The editorial is quite balanced but typically nuanced.
But this Vatican initiative will make the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity more difficult, for partners in dialogue could well be suspicious that the agenda of the Catholic Church, while seemingly about Christian unity, is otherwise.
Well, surely the agenda is unity and erecting structures that enable people to pass from a non-catholic community to the Catholic Church is an excellent way of achieving this.
It will also cause concern that the pontifical council (for Christian unity) is being left out of the loop on matters of huge importance affecting its dialogue partners, given that its officials were not kept up to speed on the issue by the CDF, and despite the fact that the council’s president, Cardinal Walter Kasper, is also is a member of the congregation.
Fr Tim Finigan appears to have some inside information about votes etc. when he writes:
The process leading to the new Apostolic Constitution has been an extraordinarily complex, in-depth study, involving widespread consultation, and including communications with sitting Bishops of the Anglican Communion who were in favour of some such arrangement. The Holy See could not simply refuse to talk to such parties clamouring for full canonical union with the Catholic Church. Naturally the process of consultation involved the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, whose Secretary (Bishop Brian Farrell) is a Consultor of the CDF, and whose President (Cardinal Kasper) is one of the 15 Cardinal Members of the CDF. Some elements within the Pontifical Council were obviously not too happy with the whole notion of corporate reunion, however, in the end they were outvoted.
The Tablet continues:
One Church’s loss is inevitably another’s gain. Few would deny that the influx of new blood brought many benefits to the Catholic Church last time. The requirement of celibacy was waived in the case of ordained Anglican clergy, which means there are now a significant number of married priests happily serving the Catholic community in England and Wales with no real problems. More of the same will no doubt sharpen the sense of anomaly concerning Catholic priests who have had to accept laicisation as the price of marriage. There are many things in Anglicanism from which Catholicism can profit, not least an enhanced role for the laity in church government and a rich liturgical heritage. What the Anglicans may gain, in return, is a deeper sacramentality. And they may even discover, once it ceases to be such a neuralgic point, that they can be more open to the ministry of women.
I don't think the erection of a Personal Ordinariate with married former anglican clergy being ordained as Catholic priests has anything to do with the theologically founded discipline of clerical continence which will always remain the norm in the Latin Church. Neither will the norms on the roles of laity and clergy in parish pastoral councils, finance committees etc. change. The current Code of Canon Law sets out clearly how laity can co-operate in the exercise of the Church's power of governance and lay people occupy incredibly influential positions in Schools Commissions, Finance Offices, etc, which were the domain of the clergy in the past. And will the Traditional Anglicans be looking to take on armies of women to carry outtraditionally clerical functions? I doubt it.
Parallels are drawn, not unsurprisingly, with Pope Benedict's overtures to the SSPX, made in the name of the same desire for the unity of the Church, but The Tablet goes too far in mentioning Tony Blair in the same sentence as John Henry Newman. The latter held firmly to the Catholic doctrines of the Fathers of the Church. The former does not, and many are still scandalised by his reception into the Catholic Church.
Earlier this year, in response to the lifting of the excommunications of four Lefebvrist bishops, Pope Benedict wrote: “Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and the Successor of Peter at the present time” – a sentiment which will resonate with Anglicans accepting the Petrine ministry. The most important issue for all Catholics is that anyone of good conscience who seeks to join their Church, be they John Henry Newman, or Tony Blair, or the vicar of an Anglican parish or his flock, should be given a generous and hospitable welcome to their new home.
Archbishop Nichols is quoted in another article in the same edition of today's Tablet:
I salute the courage and generosity of Pope Benedict, who has again shown an open and loving heart, just as one would expect of a Holy Father.