Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Rocky Road To...

The Church of England is all in a tizzy.  The synod is debating whether or not to ordain women bishops.  They have finally made a decision - they're postponing a decision until November, or perhaps even February.  The ladies in ministry are not happy.  Melanie McDonagh has a few interesting things to say. 

The problem is that the traditionalists in the Anglican communion, who do not recognise the validity of the ordination of women, want assurances that they will not be subject to a woman bishop, but have a male bishop, ordained by a male bishop to cater for their pastoral needs.  The women who want to be priests/bishops are not happy with that and do not want the synod to make provision for it - if it does, then they will opt out - the decision to ordain women as bishops must be on their terms and on their terms only.

To be honest I don't see a problem here.  First of all, as a Catholic, I do not consider Anglican orders as valid, so there is no issue of the sacred priesthood here (see explanation here, and Pope Leo XIII's bull Apostolicae Curae).  If the Church of England has decided that women can be ordained priests of their community, then it cannot refuse to ordain them bishops - if they are eligible for two levels of Holy Orders why not the third?  This was all decided when the decision was taken to admit women to the diaconate.  I understand that there is little unity of faith in the Anglican communion now - it seems many doctrines are decided by majority votes by synods, so officially there ends up being varying beliefs in every corner of the community.   At this stage I really do not know what it is that binds them as a communion. 

The traditionalists are going to have to accept the ordination of women bishops and let the C of E get on with it and go wherever it is going.  They are, of course, welcome to come into the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, where is a central authority and real communion in faith, even if we have members who rebel against it.  The door is open, we will be delighted to welcome them - the Church is renewing, in a new springtime, and their presence and contributions would be most welcome. 

This crisis in the Church of England should serve as a lesson to us: we must maintain the unity of faith and remain true to the teaching of Christ and the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ, whom the Holy Spirit guides.   The Church has no authority to ordain women, and this means admit them to Holy Orders be it diaconate, priesthood or the episcopacy, as Blessed John Paul II explained in his letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which is binding on Catholics who wish to remain in communion with the Church.   For those who do not want to accept it, I'm sure there are denominations out there who would be glad to welcome them into their ranks.

Oh, and to head them off at the pass: for those who say that women were ordained deacons in the early Church - they were not.  Yes, there were women who fulfilled certain roles in the Church and were called deaconesses - but there was no laying on of hands - they were not ordained.  Their chief function was to assist at the baptism of women.  Given that baptism was by total immersion and the candidate was naked, it was not deemed appropriate for men to assist the lady in the baptismal pool - modesty and chastity were paramount, so certain women were on hand to help the female candidate.  Perhaps if we go back to full immersion of naked adults for baptism, the Church may well reintroduce these "deaconesses", but given codes of behaviour now I doubt it - too risky to have naked people running around the Church.

1 comment:

  1. Not wanting to quibble, but ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS very specifically concerned "priestly ordination". I agree that women can't be ordained deacons either, but you can't rely on this papal document for that. Presumably Pope John Paul II did not feel the teaching in respect of deacons was clear enough to stake his infallibility on it.