What effect will former Church of England members defecting to Rome have on the Catholic Church? Some may suppose an influx of fresh blood from the traditionally more liberal Anglican Church would push the Catholic Church in England to the left.
Actually, it is the Catholic liberals who hate the pope’s new plan to create a special “Ordinariate” for Anglicans to retain some of their heritage inside the Catholic Church.
By inviting Anglicans into the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict xvi is doing more than bringing in new members. He is killing another bird with the same stone: bringing the liberal Catholics in England back in step with his way of thinking.
“Liberal Roman Catholics are dismayed by the prospect of an influx of ‘reactionaries,’” writes Damian Thompson in the Telegraph. “It is no secret that some Catholic liberals have been talking quietly to leading Anglicans in the hope of making sure that the Ordinariate experiment lasts no longer than the reign of this pope.”
In fact, according to Dr. William Oddie, writing in the Catholic Herald, this whole thing would have happened 15 years ago if it weren’t for the opposition of the liberal Catholic bishops in England.
On the other hand, writes Thompson, “Roman Catholic conservatives cannot wait for the advance party of the Ordinariate to arrive.”
Once they arrive in the Catholic Church, the ex-Anglicans will be some of Pope Benedict’s staunchest allies.
The pope had to work behind the backs of the liberal Catholics in Britain to bring about this plan in the first place. “To the irritation of the English bishops’ conference, the pope has bypassed the ecumenists, giving responsibility for the scheme to his old colleagues at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” writes Thompson.
Soon the pope may have another opportunity to leave his mark on the Catholic Church in England. Earlier this month, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, the Vatican’s ambassador to Great Britain, known as the “apostolic nuncio,” announced that he would soon retire. The nuncio recommends which members of the clergy are appointed to positions of authority.
Muñoz was liberal, and recommended liberal clergyman, taking the whole church in England in a liberal direction. His successor could “decisively change the direction of the English church,” writes CatholicHerald.co.uk.
Nuncios are appointed by the Vatican secretary of state. The former Vatican secretary of state, Angelo Sodano, was a liberal. His successor, Tarcisio Bertone, was appointed by Benedict xvi, and is far more conservative. Bertone was also one of Benedict’s old colleagues at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The situation is explained by Oddie in another Herald article: “Why have we had overwhelmingly liberal bishops for the last 30 years? Because we have had liberal nuncios. Who appoints the nuncios? Why, the secretary of state.”
Now, with a conservative secretary of state, a conservative nuncio can be appointed. And Catholic leaders in Britain will start acting the way the pope wants them to.
Of course, Britain is not the only place where the pope has pushed for the advancement of conservatives. At the start of this year, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard replaced the more liberal Cardinal Godfried Danneels as head of the Catholic Church in Belgium. Since then he has been castigated in the press, denounced by his own spokesman and even hit in the face with a cherry pie (video available here) for his outspoken views on homosexuality and weak handling of the church’s abuse of children.
Opposition to their new leader is so great that some Catholics have even resorted to founding their own congregations without a priest.
But Léonard’s appointment is right in line with the pope’s agenda. He is not going anywhere.
On November 20, the pope promoted 24 Catholics to the rank of cardinal. All of them support the pope’s traditional, conservative agenda.
Even in the United States, this conservative influence is evident. On November 16, Timothy Dolan was elected as leader of the U.S. bishops’ conference. The election broke with tradition—the vice president of the group is usually voted in as leader.
Susan Jacoby described Dolan as “New York’s arch-conservative archbishop” in the Washington Post. “Dolan’s election was a victory for the most orthodox forces within the church,” she wrote.
Conservative Catholics are rising everywhere you look.
The Trumpet has long predicted that the Catholic Church would rise in power and prestige. Before that happens, the pope needs ensure his complete control of the church. The Catholic Church is becoming more unified under Benedict’s way of thinking. Watch for it to grow in power and influence too. ▪