But some Anglicans are not willing merely to live in an alternative structure outside the mainline church. Last month, the bishops and other leaders of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), an umbrella group that claims 400,000 adherents in 12 countries, petitioned Rome for “full, corporate, sacramental union” with the Catholic Church. The full text of the petition has not been made public and Anglican leaders have declined interviews pending a reply from the Vatican. It’s enough for now to note that, for the first time since the Reformation, hundreds of thousands of Protestants are now knocking at our door, asking to be admitted en masse.
But before shouting a merry “Welcome Home!” to them, it’s worth thinking about the pickle into which the recent tumults in Anglicanism are putting Catholic officialdom.
Up to this point, the Catholic Church’s talks with Anglicans have proceeded on the understanding that there was a single Anglican body in the conversation — the one made up of those churches who recognize the spiritual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But should the Anglican Communion fragment into so many pieces, as now seems possible, who, exactly, will Catholics talk to? The liberal, mainstream denomination, which ordains women and (in the United States, anyway) approves the ordination of openly gay priests and bishops? Or the breakaway Anglicans who do neither, and are therefore of one mind (in this respect, anyway) with Catholicism?
And what’s to be done about those Anglicans who are now seeking full union with the Catholic Church? For Catholics to treat with a whole bloc of disaffected Anglicans runs counter to Vatican policy regarding the Anglican Communion. Were the Vatican to admit the TAC to membership, the move would almost certainly be viewed by Anglican mainstreamers as gravely divisive to the up-to-now usual Catholic-Anglican relationship, and it might squash future ecumenical encounters altogether.
The entire text is worth reading. You can find it here.