Like those nice old London Routemasters, all of a sudden juicy bits of news arrive in convoys. That pert Ms Gledhill (did the naughty girl disregard an embargo?) prematurely blew the gaff on the refusal of the Manchester Group to envisage an honourable place in the Church of England for Catholics. In the world of secular politics, that obnoxious Blair redivivus David Cameron is advising the ABC to reform the C of E along the lines of his own 'transformation' of the Conservative Party: what a hoot! And how clear now is his New Liberal agenda to bully Political Correctness through with just as much determined brutality as any old-style Lefty. You won't catch me rooting for that tacky little crook-on-the-make. Under Cameron, the old idea that at least there were a few shreds of Toryism left in the 'Conservative' party has finally expired.
And poor Sentamu is getting a battering for his claim that Ordinariate members would not be 'real Catholics'. I think people should lay off him. The plain and obvious fact is that he is not very bright. Dissecting his utterances is just cruelty to dumb animals. The last time Canterbury was vacant, they had to bring a Welshman in to fill it ... and another name mentioned was that of an Irish bishop ... because the quality of the English bench of bishops (with extremely few exceptions) can hardly ever have been lower. (Possibly this is because the job is such a lousy one nowadays that very few men of any distinction are likely to want it: remember the Chadwicks?). As long ago as 1944, Gregory Dix wrote "Even when the stately summer of the Carolines was over, the 'Whig grandee' bishops of the eighteenth century and the 'Greek Play' bishops of [the 1860s] still had something for which the genial energy of a business man in gaiters does not quite compensate. It was a dignified tradition, with much of solid good about it in spite of its gaps. But the growing poverty of the clergy and the growth of great industrial dioceses have today made it permanently impossible to maintain something which was more a consequence of the social 'set-up' based on landed property in the aristocratic rural England of the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries than a product of Anglicanism in itself. And the loss of the old otium cum dig. has brought with it a lowering of the general level of clerical scholarship, which counted for a good deal in building up that particular tradition ... Nor could I personally cling to the C of E only or chiefly because of the singular graciousness and goodness of some aspects of its past ... these things are now in the past, you know!"
Canon Gary Bennett made some of the same points in his 1987 Crockford's preface, for which he was hounded to suicide ("The vultures are already circling round this man", one of those kindly episcopal liberals observed the day before his death). More than two decades later, the situation is even more stark. We are emerging into a new, hard-faced, savage world in which even the velvet glove around the iron fist is being discarded as an outmoded civility. 'Conservatives' are determined to hack away any remnants of the idea that human beings exist within a tradition. 'Liberals' are notorious for their illiberal determination to root out any who question their own dogmatic rigidities. And the Church of England is substantially in the hands of very little men whose lack of any idea where they are going is surpassed only by their determination to go there as fast as possible. Facilis ... and, indeed praeceps ...
This is the basic reason - far beyond such mere symptoms as womenbishops - why the Ordinariate scheme is essential. Newman, notoriously, did not want the Church of England (even after he had left it) to be damaged while it still functioned as a bastion against infidelity. But he forsaw a day when sects like the Church of England would have been so infiltrated and taken over by the Enemy that, instead of being fortresses contributing to the defence of Christendom, they would themselves have become part of the military strength of the advancing Enemy.
I am not completely sure that we have quite reached that point; there are still small groups of embattled Christians precariously surviving within the Established Church. I am certain that it is against the background of such an analysis that we must try to discern our future. Heaven knows, there is enough Satanic Smoke, as Paul VI put it, in the current RC Church. But we are being offered a position in one of the last strongpoints during what may, in terms at least of this present civilisation, be the Last Battle.