You can call them Anglo-Catholics, or 'traditionalists', or just conservatives, but for high churchmen in the Church of England the door leading to Rome has long been ajar.
Now, in a daring stroke of ecclesiastical gamesmanship, Pope Benedict has pushed it open a little further — in fact wide enough for a beckoning finger to be pushed through.
Gamesmanship used to be defined as the art of winning without actually cheating. Shades of the worldly Archdeacon Grantly and Bishop Proudie!
Trollope would have loved this: the undercover negotiations about setting up a church within a church for the Anglican rebels who do not like women priests and homosexual bishops; allowing them to keep their Anglican services, but granting them full communion with Rome.
But the most scandalous feature was the secrecy, the Archbishop of Canterbury knowing no details of the plan until 48 hours before the embarrassing media briefing he was invited to attend. Ditto, the discomfited English Catholic bishops.
No wonder there have been headlines about the ‘end' of the Anglican Communion and dark mutterings about a bid to park Roman tanks on the Anglican lawn!
The reality may be somewhat less exciting. But the deep split among churchmen and women is no figment.
The Anglo-Catholic interest in the Church of Ireland is relatively tiny: there are one or two outposts in suburban Dublin.
But the theological split is already very real.
There is a pressure group, the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, which has been leaning on the bishops to come off the fence on homosexuality and women bishops — a fence upon which they have been uncomfortably perched since their carefully-worded pastoral letter six years ago.
The fellowship speaks for up to 100 clergy in the Church of Ireland, most of them said to be young theological conservatives.
There have been dark murmurings among them about the need for a second Reformation.
In spite of the bishops' bid to maintain a united front, their cautious and non-committal pronouncements (“The Church is in a period of active listening on the issue of human sexuality . .”) reflect their impossible position.
The Bishop of Down, Harold Miller, went to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops last year with strong reservations about sharing Communion with the Americans who had consecrated the new Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.
He is the much-publicised Gene Robinson, who had abandoned wife and children to adopt a homosexual lifestyle.
Meantime the evangelicals have been exhorted (by their visiting kindred spirit, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen) to be vigilant that no “official act which endorses sin” takes place within the Church of Ireland.
Keeping the Anglican show on the road is not impossible. It has always embraced extreme of churchmanship. It has existed on the basis of compromise for centuries.
But strong leadership will be required. It concerns some Anglicans that the Primate, Archbishop Williams, does not appear minded to provide it.
Like many intellectuals, he is strong on ideas, but weak in the political arts essential to |promote them.
He was reputed to be on good terms with Pope Benedict; both are theologians. They have known each other for years.
How then has the Archbishop been excluded from all knowledge and planning of an initiative which affects him intimately and which began — in extreme secrecy — in 2006?
How far was it advanced in July last year when Benedict, on a tour of Australia, went out of his way to warn off Anglicanism's disaffected Anglo-Catholics?
Far from holding the door open to the malcontents then, he told them to sort themselves out and make peace with their fellows, male and female. To back this up, he dispatched no fewer than three cardinals to that month's Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops at the University of Kent to convey his message.
As things stand now, the Pope faces a charge that he has not only betrayed, but insulted the Archbishop. Scarcely the best curtain-raiser for the coming papal visit to the UK.
For the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, the challenge in all this is to recapture the centre ground, where the champions of the rival certainties — Catholic and evangelical — could exist in separate tolerance at the extreme, as they have done for centuries, but where the large mass in the middle, nervous of |polarised dogma, could still feel |at home.
When someone like Terry Waite, once on the Archbishop's staff at Lambeth Palace, admits that he now attends Quaker meetings and, from time to time, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London, because the happy-clappy ambience and off-the-cuff |liturgy of too many Anglican churches does not appeal, there is a problem.