It is a dramatic slap-down of
liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women,
homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism. Indeed,
it is a final rejection of Anglicanism. It basically interprets Anglicanism as
a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial
doctrine and makes clear that it is not a historic “church” but
rather an “ecclesial community” that strayed and now is invited to return
to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.

The Vatican was careful to
schedule simultaneously with the Vatican announcement, a press conference of
the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the deeply humiliated Anglican
Archbishop of Canterbury to enable the Anglicans to save some face by saying
that this recognizes the spiritual patrimony of Anglicanism and that ecumenical
dialogue goes ahead. That is like George Washington at Yorktown saying that he
recognizes the cultural contributions of Britain and hopes diplomatic relations
flourish. The Apostolic Constitution is not a retraction of ecumenical desires,
but rather is the fulfillment of ecumenical aspirations, albeit not the way
most Anglican leaders had envisioned it

The press, uninformed and always
tabloid in matters of religion, will zoom in on the permission for married
priests. They will miss the most important point: that this reiterates the
Catholic Church’s insistence that Anglican Holy Orders are invalid, and
perforce so is their Eucharist
. These married Anglican priests have to be fully
and validly ordained by a Catholic bishop. Following Orthodox custom, they
are allowed to marry only before ordination and not after. And no married man
may become a bishop. (Thus, any Anglican bishop joining one of these
“ordinariates” would no longer be recognized as a bishop. Under
special provision, Anglican bishops would have some right to pastoral authority,
but would not be bishops.)

It remains to be seen how many Anglicans
(Episcopalians in the USA) will be received into the Catholic Church under
these provisions, but it is a final nail in the coffin of the rapidly
disintegrating Anglicanism at least in the West and will radically challenge
Anglicans in other parts of the world. Perhaps most importantly, it sets a
precedent for reunion with Orthodox churches whose Holy Orders the Catholic
Church already recognizes as valid. I should not be surprised if the Anglican
Archbishop of Canterbury eventually is received into the Catholic Church, at
least when he retires and gets a patent of nobility and a pension.

Fr George Rutler.jpg

Fr. George
Rutler is pastor of The Church of Our Saviour in New York City and is a convert
to Catholicism from the Anglican Communion.