By Hilary White

ROME, October 30, 2009 ( – The Vatican's offer to allow doctrinally Christian Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church en masse is eliciting increasingly shrill denunciations from representatives of the extreme left of the religious world. The Vatican, critics say, is indulging in a form of ecclesiastical “piracy” and is attempting to shift the Church back towards its old pre-Vatican II “imperialism.”

In an Op Ed published October 27 in several European newspapers, one of the most notorious members of the Catholic Church's extreme liberal establishment, former Catholic theology professor Hans Küng, lashed out at his one-time university colleague Pope Benedict, saying that the offer to the Anglicans is a “tragedy,” and “a non-ecumenical piracy of priests.” It presages a shift to the extreme right and a return to an “old fashioned” “anti-reformist” mindset. 

Küng, a Swiss Catholic priest and an outspoken opponent of the Catholic discipline of clerical celibacy, said the decision is a signal that “Pope Benedict is set upon restoring the Roman imperium.” He denounced “Ratzinger's stubborn, uncomprehending intransigence” on the matter of married clergy and said that “the Roman thirst for power divides Christianity and damages its own church.”

The Vatican's original announcement made clear, however, that the initiative was not initiated by Rome, but in response to the pleas of disaffected groups of Anglicans, including bishops, who can no longer stomach their church's secularising trends.

The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the largest of the independent Anglican groups, has asked repeatedly for this provision – a fact that is a matter of public record. In 2007, the group's leaders met in Portsmouth, England and announced that they had “unanimously agreed” to ask the pope for “full, corporate, sacramental union” with the Catholic Church.

The editor-in-chief of the Vatican's paper L'Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian, has struck back, saying that Küng, the “former colleague and friend” of Pope Benedict, has “distorted” the pope's intentions out of “bitterness.” He decried Küng's “unprovoked attack” against the Church and “its unquestionable commitment to ecumenism.”

Other commentators were more succinct, with the popular and acerbic online columnist “Diogenes” dryly noting at “Hans Küng has criticized Pope Benedict. In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning.”

Patrick Madrid, an American Catholic author and host of several EWTN television and radio series, wrote that Küng's screeds are becoming increasingly predictable. “Father Küng's aggressive ambivalence toward the Catholic Church is almost cute now,” he wrote. Küng, he said, is like “a rickety old submarine that surfaces now and then to vent the noxious fumes that have built up inside.”

Following the Vatican's announcement, in an Op Ed for the Washington Post retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark, John Shelby Spong, took a slightly different tack, saying that the incident is “a sad picture of how out-of-date and irrelevant institutional Christianity has become.”

Spong is a major “religious” promoter of left-liberal causes like radical feminism and the homosexualist movement. In his writings, Spong has decried “organised religion,” and “theism” as a description of God. He has also denied the Virgin Birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. 

Spong continued, “Here we have two unimpressive Christian leaders, rooted deeply in yesterday, jockeying publicly to see who can be the most prejudiced about the role of women and the place of homosexual people in the life of the Christian Church. It would be amusing if it were not so ludicrous.”

He continued, “The pope constantly parades before the world an uninformed homophobia and his attempt to suggest that women are 'separate but equal' is almost pathetic.” He also blasted the pope for his refusal to accept the liberal consensus on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Spong then took a shot at Rowan Williams, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, who signed the announcement and gave his approval. Williams, Spong said, “long ago sacrificed a commitment to truth on the altar of church unity, made peace with those infected with the prejudices of sexism and homophobia and acted as if unity could actually be achieved by rejecting women or gay people.”

Spong closes, after nearly 400 words on the subject, saying that he is “quite simply not interested in this debate.”

“It does not speak to my world,” he concluded.

Read related coverage:

Traditionally Christian Anglicans Ask to Join Catholic Church En Masse 

Vatican Guilty of “Divisiveness” for Anglican Reunification Offer: Leftist Critics 

Traditional Anglican Communion “On the Same Page” as Vatican on Life and Family: Canadian TAC Head 

Anglican Reunion will Create “Huge Cultural Shift” to the Extreme Left in Anglican Church 


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