Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

at the cost of immediate clarity

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 16, 2006

In terms of a shamelessly gratuitous waste of jet fuel, few events can rank with next week's visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak with the Pope. The sole positive outcome will be the entertainment value provided by the exquisitely atrocious gifts primates manage to exchange on such occasions; indeed the theological ingenuity of both men will find no outlet apart from that devoted to this occasion of mischievous one-upmanship. Look for Dr. Williams to give Pope Benedict a framed photo of Katharine Jefferts-Schori executing a barrel-roll in her Piper Cub, and to come home with a six-pound replica of the Los Angeles cathedral in white chocolate.

Genuine dialogue is an impossibility. We can expect the usual swapping of mandarin compliments and the usual emphasis on the achievements of common ecumenical endeavor ("both our faith traditions oppose needless cruelty to animals and credit card theft ..."). As for resolution of the doctrinal problems, the Marylebone Cricket Club and the NBA will merge before progress is made on this front.

The Times' Ruth Gledhill reports on an interview Rowan Williams gave recently to the Catholic Herald. It seems that Williams performed a kind of fan-dance so as to suggest that his visit could accomplish something other than add to his frequent-flyer miles: He said the women's ordination card wasn't in play, then hinted that maybe it might be in play after all, then concluded that "practically" things were likely to stand pat:

"I don't think [women's ordination] has transformed or renewed the Church of England in spectacular ways. Equally, I don't think it has corrupted or ruined the Church of England in spectacular ways. It has somehow got into the bloodstream and I don't give it a second thought these days, in terms of regular worship."

Q: There can be no going back then? "I don't see how there can be. I could just about envisage a situation in which over a very long period the Anglican Church thought again about it, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be and I don't see it at the moment. I don't think, practically, there's going back. It is a matter of containing and managing the diversity."

Gledhill's own comments on the Archbishop's remarks are unsurpassably ... Anglican:

The equivocation in these paragraphs is so characteristic. Although he is becoming less allusive than he used to be, we should still remind ourselves when coming across such statements that Dr Williams is a poet [!]. Balance and ambiguity are just a few of the devices to which he is drawn by both inclination and practice. He is incapable of spitting or spinning things out in the manner of the modern media communicator. What his messages, spoken or written, gain in richness from this can come at the cost of immediate clarity.

Ruthie, my love, you said a mouthful.

I'd like to take a pass on the Archbishop's poetry and put to him a question we've raised before on this site: Your Grace, I presume you have on some occasions received a wafer putatively consecrated by a female officiant. Was it, or was it not, the Body of Christ? You say you could just about envisage a situation in which your Church re-thought the ordination issue, though you don't consider a reversal "practically" likely. But re-thinking the issue means admitting, not that women will cease to be ordained, but that women can't be priests, and that means they never have been priests. If so, that wafer on your tongue was flour, and nothing more. Now these theological hesitations of yours would be comprehensible if you stood outside Christianity looking in, yet not only are you a communicant member of the Church of England, you hold its highest episcopal office. So tell us: how can you withhold judgment about the future of women's ordination unless you have no personal investment [the plebes call it 'faith'] in sacramental reality?

Well, boys and girls, what do you think the chances are of this man's engaging in a substantive conversation with the author of Dominus Iesus? I wish them both, and their aides, many happy hands of pinochle to pass the time before the obligatory photo-op and gift-exchange, but I think we can agree that any progress made will be -- in the strictest sense -- "poetical."

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