One can guess what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say to Pope Benedict when the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion travels to the Vatican later this year. The more interesting question might be what Queen Elizabeth is likely to say when she hosts the pope next year.
(Photo: Anglican Bishop of London Richard Chartres with wife and children, 5 Sept 1995/Russell Boyce. Under the Vatican offer, bishops could not be married and Anglican bishops who join the Catholic Church must give up their episcopal rank.)
Pope Benedict’s decision to fling open Catholicism’s doors to disaffected Anglicans could challenge centuries of Catholic opposition to married priests and may bring the Church closer to married priesthood.
Conservative bishops who say they represent almost half the world’s Anglicans urged fellow believers on Sunday to reform the Anglican Communion rather than take up Pope Benedict’s invitation to join the Roman Catholic Church.
If “the devil is in the details” when two groups seek a merger, where will he be hiding when the Vatican talks with disaffected Anglicans who want to join the Roman church? Neither the agenda nor the schedule for these talks are clear, but some issues are starting to emerge as possible hurdles to a smooth switchover for Anglicans who want to “swim the Tiber.”
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.
The Church of England could restrict the powers of some women bishops under a plan designed to end a rift between traditionalists who want to keep the all-male senior clergy and liberals demanding equality. The proposal has reignited the long-running debate over a supposed ecclesiastical “stained-glass ceiling” that stops women from attaining the most senior roles in the church.
One passage in Pope Benedict’s letter today about the Williamson affair particularly stood out — the part where he confessed to almost complete ignorance of the Internet. There can’t be many other world leaders who could write the following lines without blushing: “I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.” This made it look as if the world’s largest church was ignorant of the world’s liveliest communications network.
With the financial crisis erupting around the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant theologian John Calvin, many people in the Netherlands — where his thinking played an important role in forming the local culture — are looking back at his influence and what he might say of the current crisis and the people involved.
Amid all the controversy over the Vatican’s handling of the return of four excommunicated ultra-traditionalist bishops, some newspapers are reporting that Pope Benedict is now preparing to welcome a far larger group into the Church — the 400,000-strong Traditional Anglican Communion. We noted speculation about this last June. The Italian daily La Stampa wrote today that this group would be accepted into the Roman Catholic Church by Easter. Its headline was “Goodbye Canterbury, Benedict Takes Back Even the Anglicans.”