For some time the world has known of a ‘secret’ group of Anglican bishops which has been visiting the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the forlorn hope of brokering a better deal than the Ordinariates.
Details are now emerging about a startling initiative by a group of cardinals who are negotiating terms for entering the Anglican Communion. The group (known to its members as the ‘Hind and Panther’ group) has been in regular contact with Lambeth Palace for many months. In a number of flying visits to London from Munich, Brussels and Milan, the prelates have aimed at taking with them into the Communion essential parts of their Catholic patrimony, and especially their red birettas.
Interviewed in The Church Times, the Rt Revd John Dryden, Justin Welby’s Plenipotentiary for Catholic Inclusion declined to name the cardinals involved.
‘Negotiations,’ he said, ‘are at a delicate stage. Anglicanism is a broad church – indeed not really a church at all. The one thing that binds Anglicans together is rather negative, I am afraid: in this secular age, the residual religion of an Anglican is not being a Roman Catholic. So a sudden flush of cardinal red on the episcopal bench of the Church of England could really put the cat among the pigeons. And the Archbishop has quite enough problems keeping the show together as it is.’
Dr. Hans Langendörfer SJ, spokesman for the anonymous group, was asked what advantages the cardinals hoped to gain from their new Anglican identity:
‘It is sometimes said that Anglicans become Catholics on issues of theology and Catholics become Anglicans on matters of sex. That is emphatically not true in this case. These are men of deep theological conviction with a creative theological agenda. Their concerns about women priests, divorce, remarriage, same sex partnerships, abortion and contraception go to the very heart of what it is to be a Catholic and a Christian. This is not just about sex.’
‘Many of the group are hoping to settle in the United States,’ he added.
Vatican spokesperson Cardinal Luciano Pavarotti was not available for comment.
The Panther or the Hind?