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Mixed reactions to Dr Williams’s Rome speech

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, delivered an impassioned, far-reaching and controversial speech in Rome yesterday on the future of Anglican-Catholic relations. Not surprisingly, it’s generated a great deal of equally impassioned comment. Here’s a selection:

Carl Olson of Ignatius Insight:

Dr Williams seems to be concerned more about arranging deck chairs than dealing with the massive holes in the hull of the Anglican ship. And that, of course, is his business. It’s understandable he might be feeling a bit concerned about the shaking and splintering of the ship beneath him. But why does he think the Catholic Church would ever consider climbing aboard to accept his sad offer of weak tea and stale cookies?

“Spirit of Vatican II”, an anonymous writer who left a comment on the Thinking Anglicans blog:

Rowan Williams’ speech is a glorious statement – majestically mature theology that shows up the pettiness of curial obsessions, without using a single ungracious word. At long last Anglicanism has given its reply to years of petty carping from the Vatican. The reply is just common sense at one level: ‘Cannot we agree to disagree fraternally about minor matters?’ On another level it reflects the full tide of ecumenical dialogue over the last century and the mind of one steeped in New Testament ideals and praxis of koinonia.

Is anyone in the Vatican, even Cardinal Kasper, capable of responding to this with equal breadth and wholeness of vision?

Fr Dwight Longenecker, author of the Standing on My Head blog:

What is really revealed is the depth of his blindness about the real situation between the churches. Can it be that even now he is defending women’s ordination and therefore women’s elevation to the episcopate? He may defend it in his own backyard, but is it possible that he really thinks the Catholic church has not decided on this? Does he honestly think the Pope is going to say, ‘Errm. I guess we flubbed on that one. For you guys it is obviously working really well. I mean your church is going from glory to glory. Is it too late to jump on the bandwagon?’

Blogger and Anglican Bishop Alan Wilson:

Rowan Williams’ lecture in Rome marks an interesting reframing of ecumenical futures. There is, of course, the conventional RC model. The Church achieves the Unity for which Jesus prayed when every Christian in the world submits to it as a Divinely sanctioned Imperium. Or try the Protestant version. Structural and organisational convergence will somehow produce a complex multiplanar hybrid. Everyone trades in their old but coherent structural and accountability models to the shining new one. Unity remains a future goal, and we all have to make it happen.

Blogger and ex-Anglican Fr Jeffrey Steel:

What stands out to me as most frustrating is that this speech seems to want to dismiss with the wave of the hand something that Rowan and Anglican ecclesiology (if there is such a definable thing!) often forgets, which is that what he/Anglicans sees as ‘secondary’ issues cannot within Catholic theology as a whole be disregarded as secondary.

The blogger Anglican Samizdat:

Where has Rowan been for the last three years? The Anglican communion is proof that the church can’t stay together once internal differences become as stark as they are now. I understand that once Rowan has convinced the Pope of the benefits of women bishops he will be travelling to Saudi Arabia to plead the case for women imams.

Andrew Brown of the Guardian:

The nearest I could get to his message to the pope is ‘Forgive us our women, as we forgive those who trespass against us’ but that can’t be right. For one thing the church of Rome is not about to forgive women priests.

Orthodox Christian blogger Ad Orientum:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has effectively told Pope Benedict XVI where to put his proposed Anglican Ordinariate… I am going to take an educated guess that this is not going to go over well in the Vatican. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when he meets the Pope in private.

Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid:

In related news, a junior-high science teacher in Dismal Seepage, Illinois, is urging the dean of the MIT science department to change his mind about the law of gravity.

Tom Heneghan of Reuters:

His argument seemed unlikely to convince the Vatican, which sees the disarray among Anglicans as proof that churches need clear doctrines and firm leadership.

You can watch part of Dr Williams’s speech here and read the full text here.
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Written by Luke Coppen

November 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

Archbishop Nichols: Apostolic Constitution means a lot of work for us

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Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has given a candid video interview about Anglicanorum Coetibus to Ruth Gledhill of the Times.

Written by Luke Coppen

November 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Early reactions to the new Apostolic Constitution

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The American Cistercian Brother Stephen has some interesting first thoughts on the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, released today. On his blog, Sub Tuum, he writes:

The Pope of Unity’s offer is even more magnanimous than I would have guessed. This is truly a great day for those who had hoped to enter full communion with the Holy See. But remember that last phrase is very important: short of something extraordinary, this is not a huge group and now that it is clear that former Anglicans will indeed be treated as something like an ethnic use returning to full communion, albeit a generously treated one, rather than as a church entering full communion, many will back away. The limitations on who may exercise ministry will be a stumbling block for others.

Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican says:

This will be seen as one of the historic documents of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. We are watching history unfold here. But this is just one part of a larger papal strategy and vision, which opens outward toward the Orthodox Churches, and which has to do also with the mysterious message of Fatima.

My colleague, Damian Thompson, notes that the document allows former Anglican bishops to petition the Holy See to keep their episcopal insignia. He adds:

I’m also very struck by the Constitution’s insistence on the ‘treasures’ of Anglicanism, which it values very highly and wishes to see brought into the fulness of the Church. The Constitution is a very big deal indeed.

Ruth Gledhill of the Times says the text is “all that Catholic Anglicans hoped for and more”:

It is clear from Article 11 that former Anglican bishops can become Catholic bishops in all but name, even where they are married. They will officially retain the status of presbyter, but will be allowed to be the Ordinary or head of the Ordinariate, will be allowed to be a member of the local Bishops’ Conference with the status of retired bishop and, significantly, will be allowed to ask permission from Rome to use the seal of episcopal office. This leaves the path clear for Bishop of Fulham Fr John Broadhurst, married father of four, to head the new Ordinariate in Britain.

On the Guardian website, Graham Kings wonders what the document will mean for Anglican-Catholic relations:

The long term consequences of this announcement are difficult to see at the moment, but the achievements of the dialogical approach of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) need to be safeguarded. The profoundly reconciling legacy in Liverpool and England of the friendship between Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock needs remembering and developing.

Philip Pullella of Reuters focuses on the section about priestly celibacy:

The Vatican announced last month an initiative to make it easier for conservative Anglicans who feel their church has become too liberal to convert to Catholicism. This stirred widespread speculation on what it could eventually mean for the celibacy rule in the Roman Catholic church.

There was also speculation about whether men who had left the Catholic priesthood to marry and later became Anglicans could return to the Catholic priesthood and remain married. The constitution ruled out this possibility and also said unmarried Anglican priests who convert must remain celibate after their conversion and ordination as Catholic priests.

The constitution says that ‘as a rule’ only celibate men will be admitted to the Roman Catholic priesthood but that the admission of married Anglican priests will be decided on a case by case basis after a petition made to the pope.

John Allen translates the title of the document as “On Groups of Anglicans” and says it gives significant latitude to former Anglicans, “though not latitude without limits”.

In a concession to the collaborative style of governance within Anglicanism, the ordinariates are required to have a Governing Council (with at least six priests) that will have a deliberative vote on matters such as proposing new ordinaries to Rome, approving candidates for the priesthood, and creating or suppressing parishes, centers of formation and religious congregations. The ordinariates are also required to have Pastoral Councils, while for normal dioceses they are encouraged but optional.

Photo: Cardinal William Levada speaks at the news conference announcing the Apostolic Constitution last month (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Cardinal Levada denies Anglican provision reports

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VATICAN-ANGLICANS

The Catholic News Service reports that the Vatican has taken the unusual step of denying claims that the delay in publishing the Apostolic Constitution is due to an internal Vatican debate over admitting married priests.

Full text here.

Photo: Cardinal Levada at the Vatican press conference announcing the Apostolic Constitution (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm

The Anglican provision: All about Islam?

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Did the Pope’s overture to Anglicans have something to do with Islam? That notion is being discussed pretty vigorously across the Atlantic.

It all started with Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times, suggesting that the Apostolic Constitution was part of Pope Benedict’s “response to the Islamic challenge”. He wrote:

In making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind – not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.

Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly [questioned] Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason – and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

Douthat was promptly accused of advocating a “holy war” against Islam.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wrote:

It’s hard to imagine anything more inflammatory, hostile and outright threatening than a call for Christians of all denominations to unite behind the common cause of fighting against Islam as Christianity’s most ‘enduring and impressive foe’.

Adam Server of The American Prospect added:

Douthat is considered a ‘reasonable conservative’ in liberal circles, but this column is downright nutty. It’s frightening enough that someone who attended school in a city as international as Boston could endorse the idea of viewing Muslims worldwide as a ‘foe’ of Christianity. But consider the fact that there are probably a number of people in charge of making foreign policy decisions in the last administration, who saw Christianity and Islam as ‘foes’ and acted or advised accordingly.

And Andrew Sullivan, Douthat’s former stablemate at the Atlantic, commented:

I’m with Greenwald and Serwer about 80 per cent. But they miss Ross’s context: Islam currently is nowhere near the levels of openness and dialogue that have been achieved in the West within Christianity these past few decades. It isn’t wrong to point this out or to see it as a very large obstacle to a civil modus operandi between Muslim citizens and the liberal Western state. In fact, to deny this is to betray those who really are working within Islam for some kind of reformation.

Now, a rabbi has backed Douthat’s thesis. Rabbi Ben Kamin believes the New York Times columnist was on to something.

But the real question is, why aren’t people in Europe and Africa – the continents where intra-church tensions most simmer – making more noise about this bold exploit? One reason may be that since the 1960s there actually has been an improvement in ecumenical discussion and relations and that the Catholic Church has proven its relevance by spending a lot of time on pertinent issues such as the environment, social justice and world peace. The other reason, not spoken out loud perhaps: Islam.

My own view is that there is no obvious Muslim dimension whatsoever to the new provision.

Photo: A mosque and a church stand side by side in Doncaster, South Yorkshire (John Giles/PA)

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Hans Küng: Pope Benedict wants to be a Roman emperor

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Hans Küng has broken his silence about the Apostolic Constitution. Writing on the Guardian website he accuses Pope Benedict of being “set upon restoring the Roman imperium”.

He continues:

He makes no concessions to the Anglican communion. On the contrary, he wants to preserve the medieval, centralistic Roman system for all ages – even if this makes impossible the reconciliation of the Christian churches in fundamental questions. Evidently, the papal primacy – which Pope Paul VI admitted was the greatest stumbling block to the unity of the churches – does not function as the ‘rock of unity’.

The old-fashioned call for a ‘return to Rome’ raises its ugly head again, this time through the conversion particularly of the priests, if possible, en masse. In Rome, one speaks of a half-million Anglicans and 20 to 30 bishops. And what about the remaining 76 million?

This is a strategy whose failure has been demonstrated in past centuries and which, at best, might lead to the founding of a ‘uniate’ Anglican ‘mini-church’ in the form of a personal prelature, not a territorial diocese.

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 28, 2009 at 7:30 am

The Anglican provision: the comment continues to flow

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The avalanche of comment on the Anglican provision shows no sign of stopping. Here’s a quick round-up:

The Global South Primates Steering Committee, representing many Anglicans in the developing world, has rejected the Pope’s overture.

The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, has described Dr George Carey, as a “moaner” following the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s criticisms of the Apostolic Constitution.

Shadow education secretary Michael Gove says he admires “the chutzpah of Pope Benedict’s dawn raid on the faithful”.

Rod Liddle suggests that Lambeth Palace officials “were muttering darkly that you can take the boy out of the Hitler Youth … etc”.

Anglican Tim Collard says he doesn’t believe the Apostolic Constitution is “a devious Papist attempt to split and undermine our national Church”.

Austen Ivereigh argues that the move will advance Catholic-Anglican relations, rather than undermine them.

Cathleen Kaveny of Commonweal wonders if contraception will prove a stumbling block for some would-be Anglican converts. George Pitcher also wonders if the Church’s teaching on sexuality will create difficulties.

Philip Pullella of Reuters suggests the decision “may bring the Church closer to married priesthood”.

Ross Douthat of the New York Times thinks the Pope’s decision is connected to the resurgence of Islam. Maureen Dowd fears the Pope is welcoming “extreme-Right Anglicans” into the Catholic Church.

The Guardian’s Riazat Butt reports from an Anglo-Catholic parish in north London.

Joanna Bogle says she hopes large numbers of Anglicans “will take the oars of the boat heading across the Tiber, negotiate the rubbbish in the river, ignore the cross-currents, disregard the blathering … and come on home”.

Fr Ray Blake admires “the way the Pope sets his face to a theological idea and then expects canonists to follow it with the relevant legislation”.

Fr Philip Powell OP attempts to answer some tricky questions about the new provision.

Photo: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, meets Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria in 2003. Archbishop Akinola is chairman of the Global South Primates Steering Committee (PA/PA Archive)

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 26, 2009 at 1:39 pm