Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
As a former Anglican priest myself, I am profoundly grateful for our Holy Father’s generous proposal toward Anglicans, 'that they all might be one'
Taylor Marshall is a former Anglican priest and the author of 'The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity'.
DALLAS, TX (Catholic Online) - On October 20, 2009, the Holy See made an unexpected announcement: the Holy Father will be issuing an Apostolic Constitution (the highest form of papal document) through which he will erect personal ordinariates for Anglican clergy and laity wishing to enter the Catholic Church. While rumors about this have been stirring since 2007, the recent decision came as a surprise to most Catholics and Anglicans.
Those who remember their high school history might recall that Pope Gregory the Great sent missionaries to England in the late sixth century to establish the Catholic Church in England. In A.D. 598, Pope Gregory the Great designated the township of Canterbury as the nation’s principal see. There were hiccups along the way (Norman conquest), but England remained under the pastoral oversight of the Pope until 1534 when King Henry VIII declared himself caput ecclesiae anglicanae “Head of the English Church.” Henry VIII never shook his devotion to the old rites. He demanded priestly celibacy, Latin Masses, and prayers for the dead. He did however have an appetite for the wealth of the monasteries. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left his son Edward VI as king. As a Protestant, Edward approved a Protestantized English ritual which became known as the Book of Common Prayer in 1549.
The liturgies found in the Book of Common Prayer and subsequent editions reveal a careful blend of medieval Catholic piety mixed with subtle Protestantism. Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth fully realized this compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism—perhaps the cleverest grab for political power in history. As England colonized the world, she spread her national Anglican church. In America, she became the Episcopal Church. The new worldwide conglomerate of national churches became known as the Anglican Communion. Since those days, the Anglican Communion has been divided into roughly three camps: High Church (more Catholic), Low Church (more Protestant), and Broad Church (liberals who bless the political and cultural mores of society—something going all the way back to Henry’s desire for a second marriage, and then a third marriage, and then a fourth…you know the story).
In the last twenty years, the Broad Churchmen emerged as victors in the Anglican Communion as they secured the ordination of women in the 1980s and 1990s. The past decade has been embroiled in debates about homosexuality as it touches on marriage and clerical ordination. The disaffected conservatives (High Church and Low Church) are looking for options. Clearly, the High Church movement is open to the Catholic Church and many bishops, priests, and lay people have appealed to the Pope for help. The Pope has now provided an an answer: “Come home! Rome opens its doors to you!”
The New York Times, the London Times and almost every known newspaper has printed articles about this new announcement. The blogs are ablaze. However, there is a lot of misinformation churning around out there. I have collected five common misconceptions about the Holy See’s announcement. Each myth merits an informed and measured response.
Myth #1 The Pope is sheep-stealing
The Pope’s alleged “sheep-stealing” been the most popular subject within the secular media. To them, the Holy Father has launched a media campaign to kick the Anglican Communion while it’s down. The poor Archbishop of Canterbury is struggling to keep things together and then “Bamm!” the Pope surprises everyone with a bid for Anglican souls. However, we must remember that it was Anglicans who pursued the matter with the Holy Father—and we’re not talking about just one or two Anglicans. We are talking about thousands and thousands of Anglicans: bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. Anglican bishops from several nations have sent private letters to the Holy See. Much of this is confidential. They want a way out. They want to become Catholic. The Pope is responding to souls looking to him for guidance. The pope is not stealing sheep—He is holding out his pastoral staff to those sheep looking for protection.