“The whole thing is preposterous, and not just for unbelievers who can’t quite get their heads around the notion that this is being debated at all.”

Via Father Dwight Longenecker, I read this interesting piece by Melanie McDonagh. She writes:

The Church of England has agonised for 12 years about whether to ordain women as bishops and at last has come to a decision, viz, to put the whole thing off … [because] proponents of women bishops … are hugely exercised by the opt-out clause in the deal. That allows opponents of women’s ordination to call on bishops for their parishes who are not only male but have been ordained by men.

. . . .

I’ve got no business, myself, getting involved, given that I’m a Catholic and we don’t actually believe that any of them are properly ordained. But I do get a bit restive when I hear the likes of the Rev. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, one of the many media-friendly female clerics, declaring that “the whole point of having women bishops was to say that the Church of England believes that women and men are equal and made in the image of God. I do not want it enshrined in law that we officially do not believe that.” Hang on there. Our lot don’t have women bishops either but I’ve never had any problems on being made in the image of God, thanks all the same, Miranda.

Like Melanie, my intuitive reaction is rooted in Apostolicæ Curæ, but even looking at it from an Anglican perspective, it’s not entirely clear to me, given what I understand to be the Anglican view of the “priesthood,” why they can’t have women “bishops.” The Catholic Church teaches that she has no authority to ordain women to the ministerial priesthood; that by no means precludes women from action in the apostolates and activities proper to the laity. 1 But in those ecclesial communities that reject the ministerial priesthood, 2 even if they maintain an “ordained” ministry that they call a “priesthood,” there are no offices but those that we would recognize as lay apostolates. Objecting that there cannot be women bishops misses the point; if a factory calls its foreman a “bishop,” the foreman may well be a “bishop,” but not in the sense that the Church teaches. If the “floor bishop” wants to parade around in a miter and appoint “auxilliary bishops” on each assembly line, no matter how silly he might look, the teachings of the Church as to the priesthood and episcopacy just don’t apply because they are not, in fact, bishops in the sense that we mean.


  1. See Ordinatio sacerdotalis, 86 AAS 545 (John Paul II Ap. Con., 1994); cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 58 AAS 837 (2d Vat. Co. decree, 1965).
  2. To an extent, the purpose of the ministerial priesthood—and to a limited extent the institutional church insofar as she teaches, governs, and sanctifies—may be identified with “[t]he chief supernatural powers of the priest [which] are: to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to forgive sins in the sacrament of Penance.” Balt. Cat. 454; cf. Co. Trent, 23rd Session. Anglicanism rejects both. See 39 Articles, nos. 25 and 28.