In accordance with its declared policy, Forward in Faith provided the secretarial skills and logistics which made possible the two Sacred Synods called by a group of Catholic Bishops. Both meetings were well attended and accounts of them are to be found elsewhere in this edition of New Directions.
The unfolding progress toward the establishment of an Ordinariate for former Anglicans in the Roman Church, the subject of recent comment at Oscott College by Pope Benedict, was given an airing (at least in the South). But the Synods seemed designed to grandstand
a new initiative by a number of bishops setting up a ‘Society of SS Wilfrid and Hilda’ for those Anglicans intending to remain in the Church of England after the promulgation of the Canon to ordain women to the episcopate.
‘The Society Model’ has been much spoken of. And though it was rejected by the Revision Committee it is being canvassed as a possible ecclesial solution. A group is presently working on the theological and practical problems involved. In the short term it seems to be hoped that a sizeable enrolment for the Society might influence the House of Bishops to undertake a further revision of the legislation before final approval. In any event it is thought that the bishops of the Society might, by various means, find themselves able to minister to priests and congregations who sought their help.
It is not as yet clear how this might come about. There are, it seems, more questions than answers. How would the Society be able to ensure the replacement of orthodox clergy in the parishes which joined it? How could the bishops of the Society assure their own succession? In a Church in which the territorial imperative of diocesan bishops rivals that of every other known mammal, it is hard to envisage many amicable arrangements – and none which involve the transference of jurisdiction.
The unnamed group working on the ‘society model’ will necessarily have to take account both of the Clergy Discipline Measure and the introduction of Common Tenure. It will need to address urgently the problems of the selection of ordinands and the provision of theological training.
Many of those who spoke in favour of the initiative, it has to be admitted, did not seem to envisage it as a long term solution; but we wish them well in their task. As the slogan of opposition changes from A‘ Code of Practice will not do’ to A‘ Code of Practice will have to do’ a degree of ingenuity will undoubtedly be required.
The Papal Visit has caused so much comment – everyone seems to have been talking about it – that there seems little to be added. Whether, as Andrew Brown suggested, it marked the final burial of Britain’s proud Protestant anti-Popish self-unterstanding we shall have to see. The map of the world is no longer mostly pink, the British Empire is no longer there to put the Holy Roman Empire into the shade.
Few people shudder at the mention of Rome – or even the Treaty of Rome. A Pope has captivated an audience where once the captive Thomas Moore stood condemned.
The reception in Westminster Hall was more than polite; the Prime Minister’s speech at Birmingham Airport was heartfelt. We are now clear that Cameron’s cabinet does ‘do God’, if only in a quiet, Church of England sort of way.
But the paradox may well be that as the nation accommodates itself to the idea that the Papacy is the one unflinching witness to Christian values in the Western hemisphere, the Church of England (as so often) is lagging behind. In the campaigns to see women ordained as priests and bishops there has been a good deal of ugly anti-Popery and a wilful refusal to see the doctrine of the Church in the matter as a discipline of faithfulness and obedience.
Anglo-Catholics, whether Ordinariate- or Society-bound can expect to be the victims of such sentiments from their co-religionists for some time to come. The No-Popery lobby of Ian Paisley and friends has been replaced by an unholy alliance of out and out atheists and their liberal Christian third column. These were the co-belligerents who took to the streets. The good news is that the Pope’s visit has made easier the proclamation of the Catholic Faith to the nation as a whole. The unchurched, not surprisingly, may well prove more receptive than the churchy.
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