13 November 2010


Good S Wilfrid is not someone I regard as inherently infallible; for example, I do not share the view (which he shared with S Theodore) that 'Celtic' Orders are, or rather were, invalid. But I was more than happy to have him as a Patron during the 28 years I spent in the county which he converted, not least because of his strong belief in in the exercise of papal primacy, and his enthusiasm for Roman liturgy. I also approve of his skills in teaching people how to fish: I wonder if that rather nice and inexpensive fish-restaurant is still open on Shoreham Beach.

In 2001 I left the Diocese of Chichester just after Johnny Hind became its bishop upon the retirement of Eric Kemp. For the weeks in which we overlapped I did not, I fear, name him in the Te igitur; because of what I had heard about his policies.

Eric not only did not ordain women; he declined to license them and to institute them. Nor would he allow them to be ordained, licensed or instituted by his commission; because, as he said to me, quoting an ancient adage, what a man facit per alium, facit per se (in English: if you tell someone to go and murder Mrs Blogs, then, quite rightly, Mr Plod will come and arrest you too). But Johnny made it clear that he would do all these things; although he would refrain from ordaining them with his own actual hands. I heard the rumour, which swept the diocese, that he had said he was going to license and institute them because otherwise he wouldn't have control over them (if true, what evidence this is of a towering theological intellect!). I can't verify this account; I didn't with my own ears hear him say it with his own lips. But it was widely reported and believed. In any case, I had my own suspicions, which rest upon no direct and watertight factual evidence but upon my own intuition, that the real reason for his conduct was a deal which he did to get the See.

Chichester was at that time packed with clergy who had moved there in the 'safe' years provided by Eric. Even the proponents of womenpriests agreed that it would be explosive to impose upon such a diocese a bishop who ordained women. But those charged with the appointment are said to have had an explicit policy of "bringing Chichester back into the Church of England". Spies were going round enquiring about the prevalence of "illegal liturgical practices" in the diocese. My hypothesis is that the deal was struck that Johnny would keep himself ... just ... tolerable to the more gullible 'Traditionalists' by not tainting his own fastidious hands with the actual touch of female hair, but would provide for their ordination by his own commission and would likewise institute and license them. And that he would persecute parishes which used the Roman Rite. (Indeed, rumour had it that, directly upon his appointment, he announced that "if you haven't passed Resolutions A and B you haven't got a leg to stand on"; and that he began his episcopate with the persecution of a delightful little Roman Rite parish in Brighton, the Annunciation, Washington Street).

It is a source of mystery to me that a man who transformed the diocese of Chichester by the provision of so many women 'priests' "to the cure of souls which was his and theirs" (and, incidentally, by persecuting the Catholic liturgical rites which were so dear to S Wilfrid), and has hitherto disdained joining the organisations which were actually upholding the Faith, should have been accepted by so many people at his own estimation of himself as the "leading Catholic Bishop". But I am not in the least surprised by the fact that so many episcopuli, bishoplets, whose CVs have crossed his, should be so prominent in the recent crude attempt (SWISH) to sabotage the Holy Father's Ordinariate scheme.



Enrico Dante said...

But Father, surely you know you mustn't mention this!

I suspect the uptake for SSWSH, whatever it may be - and I further suspect it to be quite large - is entirely because it seems to promise to keep things exactly as they are. It can do that precisely until the first woman bishop is consecrated. Then, it would have three options: melt away; fudge some un-ecclesiological compromise; or in essence become continuing churchlet.

The first of those seems unlikely, or else why would effort be put into it in the first place.

The second seems now precisely what the Catholic Group are asking for - whatever provision there might be, if you share membership of the College of Bishops with someone you do not think is a bishop, what else is that but evasive and untruthful ecclesiology?

The third has a depressing potential to it. These Johnnies-come-lately will step into a vacuum created by the PEVs (for who would now take on the job for anything but a strictly time-limited tenure? And who could be appointed if they said they would do that?), and will go back to what was argued for the Third Province.

All this simply refuses to take into account the fact that the Apostolic Constitution is real, is on the table, is coming into operation. And, for all those who could "never contemplate" becoming "a Roman", one has to ask why that is. Canonical impediments aside, what are these reasons which preclude someone who claims to be a Catholic from aligning themselves, through Peter, with the rest of those who claim that?

Now the "movement" aspect of the Oxford Movement has been invited to move towards what it claims has been its goal. In recatholicizing the Church of England, we have been able to do so precisely because apostolic breakdown has not occurred. In bringing back to the Universal Church our experience of faith, we have the opportunity to do that.

Otherwise, perhaps we should start with a completely blank slate, and all become URCs so that we can 'recatholicize' them.

Pastor in Valle said...

I too have been puzzled by Bishop Hinde. I was (ecumenically) present when he inducted a woman priest in Shoreham, and wondered just how he was working it all out in his own mind—not recognizing the sacraments that she would administer (except baptism), but still confidently placing the people's souls into her hands qua priest.
As it happens, she is an excellent pastrix, a delightful lady and a splendid ecumenical colleague. But that ain't the point.

Sui Juris said...

Pastor in Valle puts his finger on the nub of the question. (Do questions have nubs? - but I digress.)

I don't know what it is supposed that the Bishop of Chichester believes. If he believes that women priests are not, in fact, priests, then his licensing them seems cynical. But he might believe that the ordination of women is technically valid, but done illicitly, or a mistake, or not with the authority of the Tradition. In which case it is reasonable that he should not be prepared to ordain any himself, but would be prepared to license those already ordained.

The test might be whether he exercises his own patronage to appoint women priests, and still more whether he himself commissions others to ordain them (which is, for this purpose, the same as doing so himself). I suspect he does; I am not trying to make a case for him personally, only for a possible position that some people in fact hold. A judgement of whether women priests are validly priests is not the whole of the problem in this matter.

Sir Watkin said...

I suspect that Bishop Hinde is not an impossibilist, but takes the "oecumenical" view. According to this view, absent an Oecumenical Council the ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopate is certainly illicit and possibly (but not certainly) invalid (because only an Oe.C. could decide that point).

How that would square with (a) his practice in respect of female clergy and (b) his stated opposition, I'm not sure.

Clavus said...

Sui Generis should rest assured that Bishop Hind does not commission others to ordain women priests.

He was indeed asked at a diocesan synod last year whether he would appoint a new Bishop of Horsham who would ordain them. He responded that he would not do so, because Horsham's episcope derives from Chichester's. +Horsham cannot do what +Chichester will not do.

Women priests in Chichester diocese are ordained by a commissioner (usually the Bishop of Dorking) appointed for the purpose by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

austin said...

A panther in hinde's clothing, alas.

Joshua said...

May we expect, Fr H., a like piece on St Hilda? Hope so!

Fr Edward said...

Is SWISH really a "crude attempt to sabotage the Holy Father's Ordinariate scheme"?

Steve said...

"... a deal which [+Hind] did to get the See".

Perhaps. And if this is correct, those charged with the appointment would undoubtedly have looked elsewhere if he'd not made it. Where, I wonder? (+)Lewes, perhaps?

And after all, why on earth should anyone expect those holding authority in the Church of England to countenance the appointment of a diocesan bishop who essentially rejected that authority in favour of Rome's? You might well wish they had. You really can't be surprised that they didn't.