The creation of the Church of England in the 16th Century was one of the Catholic Church’s greatest defeats. Now the Catholic Church has found a strategy to welcome Anglicans back to the fold, with a new framework to make it easier for them to convert.
The Anglican Church and its sister Episcopalian Churches in America and elsewhere has been wracked to dissension concerning the ordination of gay priests and a liberal stance on gay marriage. The Traditional Anglican Communion has split from the main Anglican Church because of the controversy. Various Episcopalian congregations in the United States have also split because of the controversy.
The new framework, developed by Pope Benedict, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of disaffected Anglicans toward Rome. The framework would permit Anglican congregations to convert to Roman Catholicism en masse, whereas before Anglicans could only convert to the Catholic Church as individuals. The framework would allow the formally Anglican congregations to hold on to their own liturgies, including the ordination of married clergy
Naturally there is some concern about how this new policy will affect relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. Some have suggested that the mainline Anglican Church will welcome the opportunity to rid itself of quarrelsome traditionalists who do find the tolerant policy of the Church toward gays very palatable.
However if enough Anglicans and Episcopalians, especially the numerous and conservative African congregations, take Rome up on its offer there may not be much of an Anglican Church left when the dust settles.
On the other hand the introduction of Anglican liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church may have profound effects on the Church as a whole. For instance, if married clergy is acceptable for some Catholics, why not all? The new framework could be just the first step of the most far reaching evolution of the Catholic Church since Vatican II. How traditional Catholics would react to that remains to be seen.
The Anglican Church was born when the English King Henry VIII, upset that the Pope would not allow him to divorce his first wife Katherine of Aragon, used the corrupt practices of the 16th Century Roman Catholic Church to create the Church of England, with himself as the head. Eventually the Church of England or the Anglican Church morphed into a more protestant denomination, shedding some Catholic religious practices. The Roman Catholic Church, in the meantime, launched what became known as the Counter Reformation, cracking down on corruption while attempting to bring back schismatic Protestants into the fold, by persuasion or by force. Less than five hundred years later, the Roman Catholic Church may have found a way to further that goal without resorting to Jesuits or religious wars.
Source: Vatican welcome to Anglicans boldest move since Reformation, Nick Squires, Christian Science Monitor, October 20th, 2009