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Mixed blessings on Anglican road to Rome

John Henry NewmanThere has been a wide range of responses, many of them emotional, to the announcement that structures for Anglicans who wish full communion with the Roman Catholic Church are being prepared. In Britain the stakes are particularly high, since the timing of the move will affect current conversations within the Church of England about women bishops and how to accommodate dissenters.

Most of the focus has been on Anglicans, particularly the conservative Anglo-Catholics who are likely to seek such unity. These have grown into a distinct strand of Anglicanism since the 19th century Oxford Movement, which sought a revival of Catholic piety and theology drawing on medieval English and later Roman sources, and led to the appearance of a movement focusing on liturgy and spirituality of great aesthetic and theological depth.

That movement however became deeply divided over women's ordination, and now also sexuality, despite the presence of many gay men among them.

Conservatives today view the more liberal wing of Anglo-Catholicism, embodied by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, with deep suspicion. Many of these are relieved to have the prospect of recognition and stability of their liturgical practice, within the fulfilment of a long-held hope for visible unity with Rome.

Other Anglicans however are hurt and bemused, especially those who have committed themselves to ecumenical endeavour while expecting the integrity of existing Anglican structures to be respected.

And last but not least there will be an odd and brief consensus among both more liberal and more evangelical Anglicans, who will share relief at the prospect of a 'rump' moving along and leaving the main game in the current inner-Anglican struggle to them.

This is likely to be the Australian experience, where most of those lining up to embrace the new structures either joined Anglican separatist groups long ago, or now huddle in a few embattled parishes.

But Roman Catholics will have their own mixed feelings too, sooner or later. One Roman Catholic colleague apologised to me at a meeting yesterday, obviously embarrassed by a gesture seen by many in both communions as undiplomatic at best.

Many other loyal Catholics will share unease at this step away from a long and costly process towards greater mutual understanding and cooperation within the existing forms of Church we know. Christians in both Churches and others will wonder how to calculate the cost of unity-by-disunity.

Liberal Roman Catholics have particular reason to be perturbed at the influx of ex-Anglicans who are driven not so much by ecumenical zeal or real engagement with the life and faith of the Catholic Church, but by dogged adherence to positions on gender roles and human sexuality which tend to bespeak a broader conservatism.

Of course others, especially conservatives, are rejoicing. The conservative Catholic blogosphere, where the enthusiasm of the convert is often very much in evidence, is hailing the move.

They too, however, may have cause for circumspection when the new 'ordinariate' becomes reality. The prospect that these quondam-Anglicans can not only have married clergy but train new married seminarians, and maintain a liturgy related to the Book of Common Prayer, may be a mechanism in which some detect a ticking sound.

Unlike the Uniate groups like Eastern Catholics of various kinds, the Anglican ordinariate will breathe the same cultural and social air as standard Western-rite Catholicism, and the boundaries will be highly porous.

Will there not be Roman Catholic aspirants to ordination who find life in the Anglican ordinariate a more attractive prospect than clerical celibacy? Will there not be aspects of the Anglican Prayer Book tradition whose lex orandi continues to lead such Anglican-rite Catholics to different understandings of Church, ministry and sacraments than their Roman Catholic brethren (let alone the resurgent 'extraordinary use' sub-group)?

One of my late Jesuit teachers, Noel Ryan, told his classes he believed the conversion of John Henry Newman (pictured) — leader of the Oxford Movement which had such an impact on Anglicanism, before his change of allegiance — had a significant effect on the history of Roman Catholicism, including on the spirit of Vatican II. Roman Catholicism will itself be affected by these moves, perhaps for better, perhaps for worse, but most likely both.

Where to now for Anglicans and Rome — Charles Sherlock
Pope's Anglican welcome could revolutionise the Church — Thomas J. Reese SJ (The Washington Post)

Andrew McGowanAssociate Professor Andrew McGowan is Warden of Trinity College, The University of Melbourne. He blogs at Andrew's Version and Royal Parade Diary.

Topic tags: women's ordination, gay priests, roman catholic, anglican, church of england, archbishop of canterbury



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A sad day for committed Catholic ex-priests who have married and have a loving family relationship yet are not permitted to practice their consecrated rites when fence jumpers can claim full Catholic rites and stay married or if married, can become seminarians. Conversion for a reason of faith ? I don't think.

philip herringer | 23 October 2009  

The Dean of an Anglican-communion cathedral which I visited recently is a former Catholic priest; he is now married. I don't know the order in which these things occurred and I have no knowledge of his motives. But I suppose he can now, if he is so inclined, rejoin the catholic priesthood as a married man. The hierarchy must be desperate.

Carol Quinn | 23 October 2009  

It seems to me that there is another route open - bottom up rather than top down.

If we, that is we the common folk (or if you prefer it, we the body of 'the Church', any church) really do want unity, then let us just do it!
St David's Anglicam church is just up the road from my Catholic St John Vianey's; their St Theodore's is just a block or two from the other church in my parish, St Peter Claver's.
Let us invite them all to Mass one weekend, concelebrated, while another weekend we go there. Coffee and cake or some such afterwards.

Then we let the Holy Spirit do His work - and worry about the bureaucratic niceties later.

John R. Sabine | 23 October 2009  

Sheryl Nosan-Blank, the rabbi of Perth's Temple David, 'says there is no thought of recruiting members from other Jewish congregations in Perth ("it's not good manners')and proselytising for converts is not on either." (West Weekend Magazine, 17 October). I think there's something in that for all of us.

mary ellen macdonald | 23 October 2009  

My initial gut reaction is overwhelming sadness, and despair that 'Christian' men could hate us so much.

Pauline Small | 23 October 2009  

It seems to me that what has been announced is very similar to the Anglican Use that's been operating in the US since the early 1908s (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Use). I'd be interested to know how that has worked in practice and how these parishes interact (or not) with their standard Roman Rite neighbours.

I do agree with others that the broad and welcoming arms of Roman Catholicism seem to have been especially broad and welcoming for a particular type of Christian seeking to escape from women and "the gays".
Personally, I think that ecumenism is more effective when it's a mutual coming together, rather than a shelter for runaways.

Matthew Toohey | 23 October 2009  

I agree with John R. Sabine. Let us unite together if we feel the need to do so. In one city, or town Anglicans and Roman Catholics who seek unity should make this happen themselves. Personaly; it doesn't bother me but it does annoy me how there is such an uproar in religious communities on the topic. If it is bothering people so much they should do something about it themselves.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics should be able to make their own decision to be together, on the sabbath. God would not want the world to be in so much turmoil over religions that are, after all connected. We are christian's together, so we should start acting like it.

Martin Gleeson | 23 October 2009  

It seems to me that what has been announced is very similar to the Anglican Use that's been operating in the US since the early 1908s (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Use). I'd be interested to know how that has worked in practice and how these parishes interact (or not) with their standard Roman Rite neighbours.
I do agree with others that the broad and welcoming arms of Roman Catholicism seem to have been especially broad and welcoming for a particular type of Christian seeking to escape from women and "the gays".
Personally, I think that ecumenism is more effective when it's a mutual coming together, rather than a shelter for runaways.

Matthew Toohey | 23 October 2009  

The obvious seems to escape notice - the so called anglicans invited by the Pope to Rome at a separated right wing sect called the TAC, who are not a part of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Victoria and who have elected their own "archbishop" who is not connected with the Anglican communion or the Melbourne synod. One might say, Rome is welcome and the TAC is no loss whatsoever to the Diocese of Melbourne. I wonder if the press built the story for a day when nothing made "news" - and still nothing made news.

Patricia Bouma | 23 October 2009  

Bene ego nunquam!!

Claude Rigney | 23 October 2009  

Those 'liberal', 'progressive'- or whatever 'they' are called - Roman Catholics who have kept their heads down while still maintaining some kind of formal connection with the rich tradition of the catholic within the Catholic, may be feeling their feet do a subtle half shuffle towards the church exit today.

Once again it seems that reported Vatican activities are making it just that little bit more difficult for some to call themselves Roman Catholic. If the number of Roman Catholics who no longer support the current clerical leadership is at about 85%, after today maybe that figure is now, say 85.2%. For some this may be a slow purge that needs to happen. For others, Roman Catholicism is slowly becoming a shadow of the shadow of its former self...strange days indeed.

Andrew | 23 October 2009  

Why on earth would you celebrate a Christian unity based on the common ground of misogyny and homophobia?

Michael Elphick | 23 October 2009  

I have been roaming [joke] the internet on this issue.

Congratulations to Eureka Street. You have published the best articles/comments I have found on this matter, those by Aussie Anglican theologians Andrew McGowan and Charles Sherlock. In my book they rank well with Andrew Hamilton. We are blessed by some outstanding theologians both Anglican and Catholic.

I became an Anglican because I knew I was more at home in the Anglican communion than I was in the Catholic one, even though I was quite at home in the Jesuit one. Sometimes now I wonder whether Jesuits are Anglicans within the Catholic church. That made some sense to me when I visited Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. The Jesuits remembered there are essentially British, and their theological vision persists. Just visit Farm Street or read Gerard [great name] Manly Hopkins.

There is an entrancing letter by Colin Goodwin in today's Australian newspaper.

Colin was once a Catholic priest. He is now an Anglican priest.

He writes about an Anglcan church which is "theologically more spacious, liturgically more accommodating, ethically more compehensive and patorally less trident than any oter part of the church univeral".

He writes well

Gerry Costigan | 23 October 2009  

Thanks for a reasoned article which is helpful to read. I am still wondering why the one true Church is able to have a mind change on this issue and not on married clergy from within our own ranks and continues to deny women equality in many roles not necessarily ordination to priesthood; the Church once had female deacons why not now?????????????

Rosemary Keenan | 23 October 2009  

I agree with John Sabine . . . go with the Holy Spirit, have your CVhistian neighbours over, and JUST DO IT!

The niceties of theological discourse only count about when one is concerned about property disputes and power for blokes!
These things are not essential when one is loving one's neighbour, and one's God as oneself. This is a gut-level thing, rather than a piece of mental correctness.

So much time, energy and lack-of-love has been expended and wasted at the behest of so-called experts who really only want to maintain their own fiefdoms, by maintaining their RIGHTNESS.
So, John, let's find people (including clergy) with the guts to JUST DO IT.

Robert Moore | 23 October 2009  

The Catholic Church's teaching on the ordination of women and homosexuality is quite clear. Fortunately, one doesn't need to be a politically correct liberal to get into Heaven - in fact, one never did.

Nathan Socci | 24 October 2009  

Just a few questions, asked pointedly, but not for any other reason but to bring a little circumspection, particularly in the Australian context, to the issue.

If the matters of married priests, women priests and same sex attraction and same sex unons and marriage are the 'big' issues between the Anglican and Catholic Churches, why haven't we seen a steady 'flow' the other way over the years?

Why isn't this issue being taken for what the demographics tell us, that the disaffected Anglicans are more than likely to be in their fifties and over and have children and grandchildren who, if they have been Baptised/Christened at all, are probably never likely to be Confirmed in the Anglican Church?

Why aren't we actually reading the complete text of the Pope's document which explains in very compassionate but down to earth details that the move is offering a sanctuary for those who in their 'conscience' are disturbed to the point that they would have absolutely no where else to go, and not in a context of anything like what is appearing in wishful or fearful comments across the globe, either foretelling 'new' ways of being Catholic or proclaiming doom for the Catholic Church?

The bottom line is, as some sensible bean counting person wrote this week, it will come down to months or years of court cases to work out claims on super funds, property trust etc.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew Bombala-Delegate NSW | 25 October 2009  

Could the Archbishop of Canterbury please make similar arrangements for Catholics like me fed up with the sexism, misogyny and homophobia of the Vatican. It all makes a mockery of Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Teresa Murty | 25 October 2009  

Does this mean that my Anglican husband, christianed and confirmed in the C of E and who 50 years ago received instructions before our marriage and who now attends Mass with me can move seamlessly to full membership with the church?

Ann Bristow | 26 October 2009  

I note the way my intended typing of 'strident' got turned into trident which does conjure images of Queen Victoria and Brittania Rules The Waves. Sorry about that.

I wonder about reactions to an Anglican Bishop in the USA who has had a long term faithful relationship with his same sex partner when we compare those relationships with the now well documented relationships of, for example, Francis Cardinal Spellman who was sexually voracious when dealing with so called 'Chorus girls' 'Choir boys' and Seminarians. Details are on Google.

It is foolish to think that the official Catholic Church can say to disaffected Anglicans 'We know how to deal with gay or child abusing clergy.' What nonsense when they have never dealt with the Cardinal Archbishop of New York.

Gerry Costigan | 28 October 2009  

The Catholic Church's teaching on the ethical status of homosexual activity is based, not on homophobia, but on the philosophy, supported by reason and revelation, that authentic sexual expression belongs only to a permanent, stable, loving, interpersonal commitment of one man and one woman open to the generation and education of new human life. This does not imply hatred for homosexual people. It does not follow from the Christian condemnation of lying that liars should be hated. One could multiply the examples. It is the old principle of love the sinner and hate the sin.

Similarly, the Church's position on the reservation of Holy Orders to men is based, not on misogyny, but on the will of Jesus Christ which is handed on in the tradition of the Church. Again, this does not imply hatred for women but is based simply on the principle that in creation men and women are equal but different. When St Paul wrote that "there is neither ... male nor female" he was not suggesting that the actual distinction between men and women has ceased to exist.

People are free to disagree with these positions but it would be better to present counter-arguments instead of resorting to ad hominem name calling like "homophobia" and "misogyny".

Sylvester | 29 October 2009  

On what basis do you claim that there are many gays among Anglo-Catholics? Isn't that using a stereotype?

Harold Stassen | 22 August 2012  

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