The Catholic hierarchy have been cautious in their response to the moves of the Church of England to ordain women to the episcopate. Their line seems to be that this is a matter for the C of E to decide for itself: and that unity discussions will continue, though in a rather different context.
I spent Christmas with my mother: I went to the Vigil Mass of Christmas at the Catholic church, and then we went together to the Anglican church on Christmas morning, the church where I was brought up, and where my mother still worships. I am grateful to the priest and people for the warm and gracious welcome they continue to give me. Gracious is certainly not the tone of the January edition of ‘Sarum Link’, their diocesan newspaper. Of course, it is not for me to have a go about their reaction to the lost General Synod vote, but when this spills over into ignorant and careless talk about the Holy Father and the Catholic Church, then I will certainly wade in. Here is the article under the heading ‘Second Opinion’ by Tim Biles.
How I wish the women bishops thing was resolved! As it is we go into another new year with it still dominating the way the nation sees us and the way we spend our own time and energy on our own affairs while the world with all its needs passes us by. That’s sinful.
However their is one good thing about it, which hasn’t had the publicity it deserves. We’ve heard that the failure to accept women bishops makes the church ‘even more irrelevant’, that it means we have forfeited our right to ‘speak for the nation’, that the decision was akin to the C of E ‘committing suicide’ and that our church is in the hands of a minority.
These are harsh criticisms. How does the Roman Catholic Church avoid such ridicule when it won’t even allow the question of women priests to be discussed? Their Pope has decided and no matter what the people may think they have to keep quiet about it because they have no voice. Even their bishops cannot offer a thought because if they do the papal nuncio watchdog who oversees them will report them. Their allegiance is to an absolute monarchy, behind the Vatican walls.
This is where our little bit of unpublicised good news comes in. We have a system in which everyone counts, and every member of Synod is entitled to speak and be heard. This is light years ahead of the papal contingent who must remain on message even when the message is of the past age and seems absurd. It’s true our Synod delivered a decision again the vast majority – 42 dioceses out of 44 said ‘yes’, 41 bishops out of 44 voted ‘yes’ – and yet a small group of lay people scuppered it (for the time being).
But which would you prefer in the twenty first century – an absolute monarch who silences the people, or a system of government which liberates the people, even with the risks that involves? Why not be proud of our open debates, proud of the way we share leadership and decision making? General Synod may be too bureaucratic and it must be heavy going to attend (thank goodness I’ve never been anywhere near it) but one good thing is that every member is heard and dreadful decisions can be put right.
We don’t have papal bulls set in stone, infallible for ever! Be proud of our C of E!
Underneath the article is this line: “Second Opinion is intended to create and enable debate. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not express the policy or view of the Sarum Link, Diocese of Salisbury or the Church of England. ” Well, that’s alright then.
Ironically, in the same page, is a review of Michael Mitton’s book, ‘Dreaming of home’. The reviewer, Lavender Buckland, writes: “That longing for Michael Mitton’s ‘authenticity’ is … what enables acceptance of difference without rejection. It is a sense of profound relationship, which comes from listening to people who hold very different views from ours. Church should never be a place of unchallenged ‘settling’ but a base camp for exploration and fresh encounter.”
I can only hope that Tim Biles and Lavender Buckland will speak to each other.