Dwight Longnecker—Anglican Catholics Then and Now

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last weekend, in London, three Anglican bishops and their families were received into full communion with the Catholic Church in a very public ceremony in Westminster Cathedral. Three Anglican nuns and some laypeople were also received. By Easter it is expected that the Anglican Ordinariate will have been set up, and up to 50 more Anglican priests will be received into the Catholic Church along with a significant number of laypeople.

This public reception is in marked contrast to the manner in which I, and many others were received into the Catholic Church in England in the mid 1990s. At that time "ecumenism" was still the main priority for the Catholic bishops of England and Wales as well as the Anglican establishment. There was a pact between the rulers of both churches that the defections to Rome would be low key. No one wanted to rock the ecumenical boat. Consequently, the publicity machines of both churches went into overdrive to downplay and minimize what was happening. In fact, in the mid 1990s there were not fifty Anglican priests who converted but 500. Some even reckoned the numbers to be between 750 and 1000. The reason it was difficult to establish how many of us converted to the Catholic faith at that time was because certain categories of Anglican priest didn't register in the official tally....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyEcclesiology

8 Comments
Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

It is sad to see these people go, but whether they are received in a crypt or a marble hall, is neither here nor there to us.  I hope we will let them go with good grace, but they have passed over the water, and beyond the horizon.  I hope they get on with their new lives and not sit irritatingly on the sidelines of our church carping and generally being a pain.  I wonder what they will make of the child abuse cover ups continuing, the money laundering, and the new scandals they will find set out in Damian Thompson’s column?

It is true to say that the RC Church has given little or no consideration to or respect for us, or for our Archbishop in this matter, but we cannot be surprised - this has been largely self-invited.

How different things might have been if Carey was still Archbishop, but we are where we are, and stuck with what we have had foisted on us; at least, that is the case in England.

January 4, 10:48 pm | [comment link]
2. Sarah wrote:

I am thrilled that they are being received with as much publicity as possible.  The more consequences we Anglicans receive—particularly publicly—the better.  Naturally, as an Anglican, I disagree with “history will show that the Anglican Ordinariate will provide for the ultimate preservation of the Anglican patrimony”—obviously one cannot be in Communion with Rome and also preserve “Anglican patrimony”—the two are mutually exclusive.  But redefinitions are fine and a matter of ultimate indifference to me—as with Pageantmaster, I wish them a hearty good luck and Godspeed and great blessings in their conversion from Anglicanism and membership in another entity.

And please keep up that publicity!

January 5, 1:39 am | [comment link]
3. TACit wrote:

Possibly readers are missing the dripping irony in Fr. Longenecker’s first sentence.  Every other bit of coverage of this reception, and I’ve read 6 or 7 articles about it in the past 24 hours, has emphasized how unheralded, quiet and unexceptional the receptions at the Mass last Sat. were, relatively speaking.  From Fr. L.‘s point of view, however, they would perhaps seem relatively quite public since his own reception years ago took place on an island in an Abbey crypt privately on a weekday evening!  No wonder really that he had a comment to make about it. 
It’s probably important for the sake of peace that this process continue quietly, and after all what really could top the original announcement of the apostolic constitution in November 2009, which +++Williams somewhat disingenuously claimed to have not known of.  How could he have been unaware when the requests and arrangements had been underway in some form since the early 1990s?  Fr. L. in any case was one of the numerous trailblazers who have suffered for the cause and those who follow on the now easier and broad road will owe him and all the earlier converts much gratitude.
Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity, as Fr. Zuhlsdorf reminds people.  As a scholar who from the the late 1940s sought out Cardinal Newman’s contributions on conscience and the Faith in his own spiritual development, Ratzinger obediently served Christ in His Church through the entire second half of the 20th century to arrive at his opportunity to beatify Newman in the UK, a year after making it possible for Anglican Christians to come into communion with the Bishop of Rome.  Perhaps an arrangement for the Reformed or the Lutherans may follow before long…..

January 5, 5:24 am | [comment link]
4. Terry Tee wrote:

Surely part of the need for circumspection when receiving former Anglicans is a simple desire to avoid the appearance of triumphalism?  Public opinion is merciless towards puffed-up Christians, and rightly so.

January 5, 10:36 am | [comment link]
5. CPKS wrote:

#1 wonders about what the ordinariate members “will make of the child abuse cover ups continuing, the money laundering, and the new scandals they will find set out in Damian Thompson’s column”.

Regarding the “continuing cover ups”: I expect that they will contrast them with the track record of those other comparable institutions that have been equally open about the incidence of child abuse that has happened under their auspices.

Regarding the “money laundering”: I expect that they will want to see any allegations substantiated and, once substantiated, mechanisms put in place to prevent any further abuse. (Mechanisms have in fact already been put in place, without prejudice to the allegations.)

Regarding the new scandals to be revealed by Damian Thompson: I expect they will be glad to be part of a body which is patrolled by investigative journalists such as he who are anxious to bring wrongdoing to light and call for observance of the highest standards.

January 5, 11:53 pm | [comment link]
6. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

#5 Really? - I hope your confidence is not misplaced.  I see little evidence of the Roman Catholic Church at large putting its house in order.  The scandals continue to rage in Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and elsewhere [and this is generally impeding the witness of all Christians in Europe], and unfortunately notwithstanding the assurances, new ones where there have been cover ups continue to appear.  The ‘no more than others’ argument really doesn’t wash and suggests a fairly low standard of probity which the RC church which touts itself as better than all the rest sets itself.

Here is another one which has turned up.  Turns out the Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires among others was assisting the government of a convicted murderer; in his case he hide political prisoners from a human rights investigation in his summer house no less, a man who subsequently was put forward to be Pope.  Something for our departing clergy to contemplate, but no doubt they would rather keep the scales on their eyes.

Check out the comments in that article as well, and then consider whether the RC Church really has much to be complacent about? 

There are as ever, excellent priests and bishops and laity doing great work, but the failure to deal with wrongdoing at a senior level, seems to be endemic and unshiftable.

January 6, 8:57 am | [comment link]
7. CPKS wrote:

According to this article about the Dirty War, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires had a criminal charge brought against him in 2005 which the Guardian article seems to assume was substantiated; in fact it was not.

While one can say that “scandals continue to rage”, the reality is that people continue to rage with scandalous allegations. I agree that innocent Christians, and the message of Christianity itself, are compromised thereby, irrespective of whether they are founded on truth or on malice.

January 7, 1:59 pm | [comment link]
8. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

#7 CPKS - thanks for that.  I was unaware of the additional allegation that Cardinal Bergoglio had also been accused of involvement in the kinapping of two Jesuit priests in 1976.

This other allegation in the Guardian article is made by an Argentine journalist, Horacio Verbitsky, admittedly a left-wing one, who writes for inter alia the respected Spanish publication El Pais and also for the Wall Street Journal as well as being involved in Human Rights Watch.  It seems to involve a very specific allegation of hiding political prisoners at his home on the island of El Silencio at the behest of the Argentine Navy and specifically hiding them from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission .

Verbitsky has made allegations before, one of which involved the Argentine Government and which led to resignations when he turned out to be correct, so although these are allegations, we do not yet know whether they are baseless, and indeed the journalist concerned seems to have a record of careful investigation.  Perhaps the Cardinal will be investigated by not just journalists, but by the appropriate authorities, and hopefully will not be spirited off elsewhere or claim diplomatic immunity in the meantime.

As for whether Verbitzky acts from malice, who knows, quite possibly from his background he does, but whether or not he does, he seems to claim the truth of these allegations and the Guardian who have their own lawyers looking over this stuff have given it sufficient credence to publish it, so perhaps we will find out in due course.    I would not get your hopes up though CPKS; in the ‘dirty war’ people at all levels of Argentine society acted in ways which few of us can understand.

The other standard answer which seems to be regularly given when issues come up with the Catholic Church is that people are motivated by malice rather than truth.  One sees this regularly trotted out, following the other answer that everyone else was doing, whatever the Catholic Church is accused of doing.  Well, that is as maybe, but right across the world, these ‘malicious allegations’ do seem to be time after time turning out to be true.

If people weren’t money laundering, involved with the mafia, covering up child abuse and spriting those priests accused of the same elsewhere, then there would be no opportunity for people to come up with these ‘malicious’ allegations, would there?

However, back to the point, one trusts that those concerned with the allegations Catholics regularly level against the Anglican Church and who are Poping as these bishops are, will not be too disappointed in the church they are joining.

One wishes them well.

January 7, 2:51 pm | [comment link]
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