I gather that, while Pam and I were enjoying the Cornish Sun, those slippery folk, the 'Catholic Bishops of the Church of England', took advantage of my absence to hold a 'Sacred Synod' without my supervision.
By 'slippery Catholic Bishops' I mean, not our worthy and stalwart Flying Bishops who are still studying the Ordinariate offer with admirably open and unbiased minds - may the Holy Spirit soon enlighten them - but a collection of 'Establishment' prelates who seem, so many of them, to have some sort of connection in their CVs with John Hinde, the Bishop of Chichester. From this stable comes the Society of SS W and H, as the answer to the crisis facing the Catholic Movement in the C of E.
Considering the track record of those two saints in tidying up the C of E in a relentlessly Romanising direction, a Man from Mars might have thought that this proposed society was a cunning scheme for rounding up the troops for an enthusiastic and immediate mass entry into the Ordinariate. He might have been encouraged in this assumption by the fact that the first stated aim of the new Society is: to secure the full visible unity of the Church. But if this is what the begetters of the scheme have in mind, they are being very delicately allusive, indeed, Jesuitically cunning, about it. Would it not be more English, more Manly, to dump the devious and be open and frank? You will have discerned that I am feeling in rather a Charles Kingsley sort of mood about all this.
Alternatively, might it be that they are trying to syphon off some Anglicans who might be tempted by the Ordinariates? "Stay in Mother Damnable and you can kid yourselves that by joining our game you are more or less joining the Ordinariate ... except that completion will be just that little bit further down the road". But if this is what the begetters of the scheme have in mind, would it not be more English, more Manly, to be open, honest, and frank?
After 1992, we waited for the "Leaders of the Catholic Movement" to come up with something; to do something resolute and virile. They came up with an Act of Synod which, essentially, sold the pass (there are growing numbers of women priests in every diocese) but enabled those gentry to retain palaces and cathedrals; seats in the House of Lords and - perhaps the really insidious temptation - the trappings of status and deference. They even delicately distanced themselves from the groundroots organisations, such as Forward in Faith, which raised the money and did the fighting and took the opprobrium ("It's the tone we don't like"). Now a new generation of such "Leaders" has decided that, after all, just one organisation more really is the solution to all our problems.
If founding yet more Societies were the solution, bully for wilfn'hilda. But does anybody seriously suppose that our opponents are suddenly going to cave in and allow such an organisation to have jurisdiction and the necessary autonomies? And even if women bishops don't jump over the numerical hurdle in the next General Synod ... well, does anyone doubt that they will in the one after? And even if that innovation were per impossibile held permanently at bay, how can any Catholic see ecclesial integrity in a 'Church' in which more than half the presbyterate will very soon be female? Or in a 'Society' sponsored by bishops who, while they salve their incomprehensible consciences by declining physically to taint their own hands with the touch of female hair, nevertheless ordain women by proxy and license and institute them to the cure of souls ("which is mine and thine") and treat them in their dioceses as in every respect de facto priests? Ordained women, wearing stoles priestwise, participate liturgically with these bishops, and Bishop Hind has even established forms of priestly ordination in his diocese in which the collegial imposition of hands by the presbyters present includes the participation of women 'priests'. Are such compromised men as this the toughies who will put on their boxing gloves and "take it if we are not given it" and be prepared to break the Law and face down the bailiffs?
Perhaps I had better not be too rude about the Society. If the English RC bishops were to succeed in so smothering, tying up, and impeding the local Ordinariate, that the Holy Father's generous intentions were cleverly frustrated, I suppose some among us might have to fall back on wilfn'hilda. But I don't see how, to any real Catholic, it can be plan A. I don't see how it could even be Plan B. Plan Z, fifteen times removed, a bastard begotten on the wrong side of the blanket, is just about the best it could be.