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Monday, August 13, 2007

End Days for Anglo-Catholicism?

A while back, following the motu proprio issued by Pope Benedict XVI that considerably eases the restrictions on use of the 1962 Missal for celebrating Mass, along with a steady stream of hints from his Holiness suggesting the time for innovation has come to an end, I asked rhetorically whether the time for Anglo-Catholics had also come to an end, whether they should consider embracing the fullness of the Faith. Recently, one prominent Anglican gave answer to the question: according to the Living Church, the Rt. Rev'd Clarence Pope, retired bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, an Anglo-Catholic stronghold, has announced he has left the Episcopal Church for the Roman Catholic Church. While it is not particularly earthshaking for someone from Fort Worth departing for Rome, what is surprising about his Grace Clarence’s move is, this is the second time he has done it.

Thirteen years ago, Bishop Pope (yes, I am a grownup and will try to refrain making stupid jokes), distressed with the way things were going in the Episcopal Church, took the swim and was received by Bernard Francis Cardinal Law. Owing to shabby treatment from the RC Diocese of Louisiana, where he was denied entry to the priesthood, along with illness and depression, he was lured back into the Anglican fold just a year later in 1995. Now Pope has re-poped (sorry, that one just slipped out of me), this time, presumably, for good. He has a bleak outlook for the future of Catholicism in the Episcopal Church saying, “Doctrinal changes concerning holy matrimony, holy orders, and matters of sexual morality have put the Episcopal Church outside the limits of the Vincentian Canon, and marginalize everyone within it from the Catholic world.”

No kidding. In addition to being marginalized, people don’t realize how small a proportion the Episcopal Church comprises traditional Anglo-Catholics (not to be confused with so-called “affirming” Catholics: Unitarians who love vestments and smoke but only when it doesn't come from tobacco), there are perhaps 25,000 to 50,000 of us. Whichever the alphabet soup organizations of apostates of the apostates ends up taking the place of the Episcopal Church in the aftermath of its inevitable crash and burn, it will likely be dominated by former low-church Protestants, many of whom actually embrace what traditional Catholics deplore: the “ordination” of women, the dumbing down of the Prayer Book, God-awful “praise music” and of course and most objectionable, Calvinistic doctrine. Finding themselves so outnumbered, traditional Anglo-Catholics may find it incumbent to remove themselves to a friendlier and more sympathetic institution: the one in Rome, which for all its myriad woes, some of which experienced by Bishop Pope, not altering his outlook, but unlike its Anglican counterpart is on the mend under the sure guidance of Benedict XVI and surely the logical place for those who call themselves “Catholic.”

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