Monday, July 7, 2008

Further Anglican Confusion

As we await the outcome of the debate in the Anglican General Synod over the future of the Church of England vis-à-vis women bishops, Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a couple of very good posts on the subject here and here.

The second of Fr. L's entries above, entitled "More Anglican News," includes a link to a July 2 Damien Thompson column about the tenuousness of the Anglo-Catholics' position. As Mr. Thompson points out, the recent letter signed by 11 bishops and 1,300 clergy demanding alternative oversight for traditionalists reads a bit like an empty threat. After all, they didn't leave the C of E back when the decision was taken to ordain women as priests. Since women cannot be priests, according to Catholic doctrine, how can they continue to be part of an institution that is so clearly NOT CATHOLIC and continue to call themselves Catholics?

In fairness, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have not made it easy for them, as Thompson points out:

Why did it take them so long? Well, one answer is that some Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have done everything in their power to make them feel unwanted, while insisting that converts attend services that (in style if not in content) are more drearily Protestant than anything the Anglo-Catholics have ever experienced.
He concludes the column with the following observation about the current state of affairs, which owes a great deal to Pope Benedict XVI and his appreciation for a recovery of the sense of the sacred in Catholic liturgy. The "greatest Pope of modern times"? I would agree he is certainly one of the greatest, especially with respect to sacred liturgy. I would also argue that what he is doing would not have been possible without the good work begun by his predecessor, John Paul II:

But now, thank God, the Holy See is occupied by the greatest Pope of modern times, a man with a deep appreciation of the traditional Latin Mass and the riches of Anglican spirituality. He's also prepared to change parochial arrangements in order to reintroduce solemn and dignified liturgy.

In other words, both Anglo-Catholics and Rome are facing a window of opportunity; whether they pass through it depends on many factors, not least the defeat of the Sandalista tyranny in England and Wales. It's time for fresh thinking, an English cardinal who's up to the job, and new structures; stay tuned.

A part of me hopes, with Mr. Thompson, that the General Synod takes a hard line. This might force the hand of those Anglo-Catholics who continue to cling to the fiction that they are truly Catholic. I expect a few of them will grab onto the lifeline offered to them by the Holy See. Many, no doubt, will continue to muddle through, in the usual English way. We shall see.

No comments: