torsdag 22 november 2012

Church of England rejects women bishops

The vote against women bishops has aroused a storm of protests by agnostics, atheists and equalities fascists. Most of it is ill-informed and ignorant. Arguments about modernity and the need to get out of the medieval mindset or come into the twentieth century are no argument at all. They reveal a poverty of intellect and an unwillingness to thing about the real reasons why a change might or might not be desirable.

Church office is not a prize to be sought after like getting oneself in the MD's chair. The desire to be a bishop is unworthy and in principle a reason why the individual is not suitable. This was one of the themes explored by Trollope in Barchester Towers, alas now little read.

But in the case of the Church of England, there is a complication. The question of Anglican orders was investigated by Rome in the late nineteenth century by a commission set up by Pope Leo XIII. This led to the publication of the Bull Apostolae Curae in 1896, which concluded, "We pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void."

"In the whole Ordinal not only is there no clear mention of the sacrifice, of consecration, of the priesthood (sacerdotium), and of the power of consecrating and offering sacrifice but, as We have just stated, every trace of these things which had been in such prayers of the Catholic rite as they had not entirely rejected, was deliberately removed and struck out."

So Anglican "priests" are not priests and Anglican bishops are not bishops of the Universal Church; thus the former Catholic sees are in reality defunct, having been replaced by those established on the restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in 1850.

Catholic doctrine is that it does not have the ability to ordain women, an assertion that was put to the test in the 1970s when a number of women in Czechoslovakia underwent the ordination ceremony. This is not a matter of cussedness or sexism. The priest at the altar is another Christ, an alter Christi, representing in a bloodless form the sacrifice of Calvary. This is a theological point that has become obscured by the practice of celebrating Mass facing the people, which has led to the widespread belief that it is a re-enactment of the Last Supper. The question that arises is whether a woman is capable of performing the role of an Alter Christi, and there is nothing to suggest that this is possible.

But none of the above applies within the Anglican church, which means that it can have no objection to the appointment of women to church office. The difficulty there is that it kills off hopes of ecumenical unity at an institutional level, but these were never grounded in realism in the first place.

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