27 December 2009

Tablets all round

A kind friend has shown me three old Tablet articles on the Apostolic Constitution. Gracious, what bile! And not, apparently, any old nonsense about the 'Enlightenment' ideal of giving a balanced space to opposing opinions.

I was intrigued by the name Nicholas Lash. It rang a bell. When I was a young priest in Buckinghamshire, back in the 1960s, a notion got around that I was a bright and clever and up-and-coming young C of E priest. "There's a RC just like you just down the road", people said. "Two such bright young priests should meet up". This bloke's name was, I am pretty sure, Fr Nicholas Lash. Could he be the same one? We never did meet.

Since Lash doesn't seem to have a "Revd" attached to him, there must be a story here. Is he what we used to call, in the happier and more innocent days of the Irish Church, a 'spoiled priest' - i.e. one who had run off with a woman?

If so, our stories contrast. I, mindful that Holy Order was a diriment impediment to matrimony, took care more Byzantino to get married six weeks before the Diaconate. I'm still married and I'm still a priest, thanks be to God for his grace. He, on the other hand ...

But perhaps it's not the same person at all.


  1. I understand him to be laicized.

  2. I too have been intrigued by the varied reactions to the Apostolic Constitution. First, there are those Anglo-Catholic priests who for many years have embraced Roman Catholic liturgy, to the exclusion of anything Anglican. They desire unity with the Holy See. However, many of them are actively gay (with or without established partners). Their pro-Roman liturgical stance has alienated them from their Low and Broad Church Anglican colleagues. Once the PEVs are eradicated by General Synod they will be in a state of limbo, cut off from any episcopal oversight (look to Wales for what will happen). They have no chance of “crossing the Tiber” because their gay relationships prevent them from becoming Roman Catholics, whether via direct conversion, or through any future Apostolic Constitution.
    Second, there is a group of “know it all” Anglo-Catholic priests who have been for “a quiet word” with their local Roman Catholic bishop. This group are letting it be known that the Apostolic Constitution is: “Not up to much”; “It will never work”; “No one in England is ‘going over’”; “This thing just hasn’t been worked out properly.” The best comment I’ve heard is, “Bishop N has been put in charge of the Apostolic Constitution by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and he says it wont work, so let’s keep the status quo.” The day after hearing those comments the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) made it quite clear that the Apostolic Constitution is under their direct control and they will be appointing the Ordinaries. Perhaps Damian Thompson, of the Daily Telegraph, is right when he suggests that CDF don’t trust the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales not to make a mess of this situation?
    Finally, there is that group of Anglo-Catholic priests who have been prayerfully encouraging and supporting their people to explore the exciting possibilities which may be realised by “Anglicanorum coetibus.” These priests have an authentic Catholic vision of the Church, which may be contrasted with the atrophied, exhausted, seculo-liberal organisation that has become the CofE.

  3. Prof Lash's Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_lash) describes him as "having been briefly ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood." The anonymous author the the Wikipedia entry is evidently unaware that "ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood" is not a state which is patient of the adverb "briefly" (i.e. to be laicized is not to be un-ordained), but if the article is accurate then it would appear that your speculation is likely to be correct.

  4. "in the happier and more innocent days of the Irish Church"

    Father, I don't know when I shall stop laughing over this one!

  5. Yep - he's a busted-priest alright. And there are loads of them like him, hanging around the Tablet like bad smells - determined to frustrate any movement of the Holy Spirit not dressed in 1970's clothes. Thank God for Pope Benedict!

  6. Here in Australia, laicized priests tend to become ABC journalists, or (worse still) the sort of professional Catholic dissenters who never shut up.

    As for Ireland, apparently those who were rejected in the olden days, before this newfangled nonsense about quickly dispensing everything (e.g. thrown out of the seminary after subdiaconate) would become taxi drivers in Dublin; hence the old joke - what does one waiting driver say to another at the Dublin taxi rank? Answer: Is there a commemoration of St Felix at Lauds today, to be sure?

  7. I first heard of Nicholas Lash in duel in New Blackfriars with Michael Dummett. Dummett had attacked interpretations of the NT that denied the Virgin Birth, and Lash wrote an article in response (which I have not read) called "Orthodoxy: A Leaky sort of thing." He argues for the ordination of women, or at least continued discussion of it... And so on...

  8. Correction: a "spoiled priest" was not someone who had left the prieshood (unthinkable in the good old days) but someone who had left the seminary before priestly ordination. Canon Sheehan has a short story about such a one.

  9. During my years in Cambridge he was a fellow of the once-Jesuit college, whose name I forget, and was a proponent of all things liberal; and I think he eventually held a professorship before his retirement. The late Dom Christopher Jenkins, when Catholic Chaplain at Cambridge, would on occasion animadvert on Lash's views in his homilies, and rather more vigorously privately.

    Lash's brother David was also ordained "briefly" in the Catholic Church, but left to turn Orthodox and to be ordained again as Fr. Ephrem Lash. I happened to be present at a conference in 1998 at which he was also present, and overheard him loudly declaring his support for "women's ordination" (sic) to a group of conference-participants, including Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, and citing the then Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, Parthenios (who subsequently perished in a helicopter crash after visiting Mount Athos) as a supporter as well.

    It is, I suppose, ecumenism of a sort that two brothers whose paths went such divergent ways, continued to agree on the desirability of WO.

  10. "St" got to it before me...

    Yes Father, my recollection of the term 'spoiled priest' in the Ireland of my youth was of one who left the seminary prior to being ordained.

    I recall my mother pointing out an elderly gentleman in town who had never married and saying in hushed tones: "Of course, you know he was a spoiled priest."

    It was a sober reminder to those of us in seminary in those days that should you leave before ordination you would always carry that stigma.

    How times have changed!

  11. Unfortunately the stupid stigma once attaching to those who left the seminary before ordination more than backfired: how many unsuitable and even downright sinister types hung in and got ordained so as to avoid this shame, and ended up, well... look at the mess in Ireland...