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If a woman is a priest, she can also be a bishop: if she’s not, she can’t. Either way, there is now only one way out for Catholic Anglicans: it’s over the Tiber

The notion of setting up another ghetto for dissidents is simply ludicrous

By on Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Church of England General Synod (PA photo)

The Church of England General Synod (PA photo)

Is there any spectacle more absurd than that of the Church of England’s remaining Anglo-Catholics desperately attempting to negotiate “special arrangements” which will allow them in good conscience to remain within the Church of England once that body’s General Synod finally authorises women bishops?

Firstly, there is the prior question of women priests. Anglo-Catholics are already members of a Church which ordains these ambiguous beings. Are they priests, or aren’t they? (For the moment, put to one side the question of whether or not anyone in the C of E is a validly ordained priest.) If you believe they’re not, you are already yourself in an ambiguous condition, since you are a member of a Church which has arrogated to itself the power to ordain them, a power which even the Pope (like the Orthodox) denies that he possesses. You are a member, that is to say, of a Church which has already finally divorced itself from any possibility of reunion with the Universal Church of which it has thus far claimed to be a part. So, what kind of a Catholic does that make you? It is a question you must already have asked yourself; and to that problem there is now only one solution: the ordinariate. The existing arrangements for “flying bishops” were a temporary measure, which allowed a constituency of non-jurors to gather itself in preparation for secession: those temporary arrangements are no longer necessary and have now therefore morally lapsed.

But if you accept that women may be priests, that those women already ordained as such by the Church of England are validly ordained (and I actually heard a member of the Catholic group in Synod actually saying on the radio that he did accept them as priests, but that he didn’t want them to become bishops), then what are you on about? If a woman is a priest, then she is eligible to be a bishop. If she’s not, she isn’t. Either way, you are a member of a Church in which there are now hundreds of women priests: and whether you put yourself in a ghetto which doesn’t accept them or not, you are still in full communion with them (and don’t give me that stuff about “impaired communion”: you are in full communion with your own bishops (flying or not), who are themselves in full communion with the male bishops who ordained all these women, so you are in full communion with them: get used to it, or leave.

Expecting special arrangements (the issue which comes before the Synod today) that will allow you to imagine yourself on to some kind of fantasy island untroubled by women bishops as well as women priests is ludicrous. You only have to see the case put to see how ludicrous it is. Here, for instance, is the Rt Rev John Hind, Bishop of Chichester (who has said that women bishops are now inevitable):

Bishop Hind said: “I think the issue facing the Church of England at the moment isn’t whether there will be women bishops or not – which I think everyone accepts is the will of most of the dioceses – the issue is whether the Church of England wants to retain its historic comprehensiveness and generosity and space for dissent.

“Everybody understands that women bishops are coming into the Church of England, the only question is, is there going to be a space in the Church of England for those who, on theological grounds and ecumenical grounds, cannot accept that development.”

This is all very puzzling: for only last year, Bishop Hind was saying that he would join the ordinariate (which he warmly welcomed) if the C of E went ahead with women bishops:

“This is a remarkable new step from the Vatican,” he said [of the ordinariate] . “At long last there are some choices for Catholics in the Church of England. I’d be happy to be reordained into the Catholic Church.”

While the bishop stressed that this would depend on his previous ministry being recognised, he said that the divisions in the Anglican Communion could make it impossible to stay.

“How [he continued] can the Church exist if bishops are not in full communion with each other?” (My emphasis)

The fact is that it can’t: not for you, at any rate, or for anyone else who isn’t prepared fully to accept that Church’s ordained ministry: for, if you don’t accept its ministry, you don’t accept its sacraments. And if you don’t accept its sacraments, you don’t accept the entire foundation on which it has been so shakily constructed.

The fact is that there is now a real alternative: in your own words, bishop, “at long last there are some choices for Catholics in the Church of England”. I now confidently hope that you will make the only real choice left; a good time, perhaps, would be July – for that is when the General Synod will at last vote through the measure enabling women bishops. When that happens, you will know that the die is cast: and it will be time for you finally to come home. What, for you, is most to be feared is that the Synod will today accede to your request for “a space in the Church of England” to be made for people like you: for if it does, you will enter that space, and find yourself in a limbo of futility from which it may become more and more difficult to extricate yourself.

  • elleblue

    My understanding is that in Canada there seem to be internal fights over property and power among the TAC! So it’s not about doctrine or whether women can or should be priests? It’s about secular stuff.

  • Anonymous

    “Women reveal the prophetic nature of the church”.

    ## That is interesting – but what is it founded on ? The vast majority of Biblical & early Christian prophets of whom anything is known were men, not women. There was Deborah in Judges; Huldah the prophetess; a woman in Isaiah; Anna; a prophetess mentioned in Revelation; & the four daughters of Philip the deacon. And that is the lot AFAICR.  

  • Anonymous

    For both, actually.

  • Anonymous

    Better to ordain soft toys, if we are going down *that* route LOL. They do children good, not harm. They are comforting, you can make up stories about them, they are durable, they can be washed (& many can be heated), & they are ideal company at a child’s tea-party. And they won’t drink all the tea, either. And they are good friends. And they are sometimes blessed – which sounds a nice idea. If a harvest can be blessed, why not a felt dinosaur or a bean-bag cat or teddy bear ?

    It is not at all “obvious that maleness is a necessary ingredient for the priesthood”.

  • Alan

    For ecumenically-minded Catholics this is all very depressing.  Churches should not be trying to poach each others’ members, they should be working together to reach out to the unchurched majority.  An issue like women bishops should not be decided by a parliament or synod, where passions are hurled to and fro.  The objection of many (most?) of the Anglo-Catholics is that Rome does not do it.  Well, let’s set up a small group of theologians, from both factions of the Anglican Church AND the Catholic Church, and anyone else who cares to join (the Orthodox perhaps?) to study the actual pros and cons, setting aside as far as possible one’s own personal prefernces.  And the Roman theologians should not be restrained by the notion “if we change our practice, this is an admission that we were wrong in the past”. 
    Just a thought. 

  • Alan

    Femaleness is necessary for being a mother or nun,because of the definitions of the words.  This is far from obvious for priests.  The arguments for all-male priesthood have shifted over the years (Christ chose only men, the priest stands in the place of Christ (implying that His gender is the crucial issue)), tradition has always had it that way) but none of these arguments are convincing.  Just how is it “obvious”?

  • Little Black Censored

     “Gender” is often a giveaway word, implying that the writer thinks that sex is a  secondary characteristic. The subject is not “masculine or feminine” but “male or female”.

  • Anonymous

    A mother or nun by definition are female. However monks and fathers are their male equivalent and it can be argued that they can do just as good a job.

    Similarly priest is as it stands in the Catholic Church defined as a man. What is being debated is whether a woman could ever carry out the job of a priest. If so then the Catholic definition of priest would change to include both men and women.

  • Anonymous

    You beat me too it Alan!

  • Apostolic

    It is well known that most abuse takes place within families at the hands of married men and occasionally women. Quite apart from insurmountable obstacles to women clergy in the Catholic Church, they would have no impact whatsoever. This essentialist view of women is somewhat misplaced, when the appaling behavior of some religious sisters is recalled.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Because they aren’t priests. You’re missing the point: it’s not that women can’t be priests because they can’t do anything in particular that men can do, it’s that they (and un-ordained men, for that matter) can’t do some things because they aren’t priests.

    Again, the priesthood – while conferring certain duties and allowing one to do such things as consecrate the Eucharist – is not about, on this most basic level, what you do at all. it’s about what you are.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Presumably, as far as I know, but “promotion” is only part of it. What it is is a VAST increase in responsibility, and a married person already has a vast amount of responsibility to his wife. It’d be like telling the President of the US that he now also had to be the PM of the UK without in anyway combing those duties.

  • Atorrendon

    Perhaps we are fighting for the wrong reason…trying to gain more and worried about territory…based on Metaphors and Myths…we call creeds, dogmas, and beliefs. We are so worried about our Walls, when the world out there are building walls..around, with and without our Great myths. We are busy collecting stones, that we forget the diamond…We fall victims like those dynasties and gods who quarrelled in the old kingdoms of Egypt, where are they now after so many Millenia?  Maybe a better Myth will unite the world.

  • Richard M. Sawicki

    How true!  How true!  I am a Catholic who used to share an apartment with two Russian Orthodox gents who belonged to the “Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia” (i.e. loyal to Constantinople and not the KGB-influenced Moscow Patriarchate).  They made no hesitation of “explaining” how the Russian, Georgian, and Ukrainian churches were “true Orthodox”, and how the Greek, Bulgarian, Romanian were NOT.  Oh, and you wouldn’t want to get either of these two started on what they thought of the “Orthodox Church in America” or the “Russo-Carpathian” church.

    To make it even more hilarious, after the ROCOR reunited with Moscow, one of these two gents decided that this was an act of apostasy and ran away to Canada where he joined one of innumerable, small “Orthodox True Believer” groups who opposed to the reconciliation.  I suggested to the other one that he had joined the “Russian Orthodox Church outside the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia”.

    Make no mistake about it..there is no one single “Orthodox Church”.  They are nationalist bodies to the “N-th” degree and can’t even decide among themselves who belongs to what church or what jurisdiction.

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

    Richard M. Sawicki

  • Jacob Suggs

    Equal in dignity, but not identical. An orange is a good as an apple, but only an apple can be made into apple pie. Granted, you can do all kinds of awesome stuff with oranges. But you can’t make apple pie out of em.

    It’s a stupid analogy, but as you keep saying that God made us equal as if that is relevant to the argument, some sort of stupid analogy was necessary and this was the best I could do in 7 seconds.

  • Lazarus

    Merely gentle teasing, Isaac! Of course, you’re quite right that truth rather than facial hair should be the test here.

  • Lazarus

    Fortunately there’s no need as Rome has already spoken quite clearly in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

  • Lazarus

    I don’t think you realize the absolute despair that settles on a serious Anglican, trying to keep faith with that great awakening to apostolic tradition which was the Oxford Movement, and realizing that a Church they loved is becoming simply a liberal shadow show. The Ordinariate is just a great, imaginative act of kindness to the desperate. I hope that those still within the C of E recognize it as such, and that the English Church does all it can to realize its potential.

  • Adrian Johnson

    If the Roman theologians are not restrained by the notion “If we change our practice, this is an admission that we were wrong in the past” then they do not have the courage of their convictions: which they hold not from the mutable secular politics of contemporary culture, but from Divine Tradition inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

    Should they change their practice and thereby declare they were “wrong in the past”, then they would be saying that the Holy Spirit was wrong, and therefore taught them wrongly in the past. (Recall St Paul: “God is not ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but “yes, and yes”.)  You cannot call the Holy Spirit–the Spirit of Truth– a liar, and still call yourself a Christian –. If they should do so, then these “theologians” would be hypocrites who misconstrue and compromise the meaning of “ecumenism” to care more for the good opinion of well-meaning but muddle-headed heretics (let’s call a spade a spade here) than adhereing to the truth which they are obliged to teach by word and example.  (As a wag once observed, “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free– but it will make you damned uncomfortable first.”)  That the tradition of celibacy differs from the Eastern to the Western Church matters not– the charism and discipline of priestly celibacy was a Divine gift to the Western Church which was not needed by the Eastern Church. (Why this should be is a theology in itself, and another discussion.) What is relevant is that both Eastern and Western Churches have never been able to justify, by the inspiration and teaching of the Holy Spirit, women priests or bishops.  

    For anyone who holds that it is against the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to ordain women priests and bishops, it is not only illogical but cowardly and morally wrong to remain in a heretical denomination which endorses female “ordination.”  

    If the shoe fits, then put it on and walk around in it.   I can respect anybody who does not wish to become part of the Anglican Ordinariate, but prefers to join the Orthodox Church, schismatic as it is by not recognizing the primacy of the see of Peter; The Orthodox have valid sacraments. But to decry female ordination and yet maintain communion –however reluctantly –with those who endorse it is to approve it.  

     “The essence of wisdom is:  having it, –to put it into action.” –Confucius

  • Adrian Johnson

    It’s called lack of courage, intestinal fortitude, or cowardice.  Take your pick.  

  • Adrian Johnson

    Hello, the Ordinariate was a response by the Pope to an approach made by many high ranking  Anglicans wanting communion with Rome while retaining their cultural patrimony.  That’s not “recruiting”, that’s an invitation.  Big difference.  

  • Adrian Johnson

    As in the Rock of Peter and –Hades? 

  • Adrian Johnson

    Christ is the image of the Father.  The difference between a Father and a Mother is that the Father is “active” (initiates) in paternity, and the Mother is “passive” (receptive) in maternity. The priesthood is a vocation which is God’s gift, not an office delegated by democratic decision.

     It’s about recognizing the reality that God has power, and man participates in God’s power by his gift, on his terms, and not by “right.”  This whole thing about women priests is about the pride of wanting power on feminist rather than Divine terms.  Humility  accepts the gift of vocation on God’s terms–and the same God who gives the gift of gender, gives priestly vocations to males; so however much a woman desires to be a priest, she can be sure that if she had been intended for the priesthood, God would have created her a male.  The priest is the image of Christ, who is the image of the Father.   

  • Adrian Johnson

    There are Eastern (Byzantine) Rites in communion with Rome which have married priests who have the same or similar liturgies to the schismatic Orthodox.   So you can have your cake and eat it too if you go Byzantine Rite–I’m very fond of the Melkites myself.   

  • Adrian Johnson

    Having the Pope as the vicar and symbol of Christian unity makes things so much simpler, and makes so much sense !

  • Alan

    One could argue this for ages, but any knowledge of Church history shows that the Church has changed/revised/modified its teaching and practice on various things.  To give just one example, it was at one time definitively held that you had to be a member of the Catholic Church to be saved.  This was buried at Vatican II, and probably long beforehand in practice.  (The formula “ex ecclesiam non salus est” was simply given a rather different meaning.)  I see no contradiction in saying that the Holy Spirit could guide the Church, at some future time, towards a broader understanding of ordination.
    Of course I would never say the Holy Spirit could be “wrong”.  Our understanding could be wrong, a very different thing. 

  • Richard M. Sawicki


    Gaudete In Domino Semper!

  • Richard M. Sawicki


    I greatly enjoy the Melkite liturgy, as well as the Ruthenian, Maronite, Coptic, Malabar and Ge’ez liturgies.

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  • Alan

    I’m perfectly happy with “male or female”.  And there are of course very pronounced male and female characteristics.  I just don’t see, however, the case for imposing a blanket ban on at least half the Catholic population.  I accept that change in this area is most unlikely in the forseeable future; I heard one of my heroes, the scripture scholar the late Fr. Raymond Brown, who probably privately favoured women’s ordination though he would never have said so publicly, say it would not happen for the simple reason that it would split the Church.

  • Supertradmum

    Pope Leo XIII settled the question on Anglican Orders-not valid. Therefore, the ladies are not priests and would not be bishops. Sorry, but this is the real crux of the matter. 
    Wherefore, strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the pontiffs, our predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by our authority, of our own initiative and certain knowledge, we pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void.

  • Dmn15

    I am one of three ex-anglicans being received into the Ordinariate on Friday 17th February in response to that “great, imaginative act of kindness” which you speak of. We were at the 1st anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Ordinariate  on 15th January at St James, Spanish Place.  There is no other choice.

  • savvy

    Equal does not mean same. 

  • savvy

    The thing is that the Levitical model was one based on sacrifice. Just like the priesthood is. 

    Jesus is the only true priests, others are his ministers who make present his sacrifice for the world.

    The difference here is that the Mass is not a bloody sacrifice.

  • Lauren Tupper

    Hang about, though, Mr O. More Irish Catholics became Anglicans last year than English Anglicans joined your Ordinariate. What do you make of that? Should the church of Ireland set up an ordinariate?

  • Alejandro Cordova

    I was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2011 (without the protection of the Ordinariate) – best thing I have ever done! As Sister Anna of the Salvation Army sings “Come and join us, come and joins us).

  • Chrismcavoy

     Than why does the Pope approve the Gay Mass in Soho (Church of the Assumption and St Gregory in Warwick Street in the Archdiocese of Westminster.) ?Is it because of the fact that the hierarchy of the Latin Church is riddled with homosexuals who are able to be blackmailed into one evil modernist heresy after another representative of a “superior true church”. I’ll take the Western rite of Orthodoxy, thank you very much, where heterosexuality, married priests and superior eccesliology prevents such abominations of an “authoritarian death trap” from taking over.The SSPX on the other hand are also am improvement, if you dont mind exclusively latin.

  • fred

    Alan, you mean perhaps the formula, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“Outside the Church [there is] no salvation”). I do not agree that this received a different meaning. I would say that the understanding of this dictum has become more nuanced, but not in such a way that it contradicted the less nuanced interpretation. That is organic development or evolution rather than modernist transignification.

  • Sszorin

    “…carry out the job of a priest”. -  Eh….so Jesus collected the job applications, signed them ..and off they went, the applicants, to do their 9 to 5 drudgery.

  • Sszorin

    “A mother or nun by definition are female. However monks and fathers are their male equivalent and it can be argued that they can do just as good a job.”When I held my cousin’s baby once in my, man’s, arms, the poor hungry tot started looking for a full tit but alas, could not find it. I do not know if you will believe this but nursing is a mother’s “job” and more to it, the fathers, by design, are not good at it. Here is something to ponder about – babies taken care of by the “male equivalent of mothers” have higher mortality rates [and I am not hinting at "the shaken baby syndrome"]. I could say that fanatical “egalitarians” [you as well ?] have been guilty, by their accomplishments of the social re-engineering, of countless deaths of babies. Even a hardcore feminist, aside from the infernal case of a jewish radical marxist feminist, once she has a baby and the reality of it hits her, will say that she is more “in tune” with her child and can see and hear and feel what her male partner does not; she would even say can not. It is a catholic, “thomist” teaching that human reason can discern, from the nature and the world, the work and the mind of the Creator. For as long as mankind existed there existed also “the natural knowledge”; it was commonly obvious that men and women are different from each other, that they have different roles within families and societies. The ancients would laugh at our stupid ideologies of equality. They would see us as deranged, as those who do not see the plain truth.
    A woman cannot be a priest, if you deny this then you deny her femininity, you deny that she has the right to be in her role as a woman, that she has her own mental world and her own psychology of being. On the other hand a woman can be a priestess [but she would be in a pagan error], or a witch [the same as the previous and worse]; the history is full of the ancient examples of the priestesses of this or that goddess.
    “Equality for women” is the devil’s advocacy for the blowing up of the Church. Their “cause” goes hands in hands with the bombs of the infanticide/abortion and of the “way of Sodom”. 
    The fuses of the bombs underneath the protestant structures are already lit. They were built on sand and not on the rock and so will not withstand the blast.

  • Tridentinus

     I like your reply and although I don’t think the Roman Church is riddled with homosexuals, I sometimes doubt whether the English hierarchy is even Christian. Because of my disillusionment with the Catholic Church since Vatican II I have sought refuge in a number of churches. In the end, however I have come to the conclusion that unless you are in communion with the Holy See there is nothing to anchor you to Christianity. High Church Anglicans are attractive because of their traditional ritual but they are a sect even among their co-religionists. Orthodox are in this country mainly nationalistic. The SSPX with whose doctrine and ritual I am most comfortable with are a trifle claustrophobic and in schism. It is easy to find the true church but very difficult to discern it.

  • Joe Zammit

    In case any Catholic Anglican wants to cross over the Tiber, I would suggest to him to cross it over through Ponte Milvio.

  • Joe Zammit

    The Church of England cut from the one true Church of Christ, the Catholic Church. That was the first wrong step in the wrong direction.

    Although King Henry VIII was considered by the Pope as the defender of the Faith (Catholic Faith, of course) he rebelled and committed his religious suicide. Consequently, Church of England’s Faith is lame. Doctrine underwent a great havoc.

    In 1930 Anglicans came to a serious doubt if their bishops were validly ordained, especially because England cut from the rest of Catholic Europe and in England many valid Catholic bishops were killed. So they assured their ordinations from Orthodox bishops.

    Now, to prove the Anglican Church is not the one true Church of Christ, they are moving towards the ordination of women in direct opposition to Public Revelation.

    In Public Revelation, found in Apostolic Tradition, Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we find that Christ excluded women from receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Christ wanted only men to be Apostes, Bishops, priests and deacons.

    This is the truth and no UK Parliament is going to change it. At most, UK Parliament can create FALSE women bishops, FALSE women priests and FALSE women deacons. Thus UK Parliament would be deceiving only itself.