Ever since earlier this year, when Pope Benedict XVI smoothed the path for Anglicans unhappy with the trajectory of their denomination to return to full communion with Rome, there has a been a steady trickle of stories about impending conversions. The latest story involves 15 Anglican bishops who acknowledge that many Anglicans appear ready to make the jump. For all those who come back across the Tiber I say, welcome home. We’re happy to have you back. However, there are some things that you’ll need to check at the door.
What bothers me is the possibility that this is all due solely to proposals by the Church of England to ordain women as bishops. These people stuck with the Anglicans through acceptance of contraception, divorce and remarriage, homosexual marriage, female priests, and openly homosexual priests and bishops, but female bishops are just too much for them? They didn’t have any problem rejecting papal authority or the invalidity of their ordinations or clerical celibacy before, but all that changes when a woman is named bishop?
Now, however, they can come home to Rome and still worship according to the Anglican rites and the Book of Common Prayer. Does that trump all of the doctrinal difficulties? There is a commonly cited Latin phrase, lex orandi, lex credendi, which is often translated as the law of prayer is the law of belief. For these converts, the orandi part is not changing. Is the credendi?
What I fear is that the new Catholics will have come for the wrong reasons. Rather than running to the bride of Christ, the will have been running away from some corrupted simulacrum of her. Rather than shedding their old, erroneous beliefs, they will try to bring them along. “Yes,” they will say, “I’m Catholic now, but I don’t really believe all of that medieval stuff.”
I sincerely hope that I’m wrong, and that we really do see an influx of souls entering into full communion, even if they do retain an attachment to the Book of Common Prayer.