Catholics, Anglicans Try to Sort out What This Means
Coday, Dennis, National Catholic Reporter
Subdued reflection seemed to be the most common reaction from Catholics and Anglicans to the Vatican's plans to more easily welcome Anglicans into the Roman Catholic fold.
Seeming to welcome the announcement was Msgr. William H. Stetson, an Opus Dei priest from the Washington, D.C., area, who since the 1980s has personally supervised the conversion of approximately 100 Episcopal priests.
He told Religion News Service, "There's no structure like it in the modern history of the Catholic church. This is a historic moment."
Meanwhile Andrew Brown, a columnist for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper called this "the end of the Anglican Communion."
"One of the things that this development means is that the Roman Catholic church is no longer even pretending to take seriously the existence of the Anglican Communion as a coherent body," Brown wrote. "Instead there are various sections of 'the Anglican tradition' (not 'church' or 'communion'), some of which are still properly Christian and so able to become Roman Catholic."
Brown writes that Pope Benedict XVI's message to Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is "So long and thanks for the priests."
But just how many Anglicans will take advantage of this offer remains to be seen. Making the announcement at the Oct. 20 news conference, Cardinal William Levada said that in establishing the new jurisdictions, Benedict was responding to "many requests" submitted by individual Anglicans and by Anglican groups--including "20 to 30 bishops" asking to enter into full communion with the Catholic church.
The main group seems to be the Traditional Anglican Communion, a network claiming to represent some 400,000 Anglicans worldwide.
The traditional Anglican group in England, Forward in Faith, seemed enthusiastic: "It has been the frequently expressed hope and fervent desire of Anglican Catholics to be enabled by some means to enter into full communion with the see of Peter....
"We rejoice that the Holy Father intends now to set up structures within the church which respond to this heartfelt longing. Forward in Faith has always been committed to seeking unity in truth and so warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic movement in the Church of England."
But traditionalists in the United States were more circumspect.
Robert Duncan, who as bishop of Pittsburgh led his diocese out of the Episcopal church and is now archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church in North America, issued a statement on the Web site Standfirminfaith.com.
"We rejoice that the Holy See has opened this doorway," he wrote, but "we believe that this provision will not be utilized by the great majority of the Anglican church in North America's bishops, priests, dioceses and congregations."
They still have problems with the Roman church, Duncan points out, namely: "historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the nature of Holy Orders."
Also taking a wait and see attitude was the Anglo-Catholic bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, Jack Leo Iker. Writing on Virtueonline.org, which bills itself as "the voice for global orthodox Anglicanism," Ikers said he read "with great interest" the news accounts of the Oct. 20 Vatican announcement.
"Many Anglo-Catholics will welcome this development as a very generous and welcoming offer .... Other Anglicans who desire full communion with the see of Peter would prefer some sort of recognition of the validity of Anglican orders and the provision for intercommunion between Roman Catholics and Anglicans....
"But of course, not all Anglo-Catholics can accept certain teachings of the Roman Catholic church, nor do they believe that they must first convert to Rome in order to be truly catholic Christians. …