A commenter asked me recently about a mutual acquaintance of ours who is an agent of the Illuminati – Anglican church branch (retired, though with global domination conspiracies you are never really retired, you just scale back your more nefarious deed doings). He was wondering what this fellow thought about this issue of the Roman Catholic church taking in Anglican priests and parishioners and allowing these defecting congregations to maintain Anglican rites and letting them keep their priest even if he is married with kids as is permitted in the Anglican church. To paraphrase the Illuminati agent in question, he said that while he could see how some Anglicans might be offended at what might be poaching of members and clergy, it didn’t put a bee in his bonnet personally.
I suppose that this Anglican churchman realizes that Anglicans have been benefiting from Catholic defections over the issues of homosexuality, women clergy, divorce and the centralization of final authority under one person. Both Catholic priests and laity have come to Anglicanism because, except for their stances on these and some other minor issues, the two faiths are hard to tell apart. Granted, this move by the Pope is aimed at whole congregations and is far more in-your-face than quietly ushering people in one at a time but most people don’t expect a massive wave of apostasy toward the Catholic church. If anything, there is at least as much concern that the Anglican church may become indistinguishable from the United Church of Canada.
Personally I think it could be a smart move for the Catholic church and neither good nor bad for the Anglican church. African dioceses of the Anglican communion have been greatly at odds with the Western industrialized side of the faith, and over these very issues of homosexuality and women in the church. Since church policy is set largely by consensus it makes for some frantic Lambeth Conferences. Even those things which get made into Anglican Church policy can often be subject to the desires of individual archbishops as some Anglican churches oppose homosexuality and ban women and gay clergy/marriages. Catholics could stand to gain some churches and since Africa is not very far along on its demographic transition it could well see enough growth to make up for the losses to both churches from secularism in the West. Both churches will benefit from this population boom (until it runs out of steam) but Catholics would gain both from natural increase and from defections. Already both churches are addressing their clergy shortages in the West by importing African born clergy.
If this move does result in many congregations switching to Catholicism it will have some interesting effects. Anglicanism will lose people who are more “conservative” on these swing issues of homosexuality and women clergy and thus could become more “liberal”. Meanwhile, liberal Catholics will wonder why it is permissible for former Anglican priests to marry and have kids while lifer Catholic priests can’t. They will either pressure the Papacy for change or switch to the Anglican church. Or just leave.
All of this is but a sideshow to the real trends both churches are facing. In the West, while atheism, agnosticism and secularism are growing there is another fast growing group of C&E Christians and even completely unattached Christians. Neither change bodes well for organized religions in the areas. At the same time the spread of Christianity in Asia (and covertly in the Middle East/Muslim regions) along with population expansion in Africa coupled with erosion of traditional indigenous faiths like animism in the region is seeing Christianity – Anglican, Pentecostal, Catholicism and even Mormonism if you consider it a Christian faith – make some impressive though ultimately temporary gains in global market shares.
The commenter also mentioned that he didn’t know that religions could, in a sense, merge. It is true that the vast majority of changes in the religious spectrum are divergences into two or more new sects. But mergers are not unprecedented. Anglican and Lutheran churches have agreed to enter into “communion”, meaning that a person in one church can receive communion in the other. Many Anglican churches have a policy that anyone in good standing with their own church can receive Anglican communion (and it’s not like they do a background check as you approach the rail). Religions are like biological species in that we think of these changes as either examples of the whole species changing as a mutation spreads in the population or a diversion of the species into two new ones which eventually change so much that they can not produce fertile offspring when they mate. We rarely think of two species merging into one or creating a hybrid “species” beyond individual hybrid organisms. It was once asserted that the definition of a separate species was that individuals from each group would not create a fertile offspring if they mated, just as donkeys and horses create infertile mules when they mate. You can not get a breeding population of mules. But then it seems obvious that tigers and lions are different species yet their offspring (in zoos) can mate with each other or with either species to produce offspring. So they tweaked the definition of species to say that they can’t produce “viable” offspring. Outside of a zoo or enclosure setting, offspring of lions and tigers don’t do well. The two species have different hunting strategies and socialization instincts and the mix doesn’t suit them to survive and find a mate. New discoveries further challenge our concept of “species” as viral and bacterial genes merge with multicellular organisms genomes. There is a really, really, REALLY cool species of wasp which transmits a virus to the caterpillar which it injects its eggs into. This virus weakens the victim’s immune system just long enough for its eggs to hatch and eat the caterpillar. It certainly started out as a separate virus of caterpillars which happened to be spread by the wasp but it proved so useful to the wasp that the wasp incorporated the virus’ genes into its own genome so it could produce it as a biological weapon. Species can merge. So can religions.
There is actually a greater movement towards merging of religions or “ecumenicalism” as it is called. Like the desire for a one world government, a one-world religion is very tempting to many people. Denominations get together to try to convince each other that they should give up the issues which divide them so that Christianity (and in its more extreme forms, all religions) can become a single, unified, bland consensus. As a secularist I find myself in the uncomfortable situation of agreeing with many conservative Christians in feeling that this is the worst idea ever. It would require all religions to give up the values which conflict with other faiths and create an uber religion that would be far harder to resist than any others as it would have the political backing of vast segments of society. Don’t like worshiping many gods? Well Hindus do so go along or you’re hateful. Don’t believe in prophets or Messiahs? Well shut your blaspheming mouth. Ecumenicalism is almost tailor-made for a totalitarian government. Hmmm. Maybe that’s not a bad idea. As long as I get it implemented first.