I think the big question for us is this: When they join in us, in whatever way this eventually happens, will we really feel they are part of us?
Will they still be Anglican in ethos even though Catholic in name? Will this be the same as or very different from those former Anglicans who are now ministering as Catholic priests? (My answer to that is: it depends. I know some "convert" Anglican clergymen, now Catholic priests, both single and married, of whom it can certainly be said that you would never know that they had once been Anglicans. These are our success stories. I also know a number who are still basically Anglican. Not only do they sound like Anglicans, they think like Anglicans. Their theology sounds Anglican. I do not feel that they are yet part of who we are. I suspect the same will be true of those who are to join us in the future. I speak as one who has many friends who are Anglicans, many who have been converted to Catholicism, many who have not, and many who have not only converted but been ordained ─ or are preparing for ordination ─ as Catholic priests. There will be people with whom we feel thoroughly at home, but there will also be others who will feel like cuckoos in the nest. How will we handle this? And indeed, some would say, why should we have to?)
My gut reaction is that those who join us because they do not want women priests, let alone women bishops, are deluding themselves. There are many Roman Catholics who want both of those things, even though JPII told us we may not even think about them. They will find themselves in a Church which is not what they thought it was.
But gut reactions are dangerous. My preference is to look instead at what on earth has happened to the ecclesiology of communion
. This is a big question, and Ratzinger himself has been very eloquent about it in the past. Now it seems that he has forgotten all that. In the next few days I hope to re-read Jean-Marie Tillard's rather dense book about this, entitled "Church of Churches", and try to figure out how on earth the latest development fits into things theologically, if indeed it does.
I also want to think through what kind of provision we ought be making for them. For example, many of those who have been baptised in other Churches go through RCIA with us, not because we are going to re-baptise them but because it is good for them to take time to acquire our Catholic ethos, and because we may need to "top up" their experience and doctrinal knowledge (or even begin with them from scratch). Will the same be true? Or will the Apostolic Constitution provide a fast track? How is all this going to work? There has been mention of seminarians training alongside each other, but what about those who have been to an Anglican theological college, a very different beast from a Catholic seminary? Will they need a form of recyclage
? If not, why not? What about parishes that migrate en masse
? And who cannot afford to maintain their church buildings?
My fear is that the pope, as with Summorum Pontificum
, has not consulted enough, or widely enough, or indeed even at all, or that he has been extremely badly advised, or that he has ignored the advice he has been given (as he did with SP), and that this initiative is a most charitable gesture that will end up creating more and greater problems than those it was intended to solve.
It seems fairly obvious that we will become a Church with not just two forms, Ordinary and Extra-ordinary, but three, the third being the "Anglican use" or whatever it is called in the end. This appears to be something of a departure from tradition, in the sense that a branch that split off is returning, rather than a branch growing out of the root; and I'm mildly surprised that the traditionalists are not up in arms, saying that this sort of thing has never been part of the organic Roman Rite!
Perhaps some of them are ─ I do not frequent their blogs a great deal.
There is of course a huge number of other practical problems, and those blogs and bloggers that I have visited are almost wetting themselves getting into all the scenarios that it seems clear Rome could never have envisaged.
I think that large dollops of prayer, patience and forebearance are going to be needed in the future.