Catholic urges church to end 'fudging' over women priests: Bishop warns Anglicans they may drive people away from Christianity. Andrew Brown reports

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A PROMINENT Roman Catholic bishop yesterday urged Anglican priests unhappy with the ordination of women to come over to Rome without delay, and criticised attempts to keep them within the Church of England as 'fudging around' which could end by driving people away from Christianity.

The Rt Rev Alan Clark, Bishop of East Anglia, also told BBC Radio's Sunday Programme that married Anglican candidates for the priesthood should be vetted in England rather than Rome. 'Either (the dissidents) accept the stance taken by the Church of England or they accept the Roman option with all its difficulties and untidiness,' Bishop Clark said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, responded: 'Fudge is not the word I would use, though there is a debate on compromise as a theological tool.'

However, Dr Carey added that opponents must recognise in future that their orders had been conferred on them by a church which conferred the same orders on women. 'What people cannot deny is the underlying commitment of the Church of England to ordain women.'

Today the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament is expected to give formal approval to the Synod's decision last November to ordain women priests. The legislation has, however, been superseded in one respect: no bishop will announce that his diocese will become a no-go area for women priests as the legislation allowed for. Instead, opponents will be offered the services of 'flying bishops' who will have nothing to do with women priests. This compromise is to be enshrined in a morally binding 'Act of Synod', which will not, however, have legal force.

There was little support in the General Synod, meeting in York, for Bishop Clark's analysis. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev David Jenkins, a forceful advocate of women priests, defended the compromises: 'They fit entirely with my approach. It is part of our Anglican calling to refuse to push the logic either of their position or of ours.'

Cristina Rees, of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, said: 'The Act of Synod may not be entirely logical, but it is psychological. It makes sense.'

Opponents of women priests largely agreed. Those priests who are committed to a rigorously logical view of the matter have already for the most part left or decided to leave the Church of England.

(Photograph omitted)