FaithWorld

Pope opening to Anglicans may help married priesthood

bishop-family (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.

The opening announced last week could lead to as many as half a million Anglican faithful, some 50 of their bishops and thousands of married Anglican priests converting to Catholicism.

The conservative Anglicans, who oppose female priesthood and gay bishops, now have an exit strategy. They will have their own niche within the Catholic Church and will be allowed to convert as individuals, parishes or even as whole dioceses.

They will not have to jettison their Anglican traditions and many will find their new parishes headed by formerly Anglican married priests who will become de facto married Catholic priests after they convert.

Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the pope’s job until he was elected in 2005, acknowledged that the Vatican will have some serious explaining to do to groups that have been pushing for a married priesthood: “I think for some people it seems to be a problem because as you know there have been many Catholic priests who have left the priesthood to get married, and the question arises, ‘well, if these former Anglicans can be married priests, what about us?’”

Global South Anglican bishops politely decline pope’s offer

bibleConservative 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. (Photo: A Bible, 20 Aug 2008/Simon Newman)

The “Global South” group, which last year seemed close to quitting the Communion, said those opposed to gay clergy and other liberal reforms should “stand firm with us in cherishing the Anglican heritage (and) pursuing a common vocation.”

Indirectly declining the pope’s offer to receive alienated Anglicans, the group called on the Communion’s member churches to adopt a “covenant” to coordinate policy in the loosely structured 77-million-strong worldwide Anglican community.

Vatican-Anglican: where in the details will the devil be hiding?

tiber-and-st-peters1If “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.” (Photo: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tiber River, 23 Dec 1999/Mario Laporta)

There is little clarity yet on either side. The Vatican has not spelled out the conditions of the “Apostolic Constitution” to accept Anglicans who want to join Catholicism while maintaining some of their own traditions. Additionally, there are varied faces of Anglicanism, which in its dogmas and practices stands somewhere between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions such as the Lutheran or Reformed churches. This will clearly take a while to work out.

The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, played down any problems when the offer was announced. But several reactions from Anglicans to Tuesday’s announcement, including from some inclined to make the switch, have begun to trace the outlines of the looming doctrinal debates among Anglicans worldwide and between the Vatican and Anglicans knocking at its door.

Vatican synod urges corrupt African leaders to quit

african-synod (Photo: Pope Benedict XVI with African bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, 4  Oct 2009/Alessandro Bianchi)

Roman Catholic bishops called on corrupt Catholic leaders in Africa on Friday to repent or resign for giving the continent and the Church a bad name. Around 200 African bishops, along with dozens of other bishops and Africa experts, also accused multinational companies in Africa of “crimes against humanity” and urged Africans to beware of “surreptitious” attempts by international organizations to destroy traditional African values.

Their three-week synod, which ends formally on Sunday with a Mass by Pope Benedict, covered a range of Africa’s problems, such as AIDS, corruption, poverty, development aspirations and crime. But it had a very direct message for corrupt African leaders who were raised Catholics.

“Many Catholics in high office have fallen woefully short in their performance in office. The synod calls on such people to repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name.”

How many Anglicans will switch to the Roman Catholic Church?

levadaDisaffected 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. (Photo: Vatican Cardinal William Levada announces offer to Anglicans, 20 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)

The Church of England could not comment on numbers likely to convert, with one source adding: “It’s all guesswork.” But Stephen Parkinson, director of FiF, said a figure of 1,000 Church of England priests, reported in the media, was “credible.” Read our news story on this here.

Estimates of laity are “much harder,” Parkinson said.  “Inevitably if you say 1,000 priests you are then talking about several thousand laity.”

U.S. envoy Diaz: A Cuban-born Midwestern theologian in Pope Benedict’s Court

diaz-and-pope-1A few days after he presented his credentials to Pope Benedict as new U.S. ambassador to the United States, Miguel Humberto Diaz, invited a few journalists to his residence on Rome’s Gianicolo Hill for a chat. It was his first meeting with the media in his new role and I was the only member of a major international news organisation to be invited to the first round.

Diaz, a very amiable man, is the first Hispanic and the first theologian to fill the post of U.S. ambassador. He took questions in English and Italian on a range of topics but most of the comments were centered on what he wanted to make out of the post. Here are some excerpts. The questions have been synthesized to reflect the conversation: (Photos: Ambassador Diaz and Pope Benedict, October 2, 2009. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

How did you get the news that President Obama had chosen you as new envoy and how did you feel?

“Return to past” is SSPX motto for doctrinal talks with Vatican

fellay-alps1As planned negotiations between the Vatican and the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) near, the group’s Swiss leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has spelled out his view of what the Roman Catholic Church must do to resolve the crisis he believes it is in. “The solution to the crisis is a return to the past,” he has told a magazine published by the SSPX in South Africa. (Photo: Bishop Fellay in Ecône, Switzerland, 29 June 2009/Denis Balibouse)

Fellay said Pope Benedict agrees with the SSPX on the need to maintain the Church’s links to the past, but still wants to keep some reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). “This is one of the most sensitive problems,” he said. “We hope the discussions will allow us to dispel the grave ambiguities that have spread through the Catholic Church since (the Council), as John Paul II himself recognised.”

Benedict has, in fact, listed SSPX acceptance of Vatican II reforms was a Vatican conditions in the talks.

Vatican ruling on disputed Medjugorje shrine expected soon

medjugorje-statueHas the Virgin Mary been appearing daily for many years in the once obscure Bosnian village of Medjugorje to share religious messages with a few local believers? Is the site visited by over 30 million pilgrims a hoax? The question has long divided Catholics who have debated whether the visions are a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or the result of an elaborate fraud. (Photo: Virgin Mary statue at reported apparition site, 25 June 2009/Damir Sagolj)

After observing events sceptically for many years, the Vatican may soon issue firmer guidance for Catholics on the claim that the mother of Jesus has been visiting the Balkans, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, head of the bishops’ conference in Bosnia, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. That guidance, if it clearly expresses the scepticism the official Church has long shown towards the Medjugorje phenomenon, could deal a serious blow to a site some Catholics see as a “new Lourdes.”

“We are now awaiting a new directive on this issue,” said Puljic, the Sarajevo archbishop who survived the city’s long wartime siege in the 1990s. “I don’t think we must wait for a long time, I think it will be this year, but that is not clear… I am going to Rome in November and we must discuss this.”

Sarkozy explains French laïcité to visiting Catholic bishops

bishops-elyseeFrench President Nicolas Sarkozy took time out from a busy schedule on Friday to welcome 18 Catholic cardinals, archbishops and bishops from across Europe into the Elysée Palace for a short talk about laïcité. The prelates were in Paris for an annual session of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), a Swiss-based body that brings together all those bishops’ conferences. Among the topics at the three-day conference are relations between church and state in Europe, so it was natural that they’d take the opportunity to learn more about France’s trademark secular system. (Photo: Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanic (L), Esztergom-Budapest Cardinal Péter Erdö (C) and Bordeaux Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard arrive to meet President Sarkozy, 2 Oct 2009/Charles Platiau)

Cardinal Péter Erdö of Esztergom-Budapest, current CCEE president, came out full of praise for the president’s presentation. It was “maqnifique”, he told waiting journalists in French. “We’re very pleased to hear the president’s point of view”, which he described as “a constructive way of interpreting laïcité”. Erdö recalled that France’s legal separation of church and state, imposed forcibly in 1905, had led to “great conflicts” in the past. “But today, I think it is one form of constructive collaboration and mutual respect” in Europe. He added that the bishops gave Sarkozy a copy of Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in Truth) signed by the pontiff himself.

Outside of France, laïcité is sometimes seen as a hostile system the Catholic Church must be instinctively allergic to. It can give rise to some hostility, especially from officials who are actually what has to be called laïcité fundamentalists. And it can complicate life not only for the Catholic Church but all religious groups there. But in fact, most religious groups here have learned to live with the system and defend it to visiting foreigners who expect to hear them groaning about it.

U.S. ambassador Diaz: theologian envoy to theologian pope

diaz-1Miguel Humberto Diaz might sound like the name of an ambassador from Spain or any Latin American country, but in fact it belongs to the new American ambassador to the Vatican.

And if any further proof  were needed that things are changing in Obama’s America, consider this: The surnames of the previous ambassadors to the Vatican were: Wilson, Shakespeare, Melady, Glendon, Flynn, Boggs,  Nicholson, Rooney, and Glendon.

In my coverage of the Vatican, I knew most of them well, a few of them very well,  and at least three — Melady, Flynn and Nicholson (two Republicans and a Democrat) — became friends who still keep in touch. Their kindness then and now will always be appreciated.