The Pope’s interest in Lambeth

There’s been speculation that the Catholic Church plans to make hay of tensions in the Anglican Communion. But would that really be in its interest?

In commentary in today’s Independent, Paul Vallely answers, No. The Pope, he writes,

worries that the Church of England, which for centuries has prided itself on being both catholic and reformed, could mutate into hardline Protestantism.

The Pope feels more in common with [Rowan Williams] than he does with theologically primitive and doctrinally ideological evangelicals who share his objections to homosexuality or women bishops. Both men see preserving unity as key and the Catholic bishops in England have warned Rome about the deeply factional nature of Anglican politics. A number of the Anglicans who moved to Rome when women were ordained brought with them a rancorous divisive mentality.

Which is why those Anglican bishops who recently approached the Vatican to ask if traditionalist C of E parishes could migrate en masse to Rome, under an Anglican liturgical rite, were sent off with a flea in their ear.

In a page one “exclusive” today, James Macintyre, Religious Affairs Correspondent for the Independent reports:

The Pope is leading an unprecedented drive by the Roman Catholic Church to prevent the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican Communion….

Roman Catholic insiders say there are two motives behind the Pope’s concerns. A decision has been taken within the Roman Catholic hierarchy that it is in its interests for the Anglican Church to maintain unity. Despite speculation about a group of conservative bishops breaking away to the Roman church, senior Catholics say such a move would be “premature”, and that they are not encouraging defections. The other reason is that the Pope has developed a strong personal relationship with Dr Williams. “They get on, they are both theologians,” a source said last night.

See, also, our earlier report.

Blogging for The Telegraph, Damian Thompson quotes the Independent and disagrees, citing “secret” meetings.

It wouldn’t be the first time different Catholic insiders said different things and were not of one mind. Nor would it be the first time reporters engaged in wishful thinking. You decide.

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