Whatever his flaws (and I’ve mentioned those previously), Fr. Richard McBrien seems to be on the right side of the “Episcopalian Question,” that is, that the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the US and Canada has pursued a hyper-liberal agenda (like allowing women and active homosexuals to become priests/priestesses, and in the case of Gene Robinson, a bishop) at the cost of communion. He doesn’t think that a centralized Church is the answer (of course; it’s too … Catholic), but he openly acknowledges the problems at the other extreme, in letting local dioceses decide everything. Pretty soon, the liberal parts of the country start pushing for greater political and theological liberalism: first, as an option, and then as an option that no one can oppose.
A few days ago, Fr. McBrien wrote on this topic again. After recounting the schism-in-all-but-name that was Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ two-tiered idea (which means, in practice, absolutely anything goes, so long as you call yourself Anglican/Episcopalian), McBrien wrote:
This current dispute within the Anglican Communion may not be of much interest to many Roman Catholics, but the issues involved in the controversy affect both churches.
The tensions between central authority and local autonomy exist in Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism alike, but in different ways. We need to learn from one another’s problems and experiences in dealing with these tensions.
We cannot simply ignore them.
Wish granted! Not 24 hours later came the surprise Vatican announcement. And suddenly nobody, Catholic, Anglican, and otherwise, seems to be ignoring the crisis within the Anglican Communion.
I always enjoy those “Dewey Beats Truman” stories where people make predictions in writing right before an important event happens and they’re either proven correct, or embarassingly wrong (for all of his great worth to the Catholic Church, Frank Beckwith was in the latter category with his 2008 election predictions). McBrien didn’t make any grand predictions in his column, but he did say, “Hey, this is a problem we need to pay attention to.” And for once, he and Pope Benedict seem to have been on the exact same page.