The Plateau

According to a CNS report, Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, of Westminster, England, sees ecumenism achieving a plateau with the threatened (if that is the right word) consecration of a woman as a bishop in the Anglican Communion. For those of us who have longed for a greater union with the Anglican Communion but for whom the traditional teaching of the Magisterium is the final arbiter with respect to what is Good, Just, and True, the plateau has, perhaps, already been crossed with the consecration of a bishop who rejects the traditional teaching on the Sacrament of Matrimony and the willfull ignoring of another bishop who rejects the teachings on the Real Presence and the Resurrection. For us, we are already more than half-way down the other side of the mountain.

I'm not altogether sure why the plateau wasn't reached when the first women were ordained to the priesthood. The Cardinal notes that "a bishop is in a particular way a figure of unity," but he also admits that once you've admitted women to the priesthood "it's probably inevitable that in due course there will be the ordination of women as bishops." In any case, the teaching has to do with the admission of women to Holy Orders simpliciter, not the admission of women to any particular grade of Holy Orders. But his point is taken: if things were bad before, they are beyond worse now, what with traditional morality under attack and the last vestiges of doctrinal slowly dissolving in the acid of contemporary secular values.

A possible complication to this mess, however, of particular interest to folks like me, is the question it raises about the status of folks in the more traditional dioceses in this country who now style themselves as the Anglican Communion Network (see, for example, the website for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh). Most of them, so far as I know, have no objection to the ordination of women to the priesthood--their decision to mark themselves off somehow from the rest of the Episcopal Church was grounded not in the ordination of women, but rather in the consecration of Gene Robinson. One way to view that consecration, one might have thought, is as a camel-back breaking straw, but apparently it was something rather different. After all, if there is nothing wrong with the admission of women to Holy Orders, then the only reasons for excluding them from the episcopacy are purely prudential rather than moral, and it would be a matter of considerable injustice to prevent them from holding that position. No: if they may not be bishops, the only reason that is morally permissible is that they may not be admitted Holy Orders at all. But most members of the Anglican Communion Network appear to accept the legitimacy of admitting women to Holy Orders, so presumably they will have no objection to the consecration of women as bishops.

These things are mysterious for now, however, since I, for one, haven't seen any statements from members of the ACN on this particular question. In the end, one must trust in God and pray that His will be done.


Perhaps of even greater consternation in this line of reasoning are the folks in the Anglican Continuum who in fact hold to the tenets and practices of the faith once delivered. These churches are increasing in number, and it is fair to say that the Anglican Use Roman Catholic parishes represent only a portion of these. Here, there is some dialogue of a more meaningful character. But these groups in many ways are analogous and actually more closely allied in faith to SSPX - which of course was excommunicated once, but now looks to be brought back into the fold. Not beyond the pale to see the same with the Continuum either through Eastern Orthodox (Western Rite) or the mythic uniate church of Anglocatholic sort with Rome. It's at least a two-step: you have to quit the pretense that rapprochement with Canterbury is possible before you can begin a real dialogue with the others. But then...the less catholic within the Roman communion do not necessarily want to swell the ranks of the traditionalists, so there is inevitable resistance, and those of like minds within Christendom continue to actually represent small segments within their individual churches...sadly divided by legacy and internal politics of their own communions.

What's a mother (church) to do?

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