Time for Rescue?

An excerpt from an article by Damain Thompson:

The main thing is not to miss a heaven-sent opportunity. It’s widely believed, among conservative Catholics and Anglicans, that the Church in England and Wales did not do enough to welcome refugees from the Church of England after the vote for women priests in 1992. On reflection, though, perhaps the time was not right. The Bishops of England and Wales were not well disposed to “misogynist” traditionalists, as they were unfairly characterised; the standard of English Catholic liturgy was at an all-time low; and Anglo-Catholicism, though divided and unhappy, still had the stomach for a fight.

Now Anglo-Catholicism has fallen apart. Liberal High Churchmen have quietly abandoned their opposition to women priests, ditching their principles but keeping their chasubles; they include most of the practising gay clergy who were such a stumbling block in the 1990s. Conservative Anglo-Catholics, meanwhile, no longer identify with a C of E that treats them like batty aunts to be locked in the attic when the first woman bishop arrives, as she will soon. The question is how best to escape.

As for our Catholic bishops, there is now more sympathy for the Anglo-Catholic dilemma. The appointment of Archbishop Vincent Nichols to Westminster is significant; for, although he has never been a “traditionalist”, nor has he ever been at the heart of the dialogue between liberal Catholics and liberal Anglicans that has wasted so much time since the ordination of women priests made reunion impossible. As a young Westminster bishop, he unobtrusively cleared the path to Rome of at least one Anglican priest; there is no reason to think that he will not do the same again.

But the crucial change is that the present Pope, unlike his predecessor, is an admirer of the conservative Anglo-Catholic tradition – and open to the idea that doctrinally orthodox Anglicans should convert together, bringing with them spiritual gifts. He is aware that the practical obstacles to such a move (or series of moves) are immense. But he will not be dissuaded by a Catholic ecumenical lobby that, even now, pays court to liberal Anglicans.

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