Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury
ex. Independent News.UK

Recently Pope Benedict XVI made an offer to members of the Anglican Communion a way to return to the Catholic Church with stipulations. There is a growing chord of discontent among members of the Anglican Church that are concerned about the church’s ordination of women & stance in favor of homosexual activities within their clergy and among their faithful. The Holy Father has even made provisions to accept married Anglican clergy into full communion with the Catholic Church with the ability to remain married and minister as priests. The developments are quite remarkable and show a clear appreciation of Benedict towards Anglican reunion, whatever method it might take.
Of course the stipulations include that married priests may not be considered for the office of bishop. However, it stipulates that entire Anglican parishes are welcome to return to the Roman Church as collective groups in addition to the requirements announced for the clergy. Some secular observers suggest that the Pope is poaching believers at the expense of the disintegrating structure within the Church of England. Others indicate that all is fair in the area of religious conversion. Regardless of the point of view, this marks a great chance for the Catholic Church to foster a spirit of reconciliation between our Churches that is a positive step towards reunion and forgiveness.
The issues at stake are a clearer appreciation of certain aspects of morality that are often misconstrued by the Church of England. Issues concerning the ordination of women and the ordination of active homosexuals are of course elements that need deep consideration. Most importantly the points of moral certainty regarding the moral and ethical applications of Catholic moral teachings are critical to the reunion. The Pope clearly indicates that there are certain issues that are absolute and moral improprieties that disregard the sanctity of human life and the sexual act are crucial to consistent Catholic interpretations in regards to these issues.
The matter of married priests is something that the Roman Church has accepted from former Anglicans since the pontificate of John-Paul II. Such an arrangement for married priests offers no dogmatic or moral inaccuracy regarding the Church’s tradition and is reflective of the emerging acceptance of many levels of theological interpretation. However, the non-acceptance of women in Holy Orders is consistent of the ancient traditions of the Catholic Church and has frequently been reaffirmed by Popes in the 20th century with the current Pope.
What is really important is the Vatican initiative that allows for entire groups of Anglicans to return to communion with Rome as faithful communities of theological beliefs. The entire progress of the ecumenical spirit considered at Vatican II is at work. While there are some issues that may not easily be solved, it shows a real appreciation of openness and reconciliation of both parties toward relegating the past errors of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic response to history. The Gospel of Saint John in the priestly prayer of Jesus gives us, “That they may be one.” This expectation of Jesus might indeed be coming to fruition.
Catholics especially should be jubilant with the return of former members of the Anglican Church. It shows our faith is a living entity, which permits a variety of expressions within the confines of our union with Rome through the Eucharist and the Sacred Word. Other incidentals that are outside of these uniting factors can be resolved with prayer, dialogue and mutual understanding.
Henry VIII would be greatly disturbed by these developments of the 21st century. They are not reflective of his theological nationalization of the Catholic Church. Catholics need to consider this not as a theological victory over Protestant sects, but as a venue of understanding the mysterious nature of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. In this Body of Christ, all things indeed are possible through Him!
We welcome our formerly Anglican brothers and sisters in faith. Welcome home!

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://nothing-left-unsaid.blogspot.com . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Pewsitter.com, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal.

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