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Catholic Anglicans: don’t be taken in by this incoherent scheme to undermine the Ordinariate

The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda is not a credible alternative

By on Friday, 22 October 2010

The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda aims to copy the Ordinariate – except it will not be in communion with the pope

The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda aims to copy the Ordinariate – except it will not be in communion with the pope

You may not have noticed it (I had hardly noticed it myself) but the C of E (having with deliberation decided not to make any “special provision” for those opposed to women bishops) is currently mounting a last-minute attempt to undermine the Ordinariate for Catholic Anglicans which is expected to be erected in the New Year. This scheme (which I have absolutely no doubt has the discreet backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury) would be laughable if there were not a real possibility that it might persuade some Catholic Anglicans who are seriously considering coming into communion with the Bishop of Rome to stay where they are. They should be warned: have nothing to do with this scheme. It seems to me to be dishonest, deceitful and both morally and intellectually bankrupt.

The name of the disreputable organisation which hopes to inveigle those Anglicans seriously considering the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus into staying exactly where they are is the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. This was set up last month with the backing of 10 bishops claiming to be of Catholic mind; I can only say that I know some of these men of old and the ones I do know are about as “Catholic” in any real sense as a clockwork banana.

They claim that they are “committed to the full visible unity of the Church for its mission in the world and also to holding central the gift of the threefold order of ministry shared with others, received from the first millennium and held in trust for an ecumenical future” – a shared ministry officially rejected by their own Church nearly 20 years ago. They speak warmly of the Ordinariate, which, they say, is “an exciting initiative for those for whom the vision of ARCIC of corporate union has shaped their thinking over recent years”.

So why don’t they join it? The sting in the tail is in the last paragraph of their creepy statement: “The crucial issue is the ministry of the Pope himself, as the successor of St Peter. Anglicans who accept that ministry as it is presently exercised will want to respond warmly to the Apostolic Constitution. Those who do not accept the ministry of the Pope or would want to see that ministry in different ways will not feel able to accept Anglicanorum coetibus.”

In other words, they really think that they can plausibly claim to be “committed to the full visible unity of the Church” (there it is, in the very first sentence of their mission statement) while absolutely rejecting any notion of being in communion with the pope. So their ludicrous outfit (which naughty Damian Thompson has dubbed “St Hinge and St Bracket”) will copy the Ordinariate in every detail but one: they will not be in communion with the pope (that is with over half of Christendom) but they will be in communion with all the women bishops the validity of whose orders they refuse to accept, and with the disintegrating Church which will have ordained them. Incoherent, or what?

They say: “It will require courage, and vision on the part of those who accept the [Pope’s] invitation, particularly amongst the first to respond”. True. And for those Anglican “Catholics” (and the dismissive quotations marks will now become inevitable) who do not have the courage or the vision there is always St Hinge and St Bracket. Is that really what they want? The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe rather than the Pope? Where’s the vision in that?

  • nytor

    I hope that people considering the Ordinariate are not gulled by the SWISH scheme. It cannot succeed. Even if they temporarily put back the ordination of women as “bishops” in 2012 as a result of the latest synodal elections, it is inevitable eventually. Even if they secure “provision” for those opposed as was the case in 1992, it is wishful thinking to think that this could ever be permanent, as can be seen from the way in which the provision for PEVs is now to be withdrawn after pressure from Christina Rees of WATCH and others of her ilk.

    Why are Anglo-Catholics always looking to the next minor battle, in the hope of delaying the inevitable, when it is clear that their war has long been lost? Berlin may not have fallen, but Hamburg and Frankfurt are in flames. The Soviets cannot be halted. Wake up!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EWPDRNU7HH6HHF2RFOEW72KWJI Serge

    In other words, they really think that they can plausibly claim to be “committed to the full visible unity of the Church” (there it is, in the very first sentence of their mission statement) while absolutely rejecting any notion of being in communion with the pope.

    Such could become Orthodox but of course the scope of the Pope's not what this is probably really about.

    My guess is a lot of the stay-behinds are gay so Swish is mostly AffCath minus the clergywomen. Over time the sincere conservatives in it will die out and the rest will join AffCath (the feminists back the gay thing so the gays owe them one).

  • Hoppy

    I don't think they have a problem with being in communion with the Pope. They have a problem with papal infallibility as, of course, Cardinal Newman did, when it was introduced as dogma not very long ago.

  • Didymus

    As someone who is looking forward to joining the ordinariate, I certainly won't be taken in by this desperate attempt of those who seem to want to stay in the Cof E simply to fight another day, where is the mission opportunity in that? No bring on the Ordinariate – there is a gathered congregation from all around my area of around 40-50 just waiting for the green light now, in fact since the Society model was announced numbers have increased slightly – so bring it on!

  • W Oddie

    Wrong. Newman had no trouble at all with papal infallibility. He doubted whether it was wise formally to declare it at the time.

  • john_of_hayling

    Serge………. so on your model AffCath will become DeCaff?…………

  • Tiggy

    I have to say, I don t get all this posturing. Either The Roman Catholic Church is the one true Church, and so the right one to belong to. Or it is not. No matter what happens elswhere.

  • Poor_Parson

    There is a certain amount of paranoia revealed here. Nobody is plotting against the Ordinariate. The vast bulk of Anglican Catholics are not going to join and they are making their own arrangements for their future life in the Church of England. Following the recent elections to general Synod it is clear that the proposals for women bishops will not go through as planned and the entire landscape has shifted. Anglican Catholics intend to have a future as Anglicans.

  • W Oddie

    But we do have a pastoral responsibility toward these people. And we are a missionary Church or we are nothing. We cannot just say let them just get on with it, as if it had nothing to do with us. That is the most profoundly uncatholic attitude imaginable.

  • W Oddie

    But you will no longer have any right left to describe yourselves as “Catholic”, whether you carry on saying the Angelus (if you do) or talk about celebrating the “Mass” or whatever other Catholic idiom you choose to use. You will have turned down a priceless opportunity to be Catholics in the full meaning of the word, that is, to belong to a Church which has some real right to describe itself as Universal. And for what? For your pensions, and the right to continue occupying churches most of which we built in the first place? Truly, “it shall profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.” . . but for the Church of England”? Are you serious?

  • john_of_hayling

    Poor indeed Parson…….. how does it make sense to continue in communion with people whose ordination you reject? (i.e. women). Once admitted to the priesthood it becomes sexist nonsense to say that 'OK – I will ignore this small matter, but don't let me see a woman bishop'. There is no logic in stopping women ordained by the CofE from becoming bishops. Anglo-Catholics delighted when the Old Catholics started taking part in Anglican ordinations – since this meant that unquestionable Apostolic tradition was brought into the CofE. This theory must cut both ways. If you reject the ministry of women priests it follows that women bishops are also 'defective' and hence any men ordained by them are also defective. Within ten years the whole ministry becomes 'infected'. Your woman-free zone of the Hinge and Brackett Society cannot protect you.
    Relying on votes in Synod is a fool's paradise. The question will not go away and the proponents of episcopal women will keep at it until it happens.

  • IJ

    The journey into the heart of Christ is not usually a neat and tidy one. At different stages of our lives we can find ourselves in all sorts of complicated situations through which we find the Mercy of God reaching out to us. Our response can be tardy or just simply relief or joy or a whole host of others. The Ordinariate is part of that Mercy of God which is opening a door to some to walk more deeply into Christ. As Catholics we should be at least charitable, and ideally generous, about imputing motives to the reactions of those who while happily calling themselves Catholic, and being enthusiastic about this inspiring initiative of the Holy Father, find themselves unable to take this particular step. I have found that conversion comes when you feel respected in what you do believe. Some of these Catholic minded bishops may well come to join the Ordinariate in time and this new society may well enable them to find there way there.

  • MJCarroll

    I am afraid that the CofE is effectively a state religion and as a consequence they will have to follow UK Laws on equality. I could give a long reply but there is really nothing more to say. The writing is on the wall.

  • David Lindsay

    Some of us have been saying since the Year Dot, or so it feels, that no legislation providing for women bishops would ever receive a two-thirds majority in all three Houses of the General Synod.

    The new Synod has just been elected. Forward in Faith and Reform only need one more vote, easily obtainable from among the undecided Evangelicals, to block it in the House of Clergy. And in any case, they already have enough votes to block it in the House of Laity.

    But instead, they are blathering on about conscience clauses and what have you. Why? The people far beyond their natural support who manipulated STV for multimember constituencies in order to give them this number of seats did not do so for that, but in order to kick the whole thing into the long grass, preferably permanently.

    No one who does not accept in full the claims of Rome can submit to Her; no one who does can fail to do so. In its own terms, if a new network of Conservative Evangelical congregations would better serve the proclamation of the Gospel, then it must be created anyway. In neither case does any other consideration arise.

  • Poor_Parson

    Don't be so silly, William. Rome is not “universal” – ask the Orthodox, many of whom regard the pope as a protestant. You really do reveal your ignorance by referring to pensions. Nobody loses their pension by resigning from their ministry in the Church of England. As for our church buildings – they were built by the English Church, not by Italian prelates. We are Catholics because of our faith, which has nothing to do with the preposterous claims of the see of Rome.

  • W Oddie


  • nytor

    “they were built by the English Church”

    But the English Church was Catholic in the Middle Ages. Do you think it would recognise you now? Do you think St. Augustine of Canterbury (an Italian prelate, by the way) or Lanfranc (hang on, another Italian prelate) or Anselm of Aosta (are you sensing a theme here?) would recognise your orders as valid? Or St Thomas Becket, who died for the rights of the Church vis a vis the Crown?

    If you think that you are a continuation of the medieval English Church, and that you can somehow divorce the medieval English Church from Rome, then you are ahistorical and delusional.

  • Tiggy

    Em, some of your buildings were built by the Catholic people of the middle ages. Before the Protestant beliefs were forced upon them by the serial wife killer Henry V111 and his decendants. You people really do just make it up as you go along.

    As for women Bishops, it has to come, once they are made “Priests” since they are equal to men, they must be made “Bishops” stands to reason.

    I see here in Scotland a group of Episcopalian Priests are meeting a Catholic Bishop about their future. Welcome home I say!

  • Tiggy

    Not quite what I said.

  • FrHeythrop

    nytor- You are the one who is being ahistorical and delusional – any Catholic today has far more in common with Rowan Williams than with Anselm or Becket.

  • Parson_Russell

    Some converts, W Oddy, are like ex smokers, zealously antipathetic towards their former habit. Your article was somewhat intemperate – after all – what does it matter to you if Anglican catholics who wish to stay in the CofE are not quite kosher? I can't see that the new society will work out either but I wish it well since the majority of Anglican catholics want to stay in the CofE with their own bishops. (I am a convert too by the way)

  • nytor

    I cannot remotely see how that can be the case. Rowan Williams is sunk in heresy.

  • nytor

    I would also say that the Church vociferously resists state interference in its affairs to this day. The state does not appoint its bishops. When the state attempts to make the Church do something which it cannot do, then it refuses (its agencies will never assess gay couples as adopters, however many laws the state passes). Anselm and Becket are very much in our blood.

  • http://www.GetToMass.com John 6:54

    If your going to swim the Tiber, then swim the Tiber. Otherwise hang with misguided women.

  • Josephsoleary

    The argument from martyrdom rarely works — More and Becket had views of church authority that no Catholic today would hold; and Cranmer was an excellent martyr for freedom of religion against state tyranny too.

  • Josephsoleary

    Newman reduced the import of papal infallibility to a minimum, and rightly, since if one makes a dogma binding de fide one must take great care not to exaggerate what it says. In fact the dogma of 1870 had the providential effect of reducting the scope of papal infallibility to almost nothing (there are only two surviving candidates for the rank of papally infallible dogmas, and even those two cannot be infallibly determined to belong to this category…).

  • Josephsoleary

    nytor, Do you hold that the Pope has the godgiven right to depose Monarchs?

  • M Osborne

    According to the Latin rite we haven't been able to call ourselves 'Catholic' for years. But I dare say we'll carry on carrying the Gospel to the English in a way that the Roman church has and is unable to do (for all sorts of reasons only some of which are related to dogma or worship).

    I'd find this conversation much more appealing if it didn't conceal a collapse in membership in the Latin rite and an equal if not greater problem with presenting church teaching to contemporary society within the hierarchy or 'Magisterium'. Remember the preachers marginal notes “argument weak, shout louder”.

  • David J. Evans

    Some say that the reformed Church of England started in Henry V111's codpiece! however there was more to it than that. The Roman Church was at the time riddled with corruption, and it still is. The early church in England, the Celtic Church went into communion with Rome at the Synod of Whitby and came out of it at the reformation. The Roman church is an enormous autocratic power structure and has been since the days of the early church. The Anglican communion is not like that.

    Inspite of the “Dutch Touch” Rome still considers Anglican Orders null and void, so any anglican priest having defected to Rome will then have to believe that his entire previous ministry was null and void. How on earth can he do that?

    All Commited Anglican priests of Catholic Conviction Should Stay in the fully and completely Catholic Cof E

    David Evans.

  • SluggerJim

    I think the tone and volume of some of the comments on the reluctance of Anglicans to join the Ordinariate betrays an uncharitable insensitivity to their predicament. It is easy for us to say 'join or be damned' but I doubt that Jesus would say such a thing. The role of the pope is just as much a stumbling block for the Anglicans as it is for the Orthodox. The way we view the office of the pope is historically conditioned and we cannot dismiss their moral scruples as groundless. In the Middle Ages a pope could put the entire English nation under Interdict, forbidding the administration of the sacraments. Today we would call this heartless barbarism. Mistakes were made by both sides in the past and it is fruitless to dwell on them. What we must do now is welcome whoever freely chooses to join the Catholic Church and offer them our kind understanding and compassionate fellowship.

  • Caroline

    It is complete foolishness. Any Anglicans wishing to gaze into a crystal ball to see the future need look no further than the experience of the American Episcopal Church where the first female bishop, Barbara Harris, was ordained in 1990. David Virtue wrote an excellent piece in July titled, “Women Bishops Will Sink the Church of England as They Have Done In the Episcopal Church.”. I recommend reading it in its entirety here:



    “Today, there are 17 women bishops ranging from Harris, the first female bishop, to Glasspool, the last. Harris, now 80 and divorced, once described her sexuality as “ambiguous”. Glasspool is an avowed lesbian. Only one, Bishop Geralyn Wolfe of Rhode Island, might be described as orthodox. It was she who deposed a black woman priest who declared she could be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim at the same time. This took guts, as one doubts that a liberal or revisionist white male bishop would have had the temerity to dump her for fear of the Black Women's Caucus coming down on top of him for lack of inclusion.”

    “In terms of Average Sunday Attendance and general population growth in those dioceses, the losses have ranged from 21% (Maine) to 49% in Nevada (former diocese of Jefferts Schori).

    The answer as to what women bishops in The Episcopal Church have achieved is nothing. If they were CEO's of small corporations, they would all have been fired for failure, at the very least, to maintain growth and expand it, that is, show a return (on the plate) for future growth. All these dioceses are contracting with an average parishioner age in the low to mid 60s with the average size congregation now below 70.”

  • W Oddie

    Oddie, please, not Oddy

  • observer

    It is ridiculous to claim to know down to the last vote what will happen in 1212. Some members will have been replaced by then because of illness, change of job or location and people change their minds, especially when they hear the discussion.

  • Ian Logan

    I don't know if Nytor does but I do. In fact all monarchs should be desposed

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/dmar198 dmar198

    St. Thomas More helped write “Defense of the Seven Sacraments” when King Henry VIII was still Catholic (full title: “Defence of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther”). In chapter 2, titled “Of the Pope's Authority,” he valiantly defends what is now modern Catholic dogma: that the pope enjoys full and supreme sovereignty over all Christians by divine right (not by mere human right, which was, for a time, Luther's opinion, until he decided that the pope had only acquired his sovereignty by tyrrany).

    He happily quotes St. Jerome as representative of his own opinion on the matter: “it was sufficient for him that the pope of Rome approved his faith, whoever else should disapprove it.” Thus he shows that the Pope's definitions on faith are solemnly binding, which no modern Catholic could disagree with.

  • Neville DeVilliers

    “the disintegrating Church”. The real disintegration is happening within the Catholic Church as well Mr. Oddy. Forget about the Anglican Churches problems for a moment. Don’t forget that the bridge between Canterbury and Rome is a road well traveled with traffic moving in both directions. You and other Roman Catholics only delude yourselves in thinking it is a one-way street.

    As we may see, the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda holds out hope to Latin rite Catholics as well. Tired of an inadequate Roman liturgy, a poorly written English liturgical texts, a corrupt ,weak, and irrelevant hierarchy and pope who speak only to themselves and to a declining body of followers bent on mind control and total obedience. What’s to like here?

    There can be no true reunion with the Roman Church until Rome has healed it’s division from the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches. The historically fabricated papal overlordship down through history which has developed into the latest fraud: of a universal pastorate, continuing to draw all power to itself, will never be accepted by the Orthodox or ANY Protestant Church. It is being rejected by a growing number of informed Catholics as well.

    The Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda will succeed in not only keeping many Anglicans within the fold realizing they share a common destiny with Eastern Orthodoxy . It will become a beacon for many Roman Catholics as well. Weep not for the internecine battles within the Anglican Communion, but listen for the Rome’s funeral dirge too. Divisions, discord, and heresy have always been in the Church and always will be. Both the Anglicans and the Orthodox churches are accustomed to splits, divisions, and discord of every description. This is a health sign. A sign that arteriosclerosis hasn’t completely replaced the Church’s intellectual vitality. A state to which Roman Catholicism is rapidly succumbing as we speak.

    The growing underground Catholic Church–freed of the present hierarchy and of Benedict XVI–may soon have greater growth than the decaying above-ground Church itself. It’s growth from Ireland to South America indicates this is the Church of the future built upon a foundation of a newly established apostolic succession of bishops elected directly by people and priests together. From which both Anglicans and an enlightened post-”Benedictine” Catholicism will need to draw for new members and for clergy to meet the religious need of western Catholic Christianity.
    A new breed of enlightened Catholic is freeing himself and herself from a collapsing medieval, plutocratic,and Caesarian structure with no basis in scripture, but simply an historical artifact shaped by the exigencies, the twists and turns, of history. A Church in dire need of redefinition, free thinking, purification from sin, and a total revolution of the laity from the bottom up. No Church council can accomplish this until the laity themselves have taken charge, reclaimed the Church as their Church, deny the loot in the collection plate, and grab power for themselves. All power to the People of God!!

  • Joyjahans

    O dear.  If the Ordinariate is so catholic it should look to the 10 Commandments – or have they left out Thou shalt not steal to take £1 million from CBS so generously donated by themselves to themselves.