Not ready for prime time?

It appears that the news of the new Apostolic Constitution is not ready for prime time. Richard Owen reports in the Times of London that the publication of an Apostolic Constitution outlining a process for welcoming Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church is delayed because of controversy in the Vatican over the specifics, in particular priestly celibacy.

Those who saw this announcement as the sign of a liberalizing trend in Rome will apparently be disappointed.

Owen says:

When asked last week about admission into the Catholic Church of married Anglican priests under the new rules, Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, replied that requests would be judged “on a case by case basis”.

It was left unclear however whether Anglican seminarians who were either married or who wished to get married before being ordained would also be admitted to the Catholic Church. The final text of the Apostolic Constitution is likely to “eliminate this ambiguity” by making clear that all trainee priests will be required to be celibate if they wish to go over to Rome, Mr Tornielli said….

The Pope is understood to have wanted the announcement to be made only when the text was finalised, in order to avoid a public relations disaster like that which followed his rehabilitation in January of Richard Williamson, an excommunicated arch-conservative bishop, before he became aware that Bishop Williamson was a Holocaust denier.

So what happened? If these details were not worked out, why was the announcement made when it was? Because as more people who were not in on the decision were briefed in–The Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, to name a few–there was fear that the news would leak.

Instead of leaking the story prematurely, it was announced before all the details were worked out.

Since, technically speaking, the requirement of priestly celibacy is on the level of regulation not dogma, there is some fear that to create an exception for former-Anglicans, who would not have their own church-within-a-church but live within the Roman Rite, would create havoc and confusion for other clergy and seminarians who would be required to maintain both their liturgies and priestly celibacy.

The idea that each married priest who wants to convert will be reviewed “case-by-case” and that future generations of Anglican-style clergy may have to adhere to the celibacy rule raises two questions: (1) why bother and (2) was all the drama-over-not-very-much worth the damage to ecumenical relations this document caused?

Read the rest here.

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