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feeding the beast

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 13, 2005

Vision Book Cover Prints

A CNS story on U.K. Anglicans defecting in anticipation of women bishops has this quote from a former Anglican minister, now a Catholic:

William Oddie ... told CNS July 11 that it was "ludicrous to say you can't have women bishops" if it was accepted that women could be ordained as priests.

That's the way I see it. One can imagine that Anglicans who already accept women priests might raise prudential objections -- e.g., that moving too quickly toward women bishops might rattle the laity -- but having sold the ecclesiological pass by innovating a female priesthood in defiance of Rome and the Orthodox churches, it's hard to imagine what theological objection they could muster to the obvious next step. Indeed, the Church of England's principal conservative heavyweight has admitted it's largely a matter of trusting the procedure:

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, has moved to reassure female clergy of his support for women bishops, but said that there was a danger that prematurely starting the process to allow women bishops could be seen as "knee-jerk reaction." He added: "I will do all in my power to ensure that wise and charitable debate on points of major difference, rather than crowbarring our way to our desired solution, will be the normal modus operandi within the Church."

Wright is no theological faddist, but it seems his main concern here is that the utterly predictable outcome of his fellow bishops' debate not appear to be one more agenda-driven capitulation to fashion, but clothe itself in some of the gravitas proper to the traditional synods and ecumenical councils. It should look as if this were a solemn, Chalcedon-style search for the truth. Even from such a man as Wright, it's hard to take this seriously. Prof. James Hitchcock, in an essay I have cited often, hits the bulls-eye:

For over a century liberal Protestantism has steadily surrendered Christian positions deemed incredible by a particular historical age, the better to protect the core of the faith. But in each generation more such surrenders are demanded, until there is finally nothing left, and surrender itself becomes the chief expectation which liberals must meet.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz vividly expressed his contempt for the policy of appeasement: "You keep feeding the gator in the hope he'll eat you last." But once an institution embraces this policy it's all but impossible to find a principled place to stop. Apart from the timeline, there is no suspense whatever in the present pseudo-drama. The beast will dine well.

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