I strongly suspect that the recent overture to disgruntled Anglicans is not just about providing a welcome mat to some Anglicans, but is in effect setting the parameters and precedent for reunification with the Russian Orthodox Church--amongst other culturally conservative Christian churches. It also is another step in what I see as the real agenda of Benedict's papacy.
First, the issue of Papal primacy has taken a back burner in this Anglican invitation in favor of the doctrinal and cultural issues of gays and women clergy. In giving socially conservative Anglicans their own rite, with little said so far about the extent of Vatican influence in their internal affairs, the Vatican is sending a message. It's a message which should play very well in Russian Orthodox circles where there is the same concern about the decay of Western morality and church discipline, but also serious questions about the extent and nature of papal primacy. There is no longer much concern about liturgical issues, since Benedict issued his Motu Proprio--an act which has the additional potential of paving the way for dividing Roman Catholicism along liturgical lines.
It's beginning to look to me as if Benedict has always had a long term strategy for his Papacy, and it's not one he has been transparent about. His goal seems to be the unification of certain socially conservative segments of Christianity even if it means a less autocratic centralized papacy.
In Roman Catholicism itself, he is doing exactly the opposite. He is underscoring papal authority in order to foster division between traditionalists and Vatican II progressives and between the West and the South. He is doing as much as he can to isolate Western progressives and it's purposeful. It looks to me that Western progressives are the price he is willing to pay for his idea of socially regressive ecumenism.
None of these Vatican moves have had anything to do with real ecumenism. They are all reactionary moves that work against forward cultural evolution. They have everything to do with fostering a unification amongst socially conservative Christian groups in order to provide a united front against post modernism and secular notions of human rights and equality. It's about keeping the old guard, the old culture, and the old ways in charge.
Should the talks with SSPX follow along the lines I think they will, accommodation will be made for SSPX to give lip service to Vatican II as a pastoral council that did not make any radical breaks with Vatican I or Trent. The contested devils came in how the details were implemented and it was grossly misinterpreted in the subsequent years. JPII and now Benedict have been doing their best to reform the reform, but it takes time. SSPX will give them time.
This will be another favorable message to the Orthodox, and undoubtedly will be as well received as Bendict's Motu Proprio. SSPX will be welcomed back with even wider arms. The Orthodox will be smiling on the Vatican even more favorably. In time these overtures will be extended to socially conservative Christians of other persuasions. I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't secret talks taking place amongst the Vatican and disgruntled Lutherans even as I write.
However, the biggest reason I think this is the true agenda is because all of these overtures have been taken in secrecy without any consultation with the wider church--even within the Vatican itself. The Times of London has written that not one single English Catholic bishop participated in the discussions that led to this latest overture by Benedict. They were sandbagged. Virtually the entire Church was sandbagged by the lifting of the SSPX excommunication. Very few people were consulted before the issuing of Benedict's Motu Proprio and many of those who were, objected to it. ICEL was dumped wholesale in favor of non English speaking traditionalists. Benedict has stocked the Vatican dicasteries with the conservative yes men, some of them the worst reactionaries in American Catholicism, and lest I forget, there are the dual LCWR investigations which in reality are aimed as much at American progressives as they are the LCWR.
I don't see this latest offer from the Vatican as a product of some sort of enlightened ecumenism. It's another secretive purposeful salvo designed to split Christianity along cultural rather than theological lines and it's aimed as much at Roman Catholicism itself as other Christian denominations. The schism is coming in Catholicism because Benedict and his backers want it and are actively pushing for it.
Are you listening Rowan Williams? The only difference between what's happened in Anglicanism and what's happening in Catholicism is Benedict is on the side of all the secret reactionary money and you aren't. If Benedict continues on this path he will provide you with plenty of company and best of all you can finally act with full integrity, a concept he doesn't seem to understand.