- March 
- March 
Vatican opens a door for dissent
Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday October 27, 2009
POPE BENEDICT'S decision to open a special section in the Catholic Church for former Anglicans might look like clever denominational politics, increasing the turmoil in the Anglican Church after its decision to ordain women and homosexuals as bishops. But Anglicans were already disagreeing with each other over those decisions vehemently enough to need no help there. Anglican priests have always been able to be ordained as Catholic priests individually. What is new is that the Vatican has established a template into which all such cases can fit from now on.By offering a refuge for conservative Anglicans who cannot reconcile themselves to liberalising tendencies within their church, Rome has probably not hastened the break-up of Anglicanism worldwide; that was already well under way. It has, though, by reaching out to one Anglican subgroup in this way, ended for the time being any chance of a rapprochement between itself and Canterbury.There will be consequences for Catholicism in Australia, which may find a sudden influx of conservative former Protestants creates strains. A strong liberal current among Catholics has for some time been questioning the notion of celibacy for priests. That movement has already been wounded by rejection from Rome; now, with married Anglican priests being welcomed, salt is to be rubbed into that wound.Conservative Anglicans in Britain have welcomed the Pope's move, and are actively considering taking up the offer. In the United States, where the Episcopalian Church is led by a woman, and has consecrated an openly gay bishop, the conservative protest has already led dioceses to abandon their communion with Anglicanism. Whether they will be drawn into communion with Rome is another matter. In Sydney, though, home to one of Anglicanism's strongest evangelical dioceses, the opening of a door to the Catholic Church will probably have little effect. As with the generally conservative churches of Africa €“ Anglicanism's biggest growth area €“ the conservative hierarchy in Sydney will not be tempted to recognise Rome's leadership; Sydney's small Anglo-Catholic opposition to the hierarchy is by no means unsympathetic to the progressive agenda which has captured the global leadership of the church and divided its followers.Sydney Anglicanism's current problems are of quite a different type. The Sydney diocese has drawn strength for its uncompromising conservatism from its great wealth. But the global financial crisis has substantially reduced it assets €“ by some $160 million, or 60 per cent €“ requiring it to reduce its activities to cut spending. It remains to be seen, after the debacle, whether the grip on power of those responsible can remain as tight as it has been in the past.