Women bishops: now no one can deny that the Church of England is Protestant
By Damian Thompson, Columnist
July 10th, 2010
Tonight the Church of England finally acknowledged something that has been obvious since 1992, when it decided to ordain women priests: that it remains, despite the Oxford Movement, and as John Henry Newman came to believe very firmly, a Protestant Church.
As such, it enjoys the freedom to follow the example of its Reformed counterparts in other countries and ordain women to the highest level of ministry, whatever it chooses to call it. (The fact that England's established Church calls its senior presbyters "bishops" is a matter of historical accident: had circumstances been different in 1558, it might have gone the way of Scotland.)
Now that this freedom is to be fully exercised, what will happen to Anglo-Catholic traditionalists? Many will quietly, without ever admitting the fact, come to terms with their Protestant identity and stay in the C of E. Others will leave for breakaway Anglican denominations or join the Orthodox.
Those who are exploring the Roman option should not be hurried. It's wrong to say that anyone forced out of Anglicanism cannot become a good Catholic: many great converts stayed in the C of E for as long as their consciences would permit them. But, once they were Catholics, they recognised that they were no longer Anglicans.
This point would not need spelling out but for the myth that has grown up that the Ordinariate creates "Anglicans in communion with the Holy See". Nonsense. What it creates are former Anglicans who worship together in a new juridical structure which allows them to retain elements of their patrimony (which may be as major as adopting an Anglican-influenced translation of the Roman Rite, or as minor as not singing out of tune). Crucially - and this must be stressed - the Vatican is not prepared to allow liberal elements in the English hierarchy to sabotage the Pope's Apostolic Constitution.
But every single member of the Ordinariate, clerical and lay, will a member of the Latin-rite Church governed by the Supreme Pontiff and therefore - though it is not the Church's preferred term - a Roman Catholic. And I know I speak for many Catholics when I say that they will be very welcome indeed.
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