With the publication of its report last month, no one can now doubt that the Revision Committee had been given an impossible task by General Synod. The eventual proposal, of a Code of Practice, bears no relation to the theological arguments presented, discussed and analysed. If the members of the Committee did the best they could with the mandate they were given, this has still not provided a satisfactory way forward.

We are grateful to those who represented the Catholic tradition. Their points were heard and were noted. And their truth remains.

‘The provision… for a parish to request the ministry simply of ‘a male bishop’ would not therefore address the theological needs of traditional catholics.’ [201]

This is as close as the Revision Committee could come to a formal acknowledgement (repeated elsewhere) that a Code of Practice will be entirely incapable of satisfying our needs. Or as we might put it, ‘A Code of Practice will not do; and the Revision Committee knows it.’

The next paragraph should be cited in full, for it is the neatest summary of the problems that went unresolved.

‘They went on to suggest that it was illogical – and, indeed, something of a pretence – to enact legislation that recognized the existence of doubt about women’s priestly and episcopal ministry but then failed to make provision that properly reflected the nature of that doubt.’ [202]

Once again, the case is clearly stated, and remains unanswered.

‘Furthermore, legislation which allowed parishes, on grounds of theological conviction, to seek the episcopal ministry of a man rather than a woman, but in a way which did not properly reflect the nature of those theological convictions, would in effect be simply to put in place an unjustifiable form of discrimination on grounds of gender.’ [202]

Have we not said, over and over again, that a Code of Practice is a misogynist’s charter, entirely irrelevant to the theological requirements and a matter of lasting shame and dishonour to a Church that would enact it?

‘It would also be to act in a way which was completely inconsistent with any claim that there remained two acceptable views as to women’s priestly and episcopal ministry in the Church of England.’ [202] Exactly. And finally, a paragraph printed in bold to underline its importance: ‘Thirdly, we need to report the view put to us in the latter stages of our work that we have come up with a solution that may possibly work for some, though by no means all, conservative evangelicals but will simply not do for traditional catholics.’ [449]

Synod still have a great deal of work. We are not there yet.

Italy ordains its first woman priests’ ran the headline on the BBC website. ‘The BBC’s Duncan Kennedy in Rome says some commentators have argued that having more women in the Church may have helped prevent the priest child-abuse scandal of recent years.’ Mother Longhitano, it turns out, is a married school-teacher of 35 who was ordained by the Italian Old Catholic Church (a tiny breakaway group) in a borrowed Anglican Church – All Saints’, Rome.

The story for the BBC was a challenge to the male-dominated cohorts of Vatican officials. Robert Piggott, the resident expert in these matters commented that ‘John Paul II even banned official discussion of the issue.’ ‘Although Mrs Longhitano will not be a Roman Catholic priest, her ordination in the borrowed Anglican church will be acutely uncomfortable for the Vatican.’

But the real story is rather different. It is a story of change and decay. The Old Catholic Church has come a long way since Dollinger! A body founded in opposition to the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility has belatedly surrendered to the spirit of the age, and now proclaims itself to have a competence in innovation which the Pope has denied himself.

Old Catholic turns New Age: that is the story, sadly a familiar one. We should no longer be surprised when break-away movements, claiming to safeguard authentic tradition and teaching, embrace heresy and novelty with increasing enthusiasm. We Anglicans are in one. ND