Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Church of England votes down a proposal for women bishops. What it means to us Catholics

The Church of England (CoE) in its recent General Synod voted down a measure which would allowed for the consecration of women bishops. To be more accurate, it was the laity of the Church of England in Synod who voted it down with 132 ayes and 47 nays. The measure enjoyed clear majorities in the House of Bishops 44 ayes, 3 nays  with 3 abstentions and the House of the Clergy 144 ayes, 45 nays. Church law requires that for measures like these changing the doctrine and polity of the church, all houses of synod should pass it with a 2/3 majority. In the laity, it failed by just 6 votes. The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams pleased passionately to Synod to pass the measure and the newly appointed Archbishop, Justin Welby on the outset said he will vote in favour.

I support the reformers in the sense that the Church of England has had female clergy since 1992 and it makes no sense if a woman can be a priest then she can't be a bishop. In the Catholic Church we don't have such as thing! Not I mean we have women priests (we don't since our Church has no authority to ordain women), but that we have a class of priests which are permanently barred from receiving the mitre.

[PS: I won't dwell on the issue of the validity of Anglican orders. Anglicans save for a few have a different idea from the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox on what being a priest really means]

Of course some Roman Catholic religious orders, the Jesuits in particular have statutes prohibiting them from receiving episcopal orders. But the priests being Jesuits is not the reason and in fact the Pope can overrule Jesuit rules and make Jesuit bishops. History has shown there are Jesuit bishops.

In the CoE we have the opposite case. Women priests cannot be bishops because they are female! As Dr William Oddie wrote, a woman is a priest if she can be a bishop. If she can't be a bishop then she ain't a priest!

The crux of the matter is simple. A bishop is simply a priest who has the fullness of being a priest. He/she can ordain new priests and make sure priests can become bishops by being a consecrator of bishops and thereby assuring that the historical continuity of bishops remains unbroken, this is aside from dispensing the sacraments including celebrating Mass. A priest can celebrate Mass anytime and hear confessions anytime/anywhere only if he/she has the faculty or permission from a bishop. So in churches with an episcopal polity like the Orthodox, Catholics and the Anglicans, the role of the bishop is important. The bishop also is the focus of unity in the Church.

Do we mean a woman cannot be a focus of unity? Of course not. In many places and societies and most likely in your own family, it is a woman who guarantees unity.

But the Church of England by voting down this proposal, should make us rethink what priests really are.

The Evangelicals and the Anglo Catholics who have joined forces in scuppering the women bishops measure believe that they had to do so since the Bible says a man can only head a family( our wider family is the nation and then the Church) and that especially for the Anglo Catholics, the CoE has no authority at all to change what the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and the Oriental Christians have believed for 1979 years. These churches have no women clergy and never will. The Evangelical and Anglo Catholic positions are valid and while not equal are very complementary. There are Roman Catholics who believe a Vatican III will change the rules. I have to douse cold water on that. Today we are more ecumenical than we were during Vatican I. We won't change the rules without at least informing the Orthodox..And we very well know that the Orthodox understand than most Roman Catholics like us don't fully realize, THE RULES CAN'T BE CHANGED. And so the Pope stands by the Orthodox on these matters.

It is a matter of authority. Who has the authority anyway to make these decisions? The Evangelicals appeal to the Bible while the Anglo Catholics stand by Tradition and how this is confirmed by the Bible. Changing understanding of any of these is unconscionable for them.

For Catholics a priest should be male since  a priest offers the same sacrifice that Christ did at Calvary.  This sacrifice cuts across time it is not bound by time. The sex of a priest is not incidental to this idea since Christ is male. Thus the traditional doctrine that a woman cannot offer the same sacrifice.

Back to the synod decision's fallout. The English political establishment will do everything to make the CoE conform to the UK's "equality legislation" including removing the right of Anglican bishops to sit in the Lords.  Despite the theological eccentricities of Anglican bishops, they are the only ones in Parliament that witness against the non humanist secularism engulfing Europe, the USA and now also the Philippines.

We have to remember that the CoE is an established church. Parliament can do anything to it as it sees fit!

Forcing equality legislation on the CoE means in theory forcing equality on the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church and make them ordain female priests in England.  This is a violation of freedom of conscience. And so we are back to the days of Sir Thomas More. Conscience...still...for the dissenters of the Church of England and for the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church in England as well as their faithful Orthodox brethren.

Of course David Cameron's government won't send dissenters to the Tower to have their heads lopped off. Secularists have become more civilized than that.. there is a more deadly thing called a lawsuit!

Please say your Rosaries for the Church in England.

Our Lady of Walsingham
 Sts John Fisher and Thomas More
St Margaret Clitherow
St Edmund Campion
All ye Holy Men and Women England and Wales, thy Martyrs, the flowers of England.
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Pray for us...