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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

The Church You Save May Be Your Own

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 05, 2004

Occasionally one still sees roadside crosses marking the site of a fatal auto accident at a dangerous curve or intersection -- a warning that we take stock of how fast we are travelling and, more importantly, in what direction. Today's Telegraph sets up such a cross in reporting on the continuing Balkanization of the Church of England:

The Church of England may have to split in two if women become bishops, one with female clergy and one without, an official report has concluded. An enclave for opponents of women priests could be created to avert a mass exodus when women are consecrated, possibly within five years.

The faction, effectively a church within a church, could have its own archbishop, bishops, parish clergy and training colleges. But it would exclude women clerics. Proposals for a traditionalist "third province" have been floated before but this is the first time they have received official recognition.

Of course, women's ordination is only a single axis of dispute; if we throw the hot topic of gay clergy into the pot we need not two but four churches-within-a-church to accommodate the factions: pro-priestess pro-gay; pro-priestess anti-gay; anti-priestess pro-gay; anti-priestess anti-gay. And while we're at it, why not erect churchlets tailored to heartfelt differences of opinion on each of the Thirty Nine Articles, giving us 2 to the 40th power or 1,099,511,627,776 distinct Christianities -- roughly 175 times greater than the total number of persons on the face of the planet? Celebrate, as it were, diversity.

The point is not to gloat at the Anglicans' discomfiture but to remind ourselves that the same chasms of conviction run through the Catholic Church as well, from the pews right up into the College of Cardinals. Of course we have ecclesial advantages over the Church of England. For the Catholic faithful, among whom we include many clergymen, the Pope provides a reliable benchmark of orthodoxy, and almost all bishops are still submissive to doctrinal discipline, which means that when the Holy See holds a pistol to their heads and cocks the hammer they will repeat that such-and-such is, at least at this point in time, the unchangeable teaching of the Church.

Remember that it is in the worst possible taste to ask if Catholic prelates actually assent (ex animo) to the doctrines they are charged with promulgating. In the lapidary phrase of Cardinal Maida, his auxiliaries were made bishops because of their "well-earned reputations as team players." At present, the game is that the bishops pretend to profess the Faith and the rest of us pretend to believe them. In the language of pastoral theology, the technical term for this compromise is "renewal."

We are 1,099,511,627,776 Easter Peoples, and counting.

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