Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Traditionalist Trifecta II: Thoughts on the TAC Moving Towards Rome and the Upcoming SSPX Talks

Pope Benedict's vision of a creative minority made up of traditionalists of various stripes

St. Edmund Campion S.J, martyred in 1581.
I wonder what he'd make of this...

I've let a few timely topics slip by recently because I hardly have time to blog anymore, but I wanted to say a few things about these latest developments before they get too dated.

Regarding the joint Anglican/Catholic announcement on October 20th that members of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) would be welcomed into the Catholic Church, operating under a personal ordinariate... I guess I have mixed feelings about it. It's always good to see people coming into the Church, especially since there's been so much bad news for us in recent years, accompanied by a mass exodus that has made ex-Catholics one of the largest "denominations" in the country... It's a pretty bold and creative move in terms of building a united church with diversity within it. It would have been unthinkable years ago. On the other hand, I worry if the Vatican is consciously trying to build appeal to groups who are anti-women's ordination and anti-gay. That part's a little spooky. I find Benedict's tendency to build bridges to some of the most reactionary elements out there to be troubling.

I felt a little bad for Archbishop Rowan Williams too, having to stand up there for this announcement. He must have felt a bit like the Vatican's beeyatch. The British press and the liberal Anglican blogosphere certainly see it that way too. They're pounding him over it. He doesn't deserve it. He's a very good man and a fine scripture scholar, and he's faced a daunting challenge trying to hold together his fractious communion over the past few years. I don't know how he hasn't suffered a breakdown over it. In a way, I suppose the departure of the TAC takes a lot of the pressure off of him.

Was Rowan humiliated in an act of ecumenical insensitivity? On the America Blog, Austen Ivereigh reports (via the Times of London):
Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), came to London only last weekend to brief Dr Williams and the English and Welsh bishops on what was being proposed, and that the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity had been left out of the plans.
Ivereigh goes on to downplay that aspect, however, noting that the TAC had approached Rome themselves regarding these issues long ago, and that the Vatican had waited to make this overture for more than a year after the crisis that occurred at the last Lambeth Conference.

Does it speak well for ecumenism, or does it spell the end of meaningful dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans? It's hard to tell. Certain TAC priests and bishops may do one thing and their congregations may do another. This might not go over well in the long run with other Anglicans either. We'd do well to keep in mind that the existence of Eastern-Rite "Uniate" churches in communion with Rome is despised by the Eastern Orthodox. In the dotCommonweal post History is Being Made, Rita Perrone made a very good point in response to the claim that this move serves as a new model:
New model or blueprint? You are dreaming. The uniate churches are an exact parallel. And they have set back the cause of church unity with the East for centuries, not advanced it. The only difference here, besides the canonical terminology, is that the Anglican liturgy is descended from the Latin rite, unlike the Eastern rites. In this sense it’s new.
And in regard to the anger over this expressed in Anglican and Episcopalian circles, at least a few people over there are aware that this goes both ways. They've been maintaining their ranks with disaffected Catholics for years. In fact, I think there'd hardly be any Episcopalians left at all in this country if it wasn't for former Catholics. Appreciate as well, that Anglicanism in its original form was largely imposed on the British people from above, not from below, as Eamon Duffy has pointed out very well in his books The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 and Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor. Catholicism in England did not disappear naturally or easily.

It seems that Benedict has a grand vision of uniting Catholicism, The Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Traditional Anglican Communion into one grand Church characterized by "Tradition" that will revitalize Christendom in Europe. Says Sandro Magister:
Today more than ever, with Joseph Ratzinger as pope, the ecumenical journey seems not a pursuit of modernity, but a return to the terrain of tradition.
I wrote about a Traditionalist Trifecta once before. Here is the latest Trifecta:

1) The excommunications on the SSPX bishops were lifted last year.
2) The Traditional Anglican Communion has been brought into the fold.
3) The SSPX will be brought back into the fold next.

I do admit to being nervous about what this means for the upcoming SSPX discussions, which are going to be held in private. They'll find some way to let the SSPX back in, and why does this group, that willingly went over into schism, get to debate what Vatican II meant (in private) while the rest of us don't get that privilege?

One final question:

If this "personal ordinariate" is going to have its own seminaries, can a married Catholic man become a priest through an Anglo-Roman seminary?


Garpu said...

You could become an Anglican priest and then convert back? Hrm. Think this might open the way for married priests in the Roman Rite? (more than there are now, that is.) I don't think the RCC is ready for married priests just yet. Deacons get enough grief in some circles.

Jeff said...

Hi Jen,

Here's the story on that bit of it:

William Levada, head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, suggested on Tuesday that the new dioceses will not ordain married men unless they have already started their preparation in Anglican seminaries, or permit unmarried priests to take wives after ordination.

For some potential converts, those qualifications are a deal breaker.

"I find the lack of a permanent provision for a married priesthood to be a serious obstacle to unity,” said Anglican Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Texas, who has considered joining the Catholic church in the past.


I don't know. I think the celibacy requirement for diocesan clergy is the biggest obstacle to Christian unity that there is. Even bigger than the papacy, although I didn't used to think so... Lift that, and I think a lot of other things start to fall into place. I think we'd sweep all before us like chaff if we dared to do it. In fact, I do believe we'd nearly run the table.

Jeff said...

I wonder if the Bad Vicar will come over...

...or The Bishop!