Again, I've yet to see better theologians than myself tackle it, so I'll have another go. I think that this will be the last time that I will mention this subject because there is literally no longer a case for me to answer. I am now free of the need to defend the beliefs of the Catholic Church from within the CofE.
Fr. Clatworthy sums up the argument of Anglo-Catholics to the Ordination as:
- The 'true Church' does not ordain women;
- The Anglican Church is part of the 'true Church';
- The Anglican Church should not ordain women.
He then goes on to dismantle the premise 1 by attempting to that a 'true Church' is not well-defined nor visible nor evidently established by God.
He makes the claim that
"Our suspicions are accentuated by the fact that New Testament scholars, far from supporting Gore's claims, find precious little evidence that Christ showed an interest in founding a church at all, and insufficient evidence that there is a continuous line of succession from the Apostles to the bishops of today."
This is interesting, as earlier in his paper he says:
Now this does suggest a slight inconsistency here. If the Lord shows little interest in founding a Church, why is there a Church? Why does He talk about building His Church on rock? Why does He talk about being a good shepherd having a flock and then go and tel St Peter to tend and feed His sheep. Of course, modern New Testament Scholars are very good at presenting their opinions. We should really let the facts speak for themselves.
"Some of the New Testament epistles express a late first century movement which scholars describe as 'early Catholicism'. The Greek term for 'universal' is 'kath holos', and our word 'catholic' is derived from it.
Now, it seems to me that Fr. Clatworthy is very good at missing things that he has already mentioned. Let's take the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, with or without the controversial filioque. It is interesting that apart from this one word, Orthodox, Roman and Anglican Catholics affirm this very creed at the heart of their teaching. We may disagree over the filioque (though there seems to have been quite a convergence in philosophy over that in recent years) but still we see, absolutely inherent in that creed "I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". He might also like to take into account the lists of successions of bishops, and the fact that there are bishops is testament to that succession.
Far from making the sole definition of 'true Church' based just on Apostolic Succession, Anglo-Catholics have used the entirety of the Creed. This idea of the necessity of Apostolic Succession is ingrained in all Churches which hold to this Creed. Fr. Clatworthy can certainly look at the differences between Orthodox, Roman and Anglican Catholic Churches but he misses their obvious similarities of doctrine and their desire for unity. The Orthodox Church recognises Anglican Orders; Roman Catholics have sought dialogue with the Anglicans with a view to unity - what might have happened if ECUSA hadn't ordained women in the 1970s - and this has continued in ARCIC.
Of all the three Churches, it is the Anglican Church that is the most split because it falls into the categories of those who believe in Apostolic Succession like the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches do (see, for example, The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 857-870) and those who don't. There are those who believe in the authority of bishops and those who don't, yet still there are bishops in the CofE. If "very few - and that even included such figures as William Laud - were willing to see bishops as necessary for the constitution of the church" why were bishops re-introduced at the Restoration of the Monarchy? It is the division between Anglicans where the bone of contention lies and Fr. Clatworthy tries to deflect that attention onto the divisions between the catholic Churches. The divisions are nor the same. Anglo-Catholics are part of the Catholic Church; those who ordain women as priests are not.
If a church refuses to accept the Nicene Creed as it was received by the Church, then surely whether they choose to "ordain" women or not is immaterial - they do not do so as part of the Catholic Church. The Orthodox, Roman and Anglican Catholic Churches have always said that the Church has no authority to ordain women. In alluding to the validity of the fictional female priest from Toxteth, Fr. Clatworthy has assumed that which he wants to prove i.e. women can be ordained validly by the Church. If his assumption is wrong, then he might as well be replicating Bertrand Russell's proof that if 1=2 then he is the Pope.
It is quite clear that Fr. Clatworthy does not have the same understanding of sacramental validity as Catholics. The question has only really arisen in the Anglican Church because the Catholicism of the Anglican church has been compromised with women. It is not the Church who determines the conditions of validity - it is God. It is true that because God determines validity or not, there is no need for Anglo-Catholics to appeal to the 'true Church'. However, Christians look to each other to affirm what they believe to have received from God. This is how the Ecumenical Councils worked. This is how the Church repulsed Arianism and the other heresies. The Church defined the doctrine based upon what they received from God according to Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Perhaps Fr. Clatworthy does not believe in the infallibility of the Church. How then does he know that he, as a Christian is right or is this a case of "it may be true for you, but it isn't for me"?
As I said earlier, I am trying to close this chapter now as there is no reason for me to argue with anyone. I have found myself a place where this whole question will not come up and, although I hope to remain in dialogue with many Christian friends, I hope they will understand that our differences come from completely different integrities. Often we seem to be talking past one another. If so, let's stop talking and start praying together instead.