Sunday, January 16, 2011

She's no Lady; she's my wife

No, this whole ceremony, complete with 80 Catholic priests on the altar, plus six bishops, was a grand launch for Pope Benedict's new ringfenced section within Catholicism for Anglican dissenters. There has never been anything of its kind before. Its name was unveiled – the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – as well as the identity of its first leader, Father Newton. He will preside over a church within a church, where the normal rules of Catholicism don't apply. As well as a married priesthood, it can also use its own prayer books and rites, imported from Anglicanism.
Anglo-Catholics: can't live with them; can't live without them. It works like this: these men were Anglicans, Clerks in Holy Orders of the Church of England. They did well and were promoted, eventually getting themselves ordained as bishops. They also got married, to women. But now it seems that other women want to be bishops, and not just wives. The Church of England, which employed these other women as Clerks in Holy Orders, now wants to ordain them as bishops. This promotion annoys the Anglo-Catholic bishops, who like women to be wives, but not bishops.

So the Anglo-Catholic bishops applied to join the Roman Catholic Church. This Church does not allow women to become bishops, or even priests for that matter. So, if their applications were accepted, the Anglo-Catholic bishops could become Roman Catholic priests and would never suffer the discomfort of meeting a woman dressed like them; nor would they ever have a woman as a boss.

However, there was a problem: the Roman Catholic Church does not just insist that it priests be men; it also does allow them to be married to women. Fortunately the Pope had an idea. He has created an enclave, where ex-Anglicans can be priests and can keep their wives. This enclave will be named after a woman, the woman known to the Anglo-Catholics as the BVM (the Blessed Virgin Mary; no, I am not making this up) in her role as Our Lady of Walsingham.

I am sure this all makes perfect sense to some people. The bishops keep their wives and their prayers. It is to be hoped that they will keep the Hymn Book as well, since Roman Catholics cannot sing. The Roman Catholics will get some converts, but they will be quarantined, so as not to contaminate the Church with their singing and their wives. The Church of England perhaps does not yet realise how fortunate it is to be rid of these turbulent priests; or perhaps it does, and is making only a pretense of protest. The Roman Catholic Church perhaps does not yet realise how silly Anglo-Catholics can be. If it does, then it must be really desperate for converts.

The Anglican Church in New Zealand ordained Penny Jamieson, the first female diocesan bishop in the Anglican Communion, in 1990. For reasons known only to itself, the Anglican Church in New Zealand has not ordained any more women as bishops.


Deborah said...

You capture the mind-boggling contortions of both the Anglo-Catholics and the Roman Catholics so very, very nicely.

aj said...

In your third last para I think you mean " does not allow them to be married to women"

Paul said...


You are quite right. Thank you


Thank you.

Ken said...

"Anglican dissenters," as used by the Guardian journalist, is a confusing phrase. "Dissenters" from the Anglican church historically are the Low Church or "protestant" members, not the High Church or Anglo-Catholic members.

Michael Wood said...

Slightly pedantic correction - the current Anglican Bishop of Christchurch is a woman, appointed a year or two ago.