Friday, December 30, 2011

More Anglicans to defect to Rome

Hundreds of disaffected Anglicans will cross over to the Roman Catholic Church this year as the Church of England prepares to take another step towards the ordination of women bishops.

At least 20 clergy and several hundred of their parishioners are already lined up to join the Ordinariate, the new structure set up by the Pope a year ago that allows them to retain some of their Anglican heritage while entering into full communion with the Holy See.

But many more members of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England are likely to defect after a meeting of its governing body, the General Synod.

They will switch if traditionalists, who cannot accept the ordination of women, are denied special provision.

The head of the Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, said: “There are 15 to 20 people who I think will be coming over this year. These are ordained Anglicans who wish to petition the Holy See for ordination.”

He said they were likely to bring a “couple of hundred” worshippers with them in a second wave of defections, following the 60 clergy and about 1,000 lay people who switched last year.

Mgr Newton, a former Anglican “flying bishop”, who is now officially known as the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said: “Next year it depends on what the Synod decides to do. But you can’t become a Catholic because you simply want to escape the problems of the Church of England – you have to want to become a Catholic.”

Mgr Newton believes that the Synod poll on women bishops is on a “knife-edge” with only a handful of votes needed to swing it either way.

However, he warned Anglo-Catholics trying to oppose the change that even a victory in July would likely be short-lived.

“If anybody thinks if it doesn’t go through that the issue will go away, they’re fooling themselves,” he said.

Mgr Newton said the provision made for opponents of women priests in the 1990s, the flying bishops of which he was one, was only a “short-term solution”.

None of the elaborate proposals suggested for those who do not wish to be under the care of a female bishop would be “adequate” for him, he said. “If you’re longing to stay in the Church of England, then you’ll stay,” he said.

“But if you’re actually longing for that greater goal of being in communion with the Holy See, then what is the point of waiting?”

On New Year’s Day an Ordinariate will be created in America, followed by another in Australia in the spring, both of which are likely to have more members than the British one.