Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Anglicans Say Yes To Women Bishops, Vatican Says NO To Anglicans

Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI in less contentious times

Vatican says Anglican church's plan for women bishops 'a step backwards'

By Nick Pisa in Rome
Last Updated: 3:21PM BST 08/07/2008

The Vatican has criticised a decision by the Church of England which paves the way for the future ordination of women bishops.
Officials said that the announcement was a "step backward" for reconciliation between the two faiths that split nearly 500 years ago.
The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity said it had learnt of the Church of England's decision "with regret", and warned that it would have "consequences for future dialogue, which until now has been very fruitful".
"This decision is a breach with the apostolic tradition maintained by all Churches from the first millennium, and for that reason it is a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England."

Vatican insiders said that Pope Benedict had been kept fully informed of the proceedings at the Synod and his opposition to female clergy is well known.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has invited the council head Cardinal Walter Kasper to present the Roman Catholic Church's position at the next Lambeth Conference at the end of July.
The decision to pave the way for female bishops has led to fears that thousands of Church of England traditionalists will leave the faith and convert to Catholicism.
Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury pledged to launch a new phase of Catholic-Anglican dialogue when they met in November 2006 on the 40th anniversary of a landmark meeting between Michael Ramsey, then head of the Anglican Church, and Pope Paul VI.
The pair admitted that relations between the two Churches had stuttered in the last decade and that there were "serious obstacles" to ecumenical progress.
Chief among these obstacles were the Anglican Church's acceptance of gay bishops and women priests.


By a vote of 2-1 the The Church of England has agreed to the elevation of women to the Bishopric. This follows in the footsteps of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada. Additionally the Synod, meeting in York, voted down the idea of "Super Bishops" who would minister to parishes and dioceses that would not recognize the authority of a woman bishop, or as one priest put it: "I will not have a woman in authority over me." Now this priest has a choice, leave for Rome, as many are threatening, or bite the bullet, or just leave.

Many will undoubtedly leave for Rome, just as they did when the Anglican Church first ordained women. The Vatican even has a protocol in place in which married Anglican clergy can retain their faculties within Roman Catholicism. These defectors have to be judged to be converting for more than their distaste of women clergy. I'm sure the appropriate response will be that the Anglican Church is no longer a Church faithful to scripture and therefor no longer faithful to Jesus Christ. Bingo, right answer, here's your Parish.

Celibate Catholic clergy were understandabely upset with the ease with which their married Anglican brothers were accepted into their ranks effectively setting up another whole class of Roman Catholic priests. They even felt this was an unfair double standard which effectively rewarded mysognists. This is a legitimate and logical position, but of course it was not upheld by anyone in the Vatican, They saw it as selfish and ungenerous.

The Vatican saw it's own generous position as the logical extension operating from the certain truth that women in the priesthood is anathema. Come hither all you disenfranchised lost sheep, we like your truth about the evils of women priests as a higher good, than the fact you happened to be married. The truth of one doctrine trumps the truth of the other doctrine. That is unless you're already are a Roman Catholic priest and then both are equal. No women priests, no women wives, no women period.

This second mass defection of Anglican priests to the Roman Catholicism will undoubtedly up the ante on the married priest debate. One solution suggested is that Anglican Catholics will be established in their own separate rite similar to the Eastern rites, where they can acknowledge the See of Peter while maintaining their own identity complete with married clergy. This solution though has it's own perils. How many existing Catholic parishes threatened with closure will petition to join a new Anglican Catholic Rite in order to secure a married priest so they can have any priest at all? How many married Roman Catholic priests will ask to come back with in the fold of a new Anglican Rite? If the Vatican takes this route, they may be infecting themselves with the same problems Anglicans are currently facing regarding defecting parishes and dioceses.

If Catholics thought they could look on the Anglican mess with humor and some superiority because Catholicism has held the line on gays, they may not be laughing for long because an Anglican Rite would also call into question sexual issues like birth control and abortion, as well as issues of parish and diocesesan autonomy. The differences between the two religions are not just ones of women priests and bishops, and the Vatican may very well shoot itself in the foot if they welcome dissenting Anglicans on the basis of this one issue.

Then there is the other alternative of Western Anglicans initiating a process of inviting dissident Catholics into their own Catholic rite in the Episcopalian community. One where Catholics who have no problem with married, female, or honest gay clergy would be able to keep their own parish structures and ceremonial rites while giving nominal allegiance to Canterbury rather than Rome, or even to both. If one can get outside the box of left brain thinking, there are a lot of opportunities available courtesty of this Synodal vote in York.

In the meantime the Winds of the Holy Spirit seem to blowing at gale force down in Australia. More information can be found here on the Cardinal Pell story:

This link will take you to the transcripts of four different stories and one I encourage you to read is the cushy legal situation the Australian Catholic Church enjoys regarding civil suits. Given this information it's no wonder abuse victims in Australia feel they have little recourse, and Anthony Jones is so angry about his particular situation. American bishops with must be green with envy.


  1. RE: The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity ... warned that it would have "consequences for future dialogue, which until now has been very fruitful".

    What "dialogue"? Since John Paul II, Rome's approach to interfaith talks has been more of a monologue-- all take, no give, my-way-or-the-highway. Rome is the Only True Church, you know, so we don't have to change anything.

    RE: "This decision is a breach with the apostolic tradition maintained by all Churches from the first millennium, and for that reason it is a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England."

    In 1896, Pope Leo XIII declared all Anglican priestly orders "invalid" (ie: lacking valid Apostolic Succession), a position affirmed by subsequent popes. Indeed, Anglican priests who convert to Rome are required to be re-ordained by Rome (not true of Orthodox priests who convert).

    For Rome to now appeal to the "apostolic tradition" with regard to Anglicans seems disingenuous.

    My suggestion to Anglicans :
    ignore Rome !
    Most Catholics do !

    -- John K

  2. Colleen, I appreciate in particular that link to the articles about the situation of the church in Australia.

    In light of what we're learning now about Cardinals Pell and Hickey and how they have handled abuse cases, I'm starting to rethink my previous more optimistic judgment of Benedict's apology (in the U.S.) to abuse victims.

    This begins to seem more and more like empty rhetoric to me. I appreciate the symbolic value: the pope had not yet apologized.

    And yet, if apologies like this (and he's expected perhaps to follow suit and apologize in Australia) don't result in action, they're just words. We need a church-wide truth commission to investigate what has happened, to let every victim have a voice, and to do SOMETHING to change things such that this kind of abusive behavior stops.

  3. Bill, such a step would take more cajones than Benedict seems to have. It's not like National Conferences seem to have any disciplinary power. If that were the case, the norms from 2002 would apply to abusing bishops, but they don't.

    Theoretically a bishop could get a way with murder and fight extradition from the cushy confines of the Vatican City States. We already have that situation with about two dozen pedophile priests. Must be nice.

    Nothing happens until the laity take a hike, either with money or feet. Until we do Benedict doesn't need any cajones. He just has to talk like he does.

  4. I agree with you John. What dialogue? All Rome seems to be at this point is a threat from disgruntled Anglicans.

    I understood that reordination is more or less a formality. I agree that the whole thing is disengenous. Anglicans can trace their magic right back along the same family tree. How can one be valid and the other not? More magic?

  5. I think this is great news from the Anglican Church to say yes to Women Bishops & is a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to hear what Cardinal Walter Kasper will present at the next Lambeth Conference at the end of July. I can just imagine the spin of strategic planning and careful wording in the presentation to cajole new recruits that will be developed from the Vatican in the next few weeks.

    There will be defections from the Anglican Church and conversion, if one can actually call it that, to the Catholic faith, but if the Catholic Church is looking for large numbers they will have to make some serious concessions which I don't believe they will want to make. The thought occurred to me that the hierarchy of the CC could say they were going to make concessions and then dump them in a while after the defections. (so much for my trust in the CC current leadership's ability for self-control and integrity).

    The thought also occurred that Catholics could defect to the Anglican Church and so there might not be any significant additional priests for the Catholic Church which it so desperately needs. Colleen, your observation about celibate priests in the Catholic Church might get very interesting as this situation unfolds.

    The response from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity upon learning of the Church of England's decision "with regret" and recognizing it is a breach in tradition since the 1st millennium and obstacle for reconciliation in my view states how shallow and inept the true desire for reconciliation the Catholic Church actually demonstrates with any significant amount of charity towards their neighbors. "You shall know them by their fruits" comes to mind. It seems they are walking around the vineyard looking for easy pick-ins to pluck to include in their harvest of men priests regardless of the obvious double standards of plucking married clergy.

    There is definitely division going on in every Church these days, along the same political and cultural lines and somehow in all of this is the way that points to the action of the Holy Spirit.