Media focus on divisiveness in Pope's invite to Anglicans

Pope Benedict’s recent announcement of provisions to permit some Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while keeping some of their liturgical forms and customs caused varied reactions in the Canadian press. Most news coverage was based on international wire services, but many headlines were rather curious, and the commentary ranged from genuinely knowledgeable to downright prejudiced.

Based on what we know at this point, the Vatican’s plan includes the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution that would allow groups of Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of Anglican liturgy and custom. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, the Vatican’s press release said, “pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.” Many details have not been announced, but the constitutional changes would make provisions for married Anglican clergy to be ordained as Catholic priests, which has already occurred in a small number of individual cases.

Perhaps the most curious reaction is the assertion that the Pope is attempting to bump up Catholic membership at Anglican expense or “poaching,” as more than one headline and cartoon put it. Most appeared to mean it in a humourous way, and the accompanying news coverage made clear that Anglican-Catholic dialogue has been going on harmoniously for many years, and that the Pope’s invitation follows requests from groups of Anglicans who, sensing a loss of  community and tradition, feel a stronger tie to Rome than Canterbury.

How many Anglicans will take the dip in the Tiber?

The shock-waves set in motion by Pope Benedict’s invitation to Anglicans to convert en masse, bringing their legacy of spiritual thought and worship with them, continues to ricochet throughout the world.

Some Anglican prelates, most notably in the large churches of Africa, have dismissed the call out of hand. At least one sizable group of dissident Anglicans — the Australia-based Traditional Anglican Communion, which claims some 400,000 adherents worldwide — has announced its eagerness to “swim the Tiber,” as Anglicans say, as soon as possible. But at the time of this writing, no observer or Anglican leader is in a position to make any move, since the Vatican has yet to announce the terms and time frame of its surprising offer.

Only this much is really clear at the present time: Married Anglican male clergy who convert will be eligible for ordination and ministry as Catholic priests in the new ecclesiastical structures, which will take the form of non-territorial dioceses. It is not clear, however, whether these married priests will be allowed to serve outside that structure, in “ordinary” Catholic parishes, or whether Catholic laypeople who did not come over from Anglicanism will be welcomed in the new Anglican rite parishes. (I think it likely that both things will eventually happen: the first, because of the shortage of priests in Latin rite parishes; the second, because of the fluidity of parish affiliation that already exists in Catholicism.)

Globalization needs to take the whole person into account

Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate is a remarkable attempt to grapple with, along with much else, the threats and opportunities that have come to us all as results of international capital integration. The long letter is also a highly imaginative application of Christian thought to a matter that is very timely.

We feel the touch of the globalization Benedict speaks of when we buy some product — anything with a computer chip in it, a children’s toy, even food — that was once made in Canada or the United States, but that now comes to us from some remote spot in Asia. We see it in newspaper headlines announcing some new domestic plant closing and the transfer of the means of production to cheap labour zones elsewhere in the world.

Charity and truth needed in a globalized world

{mosimage}Understanding globalization, and how we should act in the face of it, are tasks every thinking Catholic must undertake. My experience of trying to sort out these matters suggests they are not easy topics to tackle.

In the first place, the word globalization is awkward, abstract and impersonal, and it comes burdened with the connotation of a vast force free of human agency — something too inexorable even to think about. Also, there’s the daunting complexity of the phenomenon and the fact that its worst manifestations seem to be coming at us all at once: the near-death of international banking and capital markets last year, the ongoing flight of manufacturing jobs from the old lands of the Industrial Revolution to emerging economies on the fringes of the West, social conflicts erupting as huge movements of people from the developing world into the traditional bastions of Western culture take place — the list goes on and on.

The hypocrisy of International Blasphemy Day

{mosimage}Some strange news releases, media alerts and queries reach me on a regular basis, but the invitation to “International Blasphemy Day” stood out for a number of reasons. Who knew that blasphemers were being given the short end of the stick by society? From my perspective, it would be hard to know there was anything exceptional going on.

The first article promised “Jesus as you’ve never seen Him before,” dripping “red nail polish around the nails in His feet and hands.” As it happens, some of the things we see at the office make a few dabs of nail polish look like amateur hour. I’ve seen crucifixes propped up by human waste, chocolate Jesuses with obscene touches and at least one Jesus look-alike contest (the latter two were Easter promotions, by the way). I’ve also helped get a Communion Host removed from the auction block on e-Bay, and encouraged YouTube to remove purported desecrations of a Host from its site.

Pro-Life movement hurt by its militant supporters

{mosimage}The current war by bloggers and voicemailers against Salt + Light Television and its CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica is a symptom that something has gone seriously wrong in the heart of the pro-life movement in Canada and the United States.

The ultra-militants among the right-to-lifers, of course, have many reasons to feel frustrated. They failed to persuade Boston archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley to deny U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy a Catholic funeral in full sight of the world. They failed to get Fr. Rosica to hoist himself above the bishops and canon lawyers who gave the green light for the televised funeral service and throw himself into the campaign to denounce them. And their raving and ranting throughout this affair have almost certainly failed to cause a single person to join the struggle for the protection of the unborn.

Pro-lifers compromise solemnity of death

{mosimage}The reaction by some pro-life groups to the Catholic funeral given to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy should shame all Catholics into serious reflection on what it means to be Catholic in the present age.

For LifeSiteNews , a pro-life web page, the funeral was an expression of “human weakness and delusion.” In this event, “the tyranny of moral relativism triumphed. The false, very selective, ‘spirit of Vatican II’ social justice version of Catholicism dominated.”

Web's anonymity unfair to those maligned

{mosimage}The recent ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the case of Marc Lemire has been ably analysed for its discussion of constitutional law and the problems inherent in penalizing free speech in a democracy. Less discussed was its finding that the owners of web sites cannot normally be held responsible for the anonymous postings to message boards. This is probably true in any legal sense, but from the standpoint of professional editorial standards it is another matter.

Offered by most online editions of major newspapers and broadcast outlets, these anonymous postings are an ongoing festival for the opinionated, the chatty, the venomous and those with time on their hands. Should publishers be including questionable facts and arguments against Catholicism, to take just one example, on boards that most readers are going to associate with that publisher, rightly or wrongly? A look at some of the offerings from a few church-related stories of the past summer suggest that some postings should be held to a higher editorial standard.

Modern church emerged amid decadent 1500s

{mosimage}When the young German monk Martin Luther visited Rome in the winter of 1510-1511, his experience of the city made the impending Protestant Reformation thinkable for the first time, and perhaps inevitable. Luther was appalled by the avid worldliness of Christian Rome and of its corrupt, ambitious, brilliant ruler, Pope Julius II. And not only Luther. Many other thoughtful Catholic clergy, thinkers and layfolk of the early 16th century were similarly scandalized by the avarice and show off of Rome’s elite, who had so conspicuously embraced pomp and splendour to the detriment of the work of Christian living and witness.

From a spiritual perspective, then, the Rome that Luther discovered was going through the worst of times. But they were also the best of times for artists, architects and interior designers. In 1505, Julius had decided to tear down the much-venerated fourth-century basilica of St. Peter and start work on a huge, magnificent new church more suitable (in his opinion) for the capital of the Christian West. Great palaces were to be constructed to complement this new St. Peter’s, grand boulevards laid out, glorious piazzas and fountains built. In 1508, Michelangelo had begun the ceiling murals in the Sistine Chapel. In the same year, the artist-architect Raphael had arrived in Rome at Julius’ invitation, and founded a large business to supply the church and secular elite with the pictures and murals they desired.

Episcopal Church troubles pain me

{mosimage}One of the most painful events of my summer so far has been watching the Episcopal Church in the United States stab itself in the heart.

This church was my spiritual home before I came to Canada in 1969. It was a good one to be in during my young years: biblical, yet theologically imaginative, rooted in Christian traditions far older than the English Reformation, blessed with splendid liturgy and a rich heritage of devotion. If I am not an Anglican today, it’s because I ceased to find that rootedness in Scripture and tradition in American or Canadian Anglicanism, and found it in the Catholic Church.

Give men a fair hearing

{mosimage}To mark this past Fathers’ Day, The National Post carried an interesting feature about negative images of men in general, and fathers in particular, in consumer advertising.

Most of the complaints centred on portrayals of clumsiness and laziness with household tasks. Some men have found the portrayals offensive enough to file complaints with the Advertising Standards Council, and a few have been upheld.