Ecumenism: stuck at base camp


The work of ecumenism is important. Christ prayed his Church  be One and did not found the schism that now exists, like a sickness, within the body of Christ. The work of unity must never be treated as a second order issue then- for it is clearly the will of God. And the entire Christian community suffers when division renders it incapable of speaking with intended clarity.  Why should the non believer take us seriously if we present myriad contradictory viewpoints not a single cohesive system of belief- a divine revelation?

Protestantism is, at its heart, a form of rebellion that despite its many precious insights and gifts, sows division wherever it manifests. For lacking a central authority it invariably splinters periodically leaving a plethora of autonomous groups in its wake- each assured of its claim. The opposite of the formation of “One holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”.  The model the Creed insists we should build on.

The Ordinariate exists to repair what was broken at the reformation. Its purpose to call people into authentic lived out unity. Ecumenism in practice not just hope. But this can only occur where there is a serious working towards shared belief.  For ‘shared truth’ is key to Christian unity without which unlocking of division becomes impossible.  Hence in praying that his Church might be One, Jesus also asked the Father to “enshrine them in THE TRUTH” and protect them from the evil one.

But this observation leads to a problem. Because, in recent times, a false ecumenism has crept into the life of the Church. A working for unity through abandonment of truth not shared proclamation of it. And to understand this better we might consider an analogy born of mountaineering.

Prior to Vatican II the path to unity seemed bleak. Sectarian divide  fostered suspicion even hatred. There seemed little chance of reconciliation. It was as though believers stood at the foot of a  mountain staring into the clouds at its peak- something seemingly beyond their reach. Everyone knew it needed to be conquered, for the sake of the Gospel, but nobody knew where to begin.

Then came Vatican II a period of great optimism. Good and faithful people, on both sides of reformation divide, set out to foster unity. The  ecumenical movement got off the ground. Friendships were forged and trust rebuilt throughout the sixties and seventies. Much of the suspicion was gone and trust was regained. There was a very real chance unity might be possible. A base camp was established.

But then, via a series of poor decisions, shock waves were sent through the ARCIC process. Despite having  made promises that nothing would be done to hamper unity  Anglicans went it alone on issues as serious as the Ordination of Women and blessing of same sex unions. The work of unity came to a shuddering halt. And today many ecumenical projects seem stuck at base camp wondering where things go from here.

Deflated some ecumenists have opted to remain at base camp and turn it into a permanent home. Confidence has waned and people sit politely refusing to tackle that which causes division but with no clear idea of where to go next. The problem is that little progress is made and it all becomes a little shallow and pointless. How many sandwiches and united services can anyone bear without fruit?

Others have changed tack and moved to a different mountain. Not realising unity and truth are two sides of the one coin, and swayed by the spirit of the age, they now seek to trade truth for the sake of unity in clear opposition to Jesus prayer. In doing this they are drifting towards something dangerous. An attempt to celebrate  division as somehow worthy of praise.

That is false ecumenism -the seeking of unity by discarding of truth. All religions proclaimed  equal because all claims are silenced. It is the pluralistic vision of Masonic life where holy books of all traditions are placed alongside one another in service of man not God. Where all beliefs are viewed as subjective. More akin to the Satanic motto “believe what you will” than a Christian belief in the revealed truth- Jesus Christ- the only way to the Father.


So Christians must tread carefully. Recognising that the previously anticipated ARCIC route is now closed so we must seek a new way up. Building and maintaining friendships remains important but we must not be drawn into pluralism or pantheism or pretend that the situation hasn’t changed in light of recent Anglican innovations. We believe in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” and must ever uphold the belief that unity depends on truth.

The Ordinariate  is the new path up the mountain being carved out by Rome. And it works for who else has walked such a walk of unity  in the last few centuries? Are you about the difficult climb? The true work of reconciling believers by elimination of wrongful belief and the working towards a shared proclamation?

Do you believe in truth? Or do you enshrine division by praising that  secular notion that religious belief is not a salvation issue but a personal matter for the home.

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94 thoughts on “Ecumenism: stuck at base camp

  1. Can you explain how the Ordinariate provides a model of unity when it mainly requires an acceptance of, and submission to Roman Catholic authority and dogma? It does not require acceptance of Anglicanism by Roman Catholics. Your version of unity is simply wholesale conversion (with a bit of Anglican patrimony attached).

    1. The Ordinariate allows for much diversity and sharing of gifts in terms of customs etc. But it calls for reconciliation via acceptance of the teaching of the Catechism. The truth which brings unity. You are correct in noting that refusal to accept the authority of the universal church is likely to inhibit not facilitate growth where such unrealistic demands exist.

      1. But it calls for reconciliation via acceptance of the teaching of the Catechism. The truth which brings unity

        But not everything in the Catechism is actually true. For example, the Catechism includes the Assumption of Mary, doesn’t it? But there’s not a shred of evidence, Biblical or otherwise, that Mary didn’t live out a normal life and die just as any other mortal.

        And the Roman Catholic church is also wrong in, for example, seeing Priests as some sort of continuation of the Temple priestly office; something which is unnecessary as, due to Christ being the real High Priest, we need no earthly priests.

        How can we work out what is actually true and what is not if we are required to accept the Catechism without any discussion?

        I would also note that prior to the Reformation, there was as much debate about theological truths as there has been since. Augustine vs. Pelagius, for example.

        1. I think you need to see the difference between giving space for theological debate and the need for doctrinal orthodoxy.
          The Assumption

          RE The belief that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others before her. Some imagine this means Catholics believe Mary “ascended” into heaven. That’s not correct. Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.

          The possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming is suggested by Matthew 27:52–53: “[T]he tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Did all these Old Testament saints die and have to be buried all over again? There is no record of that, but it is recorded by early Church writers that they were assumed into heaven, or at least into that temporary state of rest and happiness often called “paradise,” where the righteous people from the Old Testament era waited until Christ’s resurrection (cf. Luke 16:22, 23:43; Heb. 11:1–40; 1 Pet. 4:6), after which they were brought into the eternal bliss of heaven.

          There is also remains what might be called the negative historical proof. It is easy to document that, from the first, Christians gave homage to saints, including many about whom we now know little or nothing. Cities vied for the title of the last resting place of the most famous saints. Rome, for example, houses the tombs of Peter and Paul. In the early Christian centuries relics of saints were zealously guarded and highly prized. The bones of those martyred in the Coliseum, for instance, were gathered up and preserved—there are many accounts of this in the biographies of those who gave their lives for the faith.

          It is agreed upon that Mary ended her life in Jerusalem, or perhaps Ephesus. However, neither those cities nor any other claimed her remains, though there are claims about possessing her (temporary) tomb. And why did no city claim the bones of Mary? Apparently because there weren’t any to claim, and people knew it. Here was Mary, certainly the most privileged of all the saints, certainly the most saintly, but we have no record of her bodily remains being venerated anywhere.

          1. I think you need to see the difference between giving space for theological debate and the need for doctrinal orthodoxy.

            Could you explain the difference?

            I mean, there are clearly certain positions, the taking of which would place you outside what could really be called ‘Christian’; Arianism, for example. Or questioning the fact of sin and the need for salvation, or that Christ’s death is the source of salvation (even if debate can be had about the exact mechanism).

            But positions on, for example, the ordination of women, are clearly not in that area, are they? They are matters of church order, not of theological or soteriological significance.

            So if there is any space for theological debate, and it includes space for debate on fundamental ideas of what Grace is like such as that debated between Augustine and Pelagius, then it must include matters of secondary importance and church order such as whether women can preach the word.

      1. I would suggest the majority of RCs in Europe, the USA, Australia and parts of S America would accept a dispersed model of Authority, a married and mixed-sex clergy, and a more humane morality based not upon Natural Law. Obviously, readers of this ‘conservative’ blog will disagree. But Tablet subscribers, for example, are far more liberal and open to Anglican insights.

        1. I wasn’t aware all my readers were “conservative”. Does this include you?

          As to your wish list. Well I don’t doubt that there are many who want the crown without the cross, autonomy over obedience, and more besides. I would sign up myself…but even the most cursory reading of scripture tells me that Jesus isn’t one of them. So were I to go down that path I think I might as well just take up a subscription the Guardian and buy some golf clubs.

          A salient point being that, when challenged, a liberal Anglican I know could not begin to tell me how his understanding of faith differed one jot from the Guardian editorial positions.

          1. How is a married clergy, for instance, the “crown without the cross”? Does that apply to yourself, Father? How does Anglican autonomy lead to disobedience in a way that the Papacy doesn’t? . Do all RCs obey the Pope or agree with the Magisterium? NO.
            I happen to abhor the Guardian’s smug sense of its own superiority. But I don’t believe the antithesis of its editorials is Natural Law.

        2. Most of us are hoping that the Tablet readers will join the CofE, if they have not already done so. Alternatively the Plymouth Bretheren.

  2. Father Ed I think this post is a bit confused. You talk of Ecumenism but we know as Catholics we can’t compromise on Truth. As a result Anglicans like Fr David think Ecumenism is a “bit of this and a bit of that”. I don’t know any devout Catholics who see any point in meetings with the Anglicans as they are diverging away from the Gospel. This is clearly why Pope Benedict offered a lifeboat for those Anglicans begging for a way back to the full Gospel. It is very sad. Old-style 60s/70s Ecumenism can never work if the Gospel can be dismantled by majority vote. We are entering a different stage – a post – Christian culture where the Catholics are only going to strengthen and reaffirm their Catholicism in a dark world so the lost can see the beacon clearly. The Anglicans seem to be a dying church in Britain and those in the Global South are much closer to Catholics in belief. 200 years from now remnants of the Anglican in the UK church will more likely be alive and well in the Catholic church via the Ordinariate.

  3. Ed, your description of division as a ‘Sickness’ is very sad. It’s is true that Christ prayed for his church to be one but didn’t define what that meant in practice, so I think you hang too much on that verse.

    I concede that our received faith from the Apostles very early gave deference to Rome but this was far from immediate and the current model took centuries to work through properly.

    You and are in agreement about many things and I hope that in our difference we’ll always remain friends, but I’m reminded of the readings at Morning Prayer this morning, Peter’s famous vision and God’s command not to declare something unclean that he has declared clean. I just think that the oneness of the true church that follows the teachings of the Apostles is more complex and less linear than you suggest.

    Still enjoying your blog though…keep up the good work!

    1. Indeed; unity is important but not unity at the expense of truth, and the problem with the Roman Catholic denomination is not that it has some things wrong (all denominations have some things wrong, it’s inevitable when they are made up of fallible human beings who remain in the state where the see through a glass darkly) but that it gives the authority to declare truth to an office which will be held by a human being who is, therefore fallible.

      Truth can only be uncovered through argument and discussion and (heated) debate; that is how the great truths of the Christian faith were hammered out over the first councils. If the Pope had been the final authority at Nicea, who’s to say he might not have mistakenly declared Arianism to be true ex cathedra, and then the Church would have been in error all these centuries? But he wasn’t, and instead there was debate and argument, and through that debate and argument, a groping of the way towards truth: a truth we are still trying to find.

      That’s why we need unity but, within that unity, the ability to hold different positions, to discuss and debate and argue. For it is only through that process that we can find the eternal truths.

      1. ” You are Peter and on this rock I build my church. Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in Heaven”. Jesus Christ, Son of God.

        1. ” You are Peter and on this rock I build my church. Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in Heaven”. Jesus Christ, Son of God.

          That’s about binding and loosing, though, it doesn’t give Peter any special powers of discerning the truth (and indeed of all the disciples Peter generally seems the one leastcapable of discerning the truth; other than on one notable occasion, every time he grasps a stick it’s at the wrong end).

          And secondly, Jesus was speaking to Peter; there is no suggestion that this binding and loosing authority was something that could be passed on, let alone a specification of an ecclesiology.

        2. The rock is the confession that Peter made, not Peter himself. You are the Christ. It’s when we confess that Jesus is Lord that the church is built.

          1. The rock? Do you refer to the Petrine office then? I would agree. If not what? The famous wrestler? Or a lump of granite?

  4. Every article about ecumenism on this blog seems to focus on explaining why Anglicans are the ecumenical stumbling block. So that Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostalists and others do not feel ignored, please could someone either explain how they fit into the ecumenical equation – or confirm once and for all that they are irrelevant in terms of ecumenism, whose only purpose is to bring Anglicans into the Catholic fold?

  5. I think it’s obvious why the Anglicans are discussed and not other denominations as that is the tradition that Father Ed and other Ordinariate members have come from. They also considered themselves Catholics before crossing the Tiber. All the other groups are Protestants – and are not confused about it.

  6. Here is a poll showing the lack of interest in their faith or church shown by most Anglicans http://godandpoliticsuk.org/2013/05/03/poll-suggests-more-anglicans-dont-believe-in-god-than-fear-him/

    As the author of the article states “It’s no surprise therefore that the Church of England still has an image of being vague and fluffy and unsure of what it believes. ‘Anglican’ through these interpretations can mean pretty much anything you want it to – to the point of almost losing all meaning.”

    The conclusion: “If you look at the churches that are growing in the UK, you’ll find that they are full of ‘Godfearing Churchgoers’ and those serious about finding out more, both of whom have little interest in woolly niceties. They are much more interested in having a life-changing encounter with the living God. ” …”If the Church of England doesn’t want to fade into extinction as Richard Dawkins dearly hopes it will, then it has to make it clear that its role is not a social club to keep ancient traditions going nor a national institution to do the religious stuff on behalf of everyone else to make them feel better. The church is, whether it acknowledges it or not, the body of Christ on Earth.”

    1. The problem with your analysis is many of the churches full of people who want to do business with God are Anglican. Unity is more complex than you assume.

      1. Yes, but almost all of them are conservative Evangelical, believing in the authority of the Bible and opposed to the new Anglican ‘orthodoxy’ of women bishops, and liberal ethical teachings.

  7. Can there be any genuine ecumenism if it is one party that decides what is true or false ecumenism and regards the others as rebels?

  8. Ed: I can provide endless quotes from senior Roman Catholics I have met of read who take a rather different approach to yours. I think the one below is good enough:

    Less than a block from where I used to live in downtown Albuquerque, there is a sidewalk where the homeless often sit against the wall to catch the winter sun. Once I saw fresh graffiti chalked clearly on the pavement in front of the homeless. It said, “I watch how foolishly man guards his nothing—thereby keeping us out. Truly God is hated here.” (I returned to copy the quote exactly because it felt both prophetic and poetic at the same time.)

    I can only imagine what kind of life experience enabled some person to write in such a cutting but truthful way. I understood anew why Jesus seemed to think that the expelled ones had a head start in understanding his message. Usually they have been expelled from what was unreal anyway—the imperial systems of culture, which always create those who are “in” and those who are “out,” victors and victims.

    In God’s reign, “everything belongs,” even the broken and poor parts. Until we have admitted this in our own soul, we will usually perpetuate exclusionary systems and dualistic thinking in the outer world of politics and class, and sometimes even in the church.

    1. Andrew, you clearly misunderstand how the Catholic church works. It is upheld not by the personal opinions or comments of its individual members, however senior, but by its clear teaching office. So please use magisterial documents to support your arguments or else accept that such comments really hold no sway and are just a distraction to the debate and not a contribution. Judas was an apostle- but one would be foolish to consider his actions in betraying Jesus as valid.

      1. Ed: I think you misunderstand completely. The great variety of opinion within the RC Church, even amongst senior clergy, is testimony to the fact that the magisterial documents aren’t quite as magisterial as you imagine.
        A French RC Cardinal said to Robert Runcie, when he was Archbishop, (and I was present and heard it) “Please get on with ordaining women to the priesthood. It might not be in my lifetime that it will happen in the RC church but it will happen one day and you need to show us the way”.
        Unity does not mean uniformity – even in the RC Church.

        1. Oh Andrew, you do delight in bringing back old ideas previously kicked into touch for good reason.

          Once again then, as you seem quite slow on this one, the number of people subscribing to something has no influence whatsoever on whether it is true or not. Nor does opinion- however great- have any bearing on Catholic truth.

          The entire laity and all the priests and bishops of the church might fall for a lie but this would not make it true.

          Next- and not for the first time- the Catholic church has NO WAY OF CHANGING THINGS that go against scripture and tradition. This is why Francis stated, quite correctly, that THE DOOR IS SHUT AS REGARDS WOMEN’S ORDINATION. Shut, closed. So do explain by what process you think the Bull of JPII would be reversed?

          I think you need to go and buy “How the Catholic Church works for dummies” and then note that it is quite different to the synodical C of E which, in contrast, is completely open to swaying with the overall consensus of the people. Good thing it wasn’t judging on the Jesus V Barrabas trial eh!

          Then read the Catechism very carefully. Then come back. Else we might suppose you actually know all of this and are just hoping to win people to your cause and that by repeating a lie enough times it might convince and even come true.

          1. The number of people subscribing to something has no influence whatsoever on whether it is true or not. The entire laity and all the priests and bishops of the church might fall for a lie but this would not make it true.

            Well this is exactly the point, isn’t it? The Roman denomination has fallen for the lie that women can’t be ordained. But this does not make it true that women can’t be ordained.

            This is why dissension is necessary; so that when the hierarchy falls for a lie, the truth can still be argued for and uncovered.

          2. Well given that arguments in support of women’s ordination are based on the conclusions of the sexual revolution, feminist logic and sociological trends, where a male only apostolic order is the example of scripture and the clearly held position of the church in all ages. Then I will leave any sane reader to judge which might be correct.

          3. Or, as another senior Roman Catholic put it:

            “People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”

          4. Who is the Senior Catholic? Some liberation theologian and a hippy you love and admire at a guess. Probably wrote a book in the 70s’ Let us turn instead to the Catechism which, as shown, is more authoritative than your mates ideas.

            157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

            158 “Faith seeks understanding”:33 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”34 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”35 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”36

          5. No- a Franciscan Priest, friend of the Pope and in just as good standing in the RC church as you are Ed. If they are wrong, why are they still allowed to teach and be a priest?

        2. Andrew – you must accept, surely, that some people who say they are “Catholic” are not, in fact, Catholic at all. The fact that you can find French clerics (and this is no surprise to me, or any other Church historian) to support your views, or Anglican views, or whatever, is not evidence that the Catholic Church has the same kind of “all together, disagreeing” approach I saw within Anglicanism when I worked in the same cathedral as you. I could give any number of people who claim to be Catholic who agree with any position you care to mention, from the ordination of women to abortion, any of the biggies…and some of them even teach me!

  9. Andrew when you saw that quote and you experienced a moment with God talking to you, other then write it down how did you respond? I know many Catholics who work with the very poor and know that Jesus wants them there because of the joy they experience. Here is an example

    1. Convert: I knew, even more assuredly, that God doesn’t actually care if you are Catholic or Protestant or anything in between. I knew that feeding the poor is much more important than the catechism. I knew that when people like Ed want to make judgments about who is really in and who is really out, they have totally missed the point.

      1. Andrew- was the author of Corinthians also missing the point when he clearly made judgements about those who are in and out? A simple yes or no will do. From the 5th Chapter of said biblical work:

        You must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

        1. Are you really equating a disagreement over church order with being ‘sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler’?

  10. As well as feeding the body we must feed souls, otherwise did Jesus just come to make sure noone ever went hungry? That is social work. There are nations now where few people are hungry but people are still miserable. Having enough to eat is good news for today but what about the yearning for meaning and fulfillment? Those deeper questions and desire for love take a lot more and we don’t have the capacity for it, only God’s grace does. I agree that God’s grace is not only contained within the Catholic church, his grace is everywhere and for all – it is universal. However for that message to last and continue through all generations until he comes again then what vehicle can he use? Is there any real Truth? Something we can turn to and rely on in all ages and cultures? That has to take some incarnational form. What happens when the Christian culture dies out as in the UK? How are we going to transmit the truth permanently? There is only one body of Christian believers that is united throughout the entire world.

  11. Fr Ed, rather than drawing me towards the Ordinariate, reading this blog over the last couple of weeks has really cemented in my mind why I can never be a Roman Catholic, and why Anglicanism is and will remain home for the thinking Christian. I would like to thank you for helping me to clarify this.

    I also wish to thank Fr David, Canon Andrew Godsall and ‘S’ for being the voices of reason, and offering far more thoughtful and eloquent comment than I could in the face of Fr Ed continually trotting out passages of the Magisterium as if it is scripture itself and trumps all reasoned debate.

    1. Glad to have helped confirm you in your views Harvey. Though your suggestion that the Catholic church is opposed to reason is so far of the mark as to be hilarious.

      1. You’ve said as much your self: ” the Catholic Church has NO WAY OF CHANGING THINGS…..” even if they fly in the face of reasoned debate……

          1. the entire point of a divine revelation is that it can be trusted and doesn’t blow with the wind

            Indeed; but it can be misinterpreted.

            And when it is misinterpreted, as every denomination (including the Roman Catholics) inevitably will misinterpret it at some point due to being composed of fallible humans, then it must be able to be changed to the correct interpretation.

      2. Millions of mothers have children born into poverty because your church won’t see reason in banning artificial birth control. You say – the Catholic church has NO WAY OF CHANGING THINGS that go against scripture and tradition. Tell that to Galileo.
        The Church is perfectly free to change its Tradition. The gospel is dynamic not static.

        1. Children are surely born into poverty due to the injustice and greed of the world they are born into. Not because the Catholic church endorses family life as God intended.

          1. Your church’s teaching on birth control simply adds to the number of children born into poverty and injustice. It adds to the subjugation of poor women with their unwanted pregnancies and hungry children. I am amazed how you subserviently follow the teachings of unmarried men on gynaecological matters.

        2. That argument does not hold at all. The countries in Europe which have the lowest birth rate are those which are traditionally Catholic while countries in the developing world have high birth rates no matter what the religious adherence of their populations is.

    2. Harvey

      So are you saying anything goes? If General Synod decides something which is clearly unbiblical and unreasonable what would you do? Many feminists want to change for example the Lord’s Prayer so that it is not merely inclusive but feminist – that’s not what Jesus said is it?

      1. Clearly in such a scenario each individual would have to determine whether they could in good conscience follow the teaching, or if it is a minor point (eg women priests) whether it’s possible to reach a compromise to preserve unity.

      2. And I would add there are clearly many Catholics who in good conscience do not follow all the aspects of the teaching of their church. Contraception springs to mind.

    3. Harvey, stay where you are – we don’t don’t want wishy-washy liberals in the Catholic Church thanks. We are not short on numbers.

  12. The intellectual riches of the church are long, strong and deep. It is naturally unreasonable to expect one individual to convey the entire enormous body of philosophy and theology pouring from the church from all ages. God gave us our mind and expects us to use it but for the glory of the gospel.

    The documents of the magisterium are the result of all this thought, debate and reflection and therefore convey the Mind of the church.
    “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love”

  13. Fr Ed,

    Keep fighting the good fight and ignore the slings and arrows that are sent your way. The path of a Priest and in this title I mean ‘in persona Christi’ is fraught with difficulty – such is the vocation.

    God Bless,


  14. Well given that arguments in support of women’s ordination are based on the conclusions of the sexual revolution, feminist logic and sociological trends, where a male only apostolic order is the example of scripture and the clearly held position of the church in all ages.

    Actually, my support for women’s ordination is not based on any of those things but on the scriptural witness of Paul’s letters that there were women running gatherings, and preaching, and basically fulfilling all the functions of a minister, from the earliest days of the Church.

    1. And, and also:

      the clearly held position of the church in all ages

      Is this not an appeal to democracy, ie, ‘most Christians have believed it so it must be true’?

      And haven’t you yourself pointed out that mere weight of numbers of people believing something doesn’t make it true?

    2. Fascinating but ministers are not the issue are they. We have female ministers of communion here in Rome. The issue is apostolic priesthood.

      1. We have one high priest, Jesus. We need no earthly priesthood, and there is no scriptural warrant for such a thing. Certainly there is no reason to think there were any priests (in the ‘priesthood’ sense) in the early church. Presbyters and bishops, yes, but no ‘priests’, not before the second or third century.

        There is more scriptural justification for women leading churches than there is for Christian priests.

        So in fact ministers are the issue. Priests are the innovation.

          1. Lots of claims here. Any evidence?

            Evidence that Christian priests aren’t mentioned in the New Testament? Well, um, they’re just not, unless you can point to where they are. I can’t give evidence of something not existing, that’s by definition impossible.

            As for us needing no earthly priesthood, that is because the function of the priests was to offer sacrifices and to act as mediator between the people and God, both of which functions have been assumed once and for all by Christ. So there is no longer any need for any humans to perform them: we go direct to Christ.

  15. You present a classic Protestant understanding of ministry but even within Anglicanism, the idea of ministerial priesthood is understood and accepted.
    Didn’t Christ institute the order of what you call ‘earthly’ priesthood at the Last Supper when he said to the Twelve, ‘Do this’, and later, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive’, representing the priestly functions of offering the holy sacrifice of Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? This is how a Catholic – both Roman and Anglican – understands the Scriptural evidence.

  16. S
    Based on your comments I’d conclude that the whole priesthood – men, women or whatever – is not necessary. Your expression of support for the ordination of women is therefore an expression of support for something you argue elsewhere we don’t actually need. But maybe I missed something.
    In any case I look forward to a world where it wil be enough to bring along a guitar, maybe a tambourine or two and get straight into Kumbaya.

    1. Based on your comments I’d conclude that the whole priesthood – men, women or whatever – is not necessary. Your expression of support for the ordination of women is therefore an expression of support for something you argue elsewhere we don’t actually need.

      We need people to preach and teach the word, and to ensure that such things are done correctly.

      You can’t just have a free-for-all where anybody can set themselves up as a minister and start teaching whatever heresy crosses their minds!

      That, rather and ‘priesthood’, is the office to which we need to be ordaining people, and it’s an office which women have been doing since the early days of the Church, as evidenced by mentions of women doing it in Paul’s letters.

      1. S
        Do you not believe in the Real Presence of Christ – the bread and wine that becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus?

      2. Many thanks, S. So it’s just about being a good preacher? Ordination would then be a case of demonstrating that you were up to the task and not about to spout heresies. A kind of certificate in soundness. If that is the Protestant model I understand why you be happy to welcome female preachers.
        But unity with Catholics could scarcely be expected in those circumstances.

  17. I’m late in on this conversation, but would like to say some things:

    (1) ‘S’ is of course right that Christian priests didn’t exist in the first century. As he says, the whole point of ‘Hebrews’ is that Jesus renders the notion of priesthood redundant because Jesus provides unmediated access. Very Protestant – and very. very Biblical. Not that I have anything against priests – they have their uses – but the whole hierarchy business – Anglican as well as RC – is profoundly unChristian.

    (2) Canon Godsall needs to brush up on his Greek and Aramaic. On the other hand, Jesus’ pun is absent from Mark (earlier than Matthew), so, whether Jesus’ pun is a later tradition or Mark knew it and suppressed it, Petrine authority isn’t intrinsic to Christianity (as of course is part of the point of John, where ‘the beloved disciple’ is accorded equal authority).

    (3) Personally, while institutional unity might be desirable, I don’t regard it as in any way essential, because the true unity will come ‘bottom-up’, from the laity and from those ever-increasing priests of all denominations who practise inter-communion. Nevertheless, Father Ed’s claims here (which of course one hears and reads everywhere from ultra-orthodox (Roman) Catholics) were flatly contradicted by Pope Francis in his recent meeting with Archbishop Justin, when Francis made it absolutely clear that, despite all the difficulties, unity was still on the cards. What that unity might look like is, as the RC Paul Valleley argued in the Church Times, open to debate, but the Pope made it clear that it would be unity in some substantive sense of the term. I really think you should follow the lead of your Pope, Father Ed., instead of always firing off these primitive diatribes.

  18. I think also Paul that you might have more charity in your replies. I don’t doubt that the Holy Spirit will be able to unify us in unexpected ways (the Ordinariate is a good example of that) however that unity will never come at the expense of the fundamental truths that the same Holy Spirit has enabled the church to retain and teach throughout the ages. How can the Holy Spirit contradict himself? Francis’ style may be different but so far there is not one thing that I have heard him say or write that changes or contradicts Catholic teaching as clearly laid out in the Catechism. I love Pope Francis and he is a great evangelizer as so many people have become curious about the faith through his witness.

    1. There are so many Pollyannas on Pope Francis. I don’t think there are many apart from the secular media who don’t secretly wish that Pope Benedict wasn’t still in the saddle.

        1. “Pollyannas”? That is such a weird thing to say. What, because we like him and support him? We still love Pope Benedict – there’s plenty to go around.

          Do YOU still wish that Pope Benedict was still in the saddle Midland Vicar? It certainly reads that way. I am glad Benedict, an elderly man who has served the church so well, can enjoy a peaceful retirement.

          There seems to be quite a few dissatisfied and unhappy people attracted to this blog, I wonder why? I think it’s interesting how much they criticise the church and the Ordinariate and yet it still seems to hold a fascination. Quite an interesting dynamic.

          1. The Pollyanna principle, Convo – desperately seeking or finding something good in something one secretly knows ain’t much cop.

          2. But we don’t follow a pope, and there have been plenty good, bad and indifferent. This is not a personality cult of the celebrity. We follow a revealed faith that is safe from the tinkering even of popes whilst you must ever adjust to a faith at the mercy and command of a synod that takes on itself far more power to change dogma than any pope in history has dared even contemplate

          3. Pope Emeritus Benedict said, on announcing his abdication, that he would be devoting the rest of his life to prayer for the Church. He wasn`t looking for “a peaceful retirement”, but a way of doing the most good he could for the Church. Always a strikingly humble man, it was most in character for him to choose a hidden life of prayer.

          4. While I agree with you Mary when Cardinal Ratzinger was 70 he asked John Paul II if he could resign as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and spend his time in the Vatican archives and as a librarian. The request was denied. We know that at heart Benedict is an academic and a gentle and humble man. He has always responded to God’s Will. I don’t think it inappropriate to say that God willed that he hand over the Papacy and have a peaceful retirement now that he is 87. I think he is setting a wise and pastoral course seeing as our Popes are likely to live much longer than in the past and will not always have the physical and mental strength to lead the church in their old age. He is constantly praying for the church but in a private manner and being cared for by the nuns at the convent. He is having a well deserved rest from the pressures that were asked of him in the past.

  19. ‘Convert’,

    Not sure why I’m being singled out for ‘lack of charity’. In any case, one has to write fast because there are many things in life besides the very necessary task of defending the Church of England. No one is saying that fundamental Christian doctrines have to be ditched – though they can of course be interpreted and practised in different ways. You don’t meet my last claim that Pope Francis clearly does not regard recent developments in the C of E as insuperable obstacles to unity in some profound sense. Of course, he hasn’t read this blog – if he did, no doubt he would change his mind.

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