In the News 2009

Catholics Divided Over Decision to Admit Anglicans


Catholics have reacted with mixed feelings to the Pope’s decision to invite thousands of disgruntled Anglicans to join their church, admitting it will have serious repercussions for the future of the faith. But a top Catholic priest told Radio Netherlands the move is necessary because many Anglicans feel they’re not being listened to.

Father Andrew Faley, Assistant General Secretary of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference in England, said there are moral and ethical issues in the Anglican church – like that of homosexuality – that are causing some people to want to defect.

“I think the last thing the Pope wants to see, or any Christian leader wants to see, is churches breaking into more churches. The Pope made very clear from the beginning, he is really working for the unity of the church. I don’t mean everybody should become Catholic… What he doesn’t want is groups of Christians who find themselves pushed out on the edge of things are no longer able to feel they are in communion.”

Not the First Time

It is not the first time the Vatican has made this kind of offer – there were similar moves in the 1990s when the Anglican church first discussed the issue of ordaining women priests.

But Father Faley says the major difference this time is that Anglicans will be able to keep their own traditions, raising the prospect whole parishes or even diocese could convert to Catholicism. Some estimates have put the number of prospective new members of the church as high as half a million, including around 50 unhappy Anglican bishops.

“Although they would be full members of the Catholic church – they would be Catholics – but they would still be able to celebrate the liturgy and pray within the Anglican tradition.”

Progressive Catholics

Not everyone in the Catholic church, however, say the going will be easy for Vatican from now on. Progressive Catholics believe the prospect of married Anglicans joining their faith may not be palatable to traditionalists.

Henk Baars, European coordinator of the US-based Catholics for Choice group, said the effect of the Pope’s announcement may be to force conservative priests out of the Catholic church. But it may kickstart the debate on the issue his organisation wants.

“On the other hand, progressive Catholics can say that when you do this with Anglican priests you can also do it with married priests in the whole of Europe…. There’s a strong argument to say to the Pope ‘you welcome Anglican priests who are married, why not us?’ and we have to stimulate that kind of debate.”

The article originally appeared in Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Catholics for Choice