Elsewhere: Ecumenism and the Church of England


I have written many times about downfall of the Episcopal church. They are the American version of the Church of England (the main Anglican church). The Episcopalians have been out-front on hard-left ideology for some time while the Anglicans have been at least a little more restrained.

A big obstacle to Christian unity, at least in the hope of full communion with Rome, is the ordination of women. For us, the male only priesthood is unchangeable dogma and not open to discussion. Anglicans have “ordained” women since 1994. I put that in quotes because the Vatican has formally declared that Anglicans do not have valid holy orders (and thus any valid sacraments requiring a priest as minister). If the Church of England were to be reunited with Rome, those who would become priests would have to be validly ordained. That is possible only for males. The women could be many things in the Catholic Church, but never priests.

In July, the Church of England, via vote (being separated from the Magisterium, this is how they decide matters of faith), decided to now also “ordain” women bishops. This doubles-down on the existing situation making full communion an even more distant possibility.

William Odie, writing for the excellent UK Catholic Herald looks at the situation:

It was, of course inevitable, having ordained women to its “priesthood” that the Church of England, mother Church of the Anglican Communion, would in the end ordain women to its “episcopate” (I place the key-words in inverted commas, not to be insulting but to indicate simply that most Anglicans use the words to describe something very different indeed from our notions of priesthood and episcopacy).

The General Synod has now decided on women bishops. All the obstacles are down. The mystery was why it took them so long: in the Catholic understanding, if a person is a priest, he is, if suitable, eligible to be ordained bishop; perhaps the fact that the Anglicans thought that special legislative procedures were necessary to make such a thing possible for women is yet another theological indication of how different our ideas of what is involved in priesthood really are.

What we all, Anglicans and Catholics alike, now need to register clearly is that this brings definitively to an end any last remaining hope of ultimate corporate reunion between us. Even Cardinal Walter Kasper, as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, some time ago declared that the ordination of women to the episcopate “signified a breaking away from apostolic tradition and a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.” He also pointed to the internal disunity within Anglicanism, describing the protective legislation for those opposed to women’s ordination in the Church of England (‘flying bishops” and so on) as the “unspoken institutionalism” of an “existing schism.”

The possibility that the reunion of Canterbury and Rome might still be possible has of course become ever more and more obviously delusional as the years have gone by. But still it has been fostered not only by Anglican ecumenists (most Anglicans have always thought that our doctrinal objections were preposterous, since they think that doctrine is intrinsically divisive, and best made up as you go along) but also by our own dwindling – but highly placed – band of Catholic ecumenists of the old school.

Provincial episcopal visitors (a/k/a “flying bishops”) are assigned when an Anglican parish refuses to accept their normal, local ordinary. These bishops provide “alternative episcopal oversight” and are males who have not “ordained” women. This concession is meant, at least for the near term, to appease more traditional parishes.

The only real hope Anglicans have of full communion with the Church is via conversion, either at the parish level through Pope Benedict’s Anglican Ordinariate or individually. The Ordinariate should be a particularly attractive option, as a parish can move as a group keeping much of their Anglican patrimony while coming into full communion with the Church founded by Christ.

Read Odie’s whole piece: Now the Church of England has decided on women bishops, ARCIC III is futile. As the CDF says, it is the Ordinariate now which is “ecumenism in the front row”.

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