After news that some bishops are lining up to swim the Tiber, now it seems some priests are putting on their water wings, too:
The Catholic Church will announce this week that 50 Anglican clergy are defecting to Rome following the Church of England’s moves to introduce women bishops.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, will reveal on Friday the Vatican’s plans to welcome the departing priests – including five bishops – who are expected to be received into the Catholic Church early in the new year.
Hundreds of Anglican churchgoers will join them in the Ordinariate – a structure introduced by Pope Benedict XVI to provide refuge for those diaffected with the Church of England.
The number of worshippers who leave the Church is predicted to double as the new arrangement finally begins to take shape.
The Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, said clergy have become dismayed at the liberal direction of the Church of England and the way traditionalits have been treated.
“There’s only a certain amount of time you can accept being described as the National Front of the Church of England,” he said.
“We’re seen as out of date for not accepting women’s ministry as equal, but the debate concentrates on sociology rather than theology.”
The bishop, who is one of the five converting to Catholicism, accused the Church of repeatedly breaking its promises to make proper provision for opponents of women’s ordination.
Members of the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, voted in July to proceed with plans to create women bishops with minimal concessions to the traditionalists.
The majority of Anglo-Catholics are waiting until 2012 to see whether the church will pass the legislation which will allow women to be consecrated. They are hoping the plans will fail at the final hurdle.
The Rt Rev Keith Newton, the Bishop of Richborough, who is also leaving the Church of England said there was dismay at the way it had become increasingly liberal.
“It has changed a great deal. There is no doctrinal certainty anymore. It has become more relative.
“I’m sad about leaving as I owe a lot to the Church of England, but this [the Ordinariate] is a joyful opportunity.”