And so, the Roman Catholic Church has finally offered a home to those Anglican priests who oppose the ordination of women and gay men. Let's be honest here, such an offer was always on the cards, and it will be interesting to see how many take up the opportunity and, for that matter, how many parishioners do the same.
What I find most astonishing though is Lord Carey's complaint over the lack of consultation before the Pope's offer. Pardon me but, aren't the two Churches in dispute over doctrine? This is religion, based on belief, not some sort of cosy cartel. Catholicism, like Protestantism, is a faith which seeks to expand its influence, and the notion that the Catholic Church might not take advantage of the growing fissures in the Church of England is laughable.
As a Catholic myself, I suppose that I ought to declare an interest. Admittedly, it would be a very broad definition of practising that encompassed my occasional guilty candle lighting, but I am a Catholic nonetheless.
There is the potential for difficulties, however. How will the Catholic Church in England and Wales in particular cope with a large number of married priests appearing in its midst? If you had had sworn your vow of celibacy, would you find it easy to stick to it when the priest in the neighbouring parish was living with his wife and children? What about transubstantiation? And presuming that you get the clergy, will the worshippers follow and, even if they do, is their faith strong enough? After all, they were followers of the Church of England without demur so what has changed? Where will they worship if the Church of England retains the estate?
From an Anglican perspective, there are advantages. A more united Church can only be a good thing, even if it a smaller one. There might also be a greater opportunity for Anglicanism to take a more visable role in our body politic, speaking as one on the great moral issues that face us.
There are other political implications. Does a shrunken Church of England merit twenty-six members of the House of Lords? Indeed, does it merit retaining its status as the state faith? Is this the opportunity for disestablishment, or for replacing some of the Bishops with representatives of other faiths? Given the current moves towards further reform of the House of Lords, could this be a useful coincidence of timing?
I was never wildly impressed by George Carey when he was Archbishop of Canterbury. If he had taken a firmer line when he was in charge, his successor might not have had half as many problems as he does now. And perhaps the Vatican wouldn't have parked its tanks on the lawns of Lambeth Palace...