19 February 2007

News Flash: Pigs seen flying

It’s one of those things that would be amazing if it were true. Headlines are all over the place today in newspapers and on web news sites: “Churches back plan to unite under Pope.” The claim is that “senior bishops” (whatever that means) have agreed on proposals which would unite Anglicans and Roman Catholics. The media make it sound as though it will take place at the snap of the fingers and everyone will live happily ever after. If only.

When we read a little deeper we find that a forty-two page report published by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission states within it, “Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the Pope.” So apparently there is no actual “plan” to back, more like a “plan to explore.” And that would be very nice. It would also be nice to see the Israelis and the Palestinians become best friends. And it would be nice to see Kim Jong-il stop being a lunatic. And it would also be nice if Osama bin Laden became a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The only problem is that we probably won’t see any of those things happen. Sure, it’s nice to hope. And we should do everything we can to help good things come to pass. But let’s be realistic. The Anglicans can’t even agree on who’s an Anglican, and we’re supposed to think there’s a possibility of a plan which will bring them all under the Pope? You don’t need to read very far in various Anglican blogs before you come across statement after statement like these:

• “When I see Ratzinger flog the property, the secular power and the prestige and jumps up shouting "Jesus and Jesus only saves" then I may consider it. Otherwise I'll take my place beside Cranmer's ashes.”

• “The way to our Lord is through Jesus Christ and not through some person in Rome. If unity came about, I would leave the Anglican church and return to my roots as a Baptist.”

• “One reason many of us left the Roman church in favor of Anglicanism is its liberal positions on women and celibacy for clergy. The other reason is to escape the whimsical unilateralism of an 'infallible' Pontiff.”

It’s a sad fact that Anglicanism is disintegrating faster than a sand castle at high tide. The American expression of Anglicanism, the Episcopal Church, is led by a Gnostic woman who can’t quite decide what Jesus came to do. The Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to hold together some seventy million people with no single accepted teaching about anything.

There’s no doubt we need to pray for Anglicans. We need to be ready to welcome them into their only real home, which is the Catholic Church. But it’s silly to think there is some “plan” providing a way for corporate reunion. It’s a matter of the conversion of individual hearts and lives, and headlines such as the ones we are seeing today don’t help. They give a false sense of hope to those who might be on the verge of returning to the Church, and they add fuel to the anti-Catholic bitterness of those who would rather drink poison than “submit to Rome.”