Wednesday, October 21, 2009


In the news coverage over the announcement of an Apostolic Constitution that will enable members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion who so desire to come into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving important dimensions of their Anglican worship and spirituality, there have been a number of insinuations that the Catholic Church is “going fishing,” so to speak. An article posted yesterday on AT&T’s web-site home page in fact was titled “Vatican seeks to lure disaffected Anglicans” (emphasis mine). This article stated that the announcement is “designed to entice,” making it clear that the authors see something sinister: they even describe the process by which the decision to welcome Anglicans was made as “…reached in secret by a small cadre of Vatican officials.” If this doesn’t have the odors of The Da Vinci Code wafting all over it, nothing does.

If, as the AT&T article suggests, the intention of the Catholic Church is to appeal to “traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions,” clearly the authors think that such traditionalists are out of what is (or ought to be, from their point of view) the mainstream of Christian belief and practice.

But in the long run, “converts” (the term is mis-applied in such cases, but it has become the standard way of speaking) always make the move from one Christian denomination to another because they see a greater sense of fullness elsewhere, or they see their own beliefs rejected by their own denomination.

Back in the 19th century, John Henry Newman entered into full communion with the Catholic Church because he was convinced 1. that sacramental life and the apostolic succession of the bishops were crucial components in the True Church, and 2. the Church of England was downplaying these components to the point of their virtual disappearance from practical church life, at least as Newman saw it. The so-called “Affair of the ‘Jerusalem Bishopric,’” which in many ways for Newman was the straw on the camel’s back, effectively said that bishops were really nothing more than political/social presences. He was devastated, and he ultimately became a Catholic. Similarly, some few years later, the “Gorham Decision” declared that Anglicans have no obligation to believe that the Sacrament of Baptism actually effects anything in the soul of the person (‘baptismal regeneration’ became an optional belief). Among many others, Henry Manning joined the Catholic Church and became the first head of the re-established Catholic hierarchy in England (as Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster).

The similarities between the 19th and the 20th/21st century situations are clear, even if the former issues were more “doctrinal” and the latter are more “moral/practical.” In both cases, serious and sincere Christians perceive that their particular denomination is losing focus. There comes a point for such people when the focus is blurred to the extent that there is no vision left. Then they find themselves needing to make a choice, for the sake of their spiritual welfare.

There is no sense of ‘poaching’ or ‘cannibalizing’ or ‘going fishing’ here. No one in the Catholic Church is asking members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion to “come on over.” But if they choose to knock on the door, the door will be opened.

On a related note, the same AT&T web-site article suggests that some disaffected Anglicans may “oppose the ruling that married Anglicans cannot become Catholic bishops.” Among the many mistakes and over-simplifications and blatant biases present in this article, it should be pointed out that the proposed Apostolic Constitution will not be making “a ruling,” as though members of the Curia were sitting up one night and deciding, “We’ll let them have A and B, but we won’t let them have C.” This is simply not the case.

The Catholic Church is involved (in fact, irrevocably committed, in the words of Pope John Paul II) to ecumenical dialogue, and this includes with the Orthodox Eastern Churches. From very early on, both the Western and Eastern wings of the Church recognized that bishops should be unmarried, even when priests could have wives. Given this current practice, what was stated is nothing more than observing of a standard much older than the 16th century Reformation. In any event, since in fact a married priest can act as the “personal ordinary” of this new protocol, it means he will de facto have the authority of a bishop.

There is another (obvious) lesson to be learned here: do NOT, under any circumstances, rely on the so-called ‘secular media’ for accurate reporting on any religious affairs, especially on a web-site. Go to a trusted source. Web-sites, popular news magazines, wire services, and so on simply do not have staff with sufficient expertise in the technicalities of theology (nor, too often, in the facts of history) to be dependable. A word to the wise—or in this case, perhaps, preaching to the choir?!


  1. Each news channel/internet site panders to their viewers/readers, much the same way a politician does to the voter. Everything is geared toward ratings or site visits.

    People today seem less concerned with the information they can acquire and more for affirmation of their preconceived beliefs.

  2. how wonderful this world would be if these preconceived beliefs were based or formed on "Truth", the messages/teachings of the Gospels, rather than on the truth that Pontius Pilate made reference to or questioned, (truth based on the concept of relativism), vice the TRUTH who is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.