Even our local newspaper, never much interested in religion except when there is scandal involved, has mentioned the decision of Church of England Bishop John Broadhurst to join the Roman Catholic Church. John Broadhurst, 68, is leaving the Anglican Church because he does not accept the validity of women’s ordination. And his response is to join… wait for it… a denomination that does not accept the validity of his own ordination.
So far so ironic.
He has given his life to a catholic sacramental understanding and he is now joining a denomination that declares that every one of his priestly and episcopal sacramental actions thus far was and is “absolutely null and utterly void“. John Broadhurst has been playing dress-up. Cradle Roman Catholics might be “cafeteria catholics”, picking and choosing their beliefs and practices like any good protestant, but surely consciously choosing to join, as John Broadhurst is doing, means accepting the coherence of the Roman position. Start denying one Roman teaching and soon the whole warp and weft lies in messy tatters on the floor.
Anglicanism does not regard ordination as some sort of permission to function within Anglican boundaries. Like Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics, and others, Anglicans ordain a person as a bishop in the Church of God, the universal church. You are either a bishop, or you are not. John Broadhurst, in joining the RC Church is declaring he is not a bishop. Hence it was perfectly right and appropriate, that from the moment he made this decision he said, “We shall be ceasing, therefore, from public episcopal ministry forthwith.”
But wait there’s more.
Bishop John’s own “pastoral letter” concludes with the words, “My final act as a Bishop will be to celebrate the Mass at Gordon Square on the eve of Christ the King, Saturday 20th November at 12 noon. I hope to see many of you there.”
What catholic-minded Anglican would consider receiving communion at a Eucharist where a bishop presided who believed his orders are absolutely null and utterly void?
I wonder what his RC advisers make of this. Clearly he cannot both preside at the Eucharist with proper intention and also intend honestly to make the profession of faith required to enter the RC Church.
John Broadhurst will join a “Personal Ordinariate“, a structure which Pope Benedict XVI is setting up within Roman Catholicism for former Anglicans. When the Ordinariates were announced there were estimates of half a million taking up this offer. I claimed this was a grossly inflated estimate, and I still maintain that this figure will not be reached. Ecclesial communities can look quite significant when they have a flashy website! And some CofE bishops deciding to spend their retirement in the Church of Rome rather than in the pews of the Church of England is hardly a mass exodus of half a million! Even if such numbers are reached – I think the bigger issue will be for Roman Catholics. Having seen good and holy priests leave to get married (over 100,000 of them!) they will now have to put up with married priests. [Another liturgical aside may be that, as the new controversial translation of the Latin Mass into English comes into effect, these ex-Anglicans will be using liturgies composed in English of undisputed quality.]
John Broadhurst will be allowed to continue playing dress-up. He has also announced he will remain the chairman of Forward in Faith which, he says, is “not a Church of England organisation” (sic.) The ultimate irony may be that he now may experience what women clergy have felt when told by him that their orders are not valid.