A Simple Anglican/Catholic Proposal

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2009

The Vatican has announced that they have set up a special structure in which disaffected Anglicans and their clergy can become Roman Catholics while keeping their married priests, the Anglican liturgy and Book of Common Prayer. The Vatican wants to woo Anglicans who are angry over the church’s acceptance of women and gay clergy and the blessings of same-sex unions.

This news reportedly was sprung on Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, just hours before it was made public. Archbishop Rowan tried to put a positive spin on the move, calling it an “end to uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”

But I think this represents an interesting pathway that could be a two-way street. After all, there are many disaffected Catholics (myself included) who find great comfort in the Roman liturgy and customs, a deeply felt comfort and meaning that, to us, the Anglican liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer just can’t approach. I don’t mean this as a knock against Anglican traditions. The Vatican move recognizes the deep fondness dissafected Anglicans hold for their familiar Anglican rite and makes room for it within Roman Catholicism. But the same is true both ways: the Roman Missal embodies all of our cherished touchstones just as the Anglican liturgy and customs embodies theirs.

So why not set up a similar structure within the Anglican Communion where disaffected Catholics can continue to worship using the great historical richness of the Roman liturgy and customs while simultaneously entering the 21st century?

Emily K

October 21st, 2009

I like that idea. But where would Anglican clergy willing to perform the Catholic Latin rites come from? Could individual churches perform them, or would they have to get permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2009

Many of those dissaffected Catholics, I suspect, include current or former priests. There may also already be a few Anglican priests who are themselves former RC priests.


October 21st, 2009

I’m an agnostic former Catholic, but I like the idea. I still miss the traditional Catholic ceremonies and rituals.


October 21st, 2009

Sounds like they have taken the Anglican Use idea from JPII’s pontificate and stepped it up a notch.


Their motives may not be ideal but I think an Anglican Rite within the CC is a good idea.

Emily K

October 21st, 2009

I know many Catholics that describe themselves as agnostic but still cherish the Mass. They always tell me the same things – that no matter what is crazy chaotic and unpredictable in their lives, they can always go to Church on Sunday and count on it being the same “sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand… and so forth.”

I admire the ritual part myself. And it used to be that Nuns would be getting arrested on the front lines of protests back in the 1960’s, but today it seems like any form of progression is stamped out.

I remember when someone asked me what my ideal synagogue would be I told them “traditional but liberal.” Which is IMHO a very Jewish answer – one seems to contradict itself and that seems to raise twice as many inquiries than it answers. But I have a feeling that a lot of folk today want a connection to religious ritual, which give one a sense of security, community, and grounding – but they also don’t want to have to compromise on issues regarding social progression.

Richard W. Fitch

October 21st, 2009

Emily – you echo my own feelings: “I have a feeling that a lot of folk today want a connection to religious ritual, which give one a sense of security, community, and grounding – but they also don’t want to have to compromise on issues regarding social progression.” And perhaps the most important aspect is that of community, commonality. We live in the time of the ubiquitous ‘electronic global village’ but we still need that sense of one-on-one that only comes with close-knit fellowship. Likewise, any living organism that does not change dies. That is the challenge that so many religious institutions find so very difficult to comprehend.


October 21st, 2009

I was raised Catholic (but not real strict). I love the ritual of the Mass, but not the dogma of the church, especially lately. I suppose that makes me the much disdained “cafeteria Catholic.” The thing is that I am probably 80% of American Catholics. Tried the Episcopal thing, and it’s close but not the same.

I would love it if the Episcopal (Anglican) church would attempt this. I’d be there in a heartbeat.

Richard W. Fitch

October 21st, 2009

Phil – What would you say would be needed for disaffected RC to become part of EC-USA? The nature of rites varies considerably from one parish to another. The congregation of which I have been a part is much more ‘high church’ than even the cathedral church in Indianapolis. Give some specifics, I’m interested to hear from the RC side.


October 21st, 2009

I’m Catholic by heritage but went to both Catholic and Episcopal schools and masses as a result. I didn’t see anything lacking in the latter and if given a choice would rather go with the rituals that evolved a church that accepts me as a human being and not as “defective” needing to be “repaired.” A cheap imitation of Catholicism with all the superficial and empty clinging to old ways (in lieu of forging new understandings and embracing new concepts of justice) would only remind me of all the things I ended up disliking about it.

Lynn David

October 21st, 2009

I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church attending 12 years of Catholic schools. A great time of my life… yet I am now consider myself a spiritual atheist, but one who still attends the Mass, because it refreshes that spirit, but also because my parish is a second home full of cousins and other relatives. It’s difficult to leave family behind.

But as for the Anglicans, the Roman Catholic Church has no problem including other rites in its structure. And there have been married Anglican priests who have become Roman Catholic priests. There is the Eastern Rite, the Syrians, Chaldeans, etc…. this would simply be the Anglican Rite – albeit the homophobic Anglican Rite.


October 22nd, 2009

I fully agree that this could easily backfire on the Vatican. Many of the most conservative Anglicans are as opposed to the Papacy and to Roman liturgical style as they are to women bishops and gay clergy. And even those who are more in sympathy with the Roman style, will not be happy to just knuckle down to Vatican-style top/down decision making.

There is more to this than just the recent events in the Episcopalian church. Behind the scenes, it has been a long time coming. It is entirely possible that this move, while initially suggesting a rightward drift for the Catholic Church, will in fact, open up a whole new sector of more outspoken internal critics.

Many actions have unintended consequences. It is still too soon to see clearly what will be the final outcome of this one.


October 22nd, 2009

I agree on the backfire possibility. IMO there is now no reason for the disgruntled Anglican conservatives to stay and throw a wrench in the works for those who wish to remain and progress as an inclusive community.

I think ol’ Pope Panzer did the COE and TEC a solid here.

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2009


Many of the issues you raise with regard to authority are valid concerns among conservative Anglicans. And not just authority, but finer points of theology as well. But the genius, if you can call it that, of the Vatican’s latest move is that Anglicans will not have to follow “Roman liturgical style,” as this structure explicitly sets aside parishes which will continue to follow the Anglican liturgy. Perhaps you missed that, but that was the whole point of this announcement.

By the way, they have had this option very quietly in the United States for 15 years or more. There are already Anglican rite Roman Catholic Churches today.

And of course, this builds on the fact that there are entire “sub-denominations,” if you will, if Eastern Rite Catholics, complete with the Eastern liturgies and practices which are very different from the Roman liturgy and practice, but under the authority of the Pope. So in that sense, this style of accomodation has been in existence for close to a thousand years since the Great Schism between the East and West.


October 22nd, 2009

Jim, I’m inclined to believe that this structure might be slightly different than the current “Anglican Use” arrangment. The majority of the “converts” will probably come from England, and most Anglo-Catholics in England don’t use the BCP, or don’t use the BCP only, but will also use the English Missal, or even sometimes the Roman Missal. So as far as the liturgy goes, I’m wondering exactly what we will get.

Nice post- great idea.


October 22nd, 2009

I’m still thinking about this. For years now I’ve hung on as a practising (albeit rebellious) Roman Catholic, despite the anti-gay pronouncements from the Vatican, about which I wrote twice to the present Pope when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, expressing my dissent in no uncertain terms.

If, however, the Roman Catholic Church really is now trying to recruit new members by advertising itself explicitly as a place of refuge for anti-gay Anglicans, then perhaps the time has finally come for me to take my leave.

Glenn D

October 22nd, 2009

Several bloggers have also noted the remarkable timing of Pope Benedict’s offer to the Anglicans–that of the feast of St Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist Order.

The Catholic Encyclopedias entry on St Paul of the Cross explains how he prayed for over 50 years for the conversion and reconciliation of England, and he encouraged his spiritual sons to do the same.

Perhaps the timing of this offer by the Pope on St Paul of the Cross’ feast day was intentional, given Paul’s fervent desire for the reconciliation with the Church of England.

I wrote a brief article concerning St Paul of the Cross and his desire for the reunion of the Anglicans. For those interested it can be found here:

Glenn D.


October 22nd, 2009

You’re not very knowledgable of the Episcopalian church. I was raised “High Anglican” Episcopal – Latin Masses, Nuns, incense, the whole 9-yards of PRE Vatican II mass. Most Catholics would feel at home at my home church, especially Gay Catholics.


October 22nd, 2009

It is amazing to me to see such desperate and hypocritical politics, all in the name of God. Shame, shame, shame.


October 23rd, 2009

Rite II of the BCP is based on the Novus Ordo. It’s already Catholic lite. I’m not entirely sure what a different structure would even look like. My other thought is that the Episcopal Church doesn’t have a lot of standards or consistency in terms of practice. Structures, provisions, rites…these things are best left to a church with some centralized authority. The Episcopal Church in the United States is not that kind of place. Anything like you’re suggesting would have to be on a local basis.

Lastly, the last sentence of the first paragraph is perhaps true in a general sense, but I don’t see here that you realize that the Vatican is responding to direct requests for union from specific disaffected Anglican groups. This is not, at root, some kind of desperate gambit by the Vatican to preemptively woo Anglicans.


October 25th, 2009

Birds of a feather, flock together. The Catholic Church deserves better than these foolish Anglicans.

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