Since the Protestant Reformation, when the Church of England broke away from Rome, it has been a sometimes uneasy coalition between its Catholic and Protestant members.
It’s the huge achievement of the Church that it has kept these two wings together through numerous crises – that over homosexuality being only one of the most recent.
But traditionalists on the Catholic wing have become increasingly disenchanted by “progressive” trends, not so much with respect to liberal moves on homosexuality, but about the ordination of women as priests, and, in the next few years, as bishops.
Many traditionalist “Anglo-Catholics” have threatened to leave the Church and convert to Catholicism, and leaders of their cause say having a home already prepared for them by the Catholics, will greatly increase the exodus.
On Jan 15th, 2011 three former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests Saturday, becoming the first ex-bishops to take advantage of a new Vatican system designed to make it easier for Anglicans to embrace Roman Catholicism.
The crowded ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in London made priests of former bishops. “Today is a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church’ said Rev. Vincent Nichols, the Catholic leader in England and Wales.
The groundbreaking ceremony was made possible by a 2009 ruling by the Vatican allowing Anglicans worldwide to join the Roman Catholic Church and still adhere to many Anglican traditions. The new system was designed to entice traditionalist Anglicans opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy, the blessing of same-sex unions and other controversial policies that have caused a deep schism within the Anglican church.
What made the two-hour service in Westminster Cathedral genuinely historic, however, was that these three men were not simply joining the ranks of Britain’s six million Catholics, or even being granted a special dispensation from Rome’s usual rules to allow them to become married Catholic priests. That happened in small numbers since 1992.
As the Protestant Denominations become more liberal and biblical directives are cast aside for popular idea’s, the Catholic unchanging doctrines offer comfort.
Referring to Saturday’s ceremony, he said: “The truth is the Church of England has decided to take its cue from the society it lives in, instead of its cue from Christ and carries the gospel that he preached to them – as we would see it.
The ceremony was attended by hundreds of priests from England’s Westminster diocese as well as three former Anglican nuns who have officially received into the Catholic Church two weeks ago.
Look for a polarization in the Christian denominations as the Catholic Church welcomes back those “protesting Catholics,” that left during the reformation.