Friday, 30 January 2009


Well, you have to admit life is never dull; after a period of staring into the night of likely extinction, Anglican Catholics have been given just a glimmer of hope in the news (or more accurately, rumour) that Rome is considering a personal prelature for the Traditional Anglican Communion.
Perhaps great things are happening on the ecumenical scene just as we thought ecumenism as we knew it was at an end. God has a habit of doing things in his way, and not in the way we expect!
Certainly, the stage is being set for new developments in Catholic unity. The election of Metropolitan Kirill in Moscow could lead to substantial movement towards unity with the East, and we poor refugees from the Reformation should never forget that this is the more significant arena of ecumenism as far as Rome is concerned. The two “lungs” of the Church are Rome and Orthodoxy; our own situation is something of a side show when compared to the importance of ending the Great Schism which pre-dates our own western tragedy by almost five hundred years.
Yet we do have a Pope who knows and understands not only the Lutheran situation of his native Germany but, through his knowledge of and sympathy with the theology of Newman, the fortunes and vicissitudes of our own ecclesial body. Certainly, if we are reading the signs of the times correctly, the fragments of Western Catholicism are being gathered together so that nothing may be lost. The first step towards of the reconciliation of the SSPX which we saw last week gives us all hope that something larger and even possibly momentous is at foot; could this vision of unity include the “separated Catholics” now being so marginalised and abused within the Anglican Communion? Does the Holy Father have a larger vision than we could have hoped for?
It became clear during the Summer at Lambeth that the Anglican establishment was drinking at the last chance saloon of unity with Rome; it is equally clear that the liberal ascendency which controls the Church of England and the Church in Wales wants nothing to do with Rome, and will cling perversely both to their radical agenda and to their radical revisionism where it comes to Anglican self-identity. The ARCIC / IARCCUM show is over: there is nothing for us to cling to there, except perhaps to take the process to its rightful conclusion.
For Anglicans not in the TAC and bound up with the official structures of the Communion there would seem to be a few "ecclesial identity problems" to be overcome before movement towards unity can take place. This is where Forward in Faith and our own Priestly Society, SSC, could have a significant part to play. Can they assume the role of Moses and Aaron and go to the Anglican pharaohs and say “let my people go?” The response may well be the same as recorded in the book of Exodus, but a negotiated withdrawal in the service of a wider unity and an ending of decades of attrition should appeal to anyone who has the best interests of the Gospel at heart, at least those not blinded by the false illusions of ecclesiastical “power.”
Without raising our hopes too far at the moment – and I still think it is important that we don’t get carried away - I am hoping and praying for an imaginative, generous and truly pastoral gesture towards a wider catholic ecumenism from the Holy Father (something which has at least the potential to be very big indeed, and which would enable clergy to bring as many of our people with us as we can), but it has to be matched by an equal willingness to respond from Anglican Catholics. If an initiative does comes from Rome, we cannot seem to hesitate or to bargain; this could be the best opportunity for the return of a large number of Anglicans to Peter since the 16th Century. (The establishment will never be reconciled - I think Rome knows that now very well).
I hope and pray!

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