FaithWorld

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.

Many of the traditionalist clerics who met in London last Friday are still pondering whether to join the Ordinariate, or the Society, or stay put in the Church of England, or become Catholic via the traditional route of instruction and reception. Some admit they are worried about loss of pensions and income. On the other hand, if a cleric believes the Anglican Communion is sick, how can he be salt and light to it by leaving it? On the other hand, as a man of God, are you not aspiring to be someone prepared to live out your convictions no matter what the cost? I’m not sure what the traditional Anglican bishops expected from a Church that, while pedestalising priests, puts them in shared houses, not vicarages, and pays them a fraction of the modest sum vicars earn in the Church of England.

Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican CityMy Catholic colleagues watch this new splinter of a splinter with eyebrows raised. A small number of Anglican clergy petition Rome, the Pope himself and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith go to quite some lengths to accommodate them, and now they’re dithering. They also feel for the Catholic priests who had to leave their ministries because they wished to marry. Maybe the so-called disaffected Anglican clerics are realising they didn’t have it so bad after all.

Waiting to know what’s in the next pope interview book

seewaldBy Josie Cox

What’s a journalist supposed to do with a successful author who declares that his next book about Pope Benedict will “go down in history” — but refuses to give any details of what’s in it?

When he says it will “shed new light” on the sexual abuse rocking the Roman Catholic Church — but says none of that will illuminate issues that abuse victims want to know about? (Photo: Peter Seewald at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 6 Oct 2010/Josie Cox)

When the most he will say about the revelations in his sure-fire bestseller is that it will reveal “the secret behind the famous episcopal miter”?

Vatican synod to mull Middle East Christian exodus

baghdad churchWith Christianity dwindling in its Middle Eastern birthplace, Pope Benedict has convened Catholic bishops from the region to debate how to save its minority communities and promote harmony with their Muslim neighbours.

For two weeks starting on Sunday, the bishops will discuss problems for the faithful ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and strife in Iraq to radical Islamism, economic crisis and the divisions among the region’s many Christian churches. (Photo: Worshippers light candles after Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad October 3, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)

They come from local churches affiliated with the Vatican, but the relentless exodus of all Christians — Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants — has prompted them to take a broad look at the challenges facing all followers of Jesus there.

Christians in Middle East much more than a numbers game

Franciscan Father David Jaeger is one of the Roman Catholic Church’s most authoritative experts on the Middle East. Until a few weeks ago, he was the delegate of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in Rome. A convert from Judaism who became a Roman Catholic priest in 1986, he is  a noted canon lawyer. He was part of the Vatican team that negotiated diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994 and is part of the Vatican team that is still ironing out the final subsidiary details of that accord. He spoke to Reuters and Reuters Television about the upcoming Mideast synod in the atrium of Antonianum University in Rome. Here is a transcript of parts of the conversation.

jaegerWhat do you expect from the synod?

I think it is intended to be a very significant step forward in the development of the witness of the Church in the Middle East.  Synods are convened not simply, or not necessarily, in response to a current affairs concerns but as a moment for the Church to grow, in faithfulness and in effectiveness of  witness. (Photo: Fr. David Jaeger in a screengrab from a Reuters Television interview in Rome, 6 Oct 2010)

The moment in the  Middle East is particularly appropriate for this further development. There is hope for new ecumenical relations. There is a growth of the Church itself in the Middle East, in awareness of fundamental values of Vatican II, such as religious freedom and the civic responsibility of Christians. I don’t think people in the West appreciate to what extent the thematics of the synod are totally new to so much of the Church in the Middle East. Religious freedom some decades ago was not even a known concept. It had never been experienced in 13 centuries. It had always been presupposed that it could not be attained,  yet now it is being spoken of in the preparatory documents of the synod as a serious subject, not as something already existing of course, but as  something realistically to be looked forward to.

Constitution, not sharia, is supreme law in Germany – Merkel

merkelChancellor Angela Merkel has said Muslims must obey the constitution and not sharia law if they want to live in Germany, which is debating the integration of its 4 million-strong Muslim population.

In the furore following a German central banker’s blunt comments about Muslims failing to integrate, moderate leaders including President Christian Wulff have urged Germans to accept that “Islam also belongs in Germany.” (Photo: Angela Merkel at a CDU conference in Wiesbaden, 6 Oct 2010/Alex Domanski)

Merkel , the daughter of a Protestant pastor brought up in East Germany who now leads the predominantly Catholic CDU party,  said Wulff had emphasised Germany’s “Christian roots and its Jewish roots.”

Dutch prosecutors admit were wrong to drop Catholic abuse cases

maastrichtDutch public prosecutors wrongly dropped two clear cases of sexual abuse of minors by two Roman Catholic priests in the 1980s but it was not a cover-up, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors office said on Wednesday.

A new book published earlier in the day reported that both priests had confessed and numerous witnesses had testified for the defence, but prosecutors closed their inquiries after contacts with the Catholic hierarchy.

The book Vrome zondaars (“Pious Sinners”) by journalist Joep Dohmen also accused prosecutors of turning away victims trying to report abuse and working to deflect any discredit from the Church.

Rousseff courts Brazil’s faith voters with “for life” comments

dilma (Photo: Brazilian presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, October 5, 2010/Ueslei Marcelino)

Brazil’s ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff is playing up her Roman Catholic background in efforts to win back religious voters, whose doubts about her faith and position on abortion rights may have cost her an outright victory in Sunday’s presidential election.

In a surprise shift, many religious voters who oppose abortion, especially evangelical Christians, abandoned Rousseff’s  center-left Workers’ Party to vote for the Green Party’s Marina Silva, who captured an unexpectedly large 19 percent of the vote.

“Personally, I’m from a Catholic family. I am and always was in favor of life,” Rousseff told reporters on Tuesday outside of her campaign headquarters in Brasilia. “I have no problem addressing the religious issue. My project addresses all the religions.”

Vatican keeps up attack on Nobel prize for IVF pioneer

embryoThe Vatican kept up its attack on the Nobel committee on Tuesday for giving the medicine prize to in-vitro fertilization pioneer Robert Edwards, saying he had led to a culture where embryos are seen as commodities.

For the second straight day, it gave the thumbs down to the choice of Edwards, whose success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led to “test tube babies” and later innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood. Several leading Italian newspapers criticized it for its attack on Edwards. (Photo: Cloned human embryo created at Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne in handout photo published May 19, 2005)

A statement by the Vatican-based International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC), said the group was “dismayed” at the choice. “Although IVF has brought happiness to the many couples who have conceived through this process, it has done so at enormous cost,” the federation said in a statement issued on Vatican letter head.

IVF spawns host of ethical issues

embryosIn vitro fertilization (IVF), the pioneering technique that won Robert Edwards the 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine, opened up a wealth of scientific options and a Pandora’s box of ethical dilemmas.

Edwards’s success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led not only to “test tube babies” but also to innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood. (Photo: Frozen human embryos at the Priory Hospital in Birmingham, England, July 31., 1996/Ian Hodgson)

Amid the applause for these medical breakthroughs, ethicists from some Christian churches oppose IVF and techniques related to it because they involve the destruction of human embryos.  The bewildering array of options due to the IVF revolution — from the morality of making “designer babies” to exploitation of poor women as surrogate mothers — has created much concern and many debates among secular ethicists as well.

Polish maverick MP launches anti-clerical party

polandA flamboyant millionaire lawmaker could have an instant impact on Polish politics with a new, anti-clerical party that would legalise abortion on demand, provide free condoms and curb the Catholic Church’s clout.

Janusz Palikot told the founding congress of his Modern Poland (NP) movement late on Saturday that he would quit Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s ruling centre-right Civic Platform (PO) and also resign his parliamentary seat on December 6. (Photo: A statue of the Virgin Mary in Kobylin-Borzymy, June 27, 2010/Kacper Pempel)

“The Modern Poland movement demands the removal of religious instruction from schools, liquidation of the clergy (pension) fund… and state ceremonies at which we do not have to view the fat bellies of bishops,” Palikot told 4,000 cheering supporters.