Anglican Bishops Fly Away Home

The Daily Telegraph reports here what has been known in Anglo Catholic circles for some time, that all the ‘flying bishops’ of the Anglican Church are to fly across the Tiber very soon and establish the Anglican Ordinariate in England. Damian Thompson (who is probably one of the world’s greatest journalists) has their full statement here, and Christian Campbell at The Anglo Catholic blog has more, including the statements of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Forward in Faith UK.

The flying bishops were a concession to traditionalists when the Church of England decided to ordain women as priests. They were called ‘flying bishops’ because they did not have a geographical diocese, but ministered to far flung parishes which were given an option to have ‘alternative episcopal oversight’–which means they declined to receive the ministry of their diocesan bishop in favor of the traditionalist flying bishop. This peculiar understanding of unity under one’s bishop was always a living contradiction. The sort of thing Anglicans pride themselves on, and explain with terms like ‘dual integrity.’ “We have maintained unity because both sides of the argument have recognized that their is a dual integrity.” Duel integrity more like…

Never mind. The comedy has ended. Last summer’s General Synod meeting in which the Archibishops’ compromise measure was defeated has drawn the curtain on the pantomime, and the uneasy attempt at co-existence which has existed for fifteen years in the Church of England is now over. The measure for women bishops which went through last summer does not permit the provision of flying bishops to continue. The five traditionalist bishops now leaving the Church of England were pretty much made redundant anyway.

What will the result be within the Church of England? I expect the majority reaction will be that of the parish priest in the neighboring parish to my own when my departure was announced. “The sooner people like you leave the Church of England the better” was his blunt appraisal. Mainstream people and clergy who have got used to the ministry of women priests and who never understood what all the fuss was to start with, will say, “It’s about time. Those traditionalists have caused nothing but trouble for the last fifteen years. They should have gone long ago.”

There will be some wringing of hands and furrowed brows among those who like to think themselves nicer than all that, but the underlying emotion will be the same, “Phew! Well that’s all over then, and won’t it be a bit more peaceful once they’re gone?” The few Anglo Catholics who remain in the Church of England will rally to the Bishop of Chichester and his  chums in their new Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. There they will continue to practice a smells and bells Anglicanism–which is a very pretty form of Christianity–and quietly drop their resistance to women priests and bishops, for the name of their society was deliberately chosen–in seeing how St Wilfrid and St Hilda worked together they will work together with women priests.

What about the Catholics in England? There will be a whole range of reactions to the new influx of traditionalist Anglicans. First of all, it should be understood that the majority of English Catholic bishops will not be pleased by the Anglican Ordinariate one little bit. They are part of what Damian Thompson calls ‘the magic circle’. Men without great gifts, they have all been to seminary together in the 70s and are pretty much gung ho about ‘women’s ministry’ themselves. Keen on folk masses,  polyester day-glo vestments, ‘empowering the laity’ (while they oversee a mushrooming diocesan bureaucracy) ‘parish sisters’ and closing churches, they see themselves as realistic, modern and ‘with it’. They have enough problems with their own traditionalists without a new batch from the Church of England. If anyone thinks that the English Catholic bishops are chortling in triumph over the ordinariate they should think again.

Likewise, an awful lot of the Catholic faithful will wonder what on earth this little rump of Anglicans are all about. “Why don’t they just become ordinary Catholics like everybody else?” will be the most common response.

Finally, we should remember what the Anglican Ordinariate is about. It is not a clever ploy by Rome to steal sheep from the Anglican flock. It is not a smart move to boost the number of Catholic clergy because of our clergy crisis. It is not a smack in the face to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Queen. It is none of the above. As Rome has said from the start, it is simply a response to the long standing and persistent pleas of a group of Christians to find a way to be in union with the Bishop of Rome while retaining their distinctive customs and culture.

The Catholic Church could well do without the headache of such a novel and troublesome group–as the Anglican Ordinariate will undoubtedly be. The Vatican has enough to worry about without creating this new structure for a relatively small number of people. It would have been much easier to say to all the Anglicans pleading for a structure like the Ordinariate–”Just join your local RCIA”. However, the Holy Father takes his role as chief shepherd seriously. He’s going to a lot of trouble to reconcile these separated brethren.

I, for one, am amazed at the good will and the amount of time and trouble which the Vatican has invested and the risks it has taken. I don’t wish to join the ordinariate, but I wish it well, and I hope when it is established a seed is planted which will one day bear much fruit.

  • Maria

    Very cool. I don't know what "da glo vestments" are, but I'm pretty sure I know who you're talking about.

  • William Tighe

    Not "all" the flying bishops are "flying" — yet.The Bishop of Beverley (Martyn Jarrett) is staying, as he believes he has a responsibility to see his constituency through to the denouement (probably in 2013) of the proposed bill to allow woman bishops; as is his retired predecessor, John Gaisford. All the others (Ebbsfleet, Fulham and Richborough, as well as Richborough emeritus and David Silk, the retired bishop of the Australian Anglican Diocese of Ballarat) are going.

  • Tim H.

    Thank you Father. Your post explains a great deal about what is going on an why. Stephen Ray gives a talk on the Gospel of John (Lighthouse Catholic Media) where he points out John 21. In it, Peter the Pope single handedly hauls the net (church) onto the shore and presents the catch (you and I) to Jesus as he prepares a meal (the marriage supper of the lamb). He points out that the net is full to bursting but it does not tear (scism). We have a long way to go before the Church can claim that the net is without tear but I believe we can see some net mending taking place already. Pray to the sons Zebedee, St. James and St. John.-Tim-

  • Patricia

    I mean to add my own interpretation to Tim's text…the net did not tear……..or rip as he mentions.Perhaps tear as in form tears or cry is another interpretation. We do not lament or act unkind to the new Anglicans incoming. We Catholics rejoice as new people join our Church….they have asked again and again to join….because the Anglican of which they love, HAS BEEN TEARING (pulling apart) for decades and more and more. Welcome, new Catholics!Patricia in St. Louis, MOI see no visual verification which I can copy.

  • shadowlands

    'I, for one, am amazed at the good will and the amount of time and trouble which the Vatican has invested and the risks it has taken.'John 3:16. Be more amazed at that!! Puts any action of person, place or thing into perspective, when dealing with energy expended in securing men's souls. I still love the Proddy's fervour, I hope they bring it with them. We cradle Roman's need it.

  • PlainCatholic

    A lot of trouble yes; but our dear Pope understands the parable well of going after the lost sheep and that each and every one of them are quite worth any trouble. Our Pope is a good and caring Shepherd. May his ministry multiply and continue to be blessed by God!

  • flyingvic

    And what, I wonder, does the Pope understand of "and there are other sheep of mine, not of this fold"? The 'unity' here is to be found in Christ, not in one physical fold.In your rush to call Anglicans 'lost sheep' or 'lost souls', would we all not be better employed seeking out those who are truly 'lost', who have no contact with Christ or his Church at all?

  • Fr Longenecker

    Vic, can you possibly be serious that 'the other sheep I have not of this fold' refers to Protestants v. Catholics?Jesus was talking to the Jews and was referring to the Gentiles who would one day follow him. When it comes to his own flock he is clear that there will be 'one flock and one shepherd.'I agree with you that we should not refer to Anglicans as 'lost sheep'. If they are baptized and have faith in Christ our church teaches that they are truly our brothers and sisters and part of the Body of Christ.However, we do call all to come into full communion with the successor of Peter so that there should be one flock and one shepherd.

  • flyingvic

    Father, I can be perfectly serious that the focus of unity is to be found in Christ, and that too much emphasis on the man-made structure of the fold can be a distraction from the leadership of Christ whose voice we must all hear. I speak, of course, as a Gentile.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Ah now Vic, we are chasing our tails again. You say the focus of unity is 'Christ' and I must ask, but which Christ and how do you know it is Christ and not simply a figment of your imagination and why should your 'Christ' be the right one and the Christ of the Mormons and Moonies and Snake Handlers and Four Square Gospelers and Seventh Day Adventists etc etc etc be the wrong Christ?Or are we all following our own 'Christ' and that is what really matters? In which case Christ cannot be a focus of unity for no one can agree on what the 'Christ' really is.

  • flyingvic

    I say so? It seems to me that it's St John who says so; and I hear the echo of Christ's question, "And who do you say that I am?" The element of personal judgement is inescapable – just as it is whenever we make a decision to commit ourselves to a cause or a person, whether in marriage, in politics or in faith.Your 'circularity' argument is specious: our perceptions of Christ will indeed be different because we as people are all different (and St Paul was content to present himself in different ways to different people).You want the 'certainty' of one person's voice saying "This is right" rather than the 'chaos' of many people's voices offering different perspectives, some of which make little sense to others. So while the pursuit of 'certainty' is tempting, who is to say where that temptation comes from?

  • Fr Longenecker

    Vic, Jesus does say, "Who do you say that I am?" but he does not say, "Whoever you say I am, I am."In fact when asked if he is the Son of God in his trial before the Sanhedrin he says, "I AM" not only stating clearly that he is the Son of God, but also using the tetragrammaton and taking to himself the holy name.It says throughout the NT that only those who affirm that Jesus is the Son of God are his disciples.Of course a personal quest must be undertaken to discover Christ, and a personal response of faith is necessary to embrace him, but I'm sure you agree that his identity is not determined by our opinion of him, but by his existential reality as the Son of God and Son of Man.This objective reality, the Catholic Chruch teaches, can be experienced in an objective way through the valid orders of the Church and the objectively valid sacraments which she provides.This does provide us with certainty. However we also believe that there is very little in the faith which is 'certain'. The dogmas, the sacraments, the authority. The rest is open ended and much is open to personal opinion and experience.Indeed the concept of 'mystery' lies at the heart of the Catholic faith, and this experience teaches us that while some things are certain, there is more that lies beyond mere intellectual certainty

  • Peter Baker

    What a sadness. The Anglican church is in many ways what our Church should be with openness, united in a few things with wide diversity of styles and beliefs beyond the few things, e.g., the Nicene creed, Baptism and the Supper, etc. In our church it will not be so very long before there are women priests. There is no compelling theology against. It is simply a matter of a long tradition originating in the machismo ancient world and forwarded by several more recent macho culture. Already it is fairly commonly taught by moral theologians that some acts of contraception and homosexual sex are licit and even occasionally laudatory. Thus under probabilism Catholics may licitly form their conscience on such views. Alas for the moment the powers in our church are quite to the right. For more than 30 years they have been closing down the windows that Blessed John XXIII and the Vatican Council opened. But the tide will change. Alas not in my lifetime. I am 71. The Catholic church is a big tent with plenty of room for lefties like myself as well as those on the right.

  • Francis

    Fr. Dwight,Your paragraph on the English Magic Circle bishops is fantastic — the best encapsulation of the phenomenon ever written!

  • Teresa

    "I, for one, am amazed at the good will and the amount of time and trouble which the Vatican has invested and the risks it has taken."The Good shepherd is welcoming his flock home. I am also amazed and pleased. This reminds me of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

  • Adele

    Father, thought you might like this post. Your blog was one of the last things my Father in law saw before he died. Maybe you are just too entertaining! Just kidding. God bless you,Adele