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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.

  • Neil S Hailstone

    I decided to leave the Church of England two weeks ago after reading the Draft Measure and the Protocol. I must say I have been thinking hard about whether I was right to stay a member as an Anglican Catholic from 1992 onwards.The presnt position position is quite untenable. You really have to choose between the Ordinariate, The Union of Scranton or a Contnuing Anglican Church in the Anglo Catholic tradition
    Neil Hailstone

  • Anonymous

    Dr Oddie – although I agree I’m not sure in what way you can extrapolate from women accepted as Priests axiomatically leads to congruent conditions and criteria for women as Bishops.

    Surely – as the orthodox have a prohibition on married Bishops [i.e. that they are never their own and  prior claim by their spouse and their spousal parental duties & responsibilities takes precedence]

    …as a woman is never absolutely ‘her own’ [in that she may conceive - excluding menopausal issues] there is the distinct possibility that there could be some justification for “Priests yes:Bishops no”

    Bear in mind that I don’t agree with any of their invalid positions – but I’d prefer some form of secure clarification that they don’t have any real justification to separate presbyteral & episcopal ‘orders’

  • Anonymous

    I cannot fault Dr Oddie’s logic; nobody can deny that if women can be priests they can also become bishops. But does it not also follow that if an Anglo-Catholic can put up with women priests he must also be able to put up with women bishops? How does it make sense to find women priests tolerable but women bishops intolerable?

  • Lefty048

    mr oddie god made us all equal.  i believe a woman could do just as good or bad a job of it as the men you have in these positions now.  there is a bishops conference going on in rome right now i believe.  a good number of the bishops  there from the united states would be in jail right now if it were not for the statute of limitations,  their crime has nothing to do with defending the faith or the teachings of jesus christ.

  • Royston

    Brilliant article by Dr.Oddie (remembering the also extremely good article by Dr. Geoffrey Kirk) – the long awaited Ordinareate is now here (all Anglo-Catholics (SSC/FinF etc) have prayed for this – the Rock from which we were hewn, and so………what are you all doing or waiting for?

  • Guest

    There are those who find themselves caught between a Rock and a Hard Place.

  • Lee

    The priesthood is not a ‘job’. Please go and read the segments of the Bible about the Levitical priesthood and familiarise thyself and see one of many reasons why a woman cannot fufill her religious life as a priest. 

  • Lee

    We are talking of a church that derives from the Latin root, not the Eastern root.

  • Lazarus

    Although I agree with Dr Oddie’s main thrust, I do have rather more sympathy with the plight of the remaining rump of Anglo-Catholics in the C of E. If you’re the sort of Anglo-Catholic who’s spent your whole life finding Rome intolerable because of some theological ‘innovation’, you’re now stuck with (in your view) absolutely no adequate visible Church anywhere (on the assumption that Continuing Anglicans are just too much of a fringe and the Orthodox are, well, just too beardy and foreign…). 

    Now, of course, the answer to this is to realize that your judgement of Rome was in error and to recognize that you were wrong about the theological deficiencies of Roman Catholicism. But I know from my own personal experience that this isn’t an easy journey and, until it’s been completed, they really will be blinking and shivering in a vale of tears.

    My prayers are with you but in the end Dr Oddie is right: please come home.

  • Michael Kenny

    Women priests or bishops are not enough to lead most Anglo-Catholics to become Roman Catholic.
    Anglo-Catholicism is defined to some extent by its denial of the Magisterium, especially in terms of having more authority than the person’s conscience. Moreover Anglo-Catholicism is quite ‘gay’ and as such more Anglo-Catholics wouldn’t enter an ant-gay denomination. Because of this I can’t see that many Anglo-Catholics become Roman any time soon in the UK. 
    - If they do I hope they want more than merely the rejection of women priests! I think there’s a bit more to Roman Catholicism than that? 

  • Eileen S. Yorks

    Lefty048…..God did indeed make us all equal, but he also made men and women different with different roles.  We also have nearly 2000 years of a male priesthood following on from Our Lord and the disciples. I also dislike your sweeping allegations against RC Bishops.   OK there are some bad apples in the barrel, but it’s unchristian to taint them all.
    In my opinion the Church of England has lost the plot in trying to please everyone all of the time instead of following traditional teaching.

  • Jacob Suggs

    It is certainly true that a woman could preach as well, comfort people as well, and administer as well as a man. But this is irrelevant, because these are some (and only some) of the things that priests do, not what they are.

    The priesthood is about more than what a person does. Priests are ordained, not merely hired – they become priests, they do not merely become employed as people who stand in front of congregations in robes.

  • Jacob Suggs

    I do not know for sure why it is that some anglo catholics can tolerate women priests but not bishops, but I’m fairly certain that it is not this.

    An unmarried man can conceive a child just as easily as an unmarried woman, and would have the same responsibilities, so if the mere possibility of having a child were enough to keep people out of the episcopate we’d be in a lot more trouble.

    Furthermore, a married man’s wife may die, and I would guess that at that point he would be eligible to become a bishop (even in the latin Church we have some married priests, and I imagine the same would apply to them) whereas I do not see how any such condition could be applied to what little I understand of the anglo-catholic position on things.

  • Lefty048

    please describe to me the tasks a priest does that a woman cannot do.  emotionally?  physically? 

  • Lefty048

    jacob i laughed out loud.   if the priests wife dies he could get a promotion?

  • Jim of Olym

     One thing you left out, Neil, is Western Rite Orthodoxy, either under the Antiochians or the Russians.

  • Siobhan

    You have hit the nail on the head, the problem as I see it is that this topic engages a lot of people who are bothered more by form, semantics and a strange notion of tradition, genuinely there is often very little Christianity displayed and in truth I am referring  more to blogs such as the DT rather than this one. Christ came, He moved amongst the people and he ushered in change, why the need to stop now? Look at the abuse issue going on here in Ireland. I am not saying women priests would have prevented it entirely, but it almost certainly would have curtailed it. It is very difficult to truthfully not have some misgivings in ones heart when relating to a male priesthood today. Lots of us did once and it was crushed,broken and thrown back in our faces. We need change.

  • Isaac

    The other alternative is to recognise that a religion that is “too beady and foreign” might nevertheless be true; and, rather than looking for a religion that one is comfortable with, to figure out which religion is true and then to confirm oneself to it.

    But whichever lung of the Church you choose: please come home. We’re eager to welcome you.

  • Thomas


    There are plenty of women in the teaching profession and social services, but the abuse is just as awful there: we need to get away from the idea that the presence of one sex or another is the panacea to this issue.

  • Therese Z

    Women can’t be fathers. Women can’t be men.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent point and one generally overlooked point by the Rome or bust crowd.  Orthodoxy is very definitely a viable alternative.

  • Lefty048

    preists aren”t supposed to be fathers though some of them have been.  a recent example is the bishop in california who the church just got rid of with the 2 teenage children

  • savvy

    Priesthood represents the spiritual fatherhood of God, and offers the sacrifice of Christ for the church.

    Women reveal the prophetic nature of the church.

    You have to understand the liturgy to understand these things.

  • Anonymous

    Rome is one possibility. Geneva & Wittenberg are others. Constantinople is another. Not all who leave the C of E go to Rome.

    “I now confidently hope that you will make the only real choice left…” – Vatican 2 seemed to think more favourably of other Christian confessions than that. There is a lot to be said for Geneva – but it tends to be overshadowed by the Constantinopolitans.

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

    ## What happened to the concept of “partial communion” ? That seems to work  perfectly well in ecumenical relations with Christians of different Churches. As to the episcopate: ther would be a problem if he holds the Roman view, that the episcopate belongs to the “being” of the Church; if he holds the (Anglican ?) view that it belongs to the “well-being” of the Church, but not to its “being”, the pressure of the problem is greatly relaxed.

    Besides, surely Church communion is possible only because of communion “in Christ”, which is the where communion really matters, & whence it can alone come; if it exists in Him, it is real; without Him as its Source & Stay, outward communion on earth is a mere phantom.  If Christians are in the Divine Persons, & They dwell in Christians, then there is communion with the Church; there cannot not be communion of some sort in & with the Church, *unless* union in & communion in & through & by the indwelling Divine Persons is less important than the externally visible union & communion this Divine action alone makes possible & real & fruitful.

  • Anonymous

    Arguing from Leviticus proves too much – it undermines the High Priesthood of Christ, which is a deceit, or at least a colossal error, *if* what Leviticus says is still in force. Allow legitimacy to the Levitical priesthood, & Jesus becomes worthy of all the bad names, and worse, that His enemies call Him in the Gospels. If Christ lives, the Law is dead – they exclude one another. Leviticus can’t be cherry-picked – one has to accept the whole thing, or none of it. Those who appeal to Moses, have to accept the whole of the Law – in which case they must (if Christian) reject Christ.

  • Chuck

    please explain this statement.  I don’t follow.  It could just be ignorance, but I am confused

  • amfortas

    You need to read Dr. Oddie’s article a little more carefully.

  • amfortas

    We’re waiting for the bridegroom, not the bride.

  • Barry Tomlinson

    I find it very sad when Roman Catholics seek to recruit Anglicans into their church when the majority of the population have no faith at all.  Ten years ago we could have evangelised together.  Now with the ordinariate I have to work alone because the RC church wishes to recruit my members.

  • Alban

     I became a Roman Catholic nearly 20 years ago. The fact is the Church of England left me, I did not leave the Church of England. I became the victim of trying to live in the nest with the cuckoo finally pushing me out. I could quite easily have gone to Orthodoxy for it is in those churches representing orthodox Christianity that the creed can be said without any hint of hypocrisy encroaching on your conscience.

  • Deesis

    You need t ask what you are recruiting them to?

  • Deesis

    No one is equal before God because God is just and loves us, judges us according to our capacity. Also St Paul’s analogy of the Church being made of of different parts all diferent. yet part of the body means what it says.

  • Deesis

    Well why not ordain dogs and potatoes? If they can bring people together…why not ordain buses? Its obvious that maleness is a necessary ingredient for the priesthood. Just as being a mother or a nun require the ingedient of being a woman.

  • Deesis

    Yes it is called boiling frog syndrome. The Frog doesn’t notice if the water heats up slowly!. Anglicans it took 400 years or more for you to be boiled!

  • Anonymous

     Perhaps you did not understand my point. The Anglo-Catholics who remain in the CoE have shown an unlimited capacity for acceptance. They accept the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. They accept their bishops being appointed by the prime minister. They accept the monarch as supreme governor of their church.  They accept having their doctrine and law determined by parliament. They accept that their orders are, under the last official word of the Catholic Church, absolutely null and utterly void. Over the last twenty years they have accepted women priests in their church. Based on all we know about them when it comes to pass very few will find women bishops unacceptable.

  • Lefty048

    to savvy. jacob, mr. oddie and others  please read the comments by cardinal egan in todays  catholic herald.  .they are why you have to change.  the church has been wrong from the beginning. god created us equal.

  • Lefty048

    comparing women to dogs and potatoes and buses.  you must be a thrill to live with.

  • Stephen

    I totally agree with your logic.. but it seems logic if often avoided and defended against when the reality of leaving the comfort zone of the familiar is looming

  • David Lindsay

    This is the last throw of the dice for the Church of England’s pro-bishopess lobby.
    Processing through the streets on the news earlier this week, they were headed up by two North American ladybishops who were both retired, and who I believe it is correct to say have both been replaced with men. Whether Anglican, Nonconformist, or of the Established Church of Scotland, parishes the length and breadth of Britain pretty much always make sure that they get a man after they have “done our bit”. Clearly, North American dioceses feel the same way.
    All of the grandes dames of second wave feminism are either old or dead. The Conservative Evangelicals are the coming power within the dear old C of E. Women clergy’s widespread heterodoxy and even more widespread aversion to parochial ministry or even to paid work of any kind, as well as their very high rate of divorce, have all failed to escape widespread, if so far largely unprinted, notice. It is now or never. Frankly, it looks like never.
    And even if legislation were passed, all that those transatlantic ladies had to do was win elections. Nothing in England works like that, not even – nay, especially not – the elections. It would only take one person of sufficient social clout within the laity of the diocese under discussion, and any talk of a woman, any woman, could be killed off at the very outset, before any committee had so much as been convened, never mind met. Every diocese contains someone like that. Usually a woman, a hostess with the mostess to ensure that any priestess retains the leastess.
    Even the extremely liberal Scottish Episcopalians, who do elect their bishops and among whom the ordination of women has almost never experienced any formal opposition worth mentioning, have never actually managed to elect a woman to the episcopate.

  • Anonymous

     “Orthodoxy is very definitely a viable alternative.”

    Really?  Russian Orthodox?  Greek Orthodox?   Syrian Orthodox?  Romanian Orthodox?
    You have quite a choice of nationalist sects, just like the nationalist sect that you would be leaving.

  • John W Woolley

    “Nationalist sects”?  The Orthodox Churches are simply the parts of the one Orthodox Church present in various countries, not separate religions or sects or anything.  You have to know better.  At least, thank God, the ROMAN Catholic Church itself knows better.

  • Ancient Briton

    If only there were the opportunity for exploration! For many even the Ordinariate presents problems of access. Orthodoxy is even more remote.

  • Anonymous

     The members of the Estonian Autocephalous Orthodox Church would not agree with you.
    They have long struggled to secure their independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.
    It is pretentious nonsense to assert that Orthodoxy is one unit, merely ‘present’ in various countries.  They are separate Churches, with Moscow challenging Constantinople for the honour of ‘primus inter pares’.  Moscow, indeed, regards itself as the ‘Third Rome’, following the collapse of Constantinople in 1453.

  • Paul

     Is it not more a question of Anglicans desperately trying to find a comfortable space within the Catholic Church?  I see very little being done by the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales to entice disaffected Anglicans.

  • Paul

     Women cannot consecrate the Blessed sacrament.

  • Brad

    In pretending to be scandalized at his comparison, your word for it, you are pretending to not comprehend its validity, and hoping to throw others off the scent of it, too.  You also make an ad hominem attack about his (her!?) home life?  We could say the same about you!

  • theroadmaster

    The Anglo-Catholic remnant in the Anglican communion have been left in a no-man’s land by the decision of the latest meeting of the synod to clear the way now for women to be eligible for the episcopal office.  They have been reduced to a very narrow strip of territory in terms of maneuvre and it looks increasingly obvious that the only real alternative is to either cross the Tiber to Rome or seek conversion to one of the numerous Orthodox Churches.  As William so aptly describes it, they are effectively entering into a “fantasy Island” world, if they think that the C of E are going to make special provision for  them to avoid the necessity of accepting women as bishops on the same terms as their male counterparts.  There is unlikely to be a future review of the latest decision(soon to be verified by the General Synod), and those within Anglicanism who have been inspired by the tremendously rich theology, liturgy and doctrines of the Catholic Faith, should reflect even more profoundly now and set their sights on coming home to the Church that Christ founded.

  • Honeybadger

    Recruiting????!!!! Recruiting???!!! What rot! What complete and utter rat’s feathers!

    We Roman Catholic see the situation more like, um, getting the spare room ready to accommodate those who have left a place that has become untenable.

    Former Anglicans have knocked on Rome’s door, not the other way round! What did you expect the Pope to do? Not make them welcome? Tell them where to go in no uncertain terms? ‘grief!

  • Lefty048


  • Anonymous

    My apologies for not setting it out more clearly. Here’s a revision:

    Arguing from Leviticus proves too much; and Leviticus is in any case not a rule for Christians, and never was. For Christians – especially Gentiles – were never subject to the Jewish Law of which Leviticus is a part, which was the for the Jews, not for us.

    1a. To argue from Leviticus, undermines the High
    Priesthood of Christ; which is a deceit, or at least a colossal error,
    *if* what Leviticus says is still in force.

    1b. If legitimacy is allowed by Christians to the
    Levitical priesthood,  Jesus becomes worthy of all the bad names,
    and worse, that His enemies call Him in the Gospels.

    The reason is, that He is called High Priest in Hebrews – even though He was from the tribe, not of Levi, but of Judah. The argument in Hebrews has to undercut the book & authority of Leviticus, in order to sustain the rightness of calling Jesus the Christians’ High Priest. If He was not Whom the Gospels say He was, then the Christian movement is founded on a delusion, & the critics of Jesus in the gospels are right about Him after all. But if they were right, then Hebrews is so much waste-paper, and its claims for Jesus are empty – so, the Levitical priesthood is not after all undercut by Hebrews, and remains valid, if in abeyance at present.
    2. If Christ lives, the Law is dead – they exclude one another. [This is based on a point made by St. Paul]

    3. Leviticus can’t be cherry-picked – one has to accept the whole thing, or
    none of it. Those who appeal to Moses, have to accept the whole of the
    Law – in which case they must (if Christian) reject Christ.

    Hope that helps.