Friday, July 21, 2006

Vatican official to Anglicans: Women bishops would destroy unity

Old news, but worthy of our consideration...

By Simon Caldwell Catholic News Service LONDON (CNS) --

A Vatican cardinal has warned the Church of England that a move to ordain women as bishops would destroy any chance of full unity with the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that if the Church of England adopted such a resolution the "shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance."

"Instead of moving toward one another, we would simply coexist alongside each other," he said.

His remarks came in a speech to a private meeting of the Church of England bishops in Market Bosworth, England, just four months after the bishops agreed to set up a working group to outline a process through which women might be consecrated as bishops.

Although three of the world's Anglican provinces have already agreed to consecrate women as bishops, Cardinal Kasper said decisions made by the Church of England had a "particular importance" because they gave a "strong indication of the direction in which the communion as a whole was heading."

Saying that he spoke with "pain and sadness," the cardinal warned the bishops of their historic decision's grave consequences, both to ecumenical relations and to the interior unity of the Anglican Communion.

Among the most serious of these, he said, would be that the goal of restoring full church communion "would realistically no longer exist" because it could not exist "without full communion in the episcopal office."

A decision in favor of women bishops made broadly by the Anglican Communion, he said, would also represent a turning away from the "common position of all the churches of the first millennium."

He said this meant that the Anglican Communion would no longer occupy "a special place" among the churches of the West but would align itself closely to the Protestant churches of the 16th century.

Cardinal Kasper said that although ecumenical dialogue would continue the loss of a common goal would "rob such encounters of their elan and their internal dynamic."

He said a further consequence of a resolution in favor of women bishops would be that the Catholic Church would inevitably continue to refuse to recognize the validity of Anglican orders.

He said that ecumenical discussions between the churches on "Apostolicae Curae," the 1896 papal bull that declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void," had "justifiably aroused promising expectations" of a change in the Catholic position. But he said that the growing practice of the ordination of women to the priesthood had since led to an "appreciable cooling" of such discussions.

The ordination of women bishops, Cardinal Kasper added, would "most certainly lower the temperature even more; in terms of the possible recognition of Anglican orders, it would lead not only to a short-lived cold, but to a serious and long-lasting chill."

Addressing the subject of the interior unity of the Anglican Communion, the cardinal said that the episcopal office was essentially one of unity and, therefore, any consecration that either caused schism or blocked the way to full unity would be intrinsically contradictory.

He criticized a proposal by the Church of England House of Bishops to remedy such divisions by allowing parishes that rejected women bishops to choose to be cared for by a male traditionalist bishop."

Where mutual recognition and communion between bishops does not exist or no longer exists, where one can therefore no longer concelebrate the Eucharist, then no church communion, at least no full church communion and thus no eucharistic communion can exist," he said. "Arrangements like those I have referred to can only cover over the breach superficially; they can paper over the cracks, but they cannot heal the division; one can even go one step further and say that, from the Catholic perspective, they are the unspoken institutionalization, manifestation and virtual legitimating of an existing schism."

Cardinal Kasper said that Pope John Paul II had made it clear that the church's position on women's ordinations "in no way rose from a denial of the equal dignity of men and women ... but is based solely on the fidelity to apostolic testimony as it has been handed down in the church throughout the centuries."

Cardinal Kasper was among a number of speakers invited to address the meeting by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In a statement June 6, Archbishop Williams said nothing was achieved by avoiding hard questions and that he appreciated the spirit with which the cardinal had shared his concerns."

As we consider whether women should be ordained as bishops in the Church of England and what shape any possible legislation should take, it is important to have this kind of honesty and clarity about how changes made here might impact upon the common commitments of our two communions to the search for full visible unity in Christ's church," he said.

The archbishop is scheduled to go to Rome in the fall for his second meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.


--Biretta tip to Bret over at Pennsylvanian-Anglican


dmartin said...

When was this statement first realeased?

lexorandi2 said...

Sometime in early June.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the reply to Cardinal Kasper, found at:


lexorandi2 said...

I'm presently studying it. I hope to comment on it in a future entry.

dmartin said...

I feel kind of stupid, but I didn't realize that CofE had not consecrated women bishops. So if the ECUSA has then there is no hope for bringing in ECUSA (although we already knew that, I guess this just cements it even more).