The Pope's cunning plan to bring conservative Anglicans back into the Roman fold has prompted a deluge of tricky questions, and sent a sure message to Catholics that they can forget any little gifts of modernity under this year's Christmas tree

While the world seems to be going to hell in a handcart – death, destruction, climate catastrophe and abject poverty, what was the spiritual leader of the largest single Christian religion doing? Why hatching a plan to poach the most conservative of his immediate rivals of course.

I have to say when the poaching Pope let everyone in on his secret to woo Anglicans who can’t face the realities that women and gays are actually human beings with rights, there was quite a reaction in North America and of course, Britain, home of the great schism that led to the creation of Anglicanism in the first place. In very Catholic Canada (14 million Catholics compared to 610,000 Anglicans) it comes just as a Catholic Bishop has been charged with possessing screeds of child pornography….a Bishop who was the go-to person for men in his parish who had been sexually abused by priests over many years, years ago. What more can you say.

Well, perhaps a little more thought could have gone in to that ongoing scourge, but the man once dubbed ‘God’s rottweiler’ was otherwise occupied concocting something to dangle in front of Anglicans who can’t deal with women, or heaven forbid (as apparently it does), gay priests? Come on over to the Vatican, and don’t worry about all the annoying little details that we here in our own little country insist our team goes through to establish their Catholic cred.

This is of course particularly pertinent when it comes to the issue of married priests. Seems it is now officially irrelevant if you started off as an Anglican priest, got married and did all that other stuff your Catholic counterparts have not been allowed to do publicly, but have sure been up to in private. Note alimony payments made to children of priests even – or especially in ultra-Catholic Ireland. And while on that subject, what about all those priests who fell in love and had to leave the church – sometimes with nun in tow. Do they get to come back into the fold so to speak, if of course they would so deign?

In the meantime for the Anglicans who can’t abide the idea of a chick in a long frock like theirs having the same rights for promotion as they do, there now exists the lure of coming home to Papa. Il Papa. All will be forgiven from Henry on down in the name of collective conservatism…and don’t forget to bring the wife and kids. Will they be in the post ordination family photo? Well they may help to fill the increasingly empty Sunday pews with faces on the smooth side of 60.

Of course the fleeing Anglicans will have to do a little retraining, be re-ordained and such like, but apparently the Pope is betting the sanctuary from the cruel world in which women are more than the lowly servants of priests – i.e. nuns will more than offset a bit of liturgical swat.

It is not as if the Catholic’s own flock isn’t being raided in certain parts of the world – look at the inroads the Pentecostals claim to have made in Latin America and Africa. Africa of course is that continent the Pope recently chose as a platform to remind the world that the provision of condoms would not help the HIV/Aids crisis. According to this man in charge of 1.1 billion Catholics, condoms could actually make the Aids crisis worse. Sort of like Zuma’s magical post-coital shower to cleanse him of any danger after having sex with an HIV-positive woman.

How would a new ‘Angothlic’ priest deal with that one?

And what, prey tell, would be the answer if an Anglican female priest wanted to change teams?

So what’s the Pope really up to?

Well he’s doing a heck of a job if his ultimate aim is to make the Anglican Church more attractive to people who consider women and gays have just as much right to be in positions of church hierarchy – should they want to. These people will supposedly be quite happy to see their ultra-conservative co-worshipers, common prayer book in hand, wander off to Rome. In Africa, Latin America and Asia, Anglicans have already expressed their disapproval of the liberal moves of their church towards homosexuals, so palming them off to the Catholics should make them very happy too.

Or perhaps Benedict is actually trying to out-Islam Islam. At 1.2 billion and growing fast the Muslim congregation has already surpassed that of the combined Christian churches, and in many parts of the world it’s mighty ‘traditionalist’ when it comes to these problematic hybrids of Adam.

Wallace Simpson must be spinning in her pearl- and tweed-lined grave, but not half as fast as ‘enry.

Comments (2)

by Tess Rooney on November 03, 2009
Tess Rooney

As a Catholic woman I was disappointed by Jane Young's article "Why is the Pope on the poach?.

Ms Young is under the mistaken impression that the Holy Father is attempting to woo disaffected Anglican to swim the Tiber and she's flat wrong. In fact it was the disaffected Anglicans who were actually doing the wooing. The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) officially sought to enter into full communion with Rome in October 11 2007 after years of discussion with its own members and with the Holy See. The TAC bishops publicly signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church and presented the request to Fr Augustine Di Noia OP, Undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Benedict XVI has responded to a genuine request for unity within the global Body of Christ. Contrary to what Jane Young thinks Anglicans are not rivals but brothers and sisters in Christ and the creation of a whole new ecclesiastical structure, the Personal Ordinariate, shows how far Rome is prepared to extend the hand of friendship for the sake of communion.

No Anglican will be forced to become Catholic, just as no one is forced to stay Catholic if, bound by conscience, they disagree with the theology of the Church. The Church already has married priests from previous conversions of Protestant clergy and it acknowledges that celibacy is not a doctrinal requirement for ordination. In our modern society where sexuality is both public and commercial the idea of people living without sex seems shocking, yet the priests, nuns and religious I know are happy and fulfilled . They are whole people with positive lives and loving, healthy relationships with those around them. However, these people don't make the front page news.

It's so easy to focus on the sexual scandals because what happened to the victims was so terrible. When the pastoral response was poor it compounded the harm and brought shame on the Church and her Bishops. Yet abuse is a human problem and is found in every sector of society. Doctors, teachers, members of other religious denominations are also found guilty of abuse and there are cover-ups in other institutions too, religious and otherwise. This doesn't limit the scandal of the Catholic Church but it does put it into perspective as a human problem.

Jane Young doesn't agree with the theology of sexuality that the Church teaches. That's her prerogative. Still I do have to wonder how deeply she has studied the reasons for the Church's stance. Certainly her description of nuns as lowly servants to priests bears no reality to the church I inhabit and it does no justice to the great women Doctors of the Church, for example St Teresa of Avila.

As a Catholic woman who is happy with her faith it's quite depressing to see a top notch journalist deal with tired stereotypes. It's denigrating and offensive and it belittles the hard work of our religious. Jane Young asks what the Pope is really up to and there's a simple answer - he's doing his job.

by tom farmer on November 13, 2009
tom farmer
Hey Jane, genuine question and yes I would like a considered answer. When you write 'modernity' - opening par above - and in the content's context what exactly do you mean..? ps: to admin: an aside: I've noticed here how commenters - me at least - can hit the return key intending begin a new par(paragraph) but it does not happen and the outcome can appear jumbled. Where do I find a fix for this..?

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