By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
In a historic move, the Vatican has made it a lot easier for American Episcopalians disillusioned with their church's ordination of women and its increasing openness towards gays to join the Roman Catholic Church. The policy announced Tuesday allows Episcopalians to convert while retaining some distinctly Anglican spiritual and liturgical customs, including the tradition of married priests.
The Anglican Communion, among the world's largest religious bodies, is the mother church for Episcopalians.
The New York Times has a good overview of the Vatican's complicated policy shift:
A new canonical entity will allow Anglicans "to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony," Cardinal William Levada, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said at a news conference. . . .
The move creates a formal structure to oversee conversions that had previously been evaluated on a case by case basis, including those of married Anglican priests, who are permitted to remain married after they convert to Catholicism. Called Personal Ordinariates, the structure will consist of local Catholic faithful overseen by Anglican prelates who will provide guidance to Anglicans—including entire parishes or even dioceses—seeking to convert.
One big question is what this means for the Episcopal dioceses and parishes in the United States that have announced their secession from the Episcopal Church in recent years over what they say is its liberal drift on cultural issues. Will those churches seek to join the Roman Catholic Church? Or will they remain in the Anglican Communion?