Saturday, August 08, 2009

We Should Throw a Lifeline to Struggling Anglicans

By Damian Thompson
The Catholic Herald (UK) (

'The Gospel demands that we welcome refugees from the Anglican crisis', says Damian Thompson.

No one knows what will happen next. We're in the very early stages of a historic but drawn-out realignment. Much depends on whether Forward in Faith, the forlorn pressure group of traditional Anglo-Catholics, follows its gut instincts and accepts the Magisterium in full. Catholics should surely hope that it does; for how can we echo Jesus's prayer in St John's Gospel, 'that they may be one', if we turn away Christians on whom the truth has dawned?

LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - A few months ago I witnessed a little miracle: an Anglican friend of mine was received into the Church. It was a miracle because this particular friend had been adamant that he would not become a "Roman", despite his love of traditional Catholic liturgy. There were many factors in his change of heart, but two words explain why he suddenly took the plunge: Pope Benedict.

At the centre of my friend's Christianity is public worship, and (so far as I can judge from many conversations with him) the main reason he did not leave the Church of England is that he could not accept the claims of a Church which did not get its worship right. His objection was not to Vatican II, but to a casual approach to the celebration of Mass that made it harder to believe in the unique universal status of the Roman Church.

And then along came Benedict XVI. I don't want to imply that Pope John Paul II did not care about worship - he regularly denounced liturgical abuses - but it did seem to observers inside and outside the Church that nothing much ever happened. In contrast, the present Holy Father has made clear that bishops and priests must restore solemnity to the liturgy as a matter of urgency. And, although the fine print of Summorum Pontificum is still ignored by bishops all over the world, there is no doubt that Pope Benedict has liberated the older form of the Roman Rite.

Is it a coincidence that the Benedictine reform of the liturgy is occurring just as the Anglican Communion falls into irrevocable schism? It wouldn't surprise me if Joseph Ratzinger, an old friend of conservative Anglicans, saw both processes as providential. His liturgical renewal could perhaps be seen as a spring-cleaning before visitors arrive. For, make no mistake about it, Pope Benedict XVI wants Anglicans to "come over" in large numbers. Such conversions represent the fruit, rather than the failure, of the ecumenical project (though one should add that the Pope also wishes to deepen solidarity with non-Catholics who have no plans to covert).


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