Monday, February 13
"And Rome itself has said that it will no longer feel obligated to channel all of its Anglican conversations through the official channels of the Anglican Communion."
- Bishop David Chislett, of the Traditional Anglican Communion
No One Can Under-Estimate How Huge That Statement Is.
For 13 years, the T.A.C. has been asking Rome for reunification. If you have ever wondered why Rome hasn't acted on their request, the answer is simple: the dream was that, through dialog with Canterbury itself, all of Anglicanism would be "united but not absorbed" with the Holy See.
All the theological conversation and ecumenical pressupositions in Rome since Vatican II have focused, not on individual conversion to Catholicism, but instead on the broader reconciliation of existing structures within other religions with the Holy See.
Certainly you have all heard of people attempting to convert since Vatican II, only to have a priest tell them, "Don't convert! The best thing you can do is be the best (Baptist, Prebyterian) you can." The concern was that, by accepting converts on an individual basis, this would undermine an atmosphere of trust and dialog which might lead to larger, structural "unity without absorption."
For this very reason, for 13 years T.A.C. has sought an unattainable goal: in accordance with the ecumenical goals articulated at Vatican II, it was entirely unthinkable that Rome would accept a large number of converts by negotiating outside of the official Anglican structure: that would be a slap in the face to the Anglican Church, and presummably throw cold water on the ecumenical process.* Again, this has been the pressuposition which made the T.A.C. cause hopeless.
Something has changed these presuppositions:
(1) Pope Benedict, one of two cardinals who still favored the active pursuit of individual conversions under JPG
(2) Above all, the pending approval of women bishops in the Church of England. You may have noticed breif mentions about a Catholic cardinal giving dire warnings about the consequences of female episcopal ordination.
That cleric was Kaspar the Friendly Cardinal, the biggest advocate of structure dialog over individual conversion--and a cardinal who absolutely never gives dire warnings, ever. Unless he feared the Dream would die.
Should the Vatican decide that official structures (Canterbury) need no longer be their primary conversation partner for Christian unity, and should the T.A.C. be willing, union is only a matter of time. The Dream now essentially dead, I say 2 years, tops.
*The concern is real: a primary stumbling block to union with the Orthodox is their bitterness over the Uniate churches. While the enter Catholic Communion loves the Eastern Catholics--remember everyone going wild over their presence at JPG's funeral, Benedict's inaugaration, their presence at Vatican II--and admires their dedication to the Holy See, the creation of further "uniates" outside of the structure of their parent churches was avoided so as not to create similar tensions with the West. This does not mean that the Eastern Catholic Churches were a mistake: in fact, their presence in the Catholic Communion has kept alive the essential awareness that the Body of Christ does not equal the Roman Catholic Church, but instead the Catholic Church as a whole--of which the Roman Rite is but a part. This has also emphasized that the governing authority of the Pope within the Roman Rite is specific to his role as Patriarch of the West, and not inherent in the Petrine Ministry.
Update: Pontifications points to this concern over whether the T.A.C. has the internal cohesion necesary to wait out Rome's "it will happen when it happens" timetable. Well, we'll see!