Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pope makes it easier for conservative Anglicans to come back to Catholicism

Imagine a new Catholic Church hybrid, one that blends Catholic and Anglican liturgical traditions, one that architecturally looks a lot like Catholic churches before the 1960s — and one in which priests may be married, but neither female nor gay.

Catholics and Anglicans throughout Tampa Bay and worldwide imagined such extraordinary things Tuesday after the Vatican announced a plan to invite hundreds of thousands of disenchanted Anglicans to convert en masse.

One of those was the Rev. Kevin Donlon, rector of the Church of Resurrection in Tampa, whose congregation was among Anglican churches that rebelled after the U.S. Episcopal Church elected its first openly gay bishop in 2003.

"A lot of people felt they had nowhere to go," Donlon said Tuesday. "Some may not like (Pope) Benedict, but he's giving people a place to go."

Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval to a new framework to bring back into the fold Anglicans who oppose their church's liberal stance on gay marriage and the ordination of women priests and gay bishops while allowing them to retain some of their religious traditions. That includes married priests, though under the plan they could not become Catholic bishops.

The papal offer was historic, but not a total surprise. A Catholic Book of Divine Worship published in 2003 blends the 1928 and 1979 editions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the 1973 Roman Missal.

The new framework — which sets out general principles for a separate entity within the church — was announced simultaneously in Rome and in London, where the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said he did not see the Vatican move as "an act of aggression."

But Vatican commentators described it as a blow to the Anglican Communion.

"For people who harbor the vision of Anglican unity, this will be a great disappointment," Francis X. Rocca, a Vatican analyst for the Religion News Service, told the Christian Science Monitor.

"But it may also help to let off steam within the Anglican Church. If disaffected traditionalists leave, then they will lower the tensions over issues like gay marriage and women clergy."

The U.S. Episcopal Church reacted carefully Tuesday, saying only it would "explore" the pope's announcement.

Individual Anglicans have long been free to convert to Catholicism — notably John B. Lipscomb, who converted to Catholicism in 2007 right after he retired as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida.

But the so-called Apostolic Constitution announced Tuesday will enable entire Anglican communities to transfer their allegiance en masse.

The pope was responding to "numerous requests to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in various parts of the world who want to enter into full and visible communion" with the Catholic Church, Cardinal William Joseph Levada told a news conference. He is the American head of the Vatican's doctrinal body.

Vatican officials declined to say how many of the world's 77 million Anglicans might take the opportunity to convert to Catholicism.

"We have had requests from large groups, in the hundreds," said Cardinal Levada. "If I had to say a number of bishops, I would say it's in the twenties or thirties."

The deep divide in the Anglican Communion over elections of women and gay bishops has created an alphabet soup of break-away Anglican entities, which claim hundreds of thousands of members. Among them are the Anglican Province of America, the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church in America, which was embraced by conservative Anglican churches in Africa. They're not all rushing to accept the pope's invitation.

The Rev. Dan Trout leads the very traditional Holy Trinity Anglican Church of Sarasota, which uses the 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer. He would like a merger, but not the pope's.

"I'm not optimistic," he said. "I'd like to see us affiliate with the Eastern Orthodox Church."

Big unresolved differences hearken back to the 16th century's Reformation, including the Catholic Church claim of papal infallibility and transubstantiation — the transforming of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

But many Anglicans want to give the offer a chance. The Rev. William Perkins leads St. Matthew's Anglican Church in Riverview, affiliated with the Anglican Province of America.

"Depending on the terms, we might be interested," he said. "We'd be stronger as a part of a bigger church."

He likens St. Matthew's to Catholic churches before the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s. Masses are in English, not Latin, but "we stick to our liturgy, we use traditional instruments like the organ, our hymnal is from the 1940s and our Book of Prayer is from 1928." When he celebrates Mass, he faces the altar, not the congregation.

The historic difference: Father Perkins is also married with three children and three grandchildren.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. John Barry can be reached at or (727) 892-2258.


By the numbers

The Anglican Communion spans 164 countries with 77 million members. One of these provinces is the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, with 2.4 million members in 112 dioceses.

The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida stretches from Brooksville to Marco Island, and includes Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Fort Myers. It has 36,000 baptized members.

There are 68,115,001 Catholics in the United States (22 percent of the U.S. population) and 1 billion Catholics worldwide.

What's the difference?

The Anglican Church was formed in 1534 when Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife and Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage. The reform movement was strong at the time, but Henry's split was perhaps more political than theological so similarities exist still between Anglicans and Catholics. Both believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Both have all seven sacraments, though Anglicans emphasize two: baptism and the Holy Eucharist. There are a few differences, however, among them:

• The pope has greater authority over the Catholic Church than the archbishop of Canterbury has over the Anglican one. Anglican lay people have a more prominent voice in church decisions than their Catholic counterparts.

• Anglicans allow remarriage. Catholics believe divorce is not religiously possible and therefore remarriage, without an annulment, would be a sin.

• Anglicans permit women clergy and there is debate about homosexual clergy as well; Catholics permit neither. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States is the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, previously bishop of Nevada.

Sources: Staff, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Episcopal Church of the U.S. and the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida

Pope makes it easier for conservative Anglicans to come back to Catholicism 10/20/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 12:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Cavern' closes westbound lanes on E Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County


    Westbound lanes of E Fletcher Avenue are closed near the Hillsborough River to repair what the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office terms a "cavern" that formed under the roadway.

  2. Joss Whedon's ex-wife accuses him of cheating, being 'hypocrite preaching feminist ideals'


    Joss Whedon made his name directing cult television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and big-budget action movies, which often featured women in empowering roles. Many applauded him for being a champion of women, a feminist in an industry accused of misogyny and sexism.

    Joss Whedon at the screening of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2014. Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole alleged in an essay published by The Wrap on Sunday that Whedon had multiple affairs during their 16-year marriage. (Associated Press)
  3. Pasco school's parents, principal seek compromise on behavior plan


    Leaders of a Pasco County elementary school that has come under criticism for its new behavior plan have offered an alternative model that sticks to its goals while also better considering younger children who might not understand the original terminology.

    This is the revised discipline chart that Deer Park Elementary is working on.
  4. Jon Gruden, Rex Ryan meet with Jameis Winston on 'Hard Knocks'


    One of the interesting guest stars on HBO's "Hard Knocks", which covers every minute of the Bucs' training camp and preseason, has been Jon Gruden. The legendary former Tampa Bay coach has popped up from time …

    In a teaser clip from episode 3 of "Hard Knocks", Jon Gruden and fellow former coach Rex Ryan meet with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to discuss his past and future in the NFL. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
  5. German police seize thousands of 'Trump' ecstasy tablets


    BERLIN — German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug ecstasy in the shape of Donald Trump's head, a haul with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900.)

    This undated  picture provided by Polizeiinspektion Osnabrueck police shows an ecstasy pill. German police say they have seized thousands of ecstasy pills in the shape of President Donald Trump's head, a haul  with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900). Police in Osnabrueck, in northwestern Germany, say they found the drugs during a check Saturday evening on an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway. [Police Osnabrueck via AP]