Speculating about the future of Anglicanism, a Catholic Church observer in England says that Anglo-Catholics have recognized their battle is “lost.” However, Pope Benedict’s appreciation of their tradition and his establishment of a special church structure for them will help restore their patrimony to the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI, acting through the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” established the Anglican Ordinariate in October 2009 to help Anglicans who wish to become Catholic while preserving many of their unique traditions.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that senior Catholic Church figures in England expect the new jurisdiction to accommodate “thousands” of converts. The Anglican church of St. Peter in Folkestone has declared its intention to become Catholic, as has the Anglican Bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst, chairman of the Anglican group Forward in Faith.
Strife in the Anglican Communion has resulted from differences on theological and moral matters such as the ordination of women bishops and sexual ethics.
Damian Thompson, a Catholic commentator for the Telegraph, remarked that Bishop Broadhurst thought the Anglican tradition called Anglo-Catholicism was worth fighting for.
“Now he knows that the battle is lost,” he claimed.
Thompson voiced his suspicion that the future of the Anglican Ordinariate is not with prelates such as Broadhurst but rather with younger Anglo-Catholic clergy and “thousands of committed lay people” who are already used to worshiping at a church that suits and not at their local parish.
“The important thing is that they believe that the intellectual case for traditional Anglo-Catholicism is no longer tenable. The High Church wing of the (Church of England) has moved in a liberal protestant direction: it has reached an accommodation with women priests and will do so with women bishops, too.”
By contrast, Thompson continued, the election of Pope Benedict XVI and his visit to England has helped “tip the balance.” The Pontiff appreciates the achievements of Anglo-Catholicism and believes that the best Anglo-Catholic worship retains elements of Catholic patrimony that will be “restored” to the Western Church.
Thompson wrote that he cannot foresee the Church of England allowing more than a few church buildings to leave, but large Anglo-Catholic congregations are likely to split over the possibility of entering into communion with Rome.
While Anglican converts will face obstacles from “philistine RC liberals,” he cited a Catholic priest who said these Anglicans should consider who they have on their side:
“The Pope. Blessed John Henry Newman. And the Holy Spirit.”
Thompson said he was “more and more convinced” that the Apostolic Constitution will bear fruit in “new, evangelistic parish communities” that will challenge “sluggish mediocrity” among some Catholics.
“No wonder so many younger, orthodox, cradle Catholics are excited by the Ordinariate mission,” he concluded.