FaithWorld

Is Benedict planning to take in traditionalist Anglicans?

Church of England Newspaper logoThere is speculation in Rome that Pope Benedict might receive about 400,000 (yes, 400,000) Traditional Anglican Communion members into the Roman Catholic Church this summer, after the official Anglican Communion finishes its ten-yearly Lambeth Conference on August 3. Both the Church of England Newspaper in the U.K. and the National Catholic Register in the U.S. have run stories on this. Both sides are subscribers only, so all links here are to reports about them.

Traditional Anglican CommunionAccording to the Church of England Newspaper, talks between the Vatican and the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) focus on the question of whether a group can enter into full communion with Rome as an independent rite, similar to the Eastern rite churches that keep their own traditions and leadership. That sounds like it means they would want to use the Book of Common Prayer, keep their married clergy and retain some autonomy of member churches.

The newspaper quotes the Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, the Rt Rev Jack Iker — now in Rome on study leave — that “it is thought that the Pope is sympathetic to the dilemma of traditionalists in the Anglican way.”

It noted that “no formal dialogue exists between TAC and the (Council) for Promoting Christian Unity — the Vatican agency tasked with ecumenical relations.” Catholic Online commented:“The TAC may be getting ahead of itself on how quickly such a request will be acted upon.”

Pope Benedict baptises Magdi Allam, 22 March 2008/Dario PignatelliThis is still speculation and we have no inside track on this. But it should be noted that Benedict has shown a taste for surprising us on such issues. Remember the baptism of the Italian Muslim Magdi Allam at Easter? The Vatican dicastery following Islam reportedly knew nothing about that in advance, even though it caused a flap in Vatican-Muslim relations.

Benedict is a liberal, according to traditionalist bishop

Pope Benedict XVI at his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican, 4 June 2008/Dario PignatelliPope Benedict is “an absolutely liberal pope.” The United States is “founded upon Masonic principles of a revolution, of a rebellion against God”.

It is clear that the man who made these comments has lost some connection to reality. If I told you he had been the target of a Vatican charm offensive in recent years, you might think I had lost a link to reality, too. However, it shows how strange the relationship between the Vatican and the schismatic traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X has become that its head, Bishop Bernard Fellay, could utter the words quoted above.

Fellay, whose SSPX movement champions the traditional Latin Mass and wants the Roman Catholic Church to turn the clock back to before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), thought its star was rising after the election of Pope Benedict three years ago. Benedict has gone a long way to accomodate the SSPX’s liturgical demands, bringing back the Tridentine Mass despite the fact very few other Catholics were asking for it. He has agreed to a new Latin Good Friday prayer that restored traditional phrasing even though it was offensive to Jews (and still not enough for the SSPX). Even Benedict, for all his conservative views, refuses to roll back the reforms of Vatican Two wholesale.

SSPX Catholic rebels disappointed by Benedict

Pope Benedict at his Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York, 20 April 2008/Mike SegarI’m not sure if the timing has anything to do with Pope Benedict’s U.S. trip, but the schismatic traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X chose this weekend to announce its disappointment in the pontiff and its decision not to seek closer ties to Rome now. SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay wrote in a “Letter to Friends and Benefactors” (here in French) that Benedict had not budged in his support for the Second Vatican Council despite his decision last year to allow wider use of the old Tridentine rite Mass in Latin.

The time for an agreement has not yet come,” Fellay wrote. The decree on the old Latin Mass was “not accompanied by logically co-related measures in the other areas of the life of the ChurchNothing has changed in Rome’s determination to follow the council’s orientation, despite 40 years of crisis, despite the deserted convents, abandoned rectories and empty churches.”

The letter is dated April 14 but was only published on Saturday by the SSPX information service DICI. Here’s our story and here’s a partial English translation of Fellay’s statement at Rorate Caeli (hat tip to Father Z for that).