29 January 2009

Schismatics and the Vatican

The Roman Catholic English speaking world is abuzz with rumors that Rome’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF -- new name for the old Office of the Holy Inquisition) has recommended to Benedict that he welcome a group known as The Traditional Anglican Church into full communion with Rome and give them their own personal prelature.

The Traditional Anglican Church was born in 1990 with nine groups. They signed a concordat which led to the 1977 Affirmation of St. Louis.

I'll give you one guess why they left their respective parent churches.
We affirm that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, by their unlawful attempts to alter Faith, Order and Morality (especially in their General Synod of 1975 and General Convention of 1976), have departed from Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church . . .
Sound familiar?

A personal prelature functions like a global diocese without boundaries, headed by its own bishop and with its own membership and clergy. The rumor is that the Vatican is thinking about granting a worldwide “province” to the Traditional Anglican Communion independent from all Roman Catholic diocese in the world. This isn't new, really. The Uniate churches have had an unofficial prelatures for centuries.

The first official prelature was that of Opus Dei, the controversial religious order that has been named in one “intrigue” after another and features in the da Vinci Code fantasy.

According to the rumour mills:
It appears Rome is on the brink of welcoming close to half a million members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into membership of the Roman Catholic Church. Such a move would be the most historic development in Anglican-Catholic relations in the last 500 years.
At the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, the bishops of the TAC signed a statement of acceptance of the New Catechism of the Roman Church and a letter seeking admission to Rome.
Archbishop Hepworth personally wrote to Pope Benedict in April 2007 indicating that the TAC planned a meeting of its world bishops, where it was anticipated they would unanimously agree to sign the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to seek full union with the Catholic Church. This took place at a meeting of the TAC in the United Kingdom. TAC bishops placed the signed Catechism on the altar of the most historical Anglican and Catholic Marian shrine in the UK, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, before posting it up in the main street in an effort to gather public support.
If all of this is true, it would appear that the Vatican has decided to cease talks with Canterbury, and therefore the Anglican Communion, in favour of talks with this splinter group.

We need to note, too, that this “Traditional” group does not include groups that are in “communion” with Akinola. TAC berated the Akinola schism when the GAFCON new group would not affirm the St. Louis Affirmation.

Which brings us to another interesting bit. Apparently the Vatican is not interested in Akinola’s communion and definitely not interested in Duncan, Schofield or Iker.

One interesting bit from The American Catholic submits that
This is going to create shockwaves all the way to Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion throughout the world. It will definitely make the prelates of England and Wales cringe in fear to the thought of hundred’s of thousands of Anglicans entering their realm and bolstering the numbers of faithful and dedicated Catholics. It will also certainly create havoc for Katherine Jefferts Schori and her bishops in keeping The Episcopal Communion together here in the United States.
I doubt that it will create havoc for the Presiding Bishop or TEC. We have survived the predicted Exodus to the Global South, so why would we tremble at the thought of some Anglo Catholics fleeing to TAC a group just as schismatic as the Akinola organization.

The group itself claims a membership of more than 400,000. But like the other schismatic groups, they offer no explanation or documentation as to how they arrive at that number. The actual facts are probably more about 100,000 if that. But, taking their figures as accurate, TAC has fewer members worldwide than the Unitarian Church in the United States. It is not in communion with Canterbury.

As for "hundreds of thousands" of Anglicans joining up in the possible prelature, it's doubtful. Well, it's doubtful there are hundreds of thousands of Anglo-Catholics who long for full communion with Rome, in my opinion. A few thousand, perhaps. Speaking as an Anglo Catholic (and our old friend Fr. Jake could tell you just how Anglo Catholic I am), I know not a single Anglo Catholic who wants reunion with Rome.

Whatever the facts are, if the rumors are correct, the Vatican is more interested in a small schismatic group that it is with the Akinola Schismatics or the whole Anglican Communion.

My one question is, why would Benedict want a bunch of disgruntled people joining his ranks? Schism breeds schism.

You may read more about this at The Record and at the The Telegraph.

UPDATED COMMENT: I did not mean to imply that those reporting on this story are spreading rumors. The are reporting a story, as I am. At this stage, though, it's all rumor and speculation.