There is little doubt that the return to the fold of High Church Anglicans will be proclaimed as an ecumenical victory and a sign of great hope for bewildered Anglicans, but, at the same time, the Latin Church is venturing into new avenues, potentially creating separatist groups which could be detrimental to the unity she formerly enjoyed...
Pastor's Corner for Low Sunday—Dominica in Albis (May 1, 2011)
Pope Benedict XVI issued in November 2009 a document, Anglicanorum coetibus which creates a juridical ordinariate for Anglicans converting to the Catholic Church. This means that these Anglican parishes are turning Catholic as a whole, and these specific parishes are de facto constituting an ordinariate (centralized government equivalent in rank to a local diocese) as an integral part of the Catholic institution.
This situation has been propelled by the ultra liberalism of the official Anglican Church which opened the way to accepting women as priests and bishops, its blatant permissiveness of homosexuality, divorce and abortion, and the abandonment of the Book of Common Prayer (compiled by Cranmer in the 16th century).
This document is a follow-up on a 1980 Pastoral Provision which had already made approaches in the sense of facilitating their wholesale introduction into the Catholic Church. They were already allowed to preserve what Anglican traditions were compatible with the Catholic Church’s liturgy; they could use their former Anglican parish assets and structures; they were given in 1984 a new book of worship, a hybrid derived from the New Mass and the Book of Common Prayer; whoever converted had to make a personal profession of the Faith; finally, married Anglican priests could, after conversion, be ordained Catholic priests and retain their married status, although the episcopacy was closed to them.
The document issued by Benedict XVI assumes these changes but becomes more daring even for the purpose of easing the conversion of whole Anglican parishes into the Catholic fold.
- The main aspect is that they are given a singular status. They are converted into a state within a state as this ordinariate (created within the English Episcopal Conference), enjoys a semi-independent situation, unlike any other in the Latin Catholic hierarchy. This is so much the more dangerous as the subjects are former Anglicans who always took the Church of Christ to be an invisible reality.
- It is a whole parish which becomes Catholic together with its Anglican pastor and even if individual profession of the faith is required, everyone needs to submit to a text, and not to a living authority who interprets the text, promoting the erroneous sola scriptura mentality.
- The law of celibacy is softened as we may soon see a multiplication of legitimately married priests in the Western rites. But also, the papal document leaves the door open to raise married laymen to the priesthood.
There is little doubt that the return to the fold of High Church Anglicans will be proclaimed as an ecumenical victory and a sign of great hope for bewildered Anglicans, but, at the same time, the Latin Church is venturing into new avenues, potentially creating separatist groups which could be detrimental to the unity she formerly enjoyed.