copyright the Bettina Network 2009
The Rev. Dr. Robert A. Bennett
The big news out of the Vatican recently is that disaffected clergy (married or not) of the Church of England will be welcomed back into the Roman Catholic fold – no questions asked!!! What was previously a case by case procedure for return has been replaced with an announcement of a blanket welcome issued by the Vatican on Tuesday, October 27. 2009.
There has been much discussion about what lay behind this procedural change: decline of European Catholic members; the decline of Roman Catholic Clergy due to strict rules of celibacy; or even the resulting decline in revenues and the decline in capital because of the court decisions taking millions of dollars from the Catholic Church.
The mantra in many mysteries is “follow the money!” The rationale behind otherwise unanswered questions of motive, is very often related to monetary matters. Everyone remembers that the Reformation in England took on a distinctive non-doctrinal caste under Henry VIII’s marital problems. The issue then was not doctrinal differences between Rome and England, but the matter of who ultimately controlled and held ownership rights over valuable Church properties and institutions. Henry VIII resolved his marital issue by setting the stage for transforming (not reforming) the Catholic Church in England to the Catholic Church of England. In 1553, Henry VIII seized and closed the monasteries and transferred these very valuable sources of income away from Rome, placing them at his and England’s disposal. The so-called “Elizabethan Settlement” of 1559 finalized this transfer and marked the Reformation in England as the creation of the Anglican Church, the Church of England.
Benedict XVI, scholar that he is, as Cardinal, was called “God’s Rottweiler,” the enforcer of Roman Catholic Orthodoxy in the very conservative mood. Benedict XVI has reversed the ex-communications of ultra-conservative rejectors of change and rejectors of reform elements set in place by Vatican II, and has returned them to good standing in the Roman Catholic Church – one bishop returned to good standing is an acknowledged “Holocaust Denier”. The pope now issues a similar – y’all come back, now – decree for disaffected Anglicans who reject openly gay priests and bishops as well as rejecting female priests and bishops.
These actions, in the face of declining membership, declining sources of income, valuable real estate sold to pay court decisions, support the “follow the money” mantra. They point to a way to increase membership and set the stage for the possible return of valuable real estate and institutions lost in Great Britain under the various Parliamentary acts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in the 16th century.
Pope Benedict XVI’s recent relaxation of the means of return is best seen as setting the ground work for the return of valuable real estate lost when the Catholic Church in England was transformed into the Church of England (the Anglicans). It is English Reformation history that may well lay behind the recent action of the Vatican. Never underestimate the knowledge or even the dreams of the scholar.
Should the Orthodox church begin to be concerned about its real estate with the Roman Catholic Church now lining up its priesthood to be a married priesthood for the little guys, but celibacy as the path for those who are upwardly mobile and want to be bishop or above?
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