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Well, they’ve done it again. But the opponents of women bishops have only put off the evil day: and next time there may be no ‘special arrangements’

The arguments for women priests were wholly secular. This is, in any case, the state Church: and in the end the state will decide

By on Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A member of the Synod votes 'no' on their handset (Photo: PA)

A member of the Synod votes 'no' on their handset (Photo: PA)

Really, you couldn’t make it up. The Church of England, because of its arcane and dysfunctional, though supposedly democratic, voting procedures, has yet again decided that someone who really is a priest (that’s what they believe), and is worthy of promotion, is not necessarily eligible to be made into a bishop.

I say nothing about the question of what is known as “the validity of Anglican orders”, except that I can’t see why any Anglican takes offence when we say that by Catholic criteria they are invalid, when it is quite clear that apart from a few Anglo-Catholics, who think they are sacrificing priests in the same sense as Catholic priests do, what the Church of England as a whole thinks a “priest” is and does is utterly different from what the Catholic Church believes about Holy Orders: in other words, we are both using the same word to describe utterly different things.

Nothing, surely, illustrates that better than the debate about “women bishops” which took place yesterday. The discussion wasn’t about the sacrament of holy orders at all: did anyone even mention such a thing, even in passing? It was all about women’s rights. In other words, this was the governing body of a wholly secularised Church talking about a wholly secular issue.

As Jemima Thackray put it in the Telegraph, “as I listened to the debate unfold, hearing progressives pitched against conservatives … I found myself being too often oddly impressed by the cases made by the anti-women bishops lobby, despite the fact that nothing would’ve pleased me more than to see women enter the episcopate. One argument kept ringing true: the claim that the pro-women campaigners were too quick to try and make the church like the world.

“Uncomfortably, I had to agree. Too many of those in favour of women bishops just sounded too… well… worldly. My reasons for thinking this differed wildly from the evangelicals who think that the church needs to be set apart, not conforming to a society which no longer sees man as the head of the woman. My main concern was that some arguments for women bishops just sounded too much like a contrived government initiative to get women into the boardroom.”

Nor, however, do I have any sympathy with those who voted against the proposed legislation because they were dissatisfied with the measures proposed to allow them to opt out of having the governance of a woman bishop over their own parish. As I argued here the last time the question came up in the Synod, simply by remaining in the Church of England, you have accepted that you are a member of a Church which has women priests: you accept, in other words, that women may be priests, that those women already ordained as such by the Church of England are validly ordained: so what are you on about? “If a woman is a priest,” as I argued last time, “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 … 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.”

What has all this to do with us? Well, the Church of England is established by law under the crown; it is the state Church, so we too have a stake in it. Ultimately its affairs are regulated by Parliament: if, that is to say, the Synod had legislated to establish a female episcopate yesterday, its legislation would have had to be taken across the road and translated into English secular law by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Then the Queen would have given her assent. But in the process of becoming the law of the land, any special arrangements for dissident parishes might well have been removed: last time, members of the 30-strong parliamentary committee of MPs and peers known as the “ecclesiastical committee” (who would in effect have framed the legislation) were saying firmly that any special arrangements for dissident parishes would not be accepted by them.

So what will Parliament do now? I repeat, this is the state Church, and Parliament has the legal right to act. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and a former Anglican priest, said before the vote that a rejection would “undoubtedly undermine” support for aspects of establishment, including bishops in the Lords.

Frank Field, who sits on the parliamentary ecclesiastical committee, said that in the event of a no vote, he would table a motion to remove the Church’s special exemptions from equality laws. “It would mean that they couldn’t continue to discriminate against women,” he said. After the vote Ben Bradshaw, the former Labour minister, said: “This means the Church is being held hostage by an unholy and unrepresentative alliance of conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics. This will add to clamour for disestablishment – there is even talk of moves in Parliament to remove the Church’s exemption from the Equality Act.” That is an idea, it seems, gaining traction: if it happened, it would open the way for women to bring a legal challenge: and if successful, that could lead to women becoming bishops without any safeguards for traditionalists at all.

If those opposed are evangelicals, they have probably already opted out of their dioceses anyway. Evangelicals have little theology of the Church, and are essentially Congregationalists. So they’ll be OK, probably. As for Anglo-Catholics, there is a place prepared for them: it’s now time to come home. The Church of England is no longer (if ever it was) any place for those of Catholic mind and heart.

  • Parasum

     BBCode would be ideal

  • teigitur

    Nail on head!

  • teigitur

    Correct. Benedict is wrong here.

  • teigitur

    I think you could put a full stop after;”You haven’t the fainteat clue”!

  • Patrickhowes

    Well,the frightening thing about being a spectator to what is the unravelling and eventual destruction of the Anglican Church,(It had to happen Henry Vlll defied God´s law on marriage),is the effect of this Church on our own.Cardinal Cormack was hell bent on converting Anglicans rather than letting the Holy Spirit do his work.He convinced JP ll,wrongly that this would strengthen up the english church.What resulted was that he tried to turn all of us into Roman Anglicans.Imagine that you are sat in Mass,you have taught your children that priests are special and Holy and do not marry and you get a married anglican saying mass,”Hi Iam Mike,Iam a father of four children and 7 grandchildren”.My five boys looked at me totally confused.In liberal dioceses,the Catechism is run by the same feminist women who wanted to change the Anglican rules on priesthood.So our children do not learn a catechism but about Judaism,Islan and Diwhali before they learn about being a Catholic.They are no longer taught about being different but they have to be inclusive.It is shocking what Cardinal Cormack did to the faith in this country.Before we go down the same path as the Anglican Church,can somebody stop it!?..

  • Patrickhowes

    Get a grip!

  • Patrickhowes

    I think Benedict is making a fair point.That to sound up the faith it is also about calling all the millions of lapsed Catholics to the Faith.Sometimes Anglicans convert which is correct but they  are not always able to make the cultural conversion.The Catholic Faith is an orthodox apostolic body whose culture is from the east..Anglicanism is a state run religion whcih was put up in a hurry to satisfy and appease the lust of a licentious and ruthless King.He broke is solemn oath as a monarch and rejected the Magisterium of the Pope.Christ gave the keys of his Church to Peter and not to King Henry.The east and the west are at opposing ends of the compass.Let us remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and Iam left feeling that for the Anglican Church,the sun has just disappeared over the horizon.An important omen for all us Catholics to face the east once again when we say the creed

  • Patrickhowes

    Think his comments and his purpose over a bit more.Give the man his due

  • MACCABEUS

    The Anglican Church was a contrived, artificial political construct put together by the Tudors merely ‘to hold the line’ on popular belief in the wake of the vandalous, iconoclastic movement of grand larceny some call the English Reformation. It was never about religion. It was only ever about political expediency, a cynical compromise, put together by the Cecils (who, like all their friends, did very well out of destroying monasteries, paintings, frescoes, shrines, appropriating all the wealth of monastic lands and buildings for themselves, including the very stones of the destroyed monasteries which they then used to build their nouveau riche ‘country piles’). History has now come full circle and the Elephant in the Room is out there for anyone who wants to see: True Christian religion died 500 years ago in this country with the executions of More and Fisher: the English have been playacting for the benefit of their political masters ever since – political masters who have now decided, in these secular times we live in, that it is politically safe to come out of shadows and clearly state what has always been the ugly truth of the Church of England – it always was at heart a secular inspired organisation serving the secular needs of successive English secular governments. 

  • Popadopulous

    Remember the late Dr Graham Leonard

  • Popadopulous

    I think that was the point Parasum was making.

  • W Oddie

    No:  Anglican ministers are unconditionally ordained when they become Catholic priests.

  • Don Camillo

    While agreeing with much of what you write, William, it remains true that the proposition “women cannot validly be ordained priests” does not entail the proposition “(therefore) the Pope has supreme jurisdiction over the Church.” Orthodoxy remains unconvinced, and so do most Anglo-Catholics.

  • nytor

    Worryingly there are now calls for exemptions to equality legislation to be removed. This has the potential to impinge upon us as well as the Anglicans – although any politician who thinks they can legislate for the Catholic Church to ordain women is delusional.

  • nytor

    They’re not “conditionally” re-ordained. They are absolutely re-ordained.

  • nytor

    This was because he was able to show descent from a Dutch Old Catholic bishop. Anglican orders are not regarded as valid and all converting clergy are absolutely re-ordained.

  • nytor

    She can’t help it, ridiculous is what she does.

  • nytor

    Oh do shut up.

  • candylin

    c of e disestablish stand on your own as a church or continue  on a sad journey down the road to meaningless i wish you well and the courage to make a decsion it can live with.

  • paulpriest

     It’s wholly counterproductive: Conversations and arguments become dissociate and unintelligible – and it stops the sort functions from working. Plus it can lead to solely one peremptory viewpoint being visible for the casual reader…

    If the length of my postings helped contribute to this change I can only apologise.

  • Alan

    We don’t know; neither cameras nor public were allowed in.  There may well be tears at every conclave.

  • Alan

    “Neo-pagan heathens”?  That’s a bit rich as a description of Anglicans, even coming from you.  In fact it’s roughly what one or two Evangelical Protestants I’ve known think of Catholics.

  • Patrickhowes

    Well described!

  • rjt1

    I’m sure you know the Anglican community very well, Dr Oddie, but don’t they (effectively/by and large) hold that nobody is bound to believe anything (by an authority) in order to be a member of that body? In which case, it would still be possible for a Catholic-leaning Anglican who opposed women’s ordination to carry on regardless (i.e. not accepting it themselves but allowing others to hold a different view) as long as they were given space to practice what they themselves believed? Or perhaps that isn’t the ‘Catholic-leaning-Anglican view’ of authority (?).

  • rjt1

    “True Christian religion died 500 years ago in this country…” I’m sure you don’t include in this comment the faithful recusant remnant who remained true to the Catholic faith through the centuries.

  • paulpriest

     sorry Doc but I’m afraid you’re somewhat confused re valid ordinations  – you cannot be ordained into something which doesn’t exist – and irrespective of a real heretical apostate Bishop being able to ordain – they weren’t ordaining – they were making phoney anglican priests that aren’t real….

  • paulpriest

     erm it’s 49.8% of humanity actually [UN 2002]- women kill off their percetage majority before they leave the womb – rate of 1.3:1 global gendercide etc…so much for the sisterhood!

  • paulpriest

     So I take it you’ll be protesting against the WI for not having 50% male representation on their committees? Will we see you marching against gay pornographers for their institutionalised misogyny? Once homosexuals have the right to marry will you be seen with a placard outside the House of Commons denouncing all male-male marriages for being discriminatory against the sisterhood? Will we see you outside Lords cricket ground demanding justice for oppressed women because the Women’s England team have not been provided with jockstraps and cups?

    For once I’ll agree with the French and say “Vive la Difference!”

  • nytor

    “some women Catholics, believe that to prevent them from becoming bishops or priests (respectively) is a gross infringement of their religious rights”

    They have NO right to become priests – a thing which is impossible cannot be a right. Not even men have a right to priesthood.

    The state certainly has no right to try and tell the Church whom to ordain. You’re talking nonsense as usual.

  • polycarped

    I’m glad it’s not just me – it’s VERY annoying…

  • polycarped

    keep them coming!

  • srdc

    To be fair, priestess is pagan.

  • Nat_ons

    ‘“If a woman is a priest,” as I argued last time, “then she is eligible to be a bishop. If she’s not, she isn’t.’

    While logical, it isn’t strictly true. The Eastern Rites have long had married priests – that is men married before seeking ordination (never after it) – but restricting the role of oversight to monastic priests. The married priest is a validly ordained priest, even in the Latin Rite .. by way of exception to the rule, yet the Orthodox have chosen not to advance these priests in the hierarchy (the same applies in the Eastern Code of Canon Law, Canon 227, Article 2).

    http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/celbish.htm

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    A very special case by all accounts. Dr. Brownridge’s totally ignorant post claimed that:

    “That is why Anglican priests converting to Catholicism are conditionally ordained and allowed to practice their priesthood …”.

    Not only are ALL of them ordained, as would be a Catholic seminarian, not conditionally, but they had no priesthood to practice.

    This is not in any way to denigrate such men, who may have been effective “Ministers of the Word”, but to call them priests is a gross error.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Glad others have begun to notice. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    As are the theological views of these wymmin, srdc. I use the word with a particular kind of woman in mind. A very different sort, NewMeena, from my mother, four sisters, daughter or her mother. 

  • srdc

    Yes, I know, but the readers here have not caught on to this. Personally they can go in peace and start their own thing. Fighting is only causing schism and division.

  • Enid Ecumaniac

    The St. Martin Luther Institute of Advanced Ecumenical Heresy is furious with the decision of the reactionary Anglican laity who obviously hate wymmin and our Uprising of the Sisterhood in love of Gentle Gaia! 

    So angry was Deirdre that she has written to her M.P., a Communist atheist, demanding to know his theological views on the matter. 

    We had thought to celebrate the Liberation of Wymmin from the patriarchal bonds of men and their Traditional Christian misogynist haven, which has oppressed wymmin for centuries, at least since the Bronze Age when sky fairies were invented to keep down wymmin, by holding a candlelit ecumenical “event” with the members of the local Crystal Rubbers Club at midnight on the heath above the village of N …. but now we have had to replace it with a wine and cheese evening with the bloody Sikhs! All those men and their beards and swords … ugh, I can’t bear it!

  • Jon Brownridge

     Are you saying an excommunicated bishop cannot validly, though illicitly, ordain someone? If so, I think you are mistaken.

  • paulpriest

     No – but you cannot be ordained into something which doesn’t exist!!!

  • Patrickhowes

    The type of women who for all of their angst for equality and emancipation,have never moved away from the Eve stereotype.They want to be the Godesses of the world and have no being,either celestial or terrestral telling them how to run their lives.As their pro abort slogan ran”Not the Church,not the state,let the women chose their fate”.If men were to shout this out,they would be up in arms!It is the woman who will accpet no boundaries whatsoever,who is arrogant,conceited and hell bound on imposing her way and opinions at all costs.As in the case of Germain Greere,they then get older and realise that actually they got it all wrong!And this was the issue with the Catholic sisters in the USA,who as they threw away their veils,divested themselves of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.They knew better than the Pope.It was not that their initial intentions were not good.Hitler started off with good intentions.He got Germany out of the depression,but Man cannot live from bread alone.The Godhead is in us all,to remind us from hence we came and to whence we shall return.Once we start looking too much in the mirror and like our own image,things will always go wrong.Empires are built and destroyed,but the Church is eternal.Things go wrong within it but it survives and will go on surviving until the end of times as it is God made.The Anglican Church was erected by a man and not God and it is therefore doomed to fail.As Milton said:

    “The mind can make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven”

  • 12Maria34

    “some women Catholics, believe that to prevent them from becoming bishops or priests (respectively) is a gross infringement of their religious rights”  — this is only true to women Catholics who abandoned the teachings of the Catholic church or who wants to impose that they are better than the Church.

  • Popadopulous

    And I’m sure that if you were inclined to look hard enough you would find others that have a genuine apostolic connection.

  • Patrickhowes

    Well said Maria

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Parasum:  I often wondered where you were coming from but now you have made yourself very clear: an atheist with a strong dislike of all religion.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I must say that I welcome what has happened as it has made very clear to the world at large that the Church of England is utterly subservient to Parliament.

    On the subject of valid ordination does intention come into as well as Apostolic succession?  If a Bishop ordains a man with the intention that he will be a minister who regards the Mass as a sacrilegious abomination or generally holds up the 39 articles how can one say that one is ordaining a priest in the Catholic sense?

    Another question but off-topic.  It has been said that baptism in a Catholic church is the only criterion as to religious observance that should be taken into account when admitting a child to a Catholic school.  However is not any baptism just as valid as a baptism in a Catholic church?  So what is the difference between someone baptised in an Anglican church from one baptised in a Catholic Church or even over the kitchen sink as far as admission to a Catholic school is concerned?  I think Ronnie Knox said that everyone who is baptised becomes a Catholic until they formally apostatise such as being confirmed in a non-Catholic church. 

  • Dorotheus

    The Church of England did very well by you, Mr. Oddie, for most of your life. Why do you have to be so dismissive of it now? To read these Catholics blogs one would think that being orthodox entails abandoning all thought of charity towards fellow-Christians.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Excellent post Patrick.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TUSF2LYCZRN254TAO5E5XRNZI4 Robin L

    I’m afraid I can’t find any authority in the Gospels nor in precedent or tradion for
    priestesses. As for episcopal priestesses…..sounds like the Druids!

  • Alan

    Yes, the last thing we want is equality.