The Elephant is IN the Room! – Religion Report on the NSW Anglican – Catholic Covenant

I listen to the Religion Report on podcast, rather than live, so I often catch up with episodes about a month after they are broadcast. The episode for the 2nd April 2008 was, as far as I can gather, a garden party interview with tea and scones and cucumber sandwiches between the host, Stephen Crittenden, and the two Catholic bishops and one Anglican bishop involved in the Ecumenical Covenant signed on March 3rd between the Newcastle Anglican Diocese and the Broken Bay and Newcastle-Maitland Catholic Dioceses.

One topic often touched upon in the conversation was the issue of recognition of Anglican orders by the Catholic Church. Some snippets:

Stephen Crittenden: Right. But what does that exchange of stoles actually mean? Does it imply that you’re recognising each other’s priesthood, your separate orders, as valid?

David Walker [Catholic]: No, we can’t do that… We haven’t come to that conclusion. What I think it is doing is acknowledging the importance of the ministry of each, and we’re recognising that while we don’t have an agreement on orders, nevertheless we recognise and respect the ministries that are taking place.

Stephen Crittenden: Maybe I should get Bishop Malone to explain about where the actual situation with orders in relation to the two churches stands. There’s a very famous declaration by Pope Leo XIII in 1896 that declared Anglican orders null and void; and that still stands, doesn’t it?

Michael Malone [Catholic]: Yes it certainly does still stand… That has been quite a sticking point I think between our two churches, it needs to be said, ever since. And it still stands there as a fairly forceful obstacle to any unity.

Stephen Crittenden: And a source of great offence, Bishop Farran, to Anglicans?

Brian Farran [Anglican]: Well yes, I guess it’s offence – I mean one of the things that we’re trying to work through in all of this is to move beyond those hardline positions I think, and to see what are possibilities. Certainly the ARCIC conversations that have been held and the documents that have been produced, do signal I think, a willingness on both sides to work very strenuously and sensitively about this, so I think there’s great encouragement actually.

A great encouragement indeed! But what of the future? Bishop Farran again:

Stephen Crittenden: Do you foresee a day Brian Farran, when Anglicans and Catholics in Australia will indeed be in full communion?

Brian Farran [Anglican]: I’d love to see it. I deeply respect the positions of my two brother bishops here. I understand their positions, I obviously would long for the recognition of Anglican orders, I think there just so much that we share together in our understanding of church and sacraments and ministry, in our sense of social justice and in the Gospel and so on, it would be terrific. But you know, there are surprises, John XXIII was a great surprise so…

And so, given the fact that there is “so much that we share together in our understanding of church and sacraments and ministry”, was the decision of the Anglican Church of Australia to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate.

Surely I wasn’t the only one who, eavesdropping upon this delightful garden party conversation the bishops were having with Mr Crittenden, wondered why no-one was mentioning the “elephant in the shrubbery”? Why didn’t Crittenden mention it? From whence this sudden reticence to ask the awkward question?

The fact is that the ordination of women by the Anglican Churches has rendered the question of revisiting Leo XIII’s judgement on the validity of Anglican orders completely irrelevant. There is simply no future in the question.

Someone at the garden party in NSW needs to pay some attention to that little elephant before it starts ripping up the roses…

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13 Responses to The Elephant is IN the Room! – Religion Report on the NSW Anglican – Catholic Covenant

  1. Peregrinus says:

    This seems a little . . . prickly, David.

    We Catholics have been denying the validity of Anglican orders since long before Anglicans began to ordain women. It seems to me that Crittenden’s programme noted the problem caused by the lack of mutual recognition, but did not explore the reasons or merits. That seems to me defensible, given the limitations of what can be achieved in a half-hour programme.

    If he were to explore the reasons, it’s not obvious that he should mention women’s ordination exclusively, or first. It’s quite obvious that there are are other – and, dare I say it, bigger – reasons, if only because we still decline to recognise the orders even of those Anglican churches and provinces which will have nothing to do with women’s ordination.

  2. Schütz says:

    What, me? Prickly? :-)

    You are right that we still decline to recognise the orders of those Anglicans (and Lutherans, I might add) who do not ordain women. And indeed, I affirm that with these there is a point to continuing the conversation.

    But my point in this blog was that there is no point at all to even continuing to discuss the recognition of orders in those churches who DO ordain women. It is a complete no-go zone for the Catholic Church ecumenically. We are fooling ourselves if we think otherwise are fooling themselves if they think otherwise.

    Yes, there are many other issues that have nothing to do with ordination of women, but there will never be any full visible communion between the Churches who do ordain women and the Catholic Church. None. Zippo. End of story. We can be friends, and cooperate on many things, but we will never be in full communion.

    Try this little thought game: The same scene from Newcastle, with the bishops exchanging stoles with one another, is now in Melbourne in next year: Archbishop Hart exchanging his stole with Archbishop Freier, and Bishop Peter Elliott exchanging his stole with… Bishop Margaret Darling.

    Nooooo…. I agree, it just doesn’t work, does it?

  3. Peregrinus says:

    Look, we have the example of John Paul II presenting Episcopal crosses to Anglican bishops who, while not themselves women, have ordained women as priests and bishops. He was not a fan, it is safe to say, of the Anglican moves towards women’s ordination, but he clearly didn’t see it as a reason to throw his hands up to heaven and turn away.

    Yes, the ordination of women is a problem, a point already made with some force by Cardinal Kasper in his address to the CofE bishops last year(?). Obviously, as long as one tradition ordains women while the others holds this to be an ontological impossibility, full communion cannot be attained. But this is nothing new, as long as one tradition defines and validates itself by reference to the apostolic succession in which its bishops stand while the other insists that its orders are absolutely null and void, full communion cannot be attained. We’ve lived with that reality for over a hundred years.

    The attainment of full communion will require some development of current positions on the part of one (or both) traditions and, at the moment, we cannot see how this is going to happen. But that hasn’t stopped us, for the last hundred years, in affirming the desirability of the restoration of full communion, and in hoping, praying and working for it. Certainly, the obstacles need to be named and acknowledged, but I really don’t see any basis for picking the ordination of women as the obstacle par excellence, which makes the whole thing completely fruitless.

  4. Past Elder says:

    Development of current positions. Catholic newspeak for change what we currently believe into something else and call it the same.

    That said, I rather agree with peregrinus, though I think were I/when I was Catholic we might not agree on whether the Roman church can recognise Anglican orders or should even bother with the question.

    Insofar as I have read defences of Anglican ordination of women, it would seem to proceed from an understanding of ordination, indeed orders itself, which is not Rome’s though it is close. I think the women’s ordination issue is a recent outgrowth of the basic issues since the Church of England was established.

    Interesting that as a pre-conciliar kid we were taught to refer to Episcopal priests as Father, not that they really are priests since they are not but as a sign of respect for their beliefs and their role as pastors, and were taught to call Orthodox priests Father too but not only to respect their beliefs and positions but because they really are priests.

    Kind of hard to address a priestess as Father. More development of current positions I suppose. Mother? Parent?

    Then again, I learned to call the Trinity Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier from the post-conciliar RCC, the same thing of course just minus cultural patriarchalism, so what the hell.

  5. Peregrinus says:

    Kind of hard to address a priestess as Father. More development of current positions I suppose. Mother? Parent?

    Gosh, you really like to make a meal of everything, don’t you?

    You should address her in accordance with the conventions of her denomination or tradition. You didn’t really need anyone to tell you that, did you?

  6. Schütz says:

    Do you know the funny thing, though, Perry, my friends who are clergy woman have commented on this problem. I would love to be able to call a good Anglican priest friend of mine “Mother”, especially because she is very “motherly” to my children (at whose baptisms she was present to give a prayer and a blessing along with a Catholic priest friend–remember, I was Lutheran at the time) but it hasn’t caught on in either her tradition or anyone elses. The problem is, no form of address has emerged in the Anglican Church for addressing female clergy. “Pastor” is at least a non-gender specific term 9at least in English), and so Lutherans get away with it.

  7. Christine says:

    Then again, I learned to call the Trinity Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier from the post-conciliar RCC,

    From the time I began to inquire into the Catholic Church to the last ten years I have been Catholic, I have never — not even once — heard an invocation in anything but the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in my Diocese or elsewhere, although referencing the Father as Creator, the Son as Savior and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier is perfectly acceptable in the proper context.

    Past Elder is showing his time warp again.

  8. Peregrinus says:

    Well, I don’t think there’s a uniform convention for addressing male Anglican clergy either. “Father” is definitely a minority taste. In my experience the person who appears on an envelope as “Rev. John Smith” will be addressed either as “John” or as “Mr Smith”. A few people will address the minister as “Reverend”, but I gather this is not strictly speaking correct (except possibly in the US).

  9. Past Elder says:

    No form of address for female Anglican clergy because there isn’t supposed to be any, and until modernist revisionism, wasn’t any.

    When I was younger and the Episcopal Church was Episcopal, the clergy was routinely addressed as Father — including by us RCs, precisely in accordance with their tradition and convention as a mark of respect. And my comment was a verbal dance, to illustrate that their convention and tradition is not what it was, not a question seeking an answer. Learn to dance! Read some Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading. Was? Eine kleine Heldenmusik!

    Bless us and save us, Mrs O’Davis.

  10. Peregrinus says:

    I think the convention you describe may have been a local one, PE. I have never, ever, ever heard an Irish Anglican minister addressed as “Father”, and only very rarely have I heard that usage in England or Australia. And, reading between the lines of your post, I see an implication that US Episcopalian ministers are not commonly addressed as “Father” nowadays. All of which suggests that there are long-established and widespread precedents for addressing Anglican ministers which can be adapted to women without doing violence to the language. This may not involve quite the revolution in convention and tradition that you think.

    I never knew herrings were fish!

  11. Past Elder says:

    God bless me sideways!

    Die Aufklaerung!

    we have long established and widespread precedents for addressing Anglican ministers that adapt with no violence to the language when applied to women — so there is no violence in convention or tradition when they are ordained two millennia on.

    Well ain’t that the dingest dangest thing.

    War is peace, white is black, sign me up for the next RCIA class.

  12. Peregrinus says:

    No, silly. Your assumption that Anglican conventions for addressing ministers cannot readily be adapted to women, and your inference from that that the ordination of women is a violation of tradition, are both wrong.

    It does not follow, and I did not assert, that the ordination of women is not a violation of tradition. It is a violation of tradition, but the point you make about forms of address does not demonstrate this, and does not cast any light on why or how it is a violation of tradition.

  13. Past Elder says:

    It worked!

    Ain’t it fun having to say “I did not say …”?

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