Anyone for Rome?
On my recent visit to the UK, I was struck by the entirely different attitude of the Church of England to Pope Benedict’s offer of an Anglican Ordinariate , compared with that of American Episcopalians.
There is much more interest in the C of E, because the Anglo-Catholic group there is so much larger than in the States. In the USA, the “supermarket” approach to religious denominations has caused many Anglo-Catholics, who are annoyed because of women priests and Bishops, and gay priests and Bishops (and sometimes both), as well as modern language Liturgies, to go off and form mini-Churches of their own. They form an “Anglican Continuum”, and if they could only agree, would be quite a sizeable Church. But alas, they are ipso facto made up of opinionated, independent-minded people, too many of whom want to be Bishops (and in one recent case Archbishops and Patriarchs!). On the whole they love the old-language Episcopal Prayer Book, and Rome holds little attraction for them.
It is a quite different scenario in the Church of England. There, the Anglo-Catholic group on the whole despise the Prayer Book, and especially the old- language Liturgy. Most of them use either the modern Roman Catholic Mass or the very similar modern-language Anglican rite. They will have nothing to do with women priests and have so far blocked the possibility of women Bishops. They keep pretty quiet on the subject of gay priests, as it is widely recognized that a large number of this constituency are gay.
The Roman Catholic/Anglican Ordinariate is much more attractive to C of E Anglo-Catholics than to their US counterparts. This is partly because most of them have always held the view that the C of E is simply two Provinces of the Catholic Church which were separated fro Rome for political reasons. They believed that what the Church of England did corporately in the sixteenth century, it should undo now as a body. They have thus worked for corporate unity and often disapproved of individual conversions.
With the coming of women priests and the increasing liberalism of Anglicanism on moral questions, not only the present hot favourite homosexuality, but also abortion, remarriage after divorce, contraception, medical ethics, even euthanasia, the likelihood of such a corporate return of the C of E to union with Rome has become less and less likely, and therefore many are now on the brink of abandoning the struggle and converting individually.
To them, the Ordinariate may be one way to do this, though we should remember that this was first invented by Rome because of the petition of members of such bodies as the “Traditional Anglican Communion”, who were already out of communion with Canterbury. And the C of E Bishops who have become RC priests in the Ordinariate were also already in impaired communion with the majority of the C of E. They looked after those churches who refused their own Bishop’s ministry and authority because he approved of and ordained women priests.
Also, all of them are married. That is the single most important reason why some priests will enter the Ordinariate. They would have become RCs years ago, but with a wife they could not be reordained. The second most important reason is that some have come to the age when they will receive the Church of England pension and so can convert to Rome without financial penalties.
I expect, therefore, that more members of the Church of England will join the RC Church by way of the Ordinariate than US Episcopalians, who have seldom felt that reunion with Rome was where they should be leading their Church. But I could be wrong. Only time will tell.