Reading, quickly, quite a few posts on Rome's amazing offer of grace to Anglicans, I sense many are missing the main message in what is being proposed! (Though Kendall Harmon, cited in the post below, comes closest). The message is not 'on the face of it this will affect many, but in reality it will be a trickle not a flood taking it up' (so, many posts), nor is it 'Ah, check the fine print, its not really about Anglicans being Anglican in a Roman context, it's about Anglicans signing up to Roman contracts, becoming more or less RCs in the process, but being allowed to say their Anglican prayers and have an "ex-Anglican" as their Ordinary' (so, other posts).
No. The message is this: in a time of great difficulty for the church, decisive leadership is possible and, by God's grace, can be given; problems can be solved in a manner which enhances the unity of the church.
Pope Benedict has grasped an Anglican truth (strange though it may seem): Christians can be in fellowship together across their differences by accommodation. How can we assist Anglicans rent by division? How can we draw them into our fold while respecting their special character? By accommodating them with a special arrangement.
At one stroke of the pen Benedict has done what (say) ++Katherine Jefferts Schori, ++Rowan Williams, and others have failed to do: to find a way to accommodate those who share the faith but differ in practice.
++Katherine Jefferts Schori, I suggest, comes out particularly badly in the light of Benedict's luminous wisdom: litigating one's way through the courts of America is singularly divisive. Where has been TEC's hierarchy's bold, gracious offer of some form of accommodation to disaffected Episcopalians as an expression of intention to enhance the unity of the church? Why has the determination to expend money and energy on litigation not been matched by an 'extra mile' determination to arrive at an accommodating special arrangement for disaffected Episcopalians?
++Rowan Williams, surely, must be now reflecting carefully on the inability of the General Synod of the Church of England to find a bold, gracious means of accommodating the real differences between proponents of and opponents of ordaining women to the episcopacy - an inability exposed by Benedict's cleverness and courage.
++others: some of us need to look very carefully at whether, for the best of doctrinal motives, to be sure, we have failed to work out whether, in the end, an accommodation of difference might be possible in our contexts (conservative of liberals, liberals of conservatives, straight of gay, etc). [In an earlier version of this post I noted the case when +Peter Selby, as Bishop of Worcester, and Charles Raven of Kidderminster could not find an accommodation - Doug Chaplin in a comment below offers an explanation of the reasons for the failure to find a mutually satisfactory accommodation]. Nothing is easy here: but is life less difficult after splits, schisms, and divisions?
Yes, just before you comment, I am aware that Benedict's proposal involves a doctrinal unity (i.e. signing up to RCC teaching) lacking in various Anglican situations. But, then, for Anglicans, that lack of doctrinal agreement has not always been a barrier to accommodation of difference!
Benedict's game plan is the unity of all Christians, East and West (as Kendall Harmon astutely observes). What is ours, dear Anglican bishops?