Anglican bishops in ‘secret’ Vatican summit
In ‘highly confidential discussions’ the bishops ‘expressed their dismay at the liberal direction of the Church of England and their fear for its future’. By ‘liberal’ they mean the rows over homosexuality and women bishops, and so they met with members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which The Telegraph bills as ‘the most powerful of the Vatican's departments, the successor to the medieval Inquisition, which enforces doctrine and was headed by Pope Benedict XVI before his election’.
But Cranmer is bemused.
Where did the Church of England think the ordination of women priests would lead? Female bishops are simply a logical progression: either women may be ordained or they may not. If they may, it is quite arbitrary to prevent their rising through the ranks. And the moment they decreed that homosexual priests may minister, and that they may live with their partners as long as the remain celibate, and that homosexuals may receive a church blessing on their relationships, it was only a matter of time before the celibacy rule was quietly 'no longer enforced', and the church's 'blessing’ became a formal ‘gay marriage’ liturgy, modelled on Cranmer’s magnum opus.
Yet one bishop justifies his dialogue with Rome by asserting that ‘these are the presenting issues that have made talks necessary, but our concerns go much deeper than these rows to issues of basic doctrine.’ And another refers to the fracturing Anglican Communion forcing a ‘unity’ with Rome.
Basic doctrine? Unity with Rome?
While differences over soteriology may not be as important as they once were, it is difficult to see how exchanging one churches foibles for those of another addresses issues of ‘basic doctrine’. There are divisions on grace, Thomistic ideas and the Eucharist, and let us not forget the notion of 'papal infallibility’. And those considering defecting will learn, if they do not already know, that 'Catholic' has been hijacked by Rome, that it repudiates the contention of the Church of England that it is part of the Catholic Church, and they will also learn that 'ecumenism' is a process in which the partial churches and ‘ecclesial communities’ are invited to join the Roman Catholic Church in its fullness.
And as for seeking ‘unity’ with Rome, one only has to see the gulf that exists between Pope Benedict XVI and his bishops in England and Wales to appreciate that the Church of Rome is as divided against itself as the Church of England. There is internecine conflict and poisonous invective between The Catholic Herald and The Tablet, for Rome has its ‘traditional’ and ‘liberal’ wings also. There is internal pressure for women priests (and therefore cardinals?); there are arguments over the status of Vatican II, acutely expressed by the schismatic Society of St Pius X; there is disquiet about the ‘encouragement’ of the Tridentine Rite in every parish; ordinands to the priesthood are diminishing; the ‘enforced’ celibacy of the priesthood is being questioned; the Church has its own
‘Frying pan’ and ‘fire’ come to mind. Those Anglican bishops and priests who wish to have ‘unity’ with Rome while maintaining their ‘Anglican identity’ may well find that while the arms of His Holiness are open wide, those of his bishops remain firmly folded. After all, either Anglican orders are 'absolutely null and totally void' or they are not. However easy the Pope may wish to make any mass defection (excuse the pun), there are more than a few Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales who may stubbornly refuse to cooperate in the process.
It is ironic that an aide to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor observes that the dialogue with the Anglican bishops only started after the crisis in the Anglican Communion worsened. He said: "It is obvious things are starting to fall apart and Rome wants to be able to help if it can."
Cranmer humbly suggests that His Eminence ought to focus on his own worsening situation: he is hardly in a position to pick up the pieces of the Church of England when things are falling apart rather nearer home.