FaithWorld

World cardinals hold rare Vatican meeting on abuse, converts

consistoryRoman Catholic cardinals from around the world met in a rare gathering at the Vatican on Friday to discuss religious freedom, sexual abuse of children by priests and accepting  Anglican converts. The debate on religious freedom unfolded against the backdrop of a fresh Vatican conflict with China’s communist government over the ordination of a bishop without papal permission. (Photo: Pope Benedict meets cardinals at the Vatican November 19, 2010/Tony Gentile)

The closed-door meetings were taking place on the eve of a ceremony known as a consistory at which the pope will create 24 new cardinals, including 20 who are under 80 and thus eligible to enter a secret conclave to elect his successor.

The existing cardinals and cardinals-elect will also hear reports about the sexual abuse scandal which has rocked the Church in a number of countries.

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First group of Anglican bishops to convert to Rome

williams benedict (Photo:  Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict celebrate evening prayer at Westminster Abbey in London September 17, 2010/Richard Pohle)

Five Church of England bishops opposed to the ordination of women bishops will take up an offer by Pope Benedict and convert to Roman Catholicism, heralding a possible exodus of traditionalist Anglicans.

The bishops will enter full communion with Rome through an ordinariate, a body proposed by the pope last October to let traditionalists convert while keeping some Anglican traditions, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales announced.

The ordinariate will let married clerics become Catholic priests, in an exception to the Vatican’s celibacy rule, but not bishops. Married Anglican bishops who convert may be granted a special status almost equivalent to their former rank.

Guestview: Will traditionalist Anglicans please make up their minds?

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Abigail Frymann is Online Editor of The Tablet, where this comment first appeared.

canterburyBy Abigail Frymann

A few hundred traditionalist Anglicans gathered in a charismatic church in London recently, a curious collection of dour-looking fellows who describe themselves with words like “pioneer” and “risk” – and heard that a breakaway group within the Church of England for clergy who don’t like the thought of women bishops was to be established. Somehow this is different from Forward in Faith, which already exists, and different again from the Ordinariate offered them by Pope Benedict XVI last autumn, which would require a leap into the Catholic Church. At first this seemed like a warm-up room for would-be leap-ers. Yet as soon as the new group, the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, was announced, some senior traditionalists were nay-saying on their blogs that it wouldn’t and couldn’t work. (Photo: Canterbury Cathedral, December 23, 2009/Suzanne Plunkett)

Let me confess that I am an Anglican, though not a terribly high one. Traditionalist clergy say their communion with the rest of the Church of England is impaired because most Church of England bishops are prepared to ordain women. Women’s ordination has become a central issue. But among the ranks of those who oppose women’s ordination are those who would turn a blind eye to issues other parts of the Church would rightly or wrongly say are deal-breakers – gay civil partnerships for priests, for example. Devout women clergy argue that gay activity is prohibited in Scripture, whereas the case isn’t as clear regards women leaders. Traditionalist priests argue that female leadership is outlawed in scripture but these days the case isn’t clear as regards consenting long-term gay relationships. Either it’s not the end of the world (or the Church), or not everyone is one hundred per cent right, or God’s graciously holding it all together anyway.

Anglican gay bishops are okay if celibate, Archbishop Rowan Williams says

williamsThe spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams, backed gay people becoming bishops on Saturday as long as they remain celibate, risking more divisions within the Church on the issue.

Making one of the most explicit statements he has made on the subject, the head of the Church of England told The Times that he had “no problem” with their consecration. But he would not endorse gay clergy in active relationships because of tradition and historical “standards” that require celibacy, he said in the interview. (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, February 11, 2009/Kieran Doherty)

He said he had to decide against endorsing gay relationships for clergy and bishops because “the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point.”

Excerpts from Pope Benedict’s speech to bishops of England, Wales and Scotland

pope bishops (Photo: Pope Benedict surrounded by bishops in Birmingham, September 19, 2010/Simon Dawson)

Pope Benedict urged the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland on Sunday to confront the assumptions of modern culture, help the poor, protect children and work together with Anglicans.

Here are excerpts from his speech to them:

“… In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next. As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fullness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you…

“… The spectre of unemployment is casting its shadow over many people’s lives, and the long-term cost of the ill-advised investment practices of recent times is becoming all too evident. In these circumstances, there will be additional calls on the characteristic generosity of British Catholics, and I know that you will take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need. The prophetic voice of Christians has an important role in highlighting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources. In their teaching document Choosing the Common Good, the Bishops of England and Wales underlined the importance of the practice of virtue in public life. Today’s circumstances provide a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living.

Excerpts from Archbishop Rowan Williams’ address at Lambeth Palace

lambeth 1 (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams welcomes Pope Benedict to Lambeth Palace, 17 Sept 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, received Pope Benedict at Lambeth Palace in London on Friday and stressed the common goal both churches have in defending Christianity in the public sphere and working together as much as possible despite their differences.

Here are excerpts from the archbishop’s remarks to Pope Benedict:

“…Your consistent and penetrating analysis of the state of European society in general has been a major contribution to public debate on the relations between Church and culture, and we gratefully acknowledge our debt in this respect.

“Our task as bishops is to preach the Gospel and shepherd the flock of Christ; and this includes the responsibility not only to feed but also to protect it from harm.  Today, this involves a readiness to respond to the various trends in our cultural environment that seek to present Christian faith as both an obstacle to human freedom and a scandal to human intellect.  We need to be clear that the Gospel of the new creation in Jesus Christ is the door through which we enter into true liberty and true understanding: we are made free to be human as God intends us to be human; we are given the illumination that helps us see one another and all created things in the light of divine love and intelligence…

Rare pope trip to Britain faces welcome ranging from polite to hostile

tartan (Photo: Cardinal Keith O’Brien displays the papal visit plaid in Edinburgh, Scotland September 9, 2010/David Moir)

Pope Benedict this week makes a challenging trip to Britain — only the second by a pope in history — and his welcome in one of Europe’s most secular nations will range from polite to indifferent and even hostile.

Coming on the heels of a simmering scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests in several European countries, strained relations with the Anglicans, and discontent over the taxpayer footing part of the bill, he will have his work cut out for him.

Benedict’s four-day visit starting on Thursday has been fraught with controversy and the reception will be a shadow of the rapturous one given to the charismatic John Paul in 1982.

Latest Anglican bid to mediate gay dispute meets with skepticism

williamsThe Archbishop of Canterbury’s latest proposal to mediate a gay rights dispute splitting the worldwide Anglican Communion seems to be falling on deaf ears in the opposing camps he is trying to discipline. Archbishop Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, suggested last week that member churches approving gay bishops and same-sex unions and those actively opposing them be sidelined from official doctrinal committees.

The initiative was sparked by the consecration of an openly lesbian bishop in California last month. Williams also said conservative churches — mostly in Africa — that appoint bishops to serve in other countries would also be sidelined.

The proposal, if accepted in the Communion, would be the first time such sanctions would be imposed on dissident national churches. Unlike Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism is a federation of churches whose head has no direct power over all members.

Kenya PM blasts judges for barring Islamic courts from constitution

kenya doves

President Mwai Kibaki (C), Prime Minister Raila Odinga (L) and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (R) release pigeons for peace at a Nairobi rally for the constitution referendum on May 15, 2010/Thomas Mukoya

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has attacked the country’s judiciary as an obstacle to reform after its high court  ruled it would be discriminatory to entrench kadhi courts — Islamic courts that rule on the basis of sharia — in Kenya’s constitution. The ruling came three months before Kenyans vote in a referendum on a proposed new constitution, seen as an important step towards ensuring that post-election violence which shook east Africa’s largest economy in 2008 is not repeated.

Opposition to the Muslim courts brought together Christian clergy and some politicians to oppose the proposed constitution. The kadhis’ courts deal with matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance among Muslims.

Church of England paves way for women bishops, traditionalist departures

canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral in England, December 23, 2009/Suzanne Plunkett

The Church of England has moved a step closer to the consecration of women bishops, setting up a possible showdown with traditionalists who back all-male clergy in the Anglican communion.  Draft legislation introduced at the weekend said women should be consecrated as bishops on the same basis as men, disappointing the Anglo-Catholic and evangelical wings of the Church which had wanted a “two-tier” system.

Some are now likely to consider Pope Benedict’s offer last October to make it easier for Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.

The draft proposals will now go forward for debate at the Church’s General Synod, or parliament, in York, northern England, in July, and will still have to pass a number of stages before England could see its first woman bishop, possibly in 2014.