Special Report: Five Myths about the Pope’s Anglican Ordinariates
As a former Anglican priest myself, I am profoundly grateful for our Holy Father’s generous proposal toward Anglicans, 'that they all might be one'
Taylor Marshall is a former Anglican priest and the author of 'The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity'.
Those who remember their high school history might recall that Pope Gregory the Great sent missionaries to England in the late sixth century to establish the Catholic Church in England. In A.D. 598, Pope Gregory the Great designated the township of Canterbury as the nation’s principal see. There were hiccups along the way (Norman conquest), but England remained under the pastoral oversight of the Pope until 1534 when King Henry VIII declared himself caput ecclesiae anglicanae “Head of the English Church.” Henry VIII never shook his devotion to the old rites. He demanded priestly celibacy, Latin Masses, and prayers for the dead. He did however have an appetite for the wealth of the monasteries. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left his son Edward VI as king. As a Protestant, Edward approved a Protestantized English ritual which became known as the Book of Common Prayer in 1549.
The liturgies found in the Book of Common Prayer and subsequent editions reveal a careful blend of medieval Catholic piety mixed with subtle Protestantism. Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth fully realized this compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism—perhaps the cleverest grab for political power in history. As England colonized the world, she spread her national Anglican church. In America, she became the Episcopal Church. The new worldwide conglomerate of national churches became known as the Anglican Communion. Since those days, the Anglican Communion has been divided into roughly three camps: High Church (more Catholic), Low Church (more Protestant), and Broad Church (liberals who bless the political and cultural mores of society—something going all the way back to Henry’s desire for a second marriage, and then a third marriage, and then a fourth…you know the story).
In the last twenty years, the Broad Churchmen emerged as victors in the Anglican Communion as they secured the ordination of women in the 1980s and 1990s. The past decade has been embroiled in debates about homosexuality as it touches on marriage and clerical ordination. The disaffected conservatives (High Church and Low Church) are looking for options. Clearly, the High Church movement is open to the Catholic Church and many bishops, priests, and lay people have appealed to the Pope for help. The Pope has now provided an an answer: “Come home! Rome opens its doors to you!”
The New York Times, the London Times and almost every known newspaper has printed articles about this new announcement. The blogs are ablaze. However, there is a lot of misinformation churning around out there. I have collected five common misconceptions about the Holy See’s announcement. Each myth merits an informed and measured response.
Myth #1 The Pope is sheep-stealing
The Pope’s alleged “sheep-stealing” been the most popular subject within the secular media. To them, the Holy Father has launched a media campaign to kick the Anglican Communion while it’s down. The poor Archbishop of Canterbury is struggling to keep things together and then “Bamm!” the Pope surprises everyone with a bid for Anglican souls. However, we must remember that it was Anglicans who pursued the matter with the Holy Father—and we’re not talking about just one or two Anglicans. We are talking about thousands and thousands of Anglicans: bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. Anglican bishops from several nations have sent private letters to the Holy See. Much of this is confidential. They want a way out. They want to become Catholic. The Pope is responding to souls looking to him for guidance. The pope is not stealing sheep—He is holding out his pastoral staff to those sheep looking for protection.
Myth #2 Rome is preparing the world for a general married priesthood
The media also sunk its teeth into the fact that the new Anglican ordinariates would preserve the already recognized discipline of allowing married former-Anglican priests to be ordained as married Catholic priests. This is nothing new. Pope John Paul II approved this measure in 1980 as the “Pastoral Provision.” The new personal ordinariate structure does not change anything. In this regard, nothing is new. I have seen with my own eyes the CDF document from the mid-1980s penned by none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger himself. The document clearly states that the Pastoral Provision is approved so long as it does not undermine the Roman discipline of clerical celibacy. Since the man who wrote that statement ...
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