Perusing pictures of the happy crowds at Bishop David Silk's joyful event in Buckfast Abbey confirmed in my mind a suspicion which has been growing there for weeks as rumours seep around about who's "going" and who's "staying"*.
It is becoming apparent that very many 'extreme' clerics with yards of lace on their albs who, everybody assumed, would be certain to be "going", have, apparently, discovered fantastically good reasons for "staying". The clergy who are "going" seem largely to be very 'Church of England men' ... the sort who, a decade ago, would never in a month of Sundays have 'poped'; priests soaked in the ethos of the life and spirituality of the real Church of England; priests, very often, who were known to have theological problems about the Ordination of Women but whose own personal and professional relationships with women priests were so warm and friendly that their friends sometimes wondered whether Fr X or Archdeacon Y really was totally 'sound'. It is what you might call the Grantleys rather than the Arabins who now who sidle up to you and shyly, proudly, tell you that their dossiers have come back from the CDF marked with a great big tick.
Something similar seems to be true with regard to the laity. The sort of lay persons who are always dashing around the country to ritualistic extravaganzas, who never miss an opportunity of telling you how much they loathe women priests ... brother priests will know what an embarrassment these people are ... and who go on and on about what an important Stand they love to make by walking out of services which have women clergy in them ... seem to be remaining in the C of E; it is solid, sensible, sober, men and women, apparently, who will be making up the Ordinariate congregations.
Bad news, I fear, for those Anglicans who secretly welcomed Professor Ratzinger's little initiative because they hoped it would "clean out the Church of England"!
Ho Ho Ho. All rather jolly, really.
*Since I drafted this piece last Monday, I have received in this morning's post a letter from a brother priest, quite senior among the 'leadership in the catholic movement', who writes about the departure of "Brethren whom I clearly remember only a couple of years ago declaring that they could never deny their Anglican heritage and orders; similarly, among the 'stayers' are those who would I thought would have been off at the start." Exactly.