A Caste System for Christians
The Pope's reaffirmation is simply another statement of what has always been the RC position -- at least for the last century or more.
(In what follows, I speak, naturally, from the Anglican position.)
On the one hand, there have been striking ecumenical advances -- Pope John's giving of his ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey being a highlight of deep symbolic import. But these haven't been matched, on the other hand, by any real advance in terms of official recognition of Anglican orders and hence of Anglican Eucharists. There is an inconsistency here in that RCs do recognize Anglican (and indeed Methodist, Baptist etc.) baptisms as valid providing they are trinitarian; so if our baptisms are valid, why not our Eucharists? Is that an Achilles heel in Rome's 'fixed' position?
This is all particularly ironic in England because every year or two some RC commentator (or indeed some secularist) will bang on about how wicked it is to have the Act of Succession (according to which the heir to the throne may not marry an RC, and may not become RC on pain of forfeiting the succession) still on the statute books 'in this day and age', etc etc -- while choosing not to notice that it is still mandatory for RCs in mixed marriages to bring up children as RCs. In other words, if (say) Prince WIlliam were to marry an RC, children (including his heir) would be brought up as RCs. I fully appreciate that this whole nest of questions must seem arcane and perhaps even ridiculous to cheerfully republican Americans, but it matters to a lot of English people.
More ironic in worldwide terms is the 'logic' (as in the document Dominus Jesus of four or five years ago) whereby the Eastern Orthodox churches are allowed the status of 'church' -- because, so Ratzinger claimed in that previous document, 'they objectively intend reunion with the See of Peter'. In other words, they don't 'subjectively' intend it -- ask any Orthodox theologian and you'll see! -- but the Romans somehow 'know' that, despite their subjective self-awareness, there is a reality -- rather like the 'substance' in 'transubstantiation' -- in which, though they are themselves unaware of the fact, they 'objectively' are always trying to reunite with Rome.
This is, I'm afraid, a classic case of an institution painting itself into a corner and being officially unable to find its way out. Happily, there are thousands, perhaps millions, of RCs who cheerfully ignore all this and establish excellent relationships at all levels -- including eucharistic hospitality -- with Anglicans and many other denominations. That's what we have to work on. No doubt there are 'in-house' reasons why Benedict has chosen this moment to remind us Anglicans and others that we remain second-class citizens. I don't think it makes any real difference to any of the real issues that actually face us right now.