It has been clear for some time that influential elements within the Catholic Church have looked with something approaching envy at the louche activities of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Blind to the widening divisions within the Anglican fold, they have continued dialogue as though with a united body with a common and discernible mind. This, needless to say, is far from the truth.
‘What can our two churches learn from each other?’ asks the new 68-page report from the ARCIC process, disingenuously .
And since those things which the Anglican Communion might learn from the Catholic Church – the Papal Magisterium; a universal Canon Law; the unqualified interchangeability of ministries and sacraments; a sacred ministry continuous from Apostolic times; a dominical understanding of Holy Matrimony; an unqualified respect for the sanctity of human life, etc., etc. – have all been rejected (some of them very recently), the document naturally majors on what the Catholic Church can learn from Anglicanism.
Unsurprisingly this turns out to be the familiar wish-list of liberal Catholics – the St Gallen Agenda.
High on the list is a form of provincial autonomy (greater authority for national or local conferences of bishops in matters of faith and morals). Vying for prominence with that is the notion of greater lay involvement, and ‘synodical’ governance.
The attractiveness of both springs from the way in which both have operated in the churches of the Anglican Communion to advance the Agenda. Both are a mechanism for allowing the tail to wag the dog. Both put power in the hands of an activist minority.
Provincial Autonomy has allowed the churches of the White Hegemony (US, UK, Canada, Australia) to bully the rest into acquiescence. ‘Synodical’ government has everywhere permitted revisionist minorities an unwarranted degree of influence.
From the point of view of revisionist Catholics, what is there to dislike?