Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bishops plan conversion to Rome

Sunday, July 6, 2008, 10:11 AM GMT [General]

The Sunday Telegraph carries the news that senior Church of England bishops have met the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to discuss the apocalyptic crisis in Anglicanism and the prospect of converting to Roman Catholicism.

I'm glad that Jonathan Wynne-Jones has respected the anonymity of the bishops in question. We at the Catholic Herald have known for some time about these historic negotiations. I pray that they succeed.

What one of the bishops has made clear to us is that they are worried that the liberal English Catholic hierarchy will throw a spanner in the works. Yet I infer from Jonathan's report that the most liberal of all the bishops, Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, is apparently prepared to countenance Anglican converts retaining some elements of their tradition. Has he had his arm twisted?

The attitude of Pope Benedict is crucial. He is very well aware that, in the years 1992 to 1994, the Bishops of England and Wales put pressure on Cardinal Hume to resist any concessions to Anglicans wishing to convert en masse.

The Pope's closest advisers are not in a mood to allow the bishops the same freedom this time. They are already cross at the poor English response to the Motu Proprio liberating the Latin liturgy - and have conveyed their displeasure to the relevant bishops in no uncertain terms.

It's no surprise that the Anglican bishops are talking to the CDF, where the former Cardinal Ratzinger always lent a sympathetic ear to potential converts - and also expressed his appreciation of the Anglo-Catholic tradition. His warm personality, his intellect and his programme of liturgical renewal are tremendous incentives for traditionalists to take the plunge.

If there is a deal between Rome and the departing Anglican bishops, what might it look like? I'm working on an article for the Herald on that subject: I think one key to understanding the situation is a grasp of the possibilities opened up by the Motu Proprio, which the English bishops have ignored at their peril. But, however extensive the Vatican's concessions, we are still talking about Anglicans becoming Roman Catholics. There is no half-way house between Canterbury and Rome, as more and more Anglo-Catholics are now aware.

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