A tainted olive branch

James Carroll comments on the Vatican offer to Anglicans:

Last week’s anti-Anglican salvo from Rome shows how far the Catholic leadership has fallen from the heights of Vatican II. The invitation to “disgruntled’’ members of the Church of England’s extended family to abandon the Thames for the Tiber is a rejection of contemporary human experience, a resounding response of “No!’’ The church against the modern world, after all. Not only a cruel assault on a fellow Christian communion that is valiantly struggling to strike a balance between liberal and conservative impulses; not only an insult to loyal Catholic liberals who will be denied what converted Anglicans are offered (notably a married clergy); not only a slap at women and homosexuals whose progress toward equality is a global measure of justice; not only a stark contrast with the common Anglican practice of fully welcoming alienated Roman Catholics, while eschewing any pressure on them to convert – there is more.

Equally damaging, the Vatican’s preemptive exploitation of Anglican distress explicitly ducks the large and urgent challenge facing every religion and every religious person, which is how to positively reconcile tradition with the massive changes in awareness, knowledge, and communication that come with the scientific and technological breakthroughs that daily alter the meaning of existence.

From the misfit fringe of another denomination, Rome recruits the naysayers it needs to bolster what has become its own place on the margin of Catholic life. First there was Opus Dei, with its crypto-fascist origins, then there were the Holocaust-denying lovers of Latin – and now the Anglo-fundies. Come on over, guys!

James Carroll is James Carroll is Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University, a columnist for the Boston Globe, former Catholic priest and a regular contributor to The Daily Beast. His recent book (2009) is Practicing Catholic, a tour de force look at what it means to be Catholic today – and an argument for the Church’s on-going reform.

From the NYTimes blog, The Ethicist:

And so it is disheartening that the editorial pages of our most important newspapers did not castigate the Vatican’s invitation to misogyny and homophobia. Some blogs did so. Daily Kos headlined its coverage, “Vatican Welcomes Bigoted Anglicans.” But the discussion provided by, say, network news barely rose above the demure. That’s not courtesy; it’s cowardice. Perhaps the networks fear being charged with anti-Catholic bias. This is not an unreasonable concern. When I reproved that real estate agent, my surname was no shield against accusations of anti-Semitism. But surely it is possible to disagree respectfully. To criticize a particular practice of Orthodox Jews need not be anti-Semitism. To denounce this Vatican policy need not be anti-Catholic bigotry. Criticism is not contempt.

One group has produced a lively discussion of this pronouncement — the religious press. (You can find a roundup of opinions at Headline Bistro under the banner “Because Catholics Need to Know.”) Some of the sharpest writing comes from those critical of their own church — the Rev. George Rutler, for example, a convert from Anglicanism who wrote: “It is a dramatic slap-down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism.” Incidentally, Father Rutler does not think the secular media are too timid but too thickheaded: “The press, uninformed and always tabloid in matters of religion, will zoom in on the permission for married priests.

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