FaithWorld

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.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, accepted the resignations of two bishops directly under his authority, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, “with regret.” He wished them well “in this next stage of their service to the Church.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement: “We welcome the decision of Bishops Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, John Broadhurst, Edwin Barnes and David Silk to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate for England and Wales, which will be established under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

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.

Church of England paves way for women bishops, traditionalist departures

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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.

Vatican talks with SSPX splinter group proving difficult – cardinal

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Cardinal Walter Kasper on April 12, 2005/Max Rossi

Vatican talks with a controversial splinter group have been difficult and the ultra-traditionalist Catholics will have to make concessions if an accord is to be reached, a senior Vatican cardinal has said.

The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose four bishops were readmitted to the Church last year after a ban of 21 years, cannot conduct the doctrinal discussions on their terms, but only on those of the Vatican, Cardinal Walter Kasper told a news conference during a visit to Paris.

“Dialogue with them is not easy,” said Kasper, who heads the Vatican department for relations with other Christian churches and with Jews. “The main problem with them is not the Mass in Latin, but the concept of tradition. Do we want a living tradition or a petrified one?”

Ultra-trad Catholics upset rabbi’s lecture in Paris cathedral

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, 6 Aug 2009/Jacky Naegelen

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris witnessed a scene on Sunday afternoon that seemed to be from a bygone age. A rabbi invited to deliver a lecture about Catholic-Jewish dialogue was interrupted by young arch-traditionalist Catholics who began to pray the rosary to make “amends for the outrage” of letting him speak there. Rabbi Rivon Krygier had to leave the nave and retire to the sacristy, where he read his text into a microphone to broadcast it to about 1,200 people who came to hear him. Read our full story here.

Rabbi Krygier, the head of a small Conservative Jewish congregation in Paris, had the grace to recognise that his hecklers were a tiny minority. “They’ll say they succeeded in banishing the rabbi to the sacristy,” he told the Catholic daily La Croix“This is an act that has to be taken seriously, but the Christians active in dialogue seem much more determined to continue on this path.” krygier

Rabbi Rivon Krygier/Adath Shalom

The warm round of applause that Krygier received when he returned to the nave after the lecture bore that out. At the same time, arch-traditionalists such as Rev. Régis de Cacqueray, head of the French section of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) congratulated protesters for their “courage” and said: “The Paris cathedral is neither a synagogue nor a Masonic temple.”

Will Queen Elizabeth give the pope a warm welcome next year?

queenOne 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: Queen Elizabeth, 13 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)

The timing of the trips couldn’t be more intriguing, especially the second one. The pope is due to visit Britain in September 2010 and is expected to preside there over the beatification of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous 19th-century convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

The queen is, after all, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, many of whose flock the pope is seeking to poach with his offer last week allowing Anglicans to convert en masse while keeping many of their traditions. And among her honorifics is “Defender of the Faith.” While that sounds impressive, it pales in comparison to Benedict’s long string of titles including “Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.” But oneupmanship is a British sport, so one never knows how these things can turn out.

Vatican begins talks with ultra-traditionalists

swiss-guards-vaticanThe Vatican began talks on Monday with an ultra-traditionalist Catholic splinter group, one of whose bishops has denied the full extent of the Holocaust, with the aim of re-integrating it fully into the Church. Vatican officials and leaders of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) discussed what a statement called “doctrinal differences still outstanding” between the group and Rome. (Photo: Swiss guards at St. Peter’s Basilica, 25 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)

The traditionalists reject many of the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which modernised many aspects of the 1.1 billion member Church, including its liturgy, its relations with other Christians and its view of Jews.

The group, numbering several hundred thousand members, insists that it represents the true faith, and opposes the way the Church has evolved over the past 40 years. The SSPX says the Vatican and the vast majority of the Church went off the rails at the Council.

Anglicans, in row, may cut women bishops’ powers

schoriThe 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.

The Church of England body reviewing the law on women bishops, the Revision Committee, has voted to change the rules to remove certain powers from female bishops in dioceses where they face opposition from traditionalists. Specially-appointed male bishops would assume those powers and the new system would be written into British law, the committee said in a statement. (Photo: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S. Episcopal Church, 4 Nov 2006/Jonathan Ernst)

While Anglicans in the United States, Canada and Australia already have women bishops, conservatives in many other parts of the Communion strongly oppose them. They say there is nothing in the Bible or church history to support women bishops. Liberals, who argue that women should be treated equally, said the latest proposals to allow women bishops, albeit with reduced powers in some areas, risked creating a two-tier church.

Vatican statement accompanying papal letter to bishops

lombardiThe Vatican’s official spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi S.J., has issued the following statement on the letter Pope Benedict has sent to Roman Catholic bishops around the world about the controversy over the readmission of four excommunicated ultre-traditionalist bishops to the Church. In view of the controversy surrounding that step and the Vatican’s admittedly clumsy handling of its announcement, we wanted to run the statement in full below. Again, any comments on how you see this controversy are welcome. (Photo: rev. Federico Lombardi, 13 June 2007/Herbert Neubauer)

The difficult commitment to reconciliation

The “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre” is definitely an unusual document and deserves all our attention. Never before in his Pontificate has Benedict XVI expressed himself in such a personal manner and intensity on a controversial subject. There isn’t the slightest doubt: this Letter bears his mark, from beginning to end.

Pope to bishops: check your mail

pope-pic-1Those of us who thought the pope had said the final word on the Williamson saga will have to think again. It seems to be never-ending.

On Thursday the Vatican officially releases a letter to the world’s bishops in which the pope essentially acknowledges that the Vatican handled the lifting of the excommunications of four ultra-traditionalist bishops very badly and that it hurt him personally that things went awry. (Photo: Pope Benedict at his weekly audience, 11 March 2009/Alessia Pierdomenico)

The story started leaking out on Tuesday night in the blog of Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale and a story with partial excerpts was published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio on Wednesday.  The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung printed what it said was the full text in German of the pope’s letter. Our story is based on a face-to-face conversation I had with an Italian archbishop who received the letter. We discussed it over a light meal near St Peter’s Square.