Thursday, 15 January 2009

Anglo-Catholics prepare for a parting of the ways. About time, too.

There are signs that proper Anglo-Catholics - the Forward in Faith crowd, not the Vichyite Affirming "Catholics" - realise that the game is up. In the February issue of the newsletter of the Diocese of Ebbsfleet, David Smart, vice chairman of its lay council, predicts a parting of ways. The big question, he says, is whether Anglo-Catholics part as friends.

The newsletter doesn't, alas, tell us what progress the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Andrew Burnham, has made with plans to lead some of his people into full communion with Rome. My guess is that he still doesn't know how things will play out. A lot depends on the identity of the next Archbishop of Westminster. Perhaps the next one will possess a spark of theological imagination; perhaps not. I can understand why many Anglo-Catholics feel queasy at the thought of joining a Church run by the Magic Circle. An Anglican priest friend told me the other day that the RC representatives at the General Synod tend to side with the liberal Anglicans against the Anglo-Catholics. How predictable.

But, in the end, Anglo-Catholics should remember that, if they become Roman Catholics, they will be joining a Church led by Pope Benedict XVI, not some grey-shirted placeman from Eccleston Square. True, the Pope is now well into his 80s - but the liberals are making a big mistake if they assume that the next pontiff will undo the Benedictine reforms. Not only the up-and-coming cardinals but also the new generation of priests are liturgically conservative. Read more
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