AT first blush it may look like it was Pope Benedict XVI who hammered the last nail to the Anglican crisis by issuing an Apostolic Constitution that will allow former Anglicans to enter full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.
On closer look, it was actually an opportune response of the Holy See to mounting requests of the groups of Anglicans who wished to enter communion with the Church. Or, better, it was a happy consequence of a lengthy forty years or so of dialogue between the Catholics and the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) were at the forefront to make the ecumenical dialogue to fruition.
The issue of reunification of Anglicans and Catholic is, of course, nothing new ever since 450 years ago or shortly after King Henry VIII bolted out of the church and declared the Church in England independent of Papal Authority. That has always been in the offing. But in recent history it became more viable, or so it seemed, after Vatican II with the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 13) that sent comfortable signals: “Among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place.”
Coming home to the Catholic Church had been common to many individuals and groups of Anglicans through the years. The Anglican diocese of Amritsar in India, for instance, and some individual parishes in the United States have come to terms with Catholicism some decades ago—although maintaining yet an Anglican identity under a “pastoral provision” adopted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
But for the traditionalist Anglican group called Forward in Faith, this homecoming marks an end to “Anglican experiment”. And this is largely due to the failure of Anglicanism to deal with any contentious issues, according to Right Rev. John Broadhurst, the Anglican Bishop of Fulham and the Primate of Forward in Faith.
“There is widespread dissent across the [Anglican] Communion. We are divided in major ways on major issues and the Communion has unraveled. I believed in the Church I joined, but it has been revealed to have no doctrine of its own. I personally think it has gone past the point of no return. The Anglican experiment is over,” confessed Broadhurst.
Indeed, the “experimentation” made a turn for the worse when some Anglicans have abandoned the tradition of conferring Holy Orders only on men by calling women to the priesthood and the episcopacy. Recently, some segments of the Anglican Communion have departed from the common biblical teaching on human sexuality by the ordination of the openly homosexual clergy and the blessing of homosexual partnerships.
Perhaps the real issue may even be deeper than the peripheral challenges. Broadhurst explains: "The temperature at the pot has become intolerable, but the process of boiling started before the ordination of women… The truth is, the tragedy for us is the Church of England has presumed. It's presumed to know better than the tradition on many matters and it's presumed to know better than Jesus Christ about some matters.”
Without a doubt, this is a happy development. But his may even just be the tip of the iceberg of upcoming “adjustments” even with the Catholic Church that instituted a “canonical structure” to loosen up and accept the distinctive “Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony” which includes serious issues such as priestly celibacy.