The Ordinariate is under way. To no-one’s great surprise, Fr. Keith Newton has been appointed Ordinary, and he and the other newly-minted (Roman) Catholic priests begin the process of inducting others to follow in their wake. Having just read Andrew Burnham’s interview in The Catholic Herald, I should think it must be quite a relief for them no longer to feel that they are held in tension between the Church of which they were part, and the Church which commanded their true loyalty. But what of those who remain?
As is often the way, it’s easier to speak the truth plainly when it no longer has personal impact: Fr. Newton is quoted by the BBC as saying: ‘”You can’t have a Church that believes in women bishops and doesn’t believe in women bishops.” Which is of course the point that Affirming Catholicism and others have been trying to make these many years. I do want those who disagree with the ordination of women to stay within the Church of England, if that’s how the Spirit is leading them. Others will feel called – and who am I to tell them they’re wrong? – to join the Ordinariate. But the Church which they are remaining within is either (as at present) one that does not ordain women as bishops, or (as I hope it will be) one that does. It can’t be both simultaneously.
The challenge for all Catholics, always, in whatever church they are, is to (in John Newman’s words)
… hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church as His creation,
And her teachings are His own.
If the Church of England is part of the Catholic Church with authority to order its own life, then Catholic members of it are called to accept its teaching as the teaching of the Church, even if they disagree. If it isn’t – then I suppose there might be a prophetic ministry of trying to call the Church of England back to its true vocation as a part of the Western (i.e. Roman Catholic) Church. But that vocation cannot within integrity camouflage itself merely as opposition to women bishops; it’s about a wholesale change of direction, not a decision on one particular issue.