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Only Eames can save Anglicans

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Robin Eames, the former boss of the Church of Ireland, should be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury to stop the worldwide Anglican Communion falling apart.

It's perfectly clear the present archbishop, Rowan Williams, has got his holy knickers in a real twist over Pope Benedict's tactically brilliant invite to allow entire Anglican flocks to defect to Rome.

The invite, to be set in tablets of stone under the fancy title of the Apostolic Constitution is the most damaging threat to mainstream Protestantism since the Counter Reformation.

The invite would never have been even dreamt off, let alone issued, if Eames had been in charge of Anglicanism.

In spite of worldwide rows within the Anglican Communion over women priests in the pulpit and the ordination of gay priests, Eames held the Church of Ireland together.

Even some of the most liberal flocks in the Republic stayed loyal to the faith, rather than jump ship to Rome.

Rumour has it up to 1,000 Anglican clerics in Britain are set to bog off for the high life of Vatican rule.

Eames' legacy is that very few, if any, Irish Anglicans will opt for Rome. Why? Many liberal Anglicans fear a backlash from the thousands of Orange Order members firmly entrenched in the Church of Ireland, which is still the island's largest Protestant denomination.

But Benedict is playing a very high wire act; one which could backfire badly both on Rome and Irish Catholicism.

The pope's historic hand of friendship will only work if a trickle of Protestants defect; just enough to topple the Act of Settlement which prevents a papist bum gracing the Throne of England.

Benedict could cope with a few hundred married Anglican clerics crossing over. But what happens if the Vatican cannot contain the flood gates and tens of thousands of Protestants pile into Catholic pews?

Within a matter of months, Benedict rather than seeing his reign bringing unity, will actually sow the seeds for the Second Reformation.

His trendy Apostolic Settlement recognising these defecting Protestants as a sect in their own right in Catholicism could well signal the end of the Catholic Church as we know it, not the Anglican Communion.

It's the same fear republicans harbour about a united Ireland. What would nationalists do with one million Unionists?

A united Ireland would act as the trigger to signal unity among the Unionist family. Unionists would end up becoming the power brokers across the whole 32 counties.

So what would happen Catholicism in Britain and Ireland if one million Protestants joined Rome? For a start, the pro-nationalist Irish Bishops would find themselves in the minority.

Certainly, it will see many gay priests having to hide in the confessional, and women will return to the traditional Protestant role of making the tea at church functions.

Looks like Benedict has forgotten about the maxim – if you cannot beat them, join them.

And Benedict's invite could provide a much needed platform for Protestant fringe groups like the Orange Reformation Movement.

Like its forerunner, the controversial Spirit of Drumcree group in the 1990s, the ORM had little say within Protestantism.

But with Benedict's invite on the table, fanatical Orange clerics may well leave their tub-thumping sideslines and become the order of the day in Ireland.

November 3, 2009

This article appeared in the November 2, 2009 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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