Mr Williams Goes to Rome

Archbishop Rowan Williams is in Rome to give a speech at the Gregorian Pontifical University and he meets with the Pope on Saturday. I’d like to see a copy of the whole speech, but it seems he downplayed the importance of the new Apostolic Constitution, stuck up for women’s ordination and asked “Which way Ecumenism?”

The Times reports on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech in Rome here. Ruth Gledhill–the paper’s religion correspondent, always manages to report on Anglican-Catholic relations with a kind of schoolgirl drama that never fails to entertain. When the announcement of the new Apostolic Constitution was made last month, her breathless headline was “Pope drives his tanks onto Lambeth Palace Lawn” Today she writes, “The Archbishop of Canterbury has mounted a direct challenge to the Roman Catholic Church’s stance against the ordination of women priests.” The Daily Telegraph has a more objective and clearly written report on the Archbishop’s speech here. The Guardian reports here saying that the Archbishop challenged the Catholic Church to accept women bishops.

Ruth Gledhill says his speech was a  “direct challenge” You have to give it to the English. They never fail to inflate their own importance. Ruth Gledhill should remember that from the Catholic perspective the Church of England is an interesting, but small player in the world ecclesial scene. While the Vatican listens carefully and respectfully to the Archbishop of Canterbury we mustn’t imagine for a moment that his words will be taken for more than they’re worth…that is if they can be understood in the first place.

As usual he speaks in that strangely obtuse and fuzzy language of the Anglican theologian…”I think that in some way I would wish to propse that it might be said that in a manner of speaking it could be asserted that among many views, of course not to say that one might be more as it were ‘correct’ than another, nevertheless it might be possible to say that one believes (if ‘belief’ is a category that is possible in the modern world) that some might wish to propose in a way that does not, of course, negate the opposite…..”

Here are some of his quotes: On the new Anglican Ordinariate: “It does not build in any formal recognition of existing ministries or units of oversight or methods of independent decision-making, but remains at the level of spiritual and liturgical culture,” What on earth does that mean? Did he read the Apostolic Constitution? That’s exactly what it does–it recognizes previous ministries and grants the ordinary his own independent level of decision making.

On the ways Anglicans muddle through their divisions and dissent he actually seemed to be recommending the Anglican Church as a model of muddle. . “Is it nonsense to think that holding on to a limited but real common life and mutual acknowledgement of integrity might be worth working for within the Anglican family? And if it can be managed within the Anglican family, is this a possible model for the wider ecumenical scene?” Uhh. Can anyone offer a translation into simple language? I think he’s saying, “We Anglicans like each other even though we disagree and we think you ought to too.”

He went on to say, “I want to propose that we now need urgent clarification of whether these continuing points of tension or difference imply in any way that the substantive theological convergence is less solid than it appears, so that we must still hold back from fuller levels of recognition of ministries or fuller sacramental fellowship,” Sorry ABC, you lost me. I think he’s saying, “So tell me Benedict, are you saying that the ecumenical game is over? You’re not really going to allow intercommunion with us and say our orders are valid after all?”

About not ordaining women the scholarly Archbishop said, “For many Anglicans, not ordaining women has a possible unwelcome implication about the difference between baptised men and baptised women,” Any idea at all what that means? I think he’s saying, “We think if you don’t ordain women you think they’re second class citizens and that’s not nice.”

From what I gleaned from the report on the Archbishop’s speech, what is really revealed is the depth of his blindness about the real situation between the churches. Can it be that even now he is defending women’s ordination and therefore women’s elevation to the episcopate? He may defend it in his own backyard, but is it possible that he really thinks the Catholic church has not decided on this? Does he honestly think the Pope is going to say, “Errm. I guess we flubbed on that one. For you guys it is obviously working really well. I mean your church is going from glory to glory. Is it too late to jump on the bandwagon?”

It seems that beneath all the fuzziness that Rowan Williams may really be calling for the Vatican to speak even more clearly. I sense that beneath the bluster and obfuscation and diplomatic and academic speak that the Archbishop is saying, “Let’s be clear. Is there a future in this ecumenical stuff or not?”

If he is, I hope Rome will grant him the clarification that he longs for.

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  • Giovanni A. Cattaneo

    Somebody should tell this druid to mind his tongue lest it be plucked out by the all mighty.

  • flyingvic

    " it possible that he really thinks the Catholic church has not decided on this?"Did not the Catholic church once "decide" on Galileo? Are you suggesting that the Roman church is in all things infallible? And that anyone who disagrees is thereby revealed as a fool?It is a pity you claim not to understand what he is saying in an academic lecture to intelligent people. Keep trying.

  • Fr Longenecker

    I don't see why a clear decision is rendered unclear by the obfuscation of long words by an academic.I am always suspicious of those who wish to complicate simple matters and simplify complex matters.

  • flyingvic

    When Archbishop Rowan is addressing an academic audience he uses academic language – which is, of course, wide open to the slapstick treatment you give it in a populist blog.And no, I hope I don't go round parroting anti-catholic cliches – despite the number of anti-anglican cliches that litter the comments many, but not all, make on here.My allusion to Galileo was simply to point out that very little has actually been set in stone since the Ten Commandments, a lesson that all dogmatic people and organisations should take to heart!

  • Fr Longenecker

    Pope Benedict is a world class theologian, but he doesn't talk in gobbledegook academic speak. Why does the ABC?

  • flyingvic

    Archbishop Rowan matches his words to his audience. I sat at his feet in theological college amongst other simple souls and found him accessible, deeply spiritual and tremendously inspiring. I would venture to suggest that his audience in Rome would have understood him without too much difficulty.

  • Andrew

    Yes, I did understand what good old Archbishop Rowan was saying, as did Fr. L. The problem is not the language, it is that once you unpack it you see that the Archbishop is both wrong and clueless. His own church is falling apart under his nose, and he asks Rome to follow in his footsteps? Where has he been?

  • Dean

    What exactly did the Church do to Galileo again?I'm serious, I want to now what you think happened.

  • Kiran

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Joshua

    I don't believe the Galileo affair worried any men in their faith at the time. To claim that it drove scientists out of the Church would be bonkers – and I write as a scientist and an astronomer. No, the Galileo affair, like the old lie about scholastics debating the number of angels on pinheads, is a classic item in the Black Legend that Protestants, and now also atheists, use to beat the Church: dredged up and anachronistically used. Note that the Catholic Church had little issue with Darwin's theories: it was the Anglicans that were shaken to their core.

  • Joshua

    And do not forget that the Vincentian Canon as well as all Papal pronouncements applies to the pretended ordination of women: it has never been done, and the consensus of the Fathers is against it.IMHO, the best counterexample is the Blessed Virgin Mary: she was immaculate and all-holy, surely a better candidate than those dodgy taxgatherers and fishermen; but she was never a priest.

  • Joshua

    (I am aware that interested persons try to propose evidence of priestesses in the early Church, but these are debunked. To propose some conspiracy theory whereby Phoebe or whoever was a priest, but then nasty monarchical bishops came along as the first Catholics and stamped out female ordination, is to indulge in the sort of Dan Brown malicious wish-fulfilment fantasy that our corrupt age enjoys. Such a spirit breathes the very worst element of Protestantism: its imitation of proud, independent Lucifer, in the insane desire to be wholly autonomous and supposedly thereby "liberated and free", breaking free of all norms, even those of truth and faith.)

  • Kiran

    flyingvic, I recommend a book by the (Jewish) author, Rivka Feldhay, Galileo and the Church as shedding some light on the matter, and Biagoli's Galileo, Courtier. Now the thing is that these two books both advocate the basic position that the whole affair wasn't a case of Galileo vs. the church, but internal dialogue, and a complication of motives and occurrences intervened in what happened next. On the other hand, they present completely different accounts of the matter. The academic understanding of the Galileo affair at the moment is entirely in flux as to what exactly happened, unlike the pontificators in the press.

  • flyingvic

    The purpose behind my reference to Galileo and the church was quite simple: the church through the Inquisition adopted a position ("decided") from which it later retreated. It is a lesson that all, individuals and institutions alike, who seek to speak dogmatically in the name of God, should take to heart.

  • GOR

    I’ll admit I don’t understand Rowan Williams. I have been compiling a list of terms to describe his pronouncements. Things like: “Circumlocutions” “Tergiversations” “Obfuscations” “Equivocations”… The list is not exhaustive.I’ll also admit that while I have struggled through St. Thomas’ Summa, I don’t understand all of it either. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Even noted Thomistic scholars are not in agreement on everything the Angelic Doctor has proposed. But there is one redeeming feature about St. Thomas’ method – the little word “Utrum”.Each proposal is framed as a question. And not just any old kind of question like: “What if…?” or “Suppose that…” No, with proper scholastic discipline he asks: “Whether…?” Not stated, but assumed, is the corollary: “…or not?” So he sets the stage. The answer will be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – nothing in between. It’s going to be one thing or the other. End of discussion.Rowan ended his address with two questions:Question 1: “For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain.?”Question 2: “And if it isn't, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?”So, in good Thomistic fashion “I say…”:To Question #1 – YesTo Question #2 – NoEnd of discussion. QED

  • RC

    Contrary to Fr., I think the Abp. was right about this: "It does not build in any formal recognition of existing ministries or units of oversight or methods of independent decision-making, but remains at the level of spiritual and liturgical …That is: it doesn't acknowledge any validity of Anglican orders, or any authority of existing Anglican diocesan structures, or any liceity of the election of bishops, but requires new ordinations, new ordinariates, and new appointments/elections in each case. This is all consistent with Catholic understandings, and thus "nothing new" ecclesiologically. Perhaps the ABC is imagining that the Catholic Church could revise its positions someday and decide that the Anglican ecclesial bodies are real churches like the Orthodox. If so, he's kidding himself.

  • kkollwitz

    "I am always suspicious of those who wish to complicate simple matters and simplify complex matters."I never have trouble understanding what the African Anglican bishops say, but frequently find myself slogging through CofE and ECUSA prose.

  • Dean

    "The purpose behind my reference to Galileo and the church was quite simple: the church through the Inquisition adopted a position ("decided") from which it later retreated."So what?

  • flyingvic

    Dean, my comment was in response to the paragraph in the original blog where the writer is clearly suggesting that 'the church' has decided the matter and that therefore there is no way that your pope is going to change his or his church's stance.I thought it apposite to remind the writer and his readers about the way 'the church' took up a definite position (i.e. 'decided') on Galileo's teaching…and then some time later changed its mind.

  • flyingvic

    GOR – if only the world was that simple today, that every question could be posed in such a way that it admitted only of a yes or no answer! Mind you, I'm not sure it was that simple in Aquinas' day, either!Which might lead one to the supposition that his method was more of a rhetorical exercise than a cut-and-dried, black-and-white exposition of the truth.Nigel Hawthorne's character in the "Yes, Minister" series on the BBC illustrated beautifully in one episode how opinion polls can rig their questions in order to receive precisely the answer the pollster always wanted. Great series!

  • Steve

    Ruth Gledhill stole the line about the Pope's tanks on the Archbishop's lawn, she is not one for original thinking. Her knowledge of religious matters is very limited generally. I have no idea how or why she was appointed but it is a scandal that she was. Her predecessor was a liberal Catholic with whom I usually disagreed but at least he knew his subject.

  • Augustine

    flyingvic,You're attacking a straw-man with your reference to Galileo. The Church did make misjudgments in juridical matters, but never, ever in doctrinal matters. And Galileo's case, in case you're wondering, was a juridical matter.As JPII pronounced, in accordance with the Scriptures, the Apostles and the Fathers, the Church has no authority to ordain women. So, just stop "deciding" WJWD, be cause He wouldn't.

  • Controversia

    Flyingvic,The ordination of men to the priesthood – and not of women – what something that Christ Himself instituted. It's not a law made by the Pope. Even if the Pope with all the Bishops wanted to, they couldn't ever ordain women to the priesthood.This divisive topic is a tiresome dead end and should be dropped.When the Anglican coummunion ordained first women priests and (now inevitably women Bishops) they knew exactly what they were doing – raising an insurmountable obstacle to re-union.

  • flyingvic

    Juridical but not doctrinal, eh? Well, I never knew Augustine was a Jesuit! Lol!Controversia – where was it that Christ Himself instituted the ordination of men to the priesthood? Come to think of it, where did he anoint with oil, solemnize marriage, give penance after confession and absolution, baptise babies or confirm those old enough to answer for themselves? Is it not the case that popes and bishops introduced all these activities and called them sacraments because they wanted to? Don't get me wrong; I have administered or participated in or benefited from all these sacraments as a priest in the Church of England, and firmly believe that they are of God and are fully justifiable from Scripture.But further; do you not think it possible that the Holy Spirit, in leading us into all the truth as Jesus promised, might not indicate that women should be ordained as well as men? Was the church so perfectly formed on the Day of Pentecost that no change or improvement to it could ever be contemplated?

  • Augustine

    The Holy Spirit has completed the work 2000 years ago. The fullness of Truth, Jesus Christ, is found only in the Catholic Church. Everything else is merely a pale reflection of it. i.e., man-made traditions.

  • Dean

    First off,Flyingvic, sorry if "So what" came off as harsh. The Galileo black legend has been a bit of a sore spot with me. I would say his case is a poor choice for your argument since it did not touch on faith or doctrine.

  • flyingvic

    "The Holy Spirit has completed the work 2000 years ago."Come off it, Augustine! That would mean that every development of doctrine, every deepening of understanding, every Ecumenical Council, even – perish the thought! – every promulgation of a new dogma by the Holy Father, would be superfluous, blasphemous even, as man-made additions to the already-completed work of the Holy Spirit!Our Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would come and would lead us into all truth. Is the Holy Spirit not still leading us? And does that not also mean that no-one yet is in possession of all the truth?

  • flyingvic

    Dean – thank you, you could well be right. I had no wish to delve any deeper into that bit of history than to make a point about the changing of minds.Galileo gets you going: I react badly to pretensions of perfection – and I think I detect a few of those in some of the submissions here.After all, my wife is, of course, perfect, as is her mother. Surely there can't be even more perfect beings on this planet? :)

  • JM

    "Can it be that even now he is defending women's ordination…?"I think he did this as a backstep from the harder to address issue of homosexuality. The womens ordination issue is so settled outside of Rome, it is much more convenient an example of apparent 'reasonableness.'