It is no secret that many bishops are in a bit of a panic about this summer’s debate over women bishops and fear the loss of many traditionalists. According to reports in the Daily Mail, both the Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury now plan to intervene in the forthcoming debate over women bishops by demanding greater provision for opponents whose needs will not be met if the conclusions of the revision committee come into force. Quite what the Archbishops will propose is not made clear and nor is there any guarantee that Synod will listen to their plea but at least it shows that they understand the plight of those being forced into the fringes of ecclesial life.
What is the English Anglo-Catholic to make of this latest twist in a very long saga? Most importantly, what will the impact of this public support be on the emerging Ordinariate? The answer depends on which of three camps an individual occupies at present. Perhaps it helps us to name them:
- The Anglo-Papalist stance: those occupying this position will embrace the Ordinariate regardless of what Synod may or may not offer Anglo-Catholics in the future. This group yearns for communion with Peter above all else and the erection of a bridge across the Tiber places a spiritual obligation on them to move. The declaration from Canterbury and York might impress them but it will not move them.
- The Congregational Catholic stance: these Anglo-Catholics yearn for Synod to find a solution that keeps them within the Church of England and will likely rejoice in the latest news but with a degree of scepticism — this does little to temper synod’s mood and promises in the past have frequently been broken. Nevertheless, should York and Canterbury succeed then they will have what they truly desire — a means of being part of a Catholic tradition as opposed to part of the Catholic faith. This is the group most affected by this news as they are the group who are open to the Ordinariate but not enthusiastic about it. We might define this group as those who would join an Ordinariate but only as a last resort.
- The High-church Protestant stance: those occupying this group might enjoy lace, incense and High Mass on a Sunday but they have no desire at all to enter into the Roman Catholic fold. A deeply protestant group they will be remaining out of Communion with Peter regardless of what unfolds in the General Synod. This group will delight in the latest news and we should be pleased that it will help them remain faithful to the Church they clearly belong to.
Having identified these three positions we can begin to assess the impact of July’s synod on the Ordinariate. Those of us in the first group will not be swayed regardless of what transpires and nor will those in the last group. It is the many who sit in the middle group whose vote is ‘up for grabs’. The question I want to pose for debate is quite simple then.
How should the supporters of the Ordinariate view July’s synodical debate? Should they pray that it goes well for traditionalists in order that those entering into communion with Rome are clearly seen to be doing it for all the right reasons? Or should they pray that Synod goes badly in order to convince as many as possible to join even if they do so reluctantly? I am increasingly favouring the first scenario and would prefer a smaller but purer Ordinariate group… but what about you?
What expectation should we have of those becoming Roman Catholic by entering an Ordinariate? And what should be made of those opting to remain where they are? Is it possible for them to remain unchanged in matters devotional, doctrinal and liturgical having politely refused the offer from Rome?
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