Ed Tomlinson considers thequestion why those who won the victory at the York Synod are so upset and angry, and utterly unable to celebrate
Afew years ago a rotund prop forward crashed over a white line on the turf of Cambridge’s Grange Road and secured a Cuppers Plate victory for Emmanuel College. Cheers erupted as the final whistle blew and the quiet post match beer turned into several noisy ones! That rotund prop is now ordained (and even larger, alas) but still remembers the night – it can’t have been that good then.
How different to the mood of Synod’s victors since emerging with the trophy of female episcopacy held high! One would have forgiven Christina’s cronies had they hotfooted it to York for loud celebratory drinks. Why not raise the glass to beaten Catholics whose battered remains lay strewn in their wake? We are finished, regardless of what any Code might claim. Where then is the smile of victory? Where the celebratory dance? For, curiously, such joy seems entirely absent. Something is rankling our grumpy liberal foes. What could it be?
Take Christina Rees herself. She lost all composure during a radio interview in Ireland. Far from being magnanimous in victory she was positively seething, as if women priests had lost the debate! Indeed it required a gracious word from Gill, a FiF member, to soothe our friend from Watch. ‘Why are you so angry?’ she was repeatedly asked. Why indeed? This meltdown was as perplexing as her choice to misrepresent us by claiming the need for male episcopacy was as daft as pro-hunt activists seeking bishops who can ride! Why so disparaging? It is not sporting to kick when someone is down, you know.
In a newspaper article Ms Threlfal-Holmes conducted herself in likewise manner. What possessed her to speak of ‘taint’ at this stage of proceedings, when it is widely known we have never espoused such daft theology in
any case? Why revert to negative spin when she should be jumping for joy? Anger is not Christina’s alone!
That spitting story
And then came the jewel in the crown of bitter posturing! I speak of the extraordinary claim on television by the Revd Fiona Weaver who implied traditionalists regularly spit on women priests! This unsubstantiated allegation then cropped up in a newspaper which claimed the spitting had occurred at Synod. Really? A member of synod ‘gobbing’ on women? We need to know more!
Is there a rampaging group of insane traditionalists hunting down female clergy for filthy mucus attack? A lack of wider evidence suggests not. More likely is the scenario of an unhinged individual or a false allegation. In either scenario the decision to raise this in public becomes scandalous. Why present freak behaviour as though normative of all? The only intention can be to smear and defame.
Despite requests for evidence the accusers refuse to oblige. We are left in the dark then to draw our own conclusions. But regardless of frequency or fact – and I am genuinely horrified if anyone was spat on – we return to the original point. Our liberal friends are reverting to type in order to attack us. Why deride when the battle is o’er? Pray what is making them unhappy?
One might assume the angst stems from loving regret, but this explanation is hard to defend. Though some advocates of women bishops do demonstrate concern, there are plenty who don’t. One look at comments on liberal blogs reminds us of this fact. Thinking Anglicans’ Gerry Lynch put it
most bluntly, ‘Go to Rome. Now. Your continued presence does neither you nor it any credit. Don’t ask for your buildings and money.’ Charming! Far from dissipating in victory, anger and intolerance has only increased.
My next hunch is perhaps more likely. Might supporters of women priests be trapped within their own rhetoric? Have they played victim so long that they no longer know how to play victor? Society reinforces this view where we find many powerful, middle-classed women (like Harriet Harman) using language of victimhood despite having hugely better prospects than all the working classes combined! There is a brand of militant feminist who will never rejoice for they are forever feeling aggrieved instead of thankful. If they cannot be thankful having secured so much when will they ever give over?
I end with another suggestion altogether. Are liberal Christians angry because those leaving for Rome take any credible claim of Catholicity with them? Does the anger emanate from deep-seated fear? Surely Rome’s damning pronouncement on women’s ordination cannot be lost on them?
Do they realise that far from gaining ontological gifts they have driven them from the church in this land? The trophy is won but the price is heavy. Polite conversation will doubtless continue, but ARCIC is dead and so is any claim to be part of the Church of the ages.
Most liberals yearn to be part of the Catholic priesthood and hence delight in stealing our language and clothes. But they wake to a sobering fact. Far from being priests in the Universal Church they have made themselves ministers in a Protestant sect. The rest of Christendom is now turning its back, and the victory for liberalism already seems hollow. Be careful what you wish for, my mother used to say. ND