Catholic statement

From Fr Aidan Nichols op

David Nichol is right in saying [ND September] that for Roman Catholic ecclesiology and liturgical theology the meaning of the imposition of hands by fellow-presbyters at the ordination of a priest is perfectly plain. It signifies the induction of the neo-ordinatus into the presbyteral college of not only the local but also the universal Church.

The notion that, in these circumstances, the laying on of hands represents, rather, the invocation of a blessing on the newly ordained by other ministers present is simply a piece of modern sentimentality. So exclusively personal a transaction would be out of place in such close proximity to the defining moment of a liturgical rite.

There is a limit to the quantity of internal contradiction the members of a Church can fairly be asked to bear. But if a non-Anglican might make a suggestion, it would be along the following lines. The traditional gesture of blessing by a lay minister (for instance, a parent, minister in the domestic church, to their offspring) is the tracing on the forehead of the sign of the cross. Might it be feasible for newly ordained priests who do not accept the ordination of women to receive such a blessing from women ministers at the end of the ordination liturgy? Both to receive and to impart such a blessing would be for all parties concerned, an act of humility consistent with a life of ministerial service.

Aidan Nichols

Blackfriars, Buckingham Rd, Cambridge

What next?

From Professor Michael Moreton

The latest crisis for traditional Catholics was spelt out in David Nichol’s article in the September ND. It will not be the last. At an early stage of the question of the admission of women to Holy Order, Bishop Robert Mortimer, then Bishop of Exeter, opposed such a change on the grounds that its consequences could not be forseen.

These have now begun to unfold. Inclusive language, a leading principle in the NRSV, has led to the loss of the idiomatic and generic use of ‘man’ and of the Christological title ‘Son of man.’ Feminist expressions have been introduced into para-liturgical forms, such as the admitting of women priests to office, even with a whiff of devotion to mother Earth. It will not be long, one may with confidence predict, before these are accommodated in liturgical rites in yet another round of liturgical revision.

And now, it is proposed to eliminate the sacramental participation of priests from the rite of ordination by making the imposition of hands by priests optional and meaningless, so that no occasion is given to controversy.

These are developments of increasing seriousness. With woman bishops in prospect, what may the next step be? Shall we extrapolate and hazard the suggestion that there will come a day when traditional Catholic beliefs and practices will be, not undermined, but anathematized?

Michael Moreton

3 Glenthorpe Road, Duryard, Exeter

Useful information

Dr Simon Cotton

The reference to medical uses of marijuana [ND August] deserves some amplification. Marijuana (the dried leaves and flower heads of the cannabis plant) is a cocktail of many different chemicals, the most important one being D9-tetrahydocannabinol (THC). This and similar molecules activate particular receptors in the brain, some apparently being involved in pain perception.

There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, and increasing positive results from clinical trials, that cannabis reduces pain and/or nausea in cancer patients and reduces wasting in AIDS patients. Several American states permit medical use of marijuana, and a molecule called Marinol (dronabinol), which is a synthetic D9-THC-like molecule, is FDA approved for treating these conditions. Marijuana is believed to be beneficial to people with MS.

No one would suggest that smoking marijuana is a good thing for normally healthy people, but those with a terminal condition are another matter. Readers wanting accurate, readable and cheap information about marijuana (or indeed any other drug) are recommended Professor Leslie Iversen’s, Drugs, A Very Short Introduction OUP.

Simon Cotton

74 High Street East, Uppingham

Avant-garde conformism

From the Archdeacon of Newark

I am grateful to Martin Marlate [ND August] for highlighting my General Synod speech in the women bishops debate though I fear I am misrepresented. At York in July I said, ‘Historians of theology have coined a subtle phrase to describe the distinctive outlook of emergent Anglicanism – avant-garde conformism,’ acknowledging my indebtedness to Diarmaid MacCulloch for passing on their particular insight. Three-minute speeches are unkind to detail but for the record my point was to suggest that ‘avant-garde conformism’ need not be confined to Laudian developments but captures the character of Anglicanism as it seeks to proclaim the historic faith afresh in every generation.

MacCulloch observes [Reformation pp.510–522] that after the 1559 Settlement Anglicans were eclectic about the content of their avant-garde conformism. A ‘complex of attitudes’ (p.511) held in high regard the Eucharist, sacred music and episcopacy distanced from the interference of continental reformers, yet embraced the vernacular Bible and liturgy, secularized and married clergy and a court-sponsored hierarchy released from the interference of Rome.

While Archbishop Laud deplored the Church of Rome’s errors his counter-reforming zeal which enriched our Church also misjudged the broader character of English Christianity, a mistake repeated in the varied enthusiasms of later centuries. Archbishop Rowan Williams [Anglican Identities pp.55–56] cautions that the Anglican tradition resists conservative or radical pigeonholing, finding in Hooker’s legacy a contemplative pragmatic approach to the challenges and debates of the day.

Nigel Peyton

Dunham House, Westgate, Southwell

Synod Come Dancing

From Mr Alan Graham

Christina Rees invites us all to join the dance [ND September]. Come on everybody! Let’s twist again. Unless, of course, Christina wants an ecclesiastical version of Strictly Come Dancing where some folk get slung off the dance floor if they don’t get the majority vote.

Alan Graham

25 Ceidrim Road, Garnant, Carms.