Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Islamification Of Christianity

In an audacious act of shepherd stealing, the Pope has just made it easier for Anglicans, including married priests, to join the Roman Catholic church without having to abandon their beloved liturgical practices. Predictably, in their coverage of Benedict XVI's startling move the media are focusing on the rifts in the Anglican Communion over the role of gay and lesbian people in the church. But the Pope's not exploiting angst about the status of homosexuals as much as he's wooing those who still can't accept the absolute equality of women in Christ, which as far as I'm concerned is really at the root of the church's sexuality crisis. As the New York Times reports:
The move could have the deepest impact in England, where large numbers of traditionalist Anglicans have protested the Church of England’s embrace of liberal theological reforms like consecrating female bishops.
[T]he Rev. Rod Thomas, the chairman of Reform, a traditionalist Anglican group [in England], said, “I think it will be a trickle of people, not a flood.”

But he said that a flood could in fact develop if the Church of England did not allow traditionalists to opt out of a recent church decision that women could be consecrated as bishops.
There's even more evidence that the Pope's initial play, at least, is to redeem wayward Christians whose 16th century forebears committed the original sin of breaking away from Rome under Henry VIII and Elizabeth the Great. Many U.S. schismatics have already aligned with the "Anglican Church in North America," which prohibits female bishops just as the Catholics do. So while its leaders applauded the Vatican's announcement as evidence of the depth of the Anglican Communion's crisis, there's no immediate evidence that they're planning to run home to Papa themselves. Says one former Episcopal bishop, Martyn Minns:
I don’t want to be a Roman Catholic...There was a Reformation, you remember.
I don't know enough about Bishop Minns to speculate about his attitude toward the Roman Catholic church. But many American Protestants retain an almost visceral anti-Catholicism. Growing up in the Episcopal church in Detroit, I never even heard the word "priest" used to describe ordained people. We always called them "ministers." Besides, with the Catholic church you get all that stuff about birth control, abortion, banning the death penalty, and world peace, about which at least some conservative Anglicans are as divided as everyone else. So for the time being, it appears the action in this latest episode in the English Reformation will unfold where it all started, with the Vatican hoping to swell its ranks with those who just can't abide a woman in a miter.

As for women in the rectory, for eight centuries the Catholic church insisted that priestly celibacy was a salvation issue, but evidently no longer, since the new rules are expected to increase the number of married Catholic priests (aka married former Anglicans). It doesn't seem fair that the priests who played by the rules all along will be the last to get somebody to cuddle up with on a cold winter's night. At least they may not have to wait for long. Knowledgeable Catholic friends have told me for years that in the teeth of the priest shortage, the celibacy requirement wouldn't last more than a decade into the 21st century.

What the mother church will never abide, my friends say, is Mothers instead of Fathers behind the altar. So here's Benedict's vision: Straight, sexually active male clerics, with women and gays continuing as second-class citizens. Call it the Islamification of Christianity.


FrAndrew said...

John, thanks for this commentary. I have been surprised by how many of our Anglican brethren and sistren have been SO bothered by this. In the end those who want to go to Rome will go (and the reverse will remain true as well). I feel sorry for the married Catholic (men) who have priestly vocations who will still be unable to be ordained and for those who, as you say, played by the rules only to have a moment of opportunism undercut the real sacrifice they have made. I say this with both love and respect for my liberal and conservative Anglican and Catholic friends and family and with a continued desire for real, organic unity between Canterbury and Rome.

Fr. John said...

Thank you, Andrew, and blessings in your new ministry.