Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anglo-Catholics and Women Bishops (3)

The primary group of opponents of the consecration of women to the episcopate in England are typically being identified simply as “the Anglo-Catholics.” Excuse me! I consider myself an Anglo-Catholic, and I’ve been one longer than a lot of these folks. (I was confirmed when I was a boy at All Saints’ Church, Indianapolis — the parish that at the time was “the Anglo-Catholic parish” of the diocese. Twenty-five years later, in that parish — still an Anglo-Catholic parish, but by then it was no longer such a big deal — the Rev. Jacqueline Mears was ordained to the priesthood, the first woman to be legally ordained after the approval of the ordination of women by the General Convention.) In the United States and in most of the rest of the Communion, Anglo-Catholics (with a few exceptions) not only do not oppose the ordination of women, but enthusiastically welcome it, and a substantial number of ordained women consider themselves to be Anglo-Catholics.

However, we should also recognize that the spectrum of “churchmanship” in England has always been much wider than it has been in North America or much of the rest of the Communion. English Evangelicals are more “evangelical” than any other Anglicans on earth, except in Sydney. English Anglo-Catholics have routinely adopted practices that American Anglo-Catholics never for a moment considered doing, like saying Mass in Latin from the Missale Romanum. (In those days we all used the American Missal, but all things considered it was relatively faithful to the Book of Common Prayer. Once the Episcopal Church began the Trial Use of liturgical forms that eventuated in the 1979 BCP, most of us put the missals away. On the whole the 1979 Book represented what we really wanted anyway.) The “Anglo-Catholic” opposition in England to the ordination and consecration of women to the priesthood and the episcopate are actually Ultramontanists (although they won’t always admit that even to themselves). As Dr. Eric Mascall (no mean Anglo-Catholic himself) put it many years ago, before the current kerfuffle:
And, though I’ve not submitted yet,
as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week,
had not my wife objected.
(From “The Ultra-Catholic,” Pi in the High.)

5 comments:

The young fogey said...

If you're on board with women priests you're not Anglo-Catholic any more but a high-church liberal Protestant.

WSJM said...

Thanks very much for your comment, YF. I guess you're right. I suppose I am a high-church liberal Protestant. Jesus too. Also St. Paul.

Tell me, though -- when was it decided that all Anglo-Catholics had to be opposed to the ordination of women? I don't recall that. And who made that decision, and by what authority? (No, don't tell me "By Christ's authority." That just doesn't wash.) I was not aware that it was an article of Anglo-Catholic Faith to be allergic to girl cooties. (Obviously it's not an article of Anglo-Catholic Faith to be allergic to gay cooties, at least not as long as they stay in the closet.)

Bill

The young fogey said...

You've got a point: by what authority? Authority, or belief or not in an infallible church: I'm convinced it's THE difference between Catholics and Protestants when all else is the same (Protestants including Episcopal women priests who believe the same creeds, have more or less the same liturgical life and believe the same things about the Mass and sacraments as I and probably you do). The difference between divinely instituted authority in the Anglican episcopate as the Tractarians saw it and the way it's actually practised in Anglican churches! (Except perhaps in Anglo-Catholic dioceses in the good old days you remember.) The disconnect that led to Newman's change of churches and why in many places outside 'London, Brighton and the South Coast' and the biretta belt, AC parishes were and are reduced to a kind of ritualist congregationalism with the bishop more a sort of ordaining machine than somebody to be obeyed like an apostle. Smart mark!

As for girl cooties and gay cooties, please. You know better. Regarding the first issue, 'I can't - I'm only the Pope' or an infallible church gives its members less power to change things than Protestants claim for themselves, and regarding the second, the Catholic faith including in the form you and I know is never tolerant of heresy but always of people's failings (hence confession and absolution). Catholics sin like anybody else but know better than to think you can bend the church to say it's OK.

WSJM said...

Well, if you define "Catholicity" as "belief in an infallible church," then I guess I plead not guilty. (Or perhaps it would be "guilty of unbelief"!) I am an Anglican, and appeal to Article 19; although that's a bit ad hominem, since I am not all that committed to the authoritativeness of the Articles of Religion!). But I'm not sure then who is a genuine Catholic, because I sure don't see any infallible churches around here (short of the Church Triumphant, which by definition isn't here yet). Certainly not Rome. Benedict XVI's statement that the RCC doesn't have the authority to ordain women is seriously blindered (at best). I think I spoke to that in A-Cs & WBs (4), Reply Obj. 5.

It's good to discuss with you!

The young fogey said...

Spot-on: Articles XIX and XXI gave the ending away before the first Tractarian preached or wrote anything. Fallible church = Protestant. Or did an episcopate with divinely instituted apostolic authority exist in Anglicanism outside those Oxford dons' imagination?

The Orthodox and other Eastern communions agree with B16 on WO: 'we can't'. Can't blame that on the Pope!

Without getting to the heart of the matter, 'Infallible or not?', there's no point getting bogged down in fights about WO or gay marriage.

It's good to discuss with you!

Indeed.