Catholic Church Prepared To Receive Anglicans
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Today in Faith Matters, "Who Speaks for Islam?" a new television interview series debuting this weekend asks and tries to answer the tough questions, many have about the faith. Our guest is Dalia Mogahed, who appears in the program. She's written a book about public opinion among Muslims around the world, and she sits in the White House advisory group on faith-based initiatives. That conversation is a little later.
But first, the Vatican speaks to disaffected Anglicans. Earlier this week, the Vatican announced new rules to make it easier for Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church. Such conversions had been permitted in the past but primarily on an individual basis. But the new rules make it easier for groups to join new parishes headed by Anglican (unintelligible) and will even allow married Anglican priests and seminarians to be ordained as priests within the Catholic Church. Joining us to talk more about this is Michael Sean Winters. He writes a daily political blog for the largest circulation Catholic weekly magazine, America. He's here with me in Washington. Welcome, thank you for joining us.
Mr. MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS (Writer, America): Good to be here.
MARTIN: So, Michael, there's a precedent for this. There are already some Anglican parishes within the U.S. of a small number. But how will this new rule - what is this new rule meant to do? Is it…
Mr. WINTERS: I think the reason they needed a new rule was that they were being approached by groups, by diocese, by bishops who didn't want to just bring over themselves but wanted to bring over their whole group. And that was quite new. And I think some of the news coverage has missed that. The initiative here really started with the Anglicans. I thought it was - the Post had a shameful title that said, you know, Vatican is fishing in an Anglican lake, which was based on a quote by Cardinal Kasper, who had said exactly said the opposite, that the point of this was not to be fishing in the Anglican lake, that they had come and approached us.
MARTIN: That's an important point because the headline I'm looking at from the Post says, Vatican seeks to lure disaffected Anglicans. And this has been interpreted as a move, an initiative by the Vatican to lure Anglicans who are disappointed about the ordination of women and the growing approval of same sex marriage.
Mr. WINTERS: Right. I think Anglicans - and we have to be careful here, I think, and these are some of the discussions that will go on as people try to join the Catholic Church. If you were just upset about the ordination of gays or the ordination of women, that's not a good reason to become a Catholic. If, however, the arguments and the discussion within the Episcopal Church about the ordination of women showed you that that Episcopal Church was really no longer concerned about being in the long tradition of Christian communion, that's a good reason to join the Catholic Church.
MARTIN: Well, is that form, kind of evaluation going to take place? I mean, is there really an assessment of motive in something like this?
Mr. WINTERS: You know, you want to make it as easy and all of us have mixed emotions as we approach decisions in life. But clearly, that is, I think, the experience that caught the Vatican's attention. The Catholic Church is not interested in luring bigots. It's interested in helping people who seek a fuller communion.
MARTIN: How is the Anglican Church responding to this or reacting to this? The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams issued a statement that suggested that he had been consulted with, but it does not appear that he actually was.
Mr. WINTERS: I think it's been mixed. I think there is a concern that this will facilitate the disunion within the Anglican communion. But again, you know, that's their concern. I think the Catholic Church's concern was to respond to these people. And I actually think it will play out differently. I actually think this will further acumenism because this will provide some degree of intimacy between this branch of the Christian faith that has for, you know, 500 years, you know, taken a different view and is now being re-grafted.
And I think, you know, until 50 years - if this had happened 50 years ago, it would be inconceivable that you'd have a joint press conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. And so, I think the fact that they made that effort, that if not exactly consulted, the Anglicans were informed about this. I think it will play out different. I think this will end up, in the end, helping both sides understand each other and clear away some of those historical misunderstandings that are still with us.
MARTIN: How many people do you think we're talking about here?
Mr. WINTERS: That is the question I don't think anyone has an idea. I know there's five or six dioceses in the Episcopal Church here in the United States that evidently had contacted Rome about this. And how many in England and Australia and other parts? We don't know. I don't think you'll see it in Africa, which is where the Anglican Church is growing very fast, as is the Catholic Church. I don't think they will be affected because…
MARTIN: Why not?
Mr. WINTERS: …because those churches are more traditional and conservative and follow a more classic sense of communion.
MARTIN: Do you have any sense of how the Catholic community - and it's a very difficult question and I don't mean to make you the spokesperson for all Catholics particularly in the absence of any data to this affect on the very new issue. But do you have sense of how the Catholic community overall is responding to this? I mean, you wrote on your blog that you worry that some of these newcomers will be nostalgists, anti-feminist and anti-gay rights. So, that is the motivation for some to join. Do you think that that concern is widely shared?
Mr. WINTERS: Yes. And I think there's, you know, I've gotten a bunch of Emails and had phone conversations with people who, you know, said, well, why is the Catholic Church, you know, going after liberal theologians at the same time it is putting out the welcome mat for these guys? I think the fact is, you know, some people are moving toward the communion, others are moving away, and that requires a different pastoral response.
MARTIN: Michael Sean Winters writes a daily political blog for the Catholic weekly magazine, America. He was kind enough to join us here in our Washington, D.C. studios. If you want to read the pieces we're talking about, we'll have a link on our Web site at npr.org. Michael, thank you.
Mr. WINTERS: Thank you.