I’d wondered how anyone could oppose the Vatican’s action in making things easier for Anglicans to convert. After all, they sent a letter stating their collective desire to become Catholic, but wanting to keep their flock together. Certainly, you can legitimately think that the right thing to do is for these Traditional Anglicans to patch up the Anglican Communion from the inside, and not leave when the going gets tough. But that’s really their choice; what the pope’s done is to make choosing Catholicism cost less.
After all, those switching to the Catholic Church are sacrificing a lot already, particularly the clerics . This is true for virtually anyone converting, but let’s look at the costs facing a Traditional Anglican congregation considering crossing the Tiber:
- For starters, there’s the pay: “A job as a clergyman in the Church of England comes with a stipend of £22,250 and free accommodation. Catholic priests earn about £8,000, paid by their parish and topped up by a diocese where the parish cannot afford even that.” That’s a nearly 65% pay cut. (In US dollars, this is the equivalent of going from a $36,439 yearly stipend to a $13,101 yearly stipend).
- Then, there’s the closing of doors, and potential loss of ecclesial office: married priests won’t be allowed to become bishops, and so if a married Anglican Bishop converts, he may be ordained a married Catholic priest, but not a bishop.
- The risk of in-fighting and the dispersing of the flock. It seems pretty unlikely that a full 100% of these churches will come over, and so even under the best of circumstances, a move towards Rome is a move away from Anglican loved ones. Jesus warned in Luke 12:53 that this is sometimes the cost of Discipleship, but it’s most painful when it’s Christians against Christians. These Traditional Anglicans have stuck together as a faithful remnant within Anglicanism for a few years now.
- The cost of stigma. It’s normal to be Anglican in England: a bit unusual to actually believe a lot of Anglicanism’s traditional doctrines, but simply calling yourself Anglican is like calling yourself Catholic in Boston – it means about as much as saying you’re Irish (or English, in the Anglican case). To publicly become Catholic is to make a statement, whether one means to or not, and that statement’s a pretty unpopular one right now.
- The costs of liturgical change. Switching from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to the Catholic “Anglican Use” Book of Divine Worship is less dramatic than switching to say, the Novus Ordo Mass, but it’s still going from a quasi-Protestant liturgy to a
The Vatican’s move offsets the costs somewhat: it’s easier for congregations to stick together, and the valued liturgical elements are largely preserved. It also increases the benefits: the move validates a lot within the Traditional Anglican structure, and seems to keep that which is wholesome and edifying. Plus, at the end of the day, we have the Eucharist, and we’ll never have priestesses.