Yes, it is a rather significant thing that Benedict XVI has done, reaching out to unhappy Anglicans who are troubled by the Church's treatment of women and homosexuals as actual human beings. Personally, I think the Onion managed to hit another timely home run with its article on the Roman Catholic priesthood:
Priest Shortage Forces Vatican To Hire Temps To Deliver Sacred Rites
MILWAUKEE—In an emergency effort to boost the dwindling number of Roman Catholic priests in the United States, the Vatican contracted with a nationwide staffing firm last week to hire thousands of temporary employees to provide liturgical services and administer holy sacraments in its American churches.
"The reduced number of active diocesan clergy has forced us to take unprecedented measures to stop parishes from closing," Pope Benedict XVI explained in a decree issued Saturday by the Vatican. "That is why, for the first time in two millennia, we're allowing pretty much anyone who is willing to show up at 9 a.m. and work for slightly more than minimum wage to act as a Vessel of Christ."
In the United States and England especially the Roman Catholic Church has suffered from a priest shortage for decades. It's partly to blame for the indefensible, despicable actions on the part of bishops in keeping known sexual predators in parish ministry. So it's hardly surprising that Rome would look to other sources of priests, particularly one that has managed to keep up a few standards over the years.
What isn't astonishing is that Benedict would allow Anglicans to keep their rituals and for there to be married priests. This is exactly the same deal that Eastern Rite Catholics get, who conduct their affairs in pretty much the same way as Eastern Orthodox churches, except that they are under the authority of the Pope in Rome.
Anglicans and Roman Catholics have been converting back and forth for quite some time, and even aside from Eastern Rite Catholics, there are married priests in the Roman Catholic church, converts from Anglicanism or Eastern Orthodoxy, usually. None of this is new. The only real news is that Benedict is setting aside what has long been considered proper etiquette for the primates of each Catholic tradition.
As for this, Douthat has, again, just written a bunch of gibberish, words that seem to make sense when put in connection with one another, but which, after a second or so of rational reflection, fail to make any coherent point whatsoever. Benedict isn't trying to unite Anglicans and Roman Catholics for a Crusade against the Ottoman Turks against Islam, he's merely trying to bring schismatic Anglicans into his fold instead of having them set up independent shops.
I'm most interested in what Peter Akinola has to say about this, since he and his allies have so far been the beneficiaries of Anglicanism's troubles. I suspect that Archbishop Akinola, the Anglican Communion's wannabe Pope, is none too pleased. The Global South group, which Akinola controls, has already released a statement opposing Benedict's offer. Again, no surprise, and not nearly as interesting as what Akinola would say in private.