Well, the media mantra about the Vatican’s welcome to Anglicans has begun, and the anti-Catholicism is about as ugly as it gets.
Venues such as National Public Radio, the London Times, and the Kansas City Star describe the Church as “poaching.” USA Today says the Church is “rustling.” Other media outlets used the term “luring.” Some question whether the move was a “hostile takeover.” And London Times’ Columnist Libby Purves says that “converts may choke on the raw meat of Catholicism.”
No matter how you look at it, they’re all unsavory terms used by the secular media to describe the Church’s actions.
Even some Catholic commentators have taken to calling the move “sheep-stealing,” saying that there’s an unwritten rule that the Church doesn’t proselytize other Christians.
Since when did the Catholic Church cease to be an evangelizing Church, bringing the Gospel to all peoples?
At first, we might be puzzled by such reactions. Yet, it’s not so surprising when you think of the repercussions of the Church’s actions - potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Anglicans pouring into the Church from the U.S., Africa, and elsewhere. In the eyes of many, the Catholic Church is seen as the “enemy,” - the great authoritarian, patriarchal, fraternal “beast.”
While the media would like to see the Church as predator and the Anglicans as prey, there’s nothing of the sort here. In fact, the move, which has taken years to happen, occurred only because such a large number of Anglicans petitioned the Vatican to find a way to make it happen.
“This is a response to overtures that had already been made – it’s not as if the Catholic Church had gone ‘poaching’ or ‘fishing’ as some media may have claimed,” said Father Robert Imbelli, associate professor of theology at Boston College. “The Apostolic Constitution has not yet been issued and that will be the key document. It will set the parameters for the reception. It sounds as if it represents an accommodation to the Anglican tradition, which reflects the appreciation of the richness of that tradition. It has been the ecumenical discussions that have led to this new appreciation.”
The Anglican Church, by comparison, has gone the way of the world. In many ways, they’ve ceased to be counter-cultural or a “sign of contradiction.” In that sense, they have a good friend in the media. They’ve jumped into the same water and are floating downstream together.
One of the few things standing against that cultural current is the Catholic Church.
“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it,” the great British journalist and convert G.K. Chesterton used to say.
Contrary to the media reports, the Catholic Church isn’t poaching, luring, bidding, stealing, or rustling. The Catholic Church is preaching the Gospel Truth, much as it has done for the past 2,000 years.
The Truth, you see, isn’t a steel trap, with unrelenting teeth. No, the Truth is a freedom the likes of which the world has never known. And the Truth always attracts.
Christ didn’t poach or lure his followers. He didn’t force them to follow. He respected their freedom. Jesus Christ spoke the Truth clearly and without apology, and his disciples were attracted by that. That’s a Truth that many Anglicans have found attractive as well.