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Morning Catholic must-reads

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The Pope is expected to name Archbishop Velasio DePaolis the Apostolic Delegate to the Legion of Christ.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York are reportedly preparing to make a last-ditch effort to prevent thousands of traditionalists leaving the Church of England.

The Vatican’s spokesman expressed “esteem and solidarity” with Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe yesterday as it emerged that police are investigating the Archbishop of Naples for alleged corruption.

Benedict XVI made an urgent appeal for peace in southern Kyrgyzstan and prayed for the world’s refugees after the Angelus on Sunday (full text, video).

Pope Benedict ordained 14 new priests for the Diocese of Rome in St Peter’s Basilica yesterday (hfull text).

A Vatican spokesman has denied reports that the disgraced former Archbishop of Poznań, Juliusz Paetz, is to be “rehabilitated”.

Zenit publishes the final part of Pope Benedict’s question-and-answer session with priests.

Fr Edward Daly welcomes the Saville report into Bloody Sunday.

Commonweal responds to criticism by the US bishops of its stance on the healthcare bill.

John Allen points out the “elephants in the room” of the Catholic debate on healthcare reform.

Kevin O’Rourke looks at “the complicated reasons behind an abortion at a Catholic hospital” in Phoenix.

George Weigel describes the alternative to “Catholic Lite”.

Karl Giberson urges Christians not to vilify the New Atheists.

Joanna Bogle profiles Catholic Voices, which aims to transform the media image of Catholicism during the Pope’s visit to Britain.

Austen Ivereigh applauds Archbishop Vincent Nichols’s efforts to promote the papal visit.

Rocco Palmo reports on the remarkable success of the iBreviary app for the iPhone.

And Fr Z wonders if the iPad will replace the altar missal.

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Morning Catholic must-reads

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Pope Benedict XVI touched on sex education, marriage preparation and child abuse in his address to the Pontifical Council for the Family yesterday (full text).

Irish bishops have promised victims of abuse that they will personally deliver a letter from them to the Pope.

Der Spiegel presents an in-depth investigation of the growing German priestly abuse scandal.

Cardinal Walter Kasper has floated the idea of an “ecumenical catechism” at a gathering of Christian leaders in Rome.

The General Synod of the Church of England is driving Anglo-Catholics to the brink once again, says Andrew Brown, as clergy predict a mass exodus over women bishops.

A Ugandan bishop has urged Catholics not to join the breakaway Catholic Apostolic National Church.

A pioneering priest blogger in Korea says he is heartened by the Pope’s World Communications Day message endorsing blogging.

London Christians are preparing to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

A replica of the Turin Shroud has gone on display in a parish church in Leeds.

An Evangelical says that Pope John Paul II’s self-mortification holds a lesson for all Christians.

And elephants are apparently exacting revenge on the persecutors of Christians in India.

Rowan Williams: Pope’s offer to Anglicans is ‘no solution’

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The Archbishop of Canterbury gives a provocative interview to George Pitcher of the Daily Telegraph.

Dr Williams declines to be drawn on whether, when he saw him in Rome recently, the Pope was regretful or sorry for effectively jumping him – “private conversation, I think” – but he does concede that the hastily convened press conference, at which he sat uncomfortably alongside the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, was a big mistake.

“I think everyone on the platform was a bit uncomfortable … I know the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the whole doesn’t go in for much consultation – we were just on the receiving end of that.”

Really? Isn’t there something rather acquisitive and invasive about this Pope, who wants us to know that there is one universal voice of authority and it speaks from Rome? Dr Williams suddenly opens up: “Nothing entirely new about that of course. At the end of John Paul II’s pontificate you have that discussion of how papal authority is meant to be understood, how it might be received by others. I think that’s treading water at the moment. I’d like to see that revived and that’s part of what I was nudging at in Rome.

“Second thing is that in British Catholicism there’s a kind of resurgent – no – recurrent cycle of the ‘second spring’, in Cardinal Newman’s imagery, and in the wave of distinguished converts in the interwar years, Evelyn Waugh and so on. There was just a hint of it when Cardinal Hume uncharacteristically talked about the reconversion of England – and I think he regretted that actually. And a few people in the last round. It’s a pattern, the sense that the Reformation wounds are going to be healed in favour of Rome. And it just keeps coming back – I think this has been the occasion for another little bit of that. It’s bits of the repertoire.”

The languid manner in which he delivers this leaves no doubt that he’s not holding his breath for a Roman second spring either. I wonder whether the Pope has, unwittingly and ironically, provided the kind of “third province” that Anglo-Catholics were demanding because they can’t accept women bishops, lesbian or otherwise. The Revision Committee for women bishops, after all, dropped proposals for legal protection for them in the wake of the Pope’s initiative.

“I would guess that the papal announcement had some impact on the way some people thought and voted on the committee,” concedes Dr Williams. “But actually I don’t think it is a solution. A great many Anglo-Catholics have good reason for not being Roman Catholics. They don’t believe the Pope is infallible. And that’s why they’re still pressing for a solution in Anglican terms, rather than what many of them see as a theologically rather eccentric option on the Roman side.”

Written by Luke Coppen

December 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury in ‘cordial’ meeting

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The Archbishop of Canterbury had an approximately 20-minute meeting with the Pope today. The Vatican issued this statement afterwards:

This morning His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in private audience His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the course of the cordial discussions attention turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities at the beginning of this millennium, and to the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges.

The discussions also focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans, and recalling how, over coming days, the commission entrusted with preparing the third phase of international theological dialogue between the parties (ARCIC) is due to meet.

After the meeting, Dr Williams spoke to Vatican Radio.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

William Oddie: The man who foresaw the Anglican provision

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In 1997 William Oddie published a controversial book called The Roman Option.

Dr Oddie, a biographer of G K Chesterton and former editor of The Catholic Herald, outlined a possible future development in which disaffected Anglicans sought to move en masse to the Catholic Church. He defined this movement as “the Roman Option” and suggested it would result in a decisive “Realignment” within English-speaking Christianity.

The book, which is currently out of print, is starting to be talked about again. Some speculate that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may even have studied it as it worked on the new Anglican provision.

Here’s a short extract:

Realignment should be understood as a way in which the two main Christian traditions in England – and ultimately in the other English-speaking countries whose Christianity derives partly or entirely from the English experience – could become more internally coherent without losing the variousness which is the sign of spiritual life.

A movement of Catholic-minded Anglicans into the Catholic Church, in a gradual and manageable way over time, paralleled by a convergence of Methodists and Free Churchmen around the Church of England – all this would be part of the same process. Two great Christian traditions, the Catholic and the Reformed, growing into ever greater internal coherence, the wounds of the past finally healing; and then, one day, possibly in as little as a century or two, errors and apostasies having fallen away like dead skin-cells, the union of all Christian people: that is the ultimate vision that Realignment opens up now.

What is striking about Realignment is not how utterly unlikely such a thing is, but how close it is to the internal logic of movements already well underway. What hinders it is a whole series of incoherencies, a log-jam of ecclesial blockages whose release would allow the process to flow onwards to its natural conclusion. Anglican Catholicism has stood in the way of Anglican-Methodist reunion: not because of any settled bloody-mindedness on the part of Anglo-Catholics, but because their own fundamental principles were being threatened from within their own church.

There is only one future for them now which is stable and secure: a future in communion with the Holy See. But that homeward return is now being blocked for most of them as they once blocked the return of the Methodists, not only by the spiritual protectionism of the Catholic bishops but by the lack of vision of the Anglican bishops, who continue erroneously to suppose that it is in their own interests to do everything they can to detain those they would be better off without, and who would be happier and more fulfilled elsewhere.

‘What we have, we hold,’ is an attitude deeply held, both by English Catholic and English Anglican bishops. English Roman Catholic possessiveness has its roots deep in the tribal history of recusant and immigrant Catholicism. It is time for English Catholics to understand that this is an historical turning point whose time ought now to have come, but which they block or at least delay if they retreat once more into the ghetto. The point is, the Catholic tradition can no longer be maintained simply by protecting its own boundaries. Mass attendance is falling. Already the Catholic Church in England is retreating, because it has denied for too long its own deepest nature, which is not simply to bury its faith safely in the ground in order to conserve it for those born into it, but to proclaim it from the housetop, to gather a harvest of souls for Christ, to convert the world.

On Tuesday, of course, the Vatican cleared that “log-jam of ecclesial blockages” away.

PS The term “Roman option” was coined by Christopher Morgan, the veteran religious affairs reporter who died last year. I wish he had lived to see this week’s announcement.

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm

The Anglican provision: a press round-up

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The Apostolic Constitution is the front-page story in the Times today. It is headlined “Papal gambit stuns Church”.

The Times’s editorial deplores the move:

There are genuine pastoral reasons behind the Holy See’s actions. But the solution and the manner by which it has been derived are a direct challenge to the integrity of the Anglican tradition. Dr Williams has made immense efforts to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion and advance the ecumenical movement. He has been undermined. He now faces the unenviable prospect of an increasing fragmentation of Anglicanism and a severely attenuated state of Anglican-Catholic relations…

The Church of England’s witness to the life of the nation is a valued and historic civic resource. Its position has been dangerously weakened.

A commentary by Tim Bradshaw claims that the initiative “will harm dialogue and weaken the Church of England”. An analysis piece by Ruth Gledhill says desperate Anglican traditionalist bishops have “invited Rome to park its tanks on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lawn”.

Riazat Butt, in the Guardian, notes that “the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic archbishop of Westminster sat side by side on the top table in a show of unity, but the choice of location [the Catholic Church’s HQ] reflected the shift in power”. And Andrew Brown argues that Pope Benedict has told Rowan Williams: “So long and thanks for all the priests.”

The Telegraph’s editorial says the Apostolic Constitution “offers a half-way home to those who will never be reconciled to the liberal reforms in the Anglican Communion”. Jonathan Wynne-Jones says the move has left the Archbishop of Canterbury’s plans “in ruins”. And George Pitcher insists that the Pope has “thrown a lifeline to the Church of England for women bishops”.

Across the pond, Peter J Boyer examines yesterday’s events for the New Yorker. Michael McGough, writing in the LA Times, predicts that “a lot of cradle Catholics … will be sneaking off to ‘Anglican Use’ parishes on Sundays”. And Jeff Israely at Time magazine says the decision “reveals more about the growing internal rifts within each of the two churches than any sign of real hope for reuniting the fractured Christian communion”.

In Canada’s National Post, Fr Raymond J de Souza salutes the move. And the Sydney Morning Herald finds an interesting Australian angle on the story.

Photo: Cardinal William Levada, pictured at yesterday’s news conference at the Vatican (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 21, 2009 at 10:07 am

Bishop of Ebbsfleet: Anglicans are in search of the Promised Land

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The Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and the Rt Rev Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough, are two high-profile Anglican traditionalists in England. They have issued a joint statement warmly welcoming the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution.

They say:

This is not a time for sudden decisions or general public discussion. We call for a time of quiet prayer and discernment. The coming season of Advent and the celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas, seem to us to provide a good opportunity for this quiet prayer and discernment to take place, as well as some pastoral discussions. Some Anglicans in the Catholic tradition understandably will want to stay within the Anglican Communion. Others will wish to make individual arrangements as their conscience directs. A further group of Anglicans, we think, will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land. As bishops we would want to reassure people that, whatever decisions people, priests and parishes make, they will find peace and blessing in following what they discern to be God’s will for them. We have chosen 22nd February, The Feast of The Chair of Peter, to be an appropriate day for priests and people to make an initial decision as to whether they wish to respond positively to and explore further the initiative of the Apostolic Constitution. Many, understandably, will need a much longer period of discernment and we would counsel against over-hasty reactions of whatever kind.

The Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough visited Rome in Eastertide 2008 and, graciously, were given a hearing in the Vatican. We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart. It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome. We were neither the first nor the last Anglicans to do this in recent years. Following the decision of General Synod of the Church of England in July 2008 to proceed with the ordination of women to the episcopate, we appealed to the Holy Father for help and have patiently awaited a reply. This Apostolic Constitution, addressed worldwide, feels to us to be a reply to concerns raised by others and by us and an attempt to allow all those who seek unity with the Holy See to be gathered in without loss of their distinctive patrimony.

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 21, 2009 at 9:39 am