Faith and Reason: Claim to authority divides a church: Our series on Catholicism without Rome returns to the Church of England: Elizabeth Mills, of Forward in Faith, argues that women priests are incompatible with catholicism.

BEFORE November's General Synod vote approving the ordination of women to the priesthood, those of Catholic belief in the Church of England considered it possible to be a member of our Church and a Catholic and indeed for many a Catholic acknowledging papal authority. Since that vote we realise that the Church of England is to become a Protestant sect by unilaterally claiming to have authority for this decision.

How could we in the past maintain a Catholic position in the Church of England but can no longer? Church of England Catholics had a tradition that our Church continued as the nation's Church, the Ecclesia Anglicana, founded by St Augustine of Canterbury, the missionary sent by Pope St Gregory the Great to convert the English people. The Church of England had no creeds, doctrines or orders of its own but only acknowledged those of the undivided Church. The breaches with the Papacy in the 16th century were essentially political rather than religious acts. What was put in place was a national state establishment blocking interference from Rome.

The Catholic tradition of the Church of England was maintained by bishops and theologians through the Elizabethan and Stuart periods. They claimed that the Church had been purified from medieval accretions but had maintained Catholic faith and order as defined by the early Councils of the Universal Church. In spite of the weakening of this tradition by the rationalist secularism of the 18th century, it was not lost. Church order was preserved and Catholic practice was recovered in the 19th century by the Oxford Movement with a return to regular Eucharistic practice and to sacramental confession, the growth of devotion to Our Lady, the founding of monastic and religious orders and the revival of liturgical ceremonial.

Indeed, so successful was this Catholic restoration that by the middle of this century the intellectual life of the Church was dominated by Anglo-Catholics, clerical and lay, such as Bishop Kenneth Kirk, Dom Gregory Dix, Austin Farrer, TS Eliot, Charles Williams and Dorothy L. Sayers to name but a few. This induced in Church of England Catholics a false confidence that the Catholic tradition was secure in the Church and would grow.

The recent development of ecumenical relations with the Roman and Orthodox communions and their consequent better understanding of the Anglican position gave Church of England Catholics confidence that intercommunion would be achieved with the two-thirds of Christianity which subscribes to traditional faith and order.

The Church of England had for several decades enjoyed partial recognition by the Orthodox Churches and the good relations developed between Rome and Canterbury during the pontificate of Paul VI pointed a way forward to restored communion with the Holy See. Despite the Roman condemnation of Anglican orders as null and void in the 19th century, the level of agreement in the official discussions between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches gave real hope of reunion. The great sadness was the refusal of the Archbishops of Canterbury to respond to the warnings from Paul VI and the present Pope on the ordination of women.

What Church of England Catholics had failed fully to grasp was that control of the Church was falling into the hands of a liberal party which queried the supernatural nature of the Christian religion and Church and questioned the traditional understanding of the Creeds, the ordinary interpretation of the Scriptures and historic teaching on faith and morals. The liberals' first concern is to reinterpret Christianity to make it acceptable to the understanding of the present secular world. What has caused further confusion is that many in the Church with a superficial Catholic background in essence have embraced this liberal programme.

The Church of England, at least since the latter part of the 17th century, has had three parties: High Church or Catholic, Reformed or Evangelical and Rationalist or liberal. Although the Catholic and Evangelical wings have often been in conflict, the threat to Catholic teaching has mainly come from the liberal wing of the Church and by its anti-supernaturalist reinterpretation of Scripture has also been unacceptable to classical Evangelicals. In the 19th century it was the dominance of the liberals that precipitated the departure of both Newman and Manning to Rome. In recent years with the partial delegation by Parliament of legislation on Church matters to the General Synod, the liberals' capture of control of the synodical and Church appointments systems has precipitated a crisis. The General Synod's claim of authority to approve women's ordination has made it clear that the Church of England as now constituted can no longer uphold its Catholic position.

The dilemma for Church of England Catholics is whether it is possible to remain in a Church divided by internal schism, in order to work towards restoration of Catholic order. Although the legislation enables present diocesan bishops to refuse to ordain women and prevent women priests from functioning in their dioceses, no one consecrated to or transferred to a diocese in the future can believe the ordination of women impossible. Catholic laity and clergy will have no option but to turn their parishes into ghettos out of communion with their bishop. It is difficult to see how the compromises at present proposed can be strengthened to ensure a long-term future for Catholics.

The other options open to us as Church of England Catholics are to join the Roman Catholic church individually, to accept the suggested proposal of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to join as individuals in parochial groups, or to seek reception into the Orthodox Church. For some the Roman Catholic welcome carries difficulties from the required acceptance of the whole of Roman Catholic teaching and the implicit questioning of Anglican orders. Orthodoxy presents a problem through the cultural differences between the Eastern and Western Churches.

The crisis has caused a sad sense of loss but there is another side. It has forced us to reflect on and examine our obedience and trust in Our Lord and has required a deeper realisation of the Christian's dependence on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. It has provided an opportunity to participate effectively in a reshaping of Christianity and the creation of a more positive Catholic future in Britain.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea