Last week, the Vatican made a stunning announcement. Here is the story in the New York Times.
In an extraordinary bid to lure traditionalist Anglicans en masse, the Vatican said Tuesday that it would make it easier for Anglicans uncomfortable with their church’s acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops to join the Roman Catholic Church while retaining many of their traditions.
Anglicans would be able “to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” Cardinal William J. Levada, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said at a news conference here.
It was unclear why the Vatican made the announcement now. But it seemed a rare opportunity, audaciously executed, to capitalize on deep divisions within the Anglican Church to attract new members at a time when the Catholic Church has been trying to reinvigorate itself in Europe.
Not surprisingly, the blogosphere is afire with commentary. A sampling follows.
Here in Minnesota, progressive Catholic blogger Michael Bayly quotes author and Benedictine specialist David Gibson:
While both Pope John Paul II and his successor Benedict XVI have been known as staunch conservatives, they have in fact shown a remarkably liberal willingness to bend the rules when it comes to certain groups.
For a church whose leadership has earned a reputation for reprimanding liberal Catholics who color outside the lines, these developments could be more than a bit frustrating. If conservatives can get special consideration, how about Catholics who have divorced and remarried but can’t take communion? Or those who back ordaining women? Or perhaps an exemption for the 25,000 or so priests who left the ministry in recent decades when they married? Many of them are ready, willing and able to return. Priest shortage solved.
In another post, Bayly quotes Mary Hunt:
Let history record this theological scandal for what it is. Touted by Rome as a step forward in ecumenical relations with a cousin communion, it is in fact the joining of two camps united in their rejection of women and queer people as unworthy of religious leadership.
Walking with Integrity, the blog of an Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, suggests disaffected Anglicans who would join the Roman Catholic church will be on the wrong side of history.
“It is also ironic that this announcement comes just days after the Vatican unveiled plans for an exhibit honoring Galileo–who was condemned by the church 400 years ago,” said [an Integrity spokesperson]. “Let us hope for the sake of the gospel we share, that our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters don’t have to wait 400 years for their church to get on the right side of history on the full inclusion of women and the LGBT baptized in their work and witness.
Blogger Gary Stern quotes a New York Episcopal Diocese assistant bishop, Catherine Roskam:
We appreciate the welcome the pope extended to those in the Anglican communion who are disaffected. We for our part continue to welcome our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, both lay and ordained, conservative and liberal, who wish to belong to a church that treasures diversity of thought.
Theolog, the blog of Christian Century magazine, contains blog links covering a spectrum of responses. Notre Dame professor Cathleen Kaveny wonders about Episcopalians who come over who might bring more liberal attitudes regarding contraception.
Vox Nova, a Roman Catholic blog, offers a lengthy and thoughtful post that suggests:
It is helpful for a few, meaningless for most and pernicious for those (those in the Anglican communion specifically) who have to deal with the fallout. Oh, and it has some very interesting, perhaps unintended, possibilities for the future of the Church.
The progressive Catholic group, Call to Action, will meet next week in Milwaukee for their annual convention. It will be interesting to hear what comes out of the convention regarding this issue.