting to the Roman Catholic Church might bring them new life.

Posted by Kenjiro Shoda | Report as abusive

As a cradle RC – who still identifies as RC – I agree that no one is forced to believe or join. Nevertheless a convert is faced with having to assent in a public way to this “obedience” to the pope – whereas someone baptized in infancy, like myself, can privately follow my conscience in terms of “following” the pope or not. That is the big difference. Many, many individuals who still identify as RC disagree with certain papal instructions and preferences. We view our “humility” as something given to God, not to the pope. Jesus, was indeed, obedient to the Father – but recall that in his day that placed him in opposition to certain Jewish leaders and practices. Jesus listened to the Father and he urged us to call no one “Father” except God.Todays Gospel (Luke 12: 54-59) has these words:”You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why would you not know how to interpret the present time? Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”I rest my case.

Posted by TheraP | Report as abusive

TheraP you wrote: “Many, many individuals who still identify as RC disagree with certain papal instructions and preferences. We view our “humility” as something given to God, not to the pope.”What you fail to realize is that God guides the Church and the Holy Father on matters of “faith and morals.” Should you follow our poorly formed conscience and not follow the teaching of the Church, then you are in sin. Homosexuality, artificial birth control. abortion, et al. are grave sins; it is true you have a choice, but what are you choosing? Eternal life, or damnation? How is it that GOD infused you with the knowledge to understand what “truth is” and leave His Church ignorant?

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

I think many Anglicans will come to Rome, –but not en masse. The “early adopters” will be observed by the more cautious for 2-5 years to see how the “Apostolic Constitution” works in practice. When it is shown to feature “the best of both worlds” a much larger number will quietly link with Rome.However, the one thing nobody will expect (as happened in the USA with the mature “Anglican Use” Parishes) is the number of lapsed Catholics drawn back to the RC Church by the majestic and numinous liturgy, which the returning High Church Anglicans will bring as a much-needed gift to the English-speaking Church around the world. This liturgy (with its treasure of fine sacred music) will restore–and thereby enable RC’s in the Anglosphere to reclaim–the ancient cultural patrimony robbed from them by the tragedy of the English reformation.

Posted by R Wenner | Report as abusive

If the Episcopalian Sisters of the Order of the Teachers of the Children of God convert over to the Catholic Church it will be a big break threw then.

Posted by Reed | Report as abusive

God bless you, Marc. Only God knows what I do and do not “fail to recognize”. “Judge not” is also a dictum – directly from the Lord. God sees both your heart and mine. God is merciful and full of compassion.

Posted by TheraP | Report as abusive

I have seen the existing Anglican Use pastoral provision being used as a barrier of hoops through which only the most patient person might jump. The Pope wants it, but many clergy who are local are blissfully unaware and not helpful. I pray that the Holy Spirit guides them, or, in some cases slaps ’em upside the head.

Posted by Fr Bill | Report as abusive

Seems to me that the Vatican’s message to Anglicans and Episcopalians boils down to this: ”Hate gays and wanna discriminate against women? Become a Catholic!”

Posted by jgogek | Report as abusive

This is to those that “fear” where this movement of the Anglican ethos of Christianity back home to their proper home and what it might mean…Humbly I say that Rome has nothing to lose, but will be re-introduced to a wealth of liturgy and music that has been ignored for some time. Anglicans have nothing to lose but will be gaining the third leg of authority, the Teaching Magisterium of the Church.All I can do is thank God the Holy Spirit for working through His wonderful Vicar, Pope Benedict the XVI.

Posted by Harold | Report as abusive

Dear TheraP, I think you prove my point. What is wrong with publicly showing obedience to the Holy Father if one wishes to join the Roman Catholic Church? Especially if it is a choice made freely. I would think one would shout it from the housetops if one found “the pearl of great price” In showing obedience to the Holy Father one is being obedient to Jesus’ Vicar on earth not to the “man” the Holy Father is. The Holy Father is infallible when he makes a declaration on faith and morals and it is that that Roman Catholics are obedient to. All those catholics who cannot find it in themselves to submit to the teachings of the Church are free to leave and follow their own way. Why stay in a place in which you do not feel at home? When Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom he made a profound statement. If I were to give you the keys to my house I would certainly tell you what I would allow you to do and not do in my house and I would expect you to honor my request. If you did not feel that you could honor my wishes I would expect you not to take the keys. From St. Peter on down to Pope Benedict XVI those keys and that authority have been handed down. There have been many dissenters and many converts. But no one has been forced to stay or enter. Why would you want to hide your love for God by hiding your humility? In the presence of his Greatness I would want to prostrate myself before him and declare him my Lord and Master. For the present I can only declare my obedience to Benedict XVI. I detect a lot of resentment in your comment. I hope you are able to find some way to find peace and reconciliation within yourself and what you believe. Even if it means taking yourself out of the Roman Catholic Church and joining a religion that suits you better. This is what many, many catholics who do not want to be obedient to the Holy Father do. I guess they are happier.

Posted by Stella | Report as abusive

MERRIE ENGLANDIn a study recently doneIt is recorded that depressionIs greatest in England.”Mary was a name all England sangIn the verses of Her Children, in the houresIn Convents and Monastaries,when bells rangThe Love of Jesus in Cathedral towers….Royality and peasants, knights and knavesWent in Holy, elegant and humble dressUpon their knees , Knowing Jesus savesThrough HIS Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist ,Days kept by the Angelus , the great FeastsKeeping the seasons , In the Mass Calvary KeptThe Eternal for the Life of Everyday;A Merrie England Was a Catholic Englandtill heresyswept all away…..Go say a rosary on the road to CanterburyAs if England were still Catholic and still Merrie

Posted by peter whalen | Report as abusive

Don’t go lambasting Catholics for offering Anglicans a home. The Vatican has merely responded to the requests made by Anglicans for accommodation since those same Anglicans cannot find a solution in their own community. Despite sweet sounding promises of accommodation, the CofE, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have marginalized many people within their flock. If there’s any lambasting to be done, lambaste Lambeth and leave us (faithful, Rome-loving, Real Presence adoring) Catholics alone. We have work to be done, like preparing a feast for our returning brothers and sisters. As for you sour pusses out there who persist in your tiresome anti-catholic bigotry, you’re welcome to attend the homecoming. One condition – leave your baggage at the door.

Posted by Warren Anderson | Report as abusive

Peter W.I’ve once read that there was a prophesy at the time of the English Reformation and the time of the destruction of the Walsingham Chapel by the reformers. I have long since lost the article, it may have been in the magazine: “Christian Order”.It was prophesized: “When pilgrims return to Walsingham, England will return to the Faith.”The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was a major, major pilgrimage site at the time. One of the top three, if I recall correctly. Kings, queens, priest, nun, commoner all; made pilgrimage there.About a hundred years ago the Shrine was rebuilt and pilgrims have returned to Walsingham and the Shrine itself is Anglican and the Slipper Chapel is Catholic. The Slipper chapel was a little shrine at which pilgrims left their slippers/shoes and walked the rest of the way to the actual shrine, barefoot.If I am ever given the opportunity, I will do the same.Pilgrimaging on the way to unity. Ut unum sint. That they may be one.O Lord, hear our prayer.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

TheraP – Ooops! You stated, “Only God knows what I do and do not “fail to recognize””. I think you pronounced at least some of your disbeliefs in a very public forum. That is a statement of fact, not of judgment.You casually dismiss your baptism as your public statement of your beliefs because you were an infant. So, were you ever confirmed? If not you were never fully initiated into the Church. If so, you have made a public statement of your beliefs which either you were not sincere about at the time or have later decided that you know better than the Church. The answer to that question is known between you and God.If you attend Mass weekly, as required by the Church, you may want to examine the Catechism and learn more about what you are professing when you recite the Creed.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

This a wonderful decision on the part of Pope Benedict.It is a shame that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I self appointed themselves “head of the church”. This move will help rectify that herectical situation to a great extent.My prayersd accompany this moment in history.

Posted by Joseph Aubin | Report as abusive

Have no doubt, this is a VERY great day in the history of the Church.Christianity has officially turned a corner on the Reformation, and instead of more divisions we are finally heading back towards unity.Thank God for this huge gift!!

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Oh what a tragedy!!! After so many have laid their lives during a period of reformation, the Anglican Church is coming back, where it was 500 years ago… think about Luther, Wycliffe, John Hus, and all the reformators who were burnt for their faith… millions and millions of people have died because they were thinking differently… why should we obey the pope??? Is God not the only one we should follow?? I have a feeling that very difficult times are coming again for those, who will want to keep their faith.

Posted by liz kucerka | Report as abusive

Liz…You need to rethink your comment. I question your figure of millions and millions died. I would also suggest that you look at the history of your own country and that of the Church of England in regards to the murder of Catholic priests, nuns and lay people from about the mid 1500’s to the mid 1600’s. Besides, the people who will leave the Angican Church are leaving because your church has told them that they do not want them.

Posted by Buzzy Gran | Report as abusive

Actually, the inclusion of an Anglican Rite seems to be making the RC Church more like the Anglican Community. It has added a Traditionalist type “rite” and already has Eastern Rites and a few like the Ambrosian. Good move!

Posted by Terik Ororke | Report as abusive

Who is the vicar of Jesus Christ? From the first pope, Peter, there is only one strait line, so the successors follow right up to Benedict XV!, our present pope. Those that seperated, man-made,are the ones that PROTESTED thus becoming PROTESTANTS, and even then continued to divide. Blessed are those that are coming back to the flock, the real and only church founded by Jesus Christ!Romeo

Posted by Romeo | Report as abusive

How many will “switch” will depend on the mode or method of switching. I am reasonably certain that no one will be re-baptized. I am also reasonably certain that clergy will be required to be re-ordained. That will be the sticking point for me. While I welcome the Holy Father’s offer, I cannot see myself denying that I have been a catholic priest for all these past years. And that is what any conditional ordination would profess. I could take a vow of obedience to the chair of Peter and an oath of conformity concerning doctrine, but I am not sure I can deny my ordination. When I was ordained I fully believed I was being made a priest of the catholic church to minister in this particular branch of Christ’s Church. Can I choose to minister in some other branch? I think so. Can I choose to become some other kind of priest? I think not. I feel so betrayed by the episcopal church today. However, it would not make me feel better to betray what I hold so dear, the sacred priesthood. Can I accept the Holy Father’s offer? Yes I can. And I would love to be able to do it. Will I? I don’t know. To me re-ordained would bring deposition upon me and I could not handle that spiritually. I would wish that Peter could take me by the hand but not lay hands again upon me.

Posted by Fr Chas | Report as abusive

Are you sure Peter was the first pope? Read On This Rock by Dave Leonard.

Posted by Mark Erickson | Report as abusive

The office of the pope was prefigured in Isaiah 22:15-24 in the office of the steward over the royal household of King Hezekiah. To him was entrusted the key of the royal household to open and shut and upon him, as a peg in a sure spot, would hang the whole household.Jesus promised to make Peter the pope in Matthew 16:18-19 in promising Peter the keys of the kingdom to bind and loosen and promising to make him the rock upon which He would build His Church.Jesus instructs Peter on how he should exercise the office of the pope in Luke 12:41-46, saying that as steward set over His household he should give His household their food at the proper time until His return and not abuse his fellow servants or face His wrath.Jesus prays for Peter in Luke 22:32 that he receive the grace necessary to exercise the office of the pope, a faith that may not fail, so that he might strengthen his brothers.The risen Jesus installs Peter as pope in John 21:15-17 telling him to feed and tend his lambs and sheep.Peter exercises the office of the pope in the first 12 chapters of Acts (especially Acts 1:15, 2:14, 2:37-38, 5:29) as the leader and principal spokesman for the Apostles. Also notice Peter’s decisive role at the First Council of Jerusalem concerning the issue of circumcising Gentile converts as described in Acts 15.Peter’s leadership role among the Apostles is also indicated by the fact that his name appears first on the list when the twelve Apostles are named in the Gospels and Acts (Matthew 10:2, Mark 3:17, Luke 6:14, Acts 1: 13)

Posted by joseph | Report as abusive

Was Anglican. Now Catholic. Been there, done that. Would not have minded coming along with a larger group of Anglicans, but as it was, I came alone (even to the point of stomaching RCIA even though technically I didn’t need to go through RCIA).More interesting to me is that there will be potentially two types of Anglican converts: (1) those Anglicans that were received into the Church individually, in an manner no different than any other convert from any other Protestant group (including through the RCIA); and (2) the Anglicans who might come in as this big lump group. Not complaining about it, mind you, just think that the two groups might feel just a bit out of sorts with the other. The first group will probably be less likely to insist on having an Anglican-style liturgy than the second group, while the second group will see their heritage and identity as Anglicans more important than being in the Catholic Church. Sort of like brothers who grew up together but went to college, married, and began a career in different parts of the country.

Posted by D B Sunbeck | Report as abusive

To Mark Erickson, may I refer you to Stanley Jaki’s book, “And On This Rock”, available at Barnes and Nobles. It treats on the discussion between Jesus and Peter at Caesarea Phillipi.

Posted by Stella | Report as abusive

Almost none will switch over women bishops. How many people are there that tolerate women priests (when a sizeable number of clergy do move over to Rome), but will abandon ship at the thought of women bishops?There is much more likely to be a problem over the ordination of gay priests. I expect the C of E to adopt this at some point in the next few years. At that moment many Anglicans will make the jump.But church of England? Almost none. I go to church almost every week. This is not a matter that excercises anyone but a few mad evangelicals. They are all ex baptists that will NEVER join up with Rome.

Posted by Dafydd Taylor | Report as abusive

remember the parables: 1) the progigal son: who has spent all his resources and decided to go home to his father who threw a big party to welcome him.2) the lost lamb: the sheperd left 99 lamb behind and set out to look for the lost lamb. when found, he put the lamb on his shoulder and join the other 99 waited lambs.3) after almost 500 years: the Church, as ‘mater et magister’ (mother and teacher) welcome back the Anglican brothers and sisters as Christ has prayed: ‘Ut sint unum!’ (let them be united) and all of the above 3 items are being fulfilled.Congratulations for Anglican brothers and sisters. RCC teaching: love God and your Brothers and Sisters; Caritas! Yes, since there are so many seats/positions in the House of Our Lord. Please forgive my writing style!

Posted by nam nguyen | Report as abusive

[…] Catholics Those disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales who think they can take up Pope Benedict?s offer and switch to Rome with a ?pick and choose? attitude should think again, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, […]

Posted by RC archbishop to Anglicans: we don?t want cafeteria Catholics – Christian Forums | Report as abusive

Only the foolish would convert to the power coruption and the authurity of the pope and Roman Catholic church of peadofile priests

Posted by patrick o brien | Report as abusive

I truly pray that disillusioned Anglicans do not join the Church of Rome. There are other options than Rome. I was a Roman most of my life- leaving and becoming an Anglican. I am so glad that I left Rome. False doctrines, dead parishes, dictator bishops, boring liturgies, celebate clergy chasing little boys, no voice for the lay people, and the list goes on. It looks good on paper, but the reality of the Roman Church is much different. Those Anglicans who go have no idea what they are getting themselves into. They are attracted to a church that does not exist. NO TO ROME!!!!

Posted by Fr. Rick Leone | Report as abusive

Christianity does not belong to any particular group (ie: ROME, Catholics etc)
Truth is, all the great thinkers and doers in the last couple hundred years, have been Anglican (church of england) or Protestants as a whole.
Anglicans aren’t weighed down by so much rubbish the Roman Catholic Church has put on catholics in general.
The roman church for long as the church has been going, has been scaring people about hell, and paying the church, or do they call it donating money to the church lol and for what ? so the bishops and priests can sit around looking down on everyone all day..
People aren’t as gullible as they once were, thank God!
Faith comes from the heart, and I am pretty positive that God dwells in more places then just a Roman church.

Christians should be all under the one banner, not catholic, or Anglican. Just Christians.

Posted by geminii | Report as abusive

Tell me exactly where in the New Testament, where it says that women cannot be priests and leaders in the church? Not where it says they can– but where it says they can not. Incontrovertibly can NOT.

This is the height of RC dogma that turns off so many.

Posted by morphasia | Report as abusive

Stella said: “The beautiful thing about the Holy Roman Catholic Church is that NO ONE is forced to believe or join.”

Bull. I was drafted. I was baptized against my will as an infant and subjected to 12 years of Catholic indoctrination and propaganda. My parents tried to make it 16. The Catholic church is about as beautiful as the Nazi party. In fact, it was run by a former Nazi for awhile. Next, you will tell me that the priests and nuns didn’t abuse the kids.

Posted by walter3ca | Report as abusive