He's Henry the 8th, he is ...

The Wives of Henry VIII_titleTruth be told, I always enjoy getting to praise a story in the New York Times. Your GetReligionistas, you see, get so much email bashing the Times and, of course, we have been known to do our share of criticizing the great Gray Lady, too. But anyone who doesn't care about what goes on in that newsroom simply doesn't care about journalism and the role it plays in this culture and, frankly, the world. But I digress.

I have not read all of the coverage of the Vatican's announcement concerning the future of Anglo-Catholicism -- a story that's been in the works for more than a decade. However, I feel comfortable saying that the Times final version of the first-day story is solid and raises many topics missed in some other reports. Replace "extraordinary" in the lede with "long-anticipated" and things get off to a fine start.

I alo thought this passage dug a bit deeper, into issues that will deserve a lot of attention in the near future. Oh, by the way, Pope Benedict XVI is planning to visit Britain next year. Do you think he will ask the Anglicans to give back many of the Catholic churches that they seized so long ago (including one in the village of Mattingly, to cite an example)? Anyway, Cardinal William J. Levada, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, mentioned many fascinating details.

The decision creates a formal universal structure to streamline conversions that had previously been evaluated case by case. The Vatican said that it would release details in the coming weeks, but that generally, former Anglican prelates chosen by the Catholic Church would oversee Anglicans, including entire parishes or even dioceses, seeking to convert.

Under the new arrangement, the Catholic practice that has allowed married Anglican priests to convert and become Catholic priests would continue. (There have been very few such priests.) But only unmarried Anglican bishops or priests could become Catholic bishops. Cardinal Levada acknowledged that accepting large numbers of married Anglican priests while forbidding Catholic priests to marry could pose problems for some Catholics. But he argued that the circumstances differed.

Under the new structure, former Anglicans who become Catholic could preserve some elements of Anglican worship, including hymns and other "intangible" elements. ...

Follow-up question! What about the future? Will married men, in the future, be able to seek the priesthood in this new structure? It is my understanding that they will. That could create a very interesting dynamic between these Anglican-heritage parishes and the Latin Rite churches, with celibate priests. Also, how many people (including Catholics who are not fond of post-Vatican II liturgies) will choose to hop over to parishes featuring tweaked versions of the glorious rites and music of the classic Book of Common Prayer? Just asking.

I was also glad to note that the Times explored the fact that most conservative Anglicans, in this day and age, are quite Protestant in their approach to faith and church life. They will not be tempted to switch to doctrine and structures acceptable to Rome. It should be noted that both low-church Anglicanism and the Catholic Church are growing rapidly in Africa, for example. Why would there be conflict or tension there?

However, let me note one historical passage in this Times report that interested -- I would not say "troubled" -- me.

The Vatican's announcement signals a significant moment in relations between two churches that first parted in the Reformation of the 16th century over theological issues and the primacy of the pope.

At this point, please click here for inspirational music to accompany the reading of the rest of this post.

Here's my question: Where is King Henry VIII and his unique approach to marriage, theology and governance? I know that Anglicans don't like it when people say that the English Reformation was rooted in the king's sex life and their complaints are completely justified. For example, the Wall Street Journal noted:

The move comes nearly five centuries after King Henry VIII broke with Rome and proclaimed himself head of the new Church of England after being refused permission to divorce.

That's the "Henry alone" approach, stripped of a couple of wives.

Over at the Washington Post, the history section of the story (terrible headline, by the way) said pretty much the same thing.

The worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the 2.3 million-member U.S. Episcopal Church, has been racked by years of conflict over the interpretation of Scripture that has led to clashes over female clergy and, more recently, gay clergy. ...

The Communion broke from the Catholic church in 1534, when England's King Henry VIII was denied a marriage annulment. In more recent times, Anglicans and Catholics have made attempts to reconcile, but Tuesday's move could jeopardize those efforts, according to theologians.

Isn't there some way to say both, to say that the split with Rome took place for political and theological reasons, in addition to the king's own personal and complex motives? I mean, there was more to the Protestant Reformation as a whole than tensions between states, trade routes and the printing press. We need Henry VIII in there and the Reformers who had, well, other motives.

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