Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Miscellany - or WWND?

Recent events at the General Synod of the Church of England have provoked a range of responses, directly or indirectly, and this miscellany is made up from them.

From Stella Maris post The Church of England. How long will it last?
As long as the Anglican Church insists on women bishops there is no chance of unity with the Roman Catholic Church or with the Orthodox. The inevitable responses to this from pro-women priest Catholics is just fantasy-speak....This is compromise, pure and simple, but the cosy "Christianity-lite" of liberal Anglicanism will not survive either. What a waste of blood, sweat and tears, bricks and mortar.
The reference to pro-women priest Catholics leads me to Tigerish Waters post Ooh you've got an 'ology:
We sometimes forget that we are already one (a very broken one) through our baptism with our separated brethren. A crisis in an ecclesial community knocks at the heart of our faith and will cause ripples throughout the Christian world. There are just too many Catholics who are itching to see women in the priesthood and anyone who contradicts this hasn't been near most provincial Catholic churches with congregations with an average age over 50.
It is all reflected in the comment at Stella Maris post - ordaining women as priests and bishops is the answer to the wrong question. It answers a question about women's rights and equality. But the question for the Christian, be they Catholic or otherwise is a different question. It is what does Christ want for his Church? 

Now the rumour is that the Holy See will issue during the coming months a document which explicitly identifies the attempted ordination of women as one of the most grave offences. The spin is that doing this will liken such attempted ordinations of women to child abuse by priests and religious - which is not the case, since in the two cases the gravity of the offence arises from quite different considerations. But it will make clear just how serious an offence against the unity of the Church - and this is why it is considered such a grave offence - attempts to ordain women are. Incidentally, the illicit ordinations in the Society of St Pius X attracted the penalty of excommunication, again expressing just how seriously an offence against the unity of the Church is to be understood.

Those Catholics who, in Tigerish Waters phrase, are "itching to see women in the priesthood" are living in a world of "fantasy-speak", but they live in such a world and are considered credible as proponents of a Catholic position.  A good few Catholics could do with a much greater understanding of the implications of questions 11-17 of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church , which would give them the clarity of mind to resist the temptation of the feminist projection of the wrong question onto the core of Catholic belief. The fact that, as Tigerish Waters says, there are so many Catholics who appear to lack any real sense of ecclesial judgement about questions like this is worrying.

Now, William Oddie's comment on the Catholic Herald website, which seems to see in the General Synod vote a kind of starting gun for the establishing of an Anglican Ordinariate, is a bit off the real pace on this question. That the Church of England does not appear to want its traditional/Anglo-Catholic members, and so those members might move to an Ordinariate in the Roman Catholic Church ... such a sociological (so very Anglican) notion of an Ordinariate is indeed to completely misunderstand what an Ordinariate might be. Indeed, I think the Bishop of Richborough recognised quite early on that an Ordinariate could not simply be a destination for those unhappy with the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England; it has to represent something much more than this. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet offers a better, and more cautious, analysis in his August pastoral letter, and one can usefully re-read his February pastoral letter.

But, in the year of his beatification, I end by asking: WWND? What would Newman do? I expect he would still take the road of individual conversion. Would the establishment of a new religious order, made up of former members of the Anglican Societas Sanctae Crucis, be a contemporary equivalent to Newman's founding of the Oratory in England?

And WWND about all those Catholics who think women priests and bishops are a good idea? If his chapter on "Christianity and Scientific Investigation" in The Idea of a University is anything to go by, he might well just let error have enough rope to hang itself. But the same chapter also expresses a great anxiety that the weak in faith should not be scandalised. So whilst he might, in the realm of ideas, leave the notion of women priests and bishops to fall by the wayside of ecclesial life of its own accord, I think he would speak out against those campaigning in the media and in parishes in favour of such "innovation".


Rita said...

Sadly, you can quote what you like at my fellow parishioners be it from the Bible or the catechism and they come out with the same mantra: "The Church has to be seen to be moving with the times....primacy of conscience.....not going back to the Middle Ages....women are equal to men".

Then, they go and act with such charity and good grace and with such great Christian witness, they make you feel like a Pharisee and a fool!

They are wrong, and ultimately their dissention will be damaging to the Church, but wow, they've raised the bar for us and how we have to act and be seen to be acting within the Church.

Tough days/years lie ahead, Joe!

Fr John Abberton said...

Really excellent post - well summarized and glad you brought Newman into it

Joe said...

I think, Rita, I manage at the moment to live in a bit of a Catholic cocoon, rather by accident avoiding contact with the general run of parish life. [Note to myself: forget any idea of a ticket for a papal event in September.] I wonder whether the new movements offer more hope than the ordinary parish?

I thought you did make a good point about the negative impact that the Synod votes are going to have for RC's. It gives dissent more credibility in the public mind ...

Unknown said...

Hello again, Joe.

A very informative and measured post (as usual) Joe. Thanks.

Picking up on some good points from Rita.

Men and women being equal is not really a convincing argument for me because I dont think being equal means being the same.

Moving with the times would not be an excuse for behaving contrary to God's will. I mean he may be neutral on whether women wear trousers in church but have views about them -not- being priests.

And as for not going back to the Middle Ages...well the satirist in me wonders whether you've ever actully left them!! In all fairness, you don't burn heretics any more. Of course, that may ANOTHER arguement for not moving with the times.

By the way, is there any movement afoot to let men become Mother Superiors?

Unknown said...

Another argument put forward is that Jesus picked only men as his disciples because of the times he lived in. But it seems to me that Jesus was perfectly capable of challenging the attitudes of the time he was on Earth. He mixed with prostitutes and tax-collectors, for example. He preached the existence of an after-life, which wasn't believed in by all of his contemporaries (e.g. the Saducees).

Of course, it might be argued that he knew that if he picked women to spread the gospel they would be ignored because of the attitudes of people at the time. But then we are left second guessing Jesus' strategy and I'm not sure whether that's any way to construct your religion.