By Hilary White
VATICAN CITY, October 22, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The battle lines in the culture wars within both the Anglican and Catholic Churches have become clearly visible with the announcement of new provisions to bring traditionally-minded Christian Anglicans into the Catholic Church in groups. Some are accusing the Vatican of having torpedoed the remains of the rapidly deteriorating Worldwide Anglican Communion with its surprise announcement by Cardinal Levada, the head of the Vatican's doctrinal office on Tuesday.
Although officially denied by the Vatican, it is being widely acknowledged that the move has been in response to overtures by the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the largest of the “conservative breakaway” groups. The TAC has objected to the Anglican Churches' decisions to ordain women to the clergy and episcopate and to embrace homosexual activity as equal to natural sexual relations, as well as other deviations from traditional Christian teaching. After decades of apparently fruitless “ecumenical dialogue,” observers have said the Pope has taken the matter into his own hands and offered a refuge to Anglicans who adhere to the tenets of classical, biblical Christianity.
The doctrinal orthodoxy in the TAC on life and family issues, as well as liturgical questions, give a clue to the true nature of the objections to the Vatican's move by both Catholic and Anglican “progressives,” liberals and feminists. Bishop Carl Reid of the TAC in Canada told LifeSiteNews.com, “When it comes to issues of morality, especially family and pro-life, our membership is very strongly on the same page as are Roman Catholics.”
Commentators on the left are already saying the decision is “divisive,” with Toronto's Globe and Mail, in an unsigned editorial on Wednesday, calling it “a Trojan horse” and a “one sided attempt to reconcile faiths.” “It appears to enhance Christian goodwill while inflaming the doctrinal battles between and within the two churches.”
While leaders of the disintegrating Anglican Church had no choice but to accept, “Catholics who look for flexibility from their own leadership for themselves, over doctrinal and moral questions – communion for divorcees, abortion, female ordination – get the party line,” the Globe and Mail said.
At Tuesday's press conference at the Vatican, Catholic News Service (CNS) correspondent Cindy Wooden brought up the theme of “divisiveness,” asking Cardinal Levada whether the decision could be ”harmful to the ecumenical movement when you're saying to a dissenting segment of the Anglican Communion that they share the one true faith and you're saying to the rest of them, 'we still have a lot of work to do.'”
In the UK's Independent, Paul Vallely noted that the decision is not likely to gain much support from the Catholic bishops of England, who have been “reluctant to open the door wide to traditionalist Anglicans.” Such groups, Vallely wrote, because of their more traditionally orthodox stand on doctrine and liturgy, are “out of step with modern Catholicism” as it is practiced and preached by the largest segment of the bishops.
The Guardian, the voice of liberalism in the UK, wrote that the decision means the Pope has “launched a small craft to ferry the disaffected back across the Tiber, a move to asset-strip the Anglican communion of those bits the Vatican might find useful.” The move, the editorial said, “ride[s] roughshod over 40 years of ecumenical work.”
Damian Thompson, the Daily Telegraph blogs editor and the editor of the UK's Catholic Herald newspaper, has indicated that the objections to the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution, that will make the provisions official, are not only coming from journalists. He wrote today that insiders at Lambeth Palace, the “Vatican” of the Anglican Communion, and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, are “implacably opposed” to the new provisions.
Thompson reports that a “good source in Rome” has informed him that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams “put pressure on Vatican ecumenists to stop the Apostolic Constitution being issued.” Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's chief ecumenist and long-time opponent of the former Cardinal Ratzinger, was notably absent from the Vatican's press conference. The Apostolic Constitution is said to be entirely the work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and to have largely left Cardinal Kasper out of the loop.
At the press conference in London, held simultaneously with the meeting in Rome, Rowan Williams said that the Vatican's announcement does not “disrupt business as usual” in the “mainstream” of ecumenical dialogues. “As we speak, preparations are going forward for further informal talks,” he said.
He made the remarks despite the statement last year from Cardinal Kasper, who said that the decision by the Anglican Communion to ordain women as bishops had effectively brought the ecumenical process to a halt. “Although our dialogue has led to a significant agreement on the idea of priesthood,” he said, the decision “blocks substantially and finally a possible recognition of Anglican orders by the Catholic Church.”
Some observers have acknowledged what was said in the Vatican's own press release, that the move is plainly an outreach to Anglicans who reject the ultra-liberal direction on sexual issues of the Anglican Communion in the west.
Writing on the website of Catholic Culture, the pseudonymous blogger “Diogenes” said bluntly that the decision has enraged the “progressivists” because those coming into the Catholic Church “will be active in practice, theologically aware, and proportionately resistant to gay and feminist faddishness.”
Philip Lawler, founder of Catholic World News, cautioned, however, that some Anglicans may not be looking across the Tiber with much enthusiasm. Also at Catholic Culture, Lawler wrote, “Conservative Anglicans might glance nervously at the Catholic parishes in their neighborhood, notice the theological novelties and the liturgical abuses, and wonder whether they might be leaving one untenable situation only to enter into another.”
Meanwhile, the feminist and homosexual “faddishness” of the most liberal sections of the Anglican Communion continues. This July, in defiance of an official moratorium, the Episcopal Church in the U.S. (ECUSA) approved a resolution to continue consecrating homosexual bishops. ECUSA is set to install a virulently pro-abortion lesbian candidate for the bishopric of Minnesota.
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Anglicans to be Brought Back to “Full Visible Unity” with Catholic Church: Surprise Vatican Announcement