The Center Cannot Hold

The Church of England is made up of three parts: evangelical Protestants, Anglo-Catholics, and liberals.  They have long been at war, and soon this war will lead to the final rending of that Church.  The Anglo-Catholics will break away when women are ordained bishops, as some already did when the Church of England first ordained women priests.  From a pragmatic point of view, the ordination of women has proved to be a great success.  Not only have they proved excellent in pastoral care, but their arrival has staved off the crisis caused by the fall in the numbers of men seeking to join the clergy.

In Ireland there is a real emergency, since so very few men now feel they have a vocation to join the Roman Catholic priesthood.  This problem does not exist for the Church of England, since for both sexes, a prosperous spouse can supplement the meager earnings of the “clergy­person.”  There are even husband-and-wife priests who share responsibility for a parish or a cluster of small parishes.

Nonetheless, many are disillusioned.  Ex-canon Dr. Edward Norman, one of the Anglicans’ most distinguished intellectuals and a former supporter of women’s ordination who has since gone over to Rome, said in 2004,

I’m against it—on the evidence.  We were told that a whole dimension to humanity was missing from the ministry, but that enrichment hasn’t...

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