26 November 2009

Rowan Williams and Bletchley Park

In Rowan's Rome lecture, I am quite unable to understand the last bit of section 5: where he argues that "Even if there remains uncertainty in the minds of some about the rightness of ordaining women, is there a way of recognising that somehow the corporate exercise of a Catholic and evangelical ministry remains intact even when there is dispute about the standing of female individuals?"

Is he saying that if you sort of look in a quick, general sort of way at the clergy of, say, the province of Canterbury, without sort of bothering to spot that nearly half of them are females and to ask any questions about what that means, you can easily get an impression that they sort of look pretty much like a 'Catholic' ministry doing the same sort of 'Catholic thing' (his words)?* And so that's all right, isn't it? Or at least sort of up to a point?

If so, I am reminded of the words of a colleague of mine at Lancing, a brilliant Yorkshire classicist who had spent the War at Bletchley Park. As a nervous new member of Common Room in 1973, I uttered in his hearing one morning a fatuous piece of meaningless small-talk. "Ee", he said. "For an apparently intelligent man, that's a bloody silly thing to say".

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps Rowan's words are simply the best an able barrister can think up when handed a quite impossible brief.

Or are there profundities in his words that I have been unable to fathom?


*Am I mistaken, or is some sort of circular argument going on here? What we could do with is Eric Mascall. He would have dissected the whole business with terrifyingly mathematical logic.


Curtis said...

It's a bit like an engineer saying:

"We realize that half the necessary supports are missing, but from a distance and if you squint, doesn't it still look like a bridge?"

Fr. Ogs said...

'Never mind the quality: feel the width!'

Asquith said...

If it wasn't for the fact that this is happening in the context of a debate about women bishops the point would make a bit more sense: I would read it as an engagement the principle expressed by you in the previous post: "Church means bishop, presbyterate, diaconate, laos" and the ideas you've expressed about concelebration: ie it doesn't matter if you think some of those celebrants aren't priests so long as you can (skimming over the generalargument about orders for the moment) see a bishop and a local church, albeit one you see as damaged. But what confuses me is that if the underlying logic is that it comes unstuck if you can't even agree about bishops.

Andrew said...

I think he is saying that it is the Church gathered together authentically which celebrates the Catholic Eucharist and not the individual pedigree of ministers. There are two serious consequences for this argument: one is that Freda or Bella, if she is representing the Bishop is an authentic presider; the other is that, however sublime the pedigree of succession - indeed even if the Anglican priest presiding was ordained in the Catholic or Orthodox churches - what Anglicans together celebrate is, to use a shorthand, 'the Anglican Eucharist'.

The moment we accept that argument - and it has a certain force - Anglo-catholics must conclude either that Freda and Bella are indeed the priests their Church says they are or that 'the
Anglican Eucharist' is not Catholic in the sense Ignatius of Antioch described (and to which you allude in your rightly admired earlier post on Rowan's lecture).

As for the supposed hole in the ecclesiology of the Ordinariate, I suspect that, where (and if) Ordinariates are presbyterally led, we shall have something that feels a bit like the society model for which Anglo-catholics have campaigned and where (as will often if not usually or always be the case) Ordinariates are episcopally led, we shall have something that feels more like a diocese. In either case, as Fr Kirk reminded the FiF National Assembly, Ordinariates will be within the satisfying embrace of the Catholic Church and its ecclesiology and the Ordinariates will each have the in-built characteristics of a particular church. Meanwhile, try telling Father Abbot in a Benedictine Community that they are suffering from an ecclesiological deficit, or offering a chaplaincy... And monastic ecclesiology isn't all that new....


+ Andrew

Andrew said...

Apologies for a little syntactical sloppiness in the earlier post - not to metnion the missing subjunctives.

I should have made the obvious point that, with regard to women bishops, the same arguments cohere. That is, either Bishop Donna - duly elected and consecrated - is a Catholic bishop (because her Church says she is) or she isn't. Whether the Anglican Communion could break down into a diverse group of local churches in an Ignatian sense, some of which were and some of which weren't 'Catholic' local churches, invites the obvious historical and geographical questions about Catholioity.

Sorry to post twice.

+ Andrew

Jacob Hicks said...
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Gail F said...

A question from a Catholic in America: If what he means is that one should gloss over who the presider is and agree that what was presided over is legitimate, doesn't that also mean that whether or not any presider is "actually" a priest doesn't matter? In other words, that there's no need for a priest at all?