|Dr William Oddie|
The Catholic News Agency reports here that the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission is to resume discussions in Italy. In the article my friend William Oddie wonders what on earth can be accomplished with such talks? The talks, which were once revolutionary, are now passe.
For those of you not in the know, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission was kicked off in the heady days of the post Vatican II ecumenism. Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher had visited Pope John XXIII in the Vatican. Which was certainly a big deal. But it remained a private meeting. Then ABC Michael Ramsay visited Paul VI and it was a public meeting in the Sistine Chapel and the pope gave him a ring to wear and they seemed to be engaged to be married, and everyone was talking about ‘visible union in our lifetimes’ and they kicked off the theological discussions called ARCIC.
Alas, the only people who were talking like that were some starry eyed Anglo Catholics. ARCIC always suffered from the problem that nobody knew who could really speak for the Anglicans. So the Anglican Church sent off some very sweet old duffers from Cambridge and so forth who were sort of Catholic in their theology but were mostly Anglican. They were the sort of nice codgers you might meet at high table with posh accents and wispy white hair and a brother in law who was a bishop somewhere.
They’d say things like, “You know, we’ve just got back from Rome and this Pope Paul fellow seems nice enough. Had a lovely lunch–beautiful wine and cheese you know–and then we chatted about the Virgin Mary for a bit before we all tootled off to our rooms for a bit of horizontal meditation haw haw. Anyway, it turns out that the Romans don’t worship Mary after all, and I don’t much mind a picture or two of her about the place. Rather nice in its own way, and I’m sure all that praying the rosary stuff doesn’t really do any harm. Not my cup of tea mind you, but I don’t see why we ought to bother about it if it pleases the old ladies in Ireland.”
So then they’d write it all up and come back trumpeting the news that they all agreed and wasn’t that good and what will we talk about next time do you think? In the meantime the Vatican theologians would take apart their limp and ambiguous text and end up chucking it in the Tiber, while the old duffers returned home to their queen and their quads and be surprised to find that the liberals and the Evangelicals in the General Synod of the Church of England weren’t having any truck with being united with the Romans either.
The Evangelicals were more concerned to convert as many Catholics as they could through things like the Alpha Course and the Evangelical Renewal Movement and the Liberals were busy pushing through women priests, homosexual marriage and programs to give free beer to men to get them to come to church on Fathers Day.
So what of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission? Dr Oddie thinks its a waste of time. I don’t necessarily agree, so I’ve compiled a list of things for them to discuss:
1. Is the Queen of England the head of the Church or not? If so, why is she not also a bishop? And how soon could she be made the Archbishop of Canterbury?
2. If the Queen does become Archbishop of Canterbury would she wear a miter or would the hats she already wears do?
3. When will the Church of England give back the parish churches and cathedrals to the Catholic Church? After all, the governments in Eastern Europe who took seminaries, convents, monasteries and churches are having to give them all back along with compensation. Will the British Parliament, as part of the ecumenical discussions begin proceedings?
4. Are Anglican orders valid? I mean to say, “When an Anglican orders a steak in a restaurant is his order valid or not? I think we need to know, and this is a good topic for ARCIC to discuss.
5. Could the Anglicans give the Ordinariate a few buildings to use? They have too many in the wrong places, and the Ordinarate folks would be happy to take a few of those old, city center, great Anglo Catholic barns off their hands.
6. A new sense of priorities needs to be established. The Anglicans should forget all the theological piffle and teach the Catholics how to sing hymns, how to pay organists, how to have flower festivals, decent choirs and make cucumber sandwiches.
7. The Catholics should teach the Anglicans the definition of certain basic religious and philosophical terms like ‘dogma’, ‘truth’, and ‘Holy Water’
8. ARCIC members should make it clear to both Anglicans and Catholics that they follow two different religions that are on divergent paths.
9. They should agree for meetings to be in Burnley or Scunthorpe in February rather than some nice Italian town in June. This would encourage members to keep the meetings short and perhaps discourage them from meeting at all.
10. Finally, they should put on the agenda that if the Queen is not the next Archbishop of Canterbury that they give Pope Benedict the opportunity to appoint someone, and I can think of few better future Archbishops of Canterbury than William Oddie himself.