From the Thames to the Tiber: Rome Builds a Bridge for Anglicans to Cross Over

On the day the document was released, the official Vatican press release stated: “This Apostolic Constitution opens a new avenue for the promotion of Christian unity while, at the same time, granting legitimate diversity in the expression of our common faith…. The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church.”[37] This was playing with words.  How exactly the absorption of disgruntled Anglicans into the Roman fold “opens a new avenue for the promotion of Christian unity” was not said, nor indeed could it truthfully be said, for it simply does not.  At least, it does not promote the “unity” which naive Protestant ecumenists understand by the term, i.e. a unity of “equals”.  It does promote Rome’s understanding of “unity”, i.e. absorption. It is an aggressive move on Rome’s part, bypassing the ecumenical movement entirely.  That is obvious to all who do not wear blinkers over their eyes.  Rome might say that ecumenical dialogue remains a “priority”, but this too is a smokescreen.  Creating a structure to allow Anglicans to defect en masse to Rome is hardly “consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue.”  It is all smoke and mirrors.  But the naive will believe it, and not see what is really happening: Rome is on the offensive, and Anglicanism is crumbling before its onslaught.

Rome Wins, Canterbury Loses

This Vatican tactical move will yet further divide the already-tottering Anglican institution, reeling as it is from internal splits and divisions between conservatives and liberals.  Rome is the real gainer here, Canterbury is the very obvious loser.

For those naive and foolish Anglicans and “Protestants” who believe in the ecumenical movement, and who think that it involves all “churches” on an equal footing, this should be a huge wake-up call.  It should reveal, as plain as day, that Rome’s real goal in the ecumenical movement is nothing less than to draw all non-Papists back into the Roman fold.  But, alas, although they should see it, most will not.

This latest papal move indicates that Rome under Benedict XVI is not going to be as ecumenically accommodating as it had been under John Paul II.  If ecumenism does not move fast enough or achieve the desired results, Rome will make use of other, less friendly tactics to take control.  It will still use ecumenism as well, but not solely.  As journalist Damian Thompson put it, the professional ecumenists could not get the matter of unity between Rome and Canterbury right in decades; “So now Pope Benedict has opened up another route to unity: a high-speed bypass.”[38] This is exactly what this is: a high-speed bypass, designed to bring Anglicans into the Roman fold as painlessly and swiftly as possible, leaving the worldwide Anglican institution in the hands of liberal leftists.

And in the process, Benedict is taking his abominable “Church” back into a more traditional position, from which it had emerged under John Paul II, Paul VI and John XXIII.  Veteran Vatican reporter in Italy, Sandro Magister, said: “Today more than ever, with Joseph Ratzinger as pope, the ecumenical path seems not to be a march toward modernity, but a return to the land of tradition.”[39] Benedict is bending over backwards to accommodate traditionalists, both within and without the “Church” of Rome, finding ways of bringing the traditionalists back into the fold of Rome, while pretty much ignoring the liberals.  This can be seen, also, in his decision in January 2009 to revoke the excommunication of four schismatic bishops from the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, including one who had denied the extent of the Holocaust.  Benedict is holding talks with the group with the aim of bringing them back into subjection to Rome.

And all this shows just how very close to Romanism, doctrinally and practically, traditional Anglicanism is.  That conservative Anglicans could leave, believing themselves to be Romanists at heart yet desiring to retain certain aspects of their Anglican faith, demonstrates that Anglicanism truly is a “daughter” of Rome.  It is not a true Christian church and never has been.  In the words of the joint statement issued by the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and the Romish archbishop of Westminster after the Vatican announcement, Rome’s provisions are a recognition of “the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition.”[40] They are, essentially, one and the same.

And if indeed many, even eventually most, traditionalist Anglicans move across to Rome, what will be left behind?  An Anglican institution that is extremely liberal, denying many doctrines Rome holds to be important, and practicing many things Rome rejects.  This will make it even harder for Rome to maintain ecumenical overtures towards Anglicanism; but perhaps it is calculating that such a severely weakened Anglicanism will eventually be persuaded to turn from its errors and embrace Rome.  Or perhaps, under Benedict, it just doesn’t care about liberal Anglicanism and is prepared to sacrifice its ecumenical relations with it in order to seduce conservative Anglicans into its fold, believing a deeply fractured, liberal “Church of England” will eventually just disintegrate.  Remember the words of the cardinal, Levada, quoted above, who said that although the aim has always been for full, visible unity, that prospect has “seemed to recede” in recent times with Anglicanism’s ordination of women and homosexuals.

As Andrew Brown of the UK Guardian said, “One of the things that this development means is that the Roman Catholic church is no longer even pretending to take seriously the existence of the Anglican Communion as a coherent body.”[41] Indeed.  It appears Rome has realised that Anglicanism as a coherent body is finished, and it might as well do a deal with those traditionalist elements within it that are already in close affinity with Rome, and leave the liberals within it to their own devices.