The Pope last October 20 announced a scheme to bring in disaffected Anglicans (Episcopalians in the USA and the Philippines) into the Catholic Church while allowing them to maintain their ecclesial traditions. The Pope's moves comes as an Apostolic Constitution called Anglicanorum Coetibus or in my rough Latin to English translation means "on groups of Anglicans". Apostolic Constitutions are Papal Bulls since they have an importance that concern the universal Church.
I have a keen interest in Anglicanorum Coetibus since we have Anglicans in the family and I was raised as one attending services at Cathedral Heights as a child. The Anglican Communion has been dealing with issues on female priests and bishops, episcopal authority, the ordination of non-celibate gays and now the blessing of gay unions. It seems that the last two issues are the two last straws the broke the camel's back. Conservatives in the USA have split from the Episcopal Church (TEC) and formed their own Anglican Church in North America. Whole parishes and dioceses have seceded causing a flood of lawsuits as departing congregations insist on holding to their churches. US legal precedent sides with TEC since a canon of the TEC states that dioceses and parishes do not own their church buildings.
The troubles of the TEC have also made way into the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) with some congregations uncomfortable with female priests and bishops, gay bishops and blessing of gay unions. The ECP was founded by American missionaries in 1901 with Bishop Charles Henry Brent as missionary bishop. Bishop Brent is fondly remembered by Anglicans and Catholics for being a witness for ecumenism. Bishop Brent refused to convert Roman Catholics by not "building an altar over another" but instead focused his missionary efforts on the unchurched and non Christian Filipinos. Thus today the strength of the ECP lies in the Cordilleras where most of its clergy come from.
An Episcopalian friend told me that some conservative parishes were totally against what TEC now stands for. This according to him has placed the church leaders in an awkward situation as the TEC was the mother church and had supported the Filipino church for almost a century until 1992, when the church became an autonomous province.
What will the Pope's move do to the ecumenical effort in the Philippines? The Catholic and Philippine Episcopal bishops seem to have kept mum on whether some will take the Pope's offer. But this article in the Union of Catholic Asian News suggests that some are considering the offer. But this comes with a problem. Filipino Catholics are not ready for married clergy. If Episcopal priests join the Catholic Church and still be priests, they will be dispensed from the obligation of celibacy. They will have a family to support. Now since many Filipino parishes whether this be Catholic or Protestant are so poor that the Catholic parishes are unable to support their celibate priest. (However in the Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI) a church in communion with the Anglicans, married priests have been in charge of parishes for more than a hundred years)
In the United States and UK, Anglican priests who have been received into the Catholic Church have been dispensed from celibacy and have been warmly received by Catholics. But there had been some experience of a married clergy in the American and English church as permanent deacons (who can be married) have served since the late 1960s as a result of Vatican II reforms. The permanent diaconate has not been implemented in the Philippines since there is a concern that the Philippine church couldn't support them.
How the ecumenical landscape will look like after Anglicanorum Coetibus is interesting. In the Philippines, oppressive social inequities are the focus of the ecumenical effort especially for the ECP, IFI and the Catholic Church who minister to the very poor.