Primate will commend women priests to the Pope

by
16 November 2006

THE Archbishop of Canterbury travels to Rome this weekend for a week, as he attempts to reawaken theological discussions between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

Interviewed by the Church Times last week, Dr Williams was candid about the problems for unity caused by women priests, the treatment of homosexuality, and the disarray in the Anglican Communion. He also identified uncertainty about the eucharist as a stumbling-block.

Dr Williams questioned the notion of papal infallibility: “I don’t believe the essential theological structure of the Church is pyramidal; that it has one absolute touchstone embodied in a single office . . . I have visions of saying to Pope Benedict: ‘I don’t believe you’re infallible.’ I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Dr Williams was robust on the question of women priests and bishops. “We do have to say: we are where we are on the ordination of women because of theological conviction, and we really are not just being fashionable feminists. We believe that . . . something is lost if the priestly identity of the whole people of God doesn’t find its expression, in, potentially, any one of the baptised — man or woman.”

He will argue that the gender of the ordained minister doesn’t touch the fundamentals of priesthood or eucharist. “That’s a bit of a circular argument, because the Roman Catholic Church can turn round and say, as it rather has said: ‘Yes, but these are fundamentals.’ And we say: ‘But how do you know they’re fundamentals?’ And they say: ‘Because we’re the Roman Catholic Church.’”

Dr Williams reasoned that, before Anglicans and Roman Catholics could contemplate taking communion together, the Roman Catholics needed to be convinced that Anglicans believed the eucharist to be more than “just a mental act”. “Of course I believe in the real presence. . . And I’m tempted sometimes to say, however much a celebrant might want to keep the real presence out, it’s still capable of coming in.”

Regarding homosexuality and the priesthood, Dr Williams argued that the two Churches were close together in their formal statements. Where they differed was on whether the subject was discussable, and how individual cases should be dealt with. “From the Roman Catholic side, this looks like selling the pass, and that’s the message we’re having loud and clear on the subject. The fact is that attempts simply to close down discussion in the Roman Catholic Church have not been conspicuously successful.”

The Archbishop acknowledged the difficulty for any Church wanting to unite with the Anglican Communion in its present fragmented state. “Which is one reason why I think something like the Covenant proposal [part of the Windsor-report process] needs to be under discussion.”

Dr Williams favours a conciliar structure that encourages convergence. But, he says: “I don’t want to see centralising.” In his view, none of the existing structures is ideal for this.

Read interview in full


‘Warm’ parley of bishops

THE STRENGTH of the relationship between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England was emphasised at a bilateral meeting between bishops of both Churches in Leeds this week, writes Pat Ashworth.

Read interview in full


‘Warm’ parley of bishops

THE STRENGTH of the relationship between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England was emphasised at a bilateral meeting between bishops of both Churches in Leeds this week, writes Pat Ashworth.

The meeting (right) involved shared prayer and discussion. The bishops’ reflections were resourced by the work of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Mission and Unity (IARCCUM).

The meeting (right) involved shared prayer and discussion. The bishops’ reflections were resourced by the work of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Mission and Unity (IARCCUM).

The meeting — the first of its kind — was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, the Archbishops described the encounter as a “historic” one, which marked “a further development in the warm relations that exist between the Anglican and Catholic bishops”.

The meeting — the first of its kind — was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, the Archbishops described the encounter as a “historic” one, which marked “a further development in the warm relations that exist between the Anglican and Catholic bishops”.

“We recognise the importance of working together to present a shared Christian witness to our society, and acknowledge the importance of working with other Christian denominations and with those of other faiths to take forward the common good in society,” said the statement.

“We recognise the importance of working together to present a shared Christian witness to our society, and acknowledge the importance of working with other Christian denominations and with those of other faiths to take forward the common good in society,” said the statement.

“However, our communion remains imperfect. Our enthusiasm for dialogue means that we must be honest in addressing issues on which we disagree. This is possible when we hold to the gospel.”

“However, our communion remains imperfect. Our enthusiasm for dialogue means that we must be honest in addressing issues on which we disagree. This is possible when we hold to the gospel.”

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