DIPLOMATIC fears that the creation of the Ordinariate might lead to violence against Roman Catholics in the UK are “completely wrong” and a misreading of the situation, said one of the Bishops leaving the Church of England.
The WikiLeaks website published secret cables revealing details of a conversation between the British ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, and the United States’ deputy chief of mission to the Holy See, Julieta Valls Noyes.
The pair spoke after the Archbishop of Canterbury met the Pope in November 2009 (News, 27 November 2009), after the Vatican’s surprise invitation to traditionalists to secede to the Roman Catholic Church while retaining their Anglican “patrimony”.
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Andrew Burnham, announced last month that he was leaving the Church of England to join the Ordinariate, together with four other bishops. He said this week that he thought from the WikiLeaks disclosures that Mr Campbell was either joking or “he feared for a bigger reaction than was going to happen.”
The cables report Mr Campbell — a Roman Catholic who has been ambassador at the Vatican for five years — as saying: “The crisis is worrisome for England’s small, mostly Irish-origin, Catholic minority. There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off.” He allegedly warned: “The outcome could be discrimination or in, isolated cases, even violence against this minority.”
Bishop Burnham said: “This is completely wrong: it perhaps shows Francis’s own Northern Irish background.”
Mr Campbell is also reported to have said that the Pope’s move to establish the Ordinariate had placed Dr Williams in an “impossible situation”, and that Anglican-Roman Catholic relations were now facing their worst crisis in 150 years.
Bishop Burnham said he thought that Dr Williams had been “put in a difficult position”: “It is my understanding that he had thought that the Ordinariate — which he was given warning of — was for Anglicans in other countries rather than in the UK.” He said that the Ordinariate was going to start “very gently” in the UK next year, however, with only a “couple of dozen” groups.
“There are a few pioneering groups, who will be small in number; but, once [they are] established, there will be people who want to join them. But I don’t think it will do any damage to the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church.”
Mr Campbell has refused to comment on the leaks.
The RC author and broadcaster Clifford Longley told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme that Mr Campbell was “a man with his feet on the ground — he might have been making a joke.”
Mr Longley said that rifts between the Anglican and RC Churches had moved on since these cables were written: “This was all before the Papal visit this year, and in many respects the visit of Pope Benedict did help to heal that rift.”
A Vatican statement said: “Without venturing to evaluate the extreme seriousness of publishing such a large amount of secret and confidential material, and its possible consequences . . . these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them.”