Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pope and Anglicans

( - Some people in England-- perhaps within the English hierarchy-- would like us to believe that Pope Benedict XVI is working with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discourage conservative Anglicans from entering the Catholic Church.

Don't believe it.
The daily Independent has given its readers an analysis of the Vatican's approach to the Lambeth Conference, beginning with this striking paragraph:

The Pope is leading an unprecedented drive by the Roman Catholic Church to prevent the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican Communion ahead of the once-a-decade gathering of its 800 bishops, which begins today, The Independent has learnt.
The Independent correspondent goes on to say that the Pope "does not support the defection of conservative Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church." The story cites the Pope's comments to reporters on July 13, during his flight to Australia for World Youth Day. Responding to a question about the Lambeth Conference, the Holy Father said that he hoped the Anglican communion could find a way to "avoid schisms and splits" by means of solutions "that also are faithful to the Gospel."

Notice that last phrase: solutions that are "faithful to the Gospel." The Pope was not giving a blanket endorsement to the policies favored by the majority of Anglican bishops, who have allowed the ordination of homosexuals and broken with the tradition of a male clergy.

Nor was the Pontiff discouraging Anglicans from exploring the Catholic faith. Quite on the contrary, Pope Benedict has expressed a keen interest in helping Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Holy See. It is true, no doubt, that the Pope would prefer not to see the Anglican communion descend into chaos. It is definitely not true that he would prefer to see Anglican unity restored on the basis of an agreement that would scorn Christian morality, reject Church tradition, and keep thousands of faithful Anglicans permanently separated from union with Rome.

How did the Independent's reporter have come to believe that the Pope is supporting the Anglican status quo? This paragraph is revealing:

Roman Catholic insiders say there are two motives behind the Pope's concerns. A decision has been taken within the Roman Catholic hierarchy that it is in its interests for the Anglican Church to maintain unity. Despite speculation about a group of conservative bishops breaking away to the Roman church, senior Catholics say such a move would be "premature", and that they are not encouraging defections. The other reason is that the Pope has developed a strong personal relationship with Dr Williams. "They get on, they are both theologians," a source said last night.
Some "Catholic insiders," presumably within or around the English hierarchy, have evidently decided that they do not want Anglican bishops joining the Catholic fold. So they have begun quietly telling reporters-- not just at the Independent but also at the Daily Telegraph, which published a similar analysis story today-- that the Vatican is not terribly interested in receiving converts from the Church of England.

We can only speculate as to why those "insiders" wish to send that message, and how much authority they wield within the Catholic Church? Do they really speak for the Vatican? Is that really what the Pope is thinking? It seems highly unlikely-- even absurd-- that the Pope is discouraging conversions. But the British newspaper reports are enough to make one wonder, and look for some reassurance. The last two sentences of that telltale paragraph from the Independent provide me with that reassurance. Yes, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury are both theologians (although not nearly at the same level of expertise). Yes, they have had a few cordial conversations. But if you want me to believe that Pope Benedict would discourage faithful Christians from entering fully into the sacramental life of the Catholic Church, on the basis of a personal friendship with another religious leader…

If you ask me to believe that, you'll convince me of only one thing: You don't know what the Pope is thinking.


fr paul harrison said...

The "insiders" and "those close to the hierachy" are not readers and supporters of the Tablet by any chance? lol

Volpius Leonius said...

The last thing the "insiders" want is a large number of Anglicans entering the Church who oppose the very things they want to introduce into the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

I understand fully what the Pope wants to do.

After the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu he wants to capture the C of E intact.

Bonnie said...

Although this may show just how ignorant I am, reflect poorly on the American public school systems, and be a huge oversimplification I'm going to ask a question I have had for a long time: Why is a church that was founded so a king could get a divorce still around? How can people actually feel there is any authority from it's leaders?

Anagnostis said...


Have a look at the first millenium. Can you find an example of any of the Fathers advising heretics to remain in heretical communions, so that the Pope, following the example of a Chinese sage, can at some hypothetical point in the future "capture them intact"?

I wonder what St Athanasius or St Basil would make of such a propostion. Frankly, it beggars belief.

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