"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is the Pope Working Against Large Scale Conversions by Anglicans to the RCC?

The Telegraph of London has the interesting (though frankly somewhat doubtful) story in which it is alleged that Pope Benedict is working behind the scenes to discourage a split of Anglicans from Canterbury. (The story is echoed by The Independent.) What does this say about all those rumors that special provisions will be made by Rome for those Anglicans who feel they must depart now that the Church of England has decided to consecrate female bishops? Is the pope really actively discouraging large scale conversions to Roman Catholicism? (I have a hard time believing that Pope Benedict would actually discourage large numbers of people from coming into full communion with the Holy See, but that seems to be the implication of this report.) Time will tell.

Is it possible that the conflicting rumors are the result of divisions within the Vatican on the question? I wonder. What if Cardinal Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is in favor of helping large numbers of Anglican clergy and laymen come into full communion with Rome while Cardinal Kaspar of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity is opposed to such moves? Who would the Pope support in such a division? Does personal friendship between Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams really play a large role in these decision?

These are interesting times, are they not?

Here are some excerpts:

Pope Benedict XVI has called for Anglican leaders attending the Lambeth Conference to find a "mature" and faithful way of avoiding "schism".
He has also sent three cardinals to the conference...

There have been reports that the Pope does not support the defection of conservative Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church and that the Vatican has even helped senior Anglicans prepare important documents ahead of the Lambeth Conference.

However, these are strongly disputed by sources at Vatican who say that the Pope is actively working to welcome Anglican defectors.

The moves will give Dr Williams some comfort as he seeks to maintain a unified church at the meeting of bishops from across the world. ...

The Pope expressed his support for the Archbishop as he arrived in Australia on Sunday, saying the Anglican Church needed to avoid "further schism and fractures".

"The words and the message of Christ are what offer the real contribution to Lambeth and only in being faithful to the message ... and God's words can we find a mature way ... to find a road together," said the Pope.

UPDATE: The Independent of London has a very similar story this morning, though their report is more full than The Telegraph's. Here is a quote that is interesting, though it sounds very much like both papers have received spin from the same source:

Roman Catholic insiders say there are two motives behind the Pope's concerns. A decision has been taken within the Roman Catholic hierarchy that it is in its interests for the Anglican Church to maintain unity. Despite speculation about a group of conservative bishops breaking away to the Roman church, senior Catholics say such a move would be "premature", and that they are not encouraging defections. The other reason is that the Pope has developed a strong personal relationship with Dr Williams. "They get on, they are both theologians," a source said last night.


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