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More Rowan - John Hunwicke

More Rowan

by Fr John Hunwicke SSC
November 26, 2009

Rowan's Rome lecture articulates an ecclesiology which is profoundly orthodox. Hoi polloi talk about "churches" when they mean denominations or 'national' churches: the "Methodist Church"; the "Church of Scotland". But Rowan knows that "the retheologising of ecclesiology, especially in dialogue with the Christian East, has meant that we are now better able to see the local community gathered round the bishop or his representative for eucharistic worship not as a portion of some greater whole but as itself the whole, the qualitative presence of the Catholic reality of filial holiness and Trinitarian mutuality here and now".

This is profoundly in line with the ecclesiology set out by Joseph Ratzinger in two CDF documents Communionis notio and Dominus Iesus. Church means bishop, presbyterate, diaconate, laos. In this particular church, the Katholike is fully present. In practical terms, Rowan has spelt this out in his assurances that individual American dioceses which are "Windsor-compliant" would not be severed from full communion with the See of Canterbury because of their entanglement with the rest of PECUSA.

Unlike his dim colleagues on the English bench of bishops, Rowan knows that this is why "A code of practice will not do"; pastoral arrangements designed with the discriminatory intent of ensuring that Mrs Bloggs never actually has to see a woman priest in her own church are worse than useless. Whether he has the clout to cajole his colleagues into consenting, even at this late stage, to a Third Province for us seems more than doubtful.

It is on the basis of this ecclesiology that Rowan makes a deft criticism of the 'Ordinariates' which has eluded the journalists but is uncomfortably closer to home than we might care to admit. "It remains to be seen whether the flexibility suggested in the Constitution might ever lead to something less like a 'chaplaincy' and more like a church gathered around a bishop".

Indeed. Rowan does have a point. That was the attraction of a Third Province of discrete and coherent dioceses which, having consolidated themselves and established their corporate life, could make corporate submission to the Holy See. The problem was that no one seemed very keen to give us this. Nor do they now. Or have I missed something?

The answer to Rowan's point is in the question "Which is more like a church gathered round a bishop: an Ordinariate or a situation where the Parish of S Bibulus and six others are firmly clenched within the diocese of Barchester and are supposed to be happy because a Code of Practice will prevent them from being given priestly or episcopal ministrations by a woman ... until they have been softened up to the point where they no longer feel their 'difficulties'?"

Ordinaries will in the future, I suspect, normally be bishops - celibate bishops. The permission for them to be presbyters-who-were-married-bishops-in-the-C-of-E is manifestly intended as a transitional arrangement: and an extraordinarily gracious and sensitive one. It would be thoroughly nasty of us to demur.


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