Anglicans in wikileaks

UPDATED: with commentary

The Guardian reports Anglican and Roman Catholics showing up in wikileaks:

The British ambassador to the Vatican warned that Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to Anglican opponents of female priests to convert en masse to Catholicism was so inflammatory that it might lead to discrimination and even violence against Catholics in Britain, according to a secret US diplomatic cable.

Talking to an American diplomat after the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met the pope in November 2009, Francis Campbell said the surprise Vatican move had placed Williams “in an impossible situation” and “Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the pope’s decision”.

Campbell’s strikingly candid comments are documented in one of a series of confidential dispatches from Washington’s Vatican embassy released by WikiLeaks.

h/t to Thinking Anglicans

Chris Hansen, writing from London, comments on the leaks and their lack of understanding of the Church of England:

First, the cable displays a profound ignorance of the facts on the ground and the back story to the Ordinariate. As I have posited previously, the Ordinariate is not a vehicle for the Vatican to welcome disaffected Anglicans with open arms into the bosom of Holy Mother the Church. It is, in fact, a quarantine camp or, more bluntly, a leper colony into which those disaffected Anglicans can be placed so as to cause minimum damage to the Roman Catholic Church. The cable does admit that the number of Anglicans going over is likely to be a trickle rather than a flood, but there are no startling insights available from the text as given.

Second, the cable documents the dismay of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at not being consulted over the Ordinariate. This is undoubtedly true (as I have seen in other fora and heard from people who might actually know something of the subject), but was widely known beforehand. What the cable didn’t say, but what is undoubtedly the case, is that Williams is relieved that the malcontents are swimming the Tiber and only annoyed at the fact that more of them won’t be going. Rome’s centralised power structure means that they can control the Ordinariate more closely than Williams could ever control or even mildly influence the malcontents.

Cable below:

Monday, 09 November 2009, 12:02



EO 12958 DECL: 11/9/2034




VATICAN 00000113 001.2 OF 003

CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael Foley, Polchief. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) Summary


1. (C) The upcoming visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome November 21 will take place with the background of the Vatican’s far-reaching decision to facilitate the conversion of disaffected Anglicans to Catholicism. Embassy contacts approving the measure interpret it as a bold and appropriate response to the legitimate request of conservative Anglicans. Skeptics worry that it will weaken and change the tone of dialogue between Catholics and other Christian denominations, and that it will accentuate tradition at the expense of accommodation. Critics see it as opportunistic preying on the internally divided Anglican Communion. While Archbishop Williams has said that the Vatican decision is in a sense a consequence of Anglican-Catholic dialogue, the Vatican informed but did not seek the Archbishop’s approval before announcing the decision. End summary.

Go It Alone


2. (C) On October 22, POL/ECONOFF spoke with XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, which is responsible for ecumenical dialogue–i.e., relations with non-Catholic Christian Churches–is concerned about the effect of the announcement on the ongoing dialogue with the Anglican Church and has resisted pressure to put out a statement in support of the decision.

3. (C) During the press conference announcing the upcoming release of the “apostolic constitution” that will set the implementing mechanism to bring in particular groups of Anglicans, Cardinal Levada–Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith– reported that Archbishop Rowan Williams knew about the Vatican decision “a month earlier.” However, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the Anglican leadership was most likely only notified on October 19, when Levada and Williams met. Another source XXXXXXXXXXXX told poloffs that when Williams expressed concern about the implications of the announcement, Levada responded that the Vatican had already made its decision and was moving forward with it.

Most appealing to conservatives


4. (C) In a separate conversation, British Ambassador Francis Campbell told Ambassador Diaz that if many Anglicans decide to join the Catholic Church in response to the Vatican’s–yet to be released–new rules, the Vatican could face unforeseen obstacles. Campbell cited the difference between the Anglican Stipend and Catholic Allowance as chief among them. Because of the need to provide for families, Anglican priests are paid far more than their Catholic counterparts. With many parishes already financially stretched, a large transition of Anglican converts could overwhelm the financial resources of many dioceses. Within the Anglican Church, the groups most likely to join with Rome tend to be the most conservative. This is particularly true in the U.S., because the issues dividing Anglicans–the ordination of women and acceptance of homosexuality–are more prominent in the United States than elsewhere. Other Embassy contacts and media analysis agree that it is the Anglican conservative groups that will find it most appealing to become Catholics in groups that would be allowed, according to Levada, to maintain most of their Anglican traditions–except the Anglican freedom to openly voice dissent. Anglicans who take the Vatican’s offer will be expected to accept Papal rule.

5. (SBU) In a recent article, Vatican specialist and author John Allen (U.S.) concluded that “when the dust settles, the centuries-old breach between Rome and Canterbury will remain

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intact.” In this view, the apostolic constitution will not make the Catholic Church in the U.S. or elsewhere more conservative, because the numbers of converts will not be significant. Worldwide, he writes, there are 77 million Anglicans (including 2.2 American Episcopalians), while there are 1.2 billion Catholics. An Embassy contact pointed out that it is entirely possible that conservative Anglican bishops may also decide not to join the Catholic Church and bring their parishes with them, because they will have to relinquish their positions as bishops. The apostolic constitution will allow Anglican priests to become Catholic priests, but Anglican bishops would not come in as bishops.

The harshest critic


6. (SBU) The harshest public criticism for the decision has come from a former friend of the Pope, the Swiss theologian Hans Kung. In an article published in several major European newspapers, Kung states that “having brought back the extreme anti-reformist faction of the Pius X fraternity into the fold, Pope Benedict now hopes to fill up the dwindling ranks of the Catholic Church with Anglicans sympathetic to Rome”. For all its color, Kung’s criticism is not influential with mainstream Catholics, according to an Embassy contact who is himself skeptical about the wisdom of the apostolic constitution. Kung, XXXXXXXXXXXX adds, comes across as personally bitter and has used such a strong language in criticizing the Pope that moderate reformists would not want to be associated with him or his opinion pieces: “with Kung, it is all about Kung.”

Views from the Pope’s loyalists


7. (SBU) Embassy contacts who are most loyal to the Pope and are the first to defend his decisions have explained the announcement about the apostolic constitution as the charitable response to the legitimate Catholic longings of specific Anglican groups. An Opus Dei professor of theology told poloffs that the Vatican was not so much acting, but reacting, to the petition that the Traditional Anglican Communion -an association of churches that is separate from the Anglican Communion and reportedly has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide–made in 2007 to unite with the Catholic Church, provided the Vatican allowed it to maintain its Anglican rites.

8. (SBU) The Pope’s response, the professor adds, is very progressive, because it allows for greater diversity of rites within the Catholic Church, and because it permits individuals who are already forming a community to come to the Church together (what the Church calls a “corporate” conversion) as oppose to asking them to undergo the more daunting individual conversion. (Note: with respect to the diversity of rites, another Embassy contact said that some of the Anglican rites that the apostolic constitution may allow are very traditional, for example in the use of Latin for the masses. End note). For the professor, the Pope is redefining ecumenism (i.e., the process of uniting the once-upon-a-time single Christian family) by moving from the “getting to know you” ecumenical dialogue to specific ecumenical action with measures that make it easier for a greater union to materialize, even if incompletely.

9. (SBU) The professor also maintained that the apostolic constitution does not have anything to do with a relaxation of priestly celibacy. Currently, former Catholic priests who have left the Church to become married Anglican priests are already banned in Cannon (Church) law from re-entering the Catholic Church as priests. He also notes that, even if the number of married (convert) priests will increase, there will be no married bishops in the Catholic Church, just like there are married priests but no married bishops in the Oriental Catholic Churches.

Comment: winners and losers


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10. (C) As the dust settles, it is possible to see the winners and losers of the Pope’s decision. On the winning side is Cardinal Levada, the American “Faith Czar” who will have a direct say on the final form of the new procedures. Also on the winning side are Vatican officials and theologians in tune with the Pope’s preference for depth of conviction over broadening the appeal of the Christian message. Traditionalists groups who cherish the use of Latin and older rites also gain, as their practices get reinforcement from unexpected quarters. Anglicans wishing to convert to Catholicism also come out stronger, as their options increase. The Pope’s own anti-secular agenda also wins. In uniting traditionalist Anglicans with the Catholic Church, the Pope is bringing together two groups strongly committed defending to Europe’s Christian heritage–a theme he strongly champions.

11. (C) On the losing side, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Kasper, the German prefect of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity who has lead with increasing difficulty–since Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope–the Vatican’s ecumenical dialogue. Archbishop Williams was already in a very difficult situation trying to hold together an increasingly-divided Anglican Communion. Among his critics who want nothing to do with the Vatican, recent events “confirm” him as the weak leader they always said he was. Cardinal Kasper, who might have been intentionally spared from the difficult trance of standing next to Levada when the announcement was made (he was out of the country), also loses. The ecumenical dialogue will continue, but it will be a different dialogue now. His ecumenical interlocutors will not help but to wonder if anything that Kasper says really matters. Finally, those who might have hoped that changing attitudes towards a variety of social issues (homosexuality and women’s ordination among them) in non-Catholic denominations might lead the Vatican to reconsider its own position have reasons to be disappointed. End Comment. DIAZ

Monday, 30 November 2009, 17:19



EO 12958 DECL: 11/30/2034




VATICAN 00000123 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael Foley, Pol Chief. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (S) Summary: During his recent visit to Rome and meeting with the Pope –planned before the Pope urged disaffected Anglicans to convert to Catholicism–Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams challenged the position of the Catholic Church on ordination of women and made it clear that the Vatican should have consulted with him before reaching out to the Anglican community.Although Williams’ visit to Rome was cast as positive and reinforcing of ecumenical dialogue, it’s clear the wounds from this controversy will affect that dialogue negatively (at least for now) and are likely to cast a pall over the Pope’s planned state visit to England in 2010. End summary


Speaking after of the archbishop of Canterbury’s meeting with the pope in November 2009, theUK ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, said the pope’s offer to take in disaffected Anglicans could even cause violence in parts of Britain. Key passages highlighted in yellow.

Official and Public Statements Focus on Positive

——————————————— —

2. (SBU) The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met withPope Benedict XVI on November 21. The meeting was planned before the Vatican released its new apostolic constitution that facilitates the conversion of Anglicans to Catholicism. Described as “cordial” by Vatican officials in an official statement, the Holy See said “The discussions also focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans.”Notwithstanding this upbeat Vatican characterization of the meeting, Williams used it to draw clear lines between Anglican and Catholic core beliefs. He presented the Pope with a copy of a lecture he delivered in Rome on November 19, in which he challenged the Vatican’s position on the ordination of women, the authority of the papacy, and the role and relation of local churches to a centralized governing structure.

3. (U) Speaking with Vatican Radio shortly after the meeting, Williams stressed his prior good relations with the Pope and downplayed the importance of the Vatican’s new procedure for receiving Anglicans into the Catholic Church. However, he did express misgivings about how the new procedure was announced. In order to prevent negative fall-out during the Pope’s planned 2010 state visit to England, Williams recommended in the interview that the Pope tread carefully while in England when discussing the late Cardinal Henry Newman (1801-1890). (Note: Newman, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, may be recognized as a “blessed” model for Catholics — beatified — during the Pope’s visit.) Williams said he had asked the Pope to speak about Newman as a great British intellectual, and not just as a convert.

~But Private Discussions Reveal a Deeper Rift


4. (S) Archbishop Williams was the guest of honor at a dinner on Nov. 20 hosted by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, for senior Vatican officials. Campbell told the Ambassador that the tone of the conversation was respectful but at times awkward. Campbell (protect) believes the Vatican’s move shifted the goal of the Catholic-Anglican ecumenical dialogue from true unity to mere cooperation. He further noted that some Vatican officials themselves believe that Williams should have been consulted –instead of simply told– about the apostolic constitution. (Comment: Campbell was probably referring to Cardinal Kasper, who runs the Council for Christian Unity. End Comment)

5. (S) In a subsequent conversation with DCM after Williams’ departure, Campbell (strictly protect) said Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the Pope’s decision. The Vatican decision seems to have been aimed primarily at Anglicans in the U.S. and Australia, with little thought given to how it would affect the center of Anglicanism, England, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Benedict XVI, Campbell said, had put Williams in an impossible situation. If Williams reacted more forcefully, he would destroy decades of work on ecumenical dialogue; by not reacting

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more harshly, he has lost support among angry Anglicans. The crisis is also worrisome for England’s small, mostly Irish-origin, Catholic minority, Campbell said. There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off. The outcome could be discrimination or in isolated cases, even violence, against this minority. As for the Pope’s visit next year to England, Campbell said he now expected a chilly reception, especially from the Royal family – which was not a great supporter of ecumenical dialogue even before the crisis.



6. (S) Williams’ previously planned meeting with the Pope unquestionably came at an awkward time, but was also important that it happen in order to start healing the damage caused by the Vatican’s outreach to Anglicans. The visit also gave Williams an opportunity to recover some lost stature by challenging the Catholic Church during his visit. As reported previously (reftel), the Vatican decision to go after disaffected Anglicans undercut Cardinal Kasper, and it now seems the decision may cast a pall on the Pope’s visit to England next year. In the end, some may wonder whether the damage to inter-Christian relations was worth it – especially since the number of disaffected Anglicans that will convert is likely to be a trickle rather than a wave. End comment. DIAZ

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