There are Christians in the world who sincerely believe that if only Christianity would be come more liberal and “with the times,” renouncing traditional and unpopular doctrines and practices, it would gain more respect for its “relevance.” They are wrong, plain and simple. For a skeptic to observe a religion that holds beliefs that he regards as false, that’s one thing. For a sceptic to observe a religious person who wants to keep his name tag so that it can have continuity with a historical movement, but who is frankly so embarrassed by what it teaches that he wants to water it down, hide less acceptable aspects of it, change some bits to try and make it look more palatable to those who reject it outright, end up with something that the sceptic still thinks isn’t really true, but now thinking that it’s going to look better to an unbelieving world because it’s relevant – that’s a spectacle of a whole other kind (and not in a good way).
I make no secret of my Protestantism, and my grounds for being one are very conservative and old fashioned. But this I know: Whatever additional theological baggage you might think the Catholic church may have taken on board over the years, they are pretty faithful when it comes to not jettisoning beliefs just because they aren’t popular. There’s something basically respectable there: No BS, you accept the faith or you don’t, but it aint changing to suit you. As numerous Christian movements go the way of trying to change in the mistaken belief that it will help their survival, disillusioned members of those movements may quite understandably look to Catholicism for a contrast.
The Pope knows this. He, like plenty of other Catholics, Anglicans, and Christians in general, knows that Anglicanism isn’t what it used to be. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, along with numerous changes (or perhaps reductions) in belief and practice in recent decades, are testimony to a liberal shift in a movement that is experimenting with survival tactics. Individual congregations do provide welcome exceptions, yes, and I don’t want to overlook that. But an an official level, it aint pretty. This is an opportunity for Catholicism, and they aren’t missing it.
The Church of England may see a “flood” of traditionalist members moving to the Roman Catholic Church following an offer by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome Anglican priests and worshippers, a religious group said.
The Vatican said yesterday it has set up a special structure to integrate Anglicans and enable the faith’s married priests to become Catholic clerics.
“It could well be a flood, provided the terms and conditions are favorable,” said Stephen Parkinson, director of the Anglican traditionalist group Forward in Faith. As many as 1,000 priests could convert, he said today in a telephone interview. “We haven’t seen the fine print yet.”
The offer may be the most important step toward unity between the two churches since they split in 1534 over Pope Clement VII’s refusal to grant King Henry VIII an annulment to his marriage. Traditionalist Anglicans have threatened to quit their church over the ordination of female bishops and acceptance of homosexual bishops and same-sex unions.
The Vatican’s new structure for Anglicans, dubbed “personal ordinariates,” would allow married Anglican clergymen to be ordained as Catholic priests, though not as bishops.
It’s not only a very smart move, but also one that will improve the priesthood by reintroducing the existence of married priests (the unwarranted prohibition on marriage among priests has, I am certain, contributed to way too many scandals in the church). It’s not a change in policy on clerical marriage, but it’s a start.
It’s official. Se the Vatican’s statement HERE.
(See also the discussion on this over at Being Frank.)