Where Catholics Fear Converts
EVANGELIZATION? NOT IN BRITAIN
Over five years ago the Church of England voted in favor of having priestesses. It was predicted that as a result there would be a flood of Anglicans moving into the Catholic Church. But the flood never materialized. Why? For an answer we must turn to a book by William Oddie, a former Anglican vicar turned Catholic layman, called The Roman Option, which was published last November by HarperCollins in London (77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., London W6 8JB, England). His book, which discusses private negotiations between Catholic authorities and disaffected Anglicans aimed at the conversion of entire Anglican parishes, was researched over four years and is based on first-hand accounts.
The book was a bombshell, for it acutely embarrassed England’s Catholic authorities. And no wonder! As the author puts it, there is “an element within the Catholic Church which did not want these converts, and which would oppose any measures designed to remove unnecessary obstacles to their reception.” After a series of meetings between the prospective Anglican converts and Catholic prelates, and despite an appeal by the Pope himself to be “generous” and by Cardinal Ratzinger to be “flexible,” hopes for the full evangelization of Anglicans were dashed by a statement issued by, of all people, the Catholic bishops. The statement, issued after the bishops’ 1993 annual “Low Week” (the week after Easter) meeting, insisted that Anglican converts be integrated into the Catholic Church without any special arrangements for Anglicans to retain some of their liturgical and devotional identity (arrangements that, in various forms, are enjoyed by Eastern Catholics as well as former Episcopalians in the U.S.). John Paul II was so disappointed that, after the stingy English response accorded the Anglicans, he is reported to have lamented, “Why are the English bishops so unapostolic?”
Oddie hints at a possible plot by some liberal Catholic bishops to thwart the dreaded influx of “reactionary Anglicans.” Oddie points his finger at the prelate who, in his judgment, may have pulled the strings in the whole anti-evangelistic operation: the Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispin Hollis, who has strayed well beyond the boundaries of what his Church authorizes — for example, by regularly giving Communion to non-Catholics.
This liberal, “pastoral” bishop is said to have taken a hard-nosed position because of his suspicion that the would-be converts were “single-issue” types. Supposedly they wanted to convert solely because of their rejection of priestesses and not out of an acceptance of Catholic doctrine as a whole. This was a common objection in liberal Catholic circles, which are not exactly famous for accepting Catholic doctrine as a whole.
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