On October 20, 2009, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, announced a new provision responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church.Link to the document.
The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which is published today introduces a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow the above mentioned groups to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. At the same time, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is publishing a set of Complementary Norms which will guide the implementation of this provision.
This Apostolic Constitution opens a new avenue for the promotion of Christian unity while, at the same time, granting legitimate diversity in the expression of our common faith. It represents not an initiative on the part of the Holy See, but a generous response from the Holy Father to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups. The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church.
The possibility envisioned by the Apostolic Constitution for some married clergy within the Personal Ordinariates does not signify any change in the Church’s discipline of clerical celibacy. According to the Second Vatican Council, priestly celibacy is a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and radiantly proclaims the reign of God (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1579).
An Apostolic Constitution is the highest rank of Papal decrees. This constitution will create the equivalent of Catholic dioceses for Anglicans; they will be able to operate their own seminaries and religious orders, and already-married clergy, with specific approval, can become Catholic priests under an existing pastoral provision.
The various Anglican groups find their origin with King Henry VIII of England who split from the Catholic Church because she would not grant him an annulment from his lawful wife, who did not bear him a male heir to this throne. Not merely a schism, his new church soon fell into heresy, incorporating many of the new protesting ideas. The church of England was unable to remain united, first and foremost on theology and doctrine; any unity found in the Anglican Communion is tenuous at best.
Much of modern Anglicanism (also called Episcopalianism in the United States, due to events that occurred in the year 1776), has the nature of a social construct made specifically to provide mythic overtones to otherwise atheistic political doctrines, and so has often become a largely human instrument to enforce or change power relationships.
But many Anglicans want to hold true to the ancient Catholic Faith of the Apostles which was once the Faith of England; while some “swam the Tiber” and joined the Catholic Church, they have done so by leaving behind their friends, families, churches, communities, and modes of worship. But Pope Benedict XVI, as Pontiff (a title meaning bridge-builder), is figuratively building a bridge across the Tiber so entire Anglican communities can come into the Church as a whole. This is a generous response.
Contemporary Catholic worship leaves a lot to be desired. The current translation of the Latin Missal for much of the English-speaking world is a flat, awkward, unpoetical, and often inaccurate translation done in American English, which shows little love for the language and its nuances. Liturgical music nowadays is being driven by music publishers, who promote novelty for its own sake and who charge money for the right to perform their music during the Mass.
On the contrary, many versions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer show a great command of the English language and a love for it in service of the Gospel; these no doubt can be adapted for Catholic worship. Likewise, the Anglicans' long experience with the use of the vernacular in liturgy leaves us a great body of works that are free of royalty payments to publishers.
Obviously we must avoid the problem that is often found in the Anglican ‘broad-church’: paid, unbelieving musicians masterfully perform music to an audience of unbelieving church-goers who see worship service as a largely aesthetic experience. But we must also avoid the error of those who have a purely intellectual belief, and who tend towards iconoclasm and show disregard for the lower, aesthetic parts of our souls.
So the new Anglican converts both will find a home in the unity of the Church, and they will bring with them superior forms of worship, which will enrich the Church.