NEWS:  July 30, 2014
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
ANGLICAN WOMEN ‘BISHOPS’: THE CONSEQUENCES  -  On July 14, 2014, the Anglican synod meeting at York University approved the consecration of women to the episcopate. Justin Welby, the head of the English branch of the sect, endorsed the decision since he had committed to be “episcopally led and synodically governed.”

Anglican women priests cheer the approval of women bishops by their synod

After Leo XIII’s Apostolicae curae in 1896, which declared the orders of the Anglicans null and void, we know that for us, Catholics, it makes no difference whether Mr. Welby decides to make his chauffeur, his maid or his cat a bishop. The chauffeur and maid continue to be nothing more than respectable British citizens as they were before, and the cat, just a potential hunter of mice. There is no power of orders involved.

However, given that we are living in a time when the Conciliar Church is fostering ecumenism and inter-confessional dialogue with all kinds of sects, this action of the Anglicans becomes important as a precedent for the Conciliar Church, which, we know, is flirting with the possibility of making women priests.

As a side note, let me remind my reader that in the United States the Episcopalians are a branch of the bad Anglican tree. A new name was adopted in the 18th century to avoid the appearance of U.S. religious reliance on England after the country became politically independent. Americans did not want English primacy in anything; thus the so-called Anglican Church or the Church of England in the U.S. was re-named as the Episcopalian Church. But these branches continue to gather and decide things together.

The steps of the approval of woman priests and bishops among Anglicans follow: (1)
  • 1915 – The preacher Maude Royden wrote: “Nothing in the priesthood any more than in church councils would in the future justify the exclusion of women.”

  • 1916 – An archbishop’s council proposed that the bishops consider “the best ways of using the services and receiving the message of women speakers, whether in church or elsewhere.”

  • 1920 & 1930 – Women’s ordination was put in the agenda of the Lambeth Conference but the topic was rejected.

  • 1944 – Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong ordained Florence Li Tim-Oi. The ceremony took place on the neutral island of Macau. After, however, the war she was forced to go back to being a deaconess.

  • Justin Welby surrounded by women priests

    Justin Welby was always a supporter of women bishops. Above, surrounded by Anglican women priests

  • 1971 – The Anglican Consultative Council, directed by the archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, advised bishops that with the approval of their province they could ordain women to the priesthood.

  • 1974 – Eleven Episcopalian women in the U.S. were “irregularly” ordained by three bishops.

  • 1975 – The general synod voted that there is “no fundamental objection to the ordination of women to priesthood.”

  • 1976 – The Episcopal “Church” in the U.S. became the first to vote formally to ordain women and the previous irregular ordinations were accepted.

  • 1978 – In England a project was presented in the synod to “bring forward legislation to remove the barriers to the ordination of women to the priesthood and their consecration to the episcopate.” The proposal failed.

  • 1979 – This failure gave rise to the Movement for the Ordination of Women.

  • 2012 – A proposal in the synod to consecrate women to the episcopate was defeated by a small margin of votes among the house of laymen; the house of bishops and the house of clergy approved it.

  • 2014 – The same proposal was approved by the house of laymen under the influence of Justin Welby; the two other houses continued to approve it. Consequently the measure to allow women bishops was approved by the Anglican synod.
To this date 37 women have been consecrated bishops in the Anglican group, and 28 of these are still active.

The Vatican’s approach on the topic

What is the Vatican perspective on this new decision of the Anglicans to allow women priests and bishops?

In principle, the doctrinal stance of the Catholic Church is immutable. John Paul II declared that the Church has no authority to confer priesthood to women. Even Card. Walter Kasper, then speaking as President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, delivered a talk in 2008 to the ensemble of the Anglican bishops gathering at the Lambeth Conference. He told them not to approve women bishops, because this would ruin the ecumenical relations between the Conciliar Church and the Anglican sect and indefinitely postpone the Church’s recognition of the Anglican orders.

However, for some time now in the matters of doctrine and practice, we have been observing a schizophrenia in the recent Popes, whereby the doctrine remains the same but the practice changes.

We have seen this first applied to contraception in married life. The doctrine forbids artificial methods of birth control; in practice, however, the immense majority of confessors advise the faithful to use such methods “following one’s conscience.”

Divorce is another case where this schizophrenia is found: The doctrine remains the same as it always was in favor of the indissolubility of the matrimonial bound; in practice, however, anyone can arrange an annulment through a variety of false pretexts provided by the New Code of Canon Law.

Welby blessing Pope Francis

Francis asked the blessing of Welby: An implicit approval of the latter's position on women

We also have the case of homosexuality where the doctrine still combats homosexuality as a vice against nature; in practice, however, we see the opening of “pastoral” ways to welcome homosexuals in the clergy, in the church, and everywhere else – even at the Vatican – veritably making the doctrine a dead letter.

The same schizophrenic tactic has been applied regarding the Anglican ordinations. Condemnation in doctrine: “No women priests or bishops in any circumstance.” In practice: the total acceptance of them. We have seen a de facto acceptance of them in countless ecumenical initiatives.

To quote just three, we have Benedict XVI saluting a woman priest in charge of Westminster Abbey during his visit to England; the invitation of a woman (Methodist) bishop to a Catholic Bishops’ synod at the Vatican; the admission of Anglican bishop Linda Nichols and several women priests as normal members of ARCIC, an ecumenical Vatican-sponsored committee to foster relations between Catholic and Anglicans.

Pope Francis certainly was aware of the strong support of archbishop Justin Welby for women bishops when he received him last June 14, and asked the Anglican to bless him. Was this gesture not the Pope’s symbolic approval of what Welby was planning to do – and then actually did shortly afterwards? Was this gesture not a practical recognition of the invalid Anglican orders?

This overview suggests that in practice we are not only heading toward a similar situation as the Anglicans regarding women priests and bishops, but we are also approaching the day where the doctrine of Leo XIII regarding the invalidity of the Anglican orders will be officially revoked or come to a practical death.

  1. Data from Ruth Gledhill, “When the stained-glass ceiling cracked;” Christopher Lamb & Ruth Gledhill, “Women bishops vote creates obstacles for church unity,” The Tablet, July 19, 2014, pp. 4-5, p. 24.