Friday, 17 November 2006

more on the Catholic Herald interview

Updated Saturday

The Guardian on Friday has both a news report and a leader article concerning this:
Stephen Bates Women clergy rail at ‘misquoted’ Williams
leader: Turbulent priests

Anyone who was wondering who the Catholic Herald interviewer was can find out a bit more here link now broken, text copied below the fold here. The wording of this piece, as that of the leader column linked below, is quite revealing of the mindset of the Catholic Herald.
The Catholic Herald’s own front page news report, headlined Anglicans could ‘think again’ on women priests, says Williams. The Catholic Herald also has a leader column on the subject: An archbishop with whom we can do business.

The BBC’s Robert Pigott has a further article, A misunderstanding on women priests? and the BBC changed the headline on its news article yet again, this time to ‘No doubts’ over ordaining women (this URL was previously headlined Williams mulls women’s ordination and even earlier had been Archbishop cool on female priests).

The Telegraph has added a copy of the full transcript of the original interview to its website. That URL may prove has already proved more durable than the first URL of the original (changed URL).

The Living Church has a report by George Conger Archbishop Williams: ‘Full Support’ for Women’s Ordination

Meanwhile, the Church Times which has its own major interview with Rowan Williams in today’s paper edition, reports Primate will commend women priests to the Pope.

Ekklesia has also reported, Idea of me questioning women priests is nonsense, says Dr Williams

Catholic Herald Editor’s Blog A Graceful Intervention
The editor, Luke Coppen, is off on “parental leave”. Last weekend, his wife, Marlena, gave birth to a girl, Grace. Luke is, of course, delighted with his child, but he might – repeat might – have one tiny, trifling regret about missing this week at the Herald. On Thursday, he was supposed to interview Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a precursor to the Anglican leader’s trip to Rome later this month. 
Luke, though firmly orthodox in his Catholic faith, takes a great interest in the Dr Williams’s spiritual writings and is particularly intrigued by Catholic influences on the archbishop’s thought. As editor of the Herald, he had long sought an interview, only to be repeatedly fobbed off by Lambeth Palace press officers.  He emerged from his office in a jubilant temper a few weeks ago, when he announced that finally he had arranged a Q & A session with the archbishop. He spent some time pondering what to ask and preparing himself for the encounter. Then Grace intervened.
So it fell to me, Luke’s deputy, to carry out the interview, armed with a set of dazzlingly profound and challenging questions, which my boss had composed.
Dr Williams was very friendly and engaging, evidently pleased to discuss matters of more depth than the usual press enquiries about gays, beards and eyebrows.
The interview, which will appear in next week’s issue of the Herald, should be of considerable interest to Catholics. Archbishop Williams reveals what he wants to talk about with Benedict XVI, offering a frank assessment of the future of Christian unity and of the ecumenical obstacles erected by the ordination of women in the church of England.
Catholics have wildly differing opinions of the Archbishop of Canterbury – perhaps some Herald readers will frown at the sight of a full, two-page interview with him. But if the Pope is talking to him, then so should we.
The two leaders share a desire to rebuff the pestilential winds of militant secularism and create a world in which the Christian faith can prosper, a world in which the soul of little Grace Coppen can grow.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 November 2006 at 1:02pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I've blogged my thoughts on the topic at

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 17 November 2006 at 5:49pm GMT

I am so glad to see Rowan responding to being misquoted.

My concerns about the reforms being rolled back unless there are strong theological underpinnings still stand. There are still highly organised, highly misogynistic dioceses and groups that would do so. There needs to be the counterweight or they will simply erode away reforms over time.

Thank you Simon for this posting, I'd actually come onto TA to link in the Ekklesia article, but you had already done it. :-)

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 17 November 2006 at 9:01pm GMT

I think a clue to understanding RW's controverted remark is the moral pressure he is under from Rome to reconsider the issue of women priests. Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech at RW's enthronement, was invited to comment on the Windsor Report (which he did:, and also gave an invited lecture stongly stressing the non-ordainability of women and the ecumenical problem created by women priests. Against that background, RW's remark means: "You, in Rome, say we must reconsider women priests -- and to be sure such a possibility is not entirely beyond the bounds of imagination, enormously difficult though it would be -- but why should we even contemplate it unless you can give us solid theological reasons for doing so, and, frankly, the reasons you have so far given quite fail to convince".

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 8:28am GMT

"Ecumenical obstacles"?

What obstacles? The churches are different; they have different ecclesiologies and different ideas about a lot of things.

This is the raison d'être of Ecumenism.

But "obstacles" - don't they mean "veto"?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 9:22am GMT

Well said, Goran. Unity can mean control and submission. I would rather that we were building models that enabled mutual respect. Acknowledging the validity of "the other" without demanding that it be "like us" to be legitimate.

After all, woman can not be man, no matter how hard she tries, the plumbing is simply different. Yet God made woman so that man was not alone. God wanted us to be able to find respect for the other, not make the other like us.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 3:19pm GMT

'What obstacles? The churches are different; they have different ecclesiologies and different ideas about a lot of things.' (Goran quote, see above).

Vive la difference !

Well said Goran !

If I go to an ecumenical meeting, I do not expect to be the covert subject of a hidden agenda, to subvert my identity , my sense of self, my me. My sensibility, spirituality and any 'beliefs' I may happen to have, are all part of this identity along with my (hidden) history.

Presumably, I am not alone in this respect, and we would all like to be treated with similar consideration and respect.

And surely this would hold true WITHIN denominations, as well as between them ? E.g. protestant and Catholic anglicans. Or sacramentalists and non-sacramentalists. I have found the RC denomination is not momumental, either. I have experienced RC evangelicals, humanists and Charismatics. The mass in the humanistic setting was a house mass with greatly simplified ritual and an emphasis on sharing and togetherness. The charismatic prayer group made eucharist from time to time, and at the eucharistic prayer a paragraph(epiklesis, anamnesis etc) was said in turn by each woman and man present --all having said the 'Words of Consecration' together.

And who can forget Dr.Orchard the Congregationalist minister years ago, who conducted high mass each Sunday ?

I refer to these tangible things as they make explicit the diversity & richness within denominations, better than quoting the varying christologies, soteriologies, ecclesiologies and what have you.

I do not know how my faith-life journey will end, but I do wish to be free to continue to grow organically, without let or hindrance

(from the diktats of Rome, Lambeth-Windsor or any other alleged authority in faith & morals).

Posted by: laurence roberts on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 8:03pm GMT

Robert Pigott did make a good fist of telling how this story came about. I had said to him that he would not try, and I was wrong.
Simon points to the "pigs might fly" editorial from the Herald and it is revealing. Here we see the issue as they see it:
"You won't be going to Rome to ask the Holy Father to reconsider having women priests will you?" - the bit about pigs!
"You are the ones who have to reconsider your decision!"
Well, of course if Rowan is expecting them to change their mind, he can't close off the possibility of Anglicans also doing that - Can he?
And the crunch line, we didn't do it to invigorate the church or for any other reason other than as baptised Christians we thought it was the RIGHT thing to do no matter how painful.

Who knows the RC's might evolve, sprout wings, and do the right thing too one day -

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 8:34pm GMT

The principle of theological conviction, of ordaining both sexes as priests, applies not only between the Roman, Orthodox and Anglican Churches, but also within the Anglican Churches and on other issues too. But this is where Rowan Williams makes a change of strategy, where he is reluctant to follow through, that The Episcopal Church has the right too regarding theological convictions and that they cannot be marginalised. Indeed they may well be right, to be followed, and a Covenant cannot be a means to in effect exclude them or freeze any signatory if its prime purpose is institutional rather than theological.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 9:23pm GMT

Yes, the Roman Catholic take on "that they may be one" (Jn 17:11) is narrowly predicated on institutional unity, whereas the idea of a communion of churches, each with their differing structures, theologies and traditions, would be a fuller and richer representation of the body of Christ. It is Rome that perceives women priests as an ecumenical obstacle -- because it perceive ecumenism as oriented toward fusion of the different structures of the two churches -- but Canterbury need only stress its own right to express the Gospel as its best theological wisdom dictates and should lodge a firm protest against condescending judgments from Rome (as well as against actual interference in the inner debates of Anglicanism, as happened when Card. Ratzinger addressed a letter of support to the traditionalist Anglicans in the US). Such a protest should clear the air of ecumenical encounter, making it a fraternal dialogue rather than a "negotiation".

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 19 November 2006 at 6:10am GMT

Cheryl / Goran - someone prayed for unity.....not "respect" or "diversity" - we need to look at his words, his agenda,to represent him truthfully.

- and the one who prayed for unity clearly meant real unity (he would not have died for ambiguity and space to think!)

-he did not mean Anglican fudge which has allowed some people to become bishops even though they deliberately and knowingly contradict so many of the his words....but then he warned about wolves disguised as sheep too!

we need to get back to his words if we are to use his name!

Posted by: NP on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 5:26am GMT

NP said:
"Cheryl / Goran - someone prayed for unity.....not "respect" or "diversity" - we need to look at his words, his agenda,to represent him truthfully.

- and the one who prayed for unity clearly meant real unity (he would not have died for ambiguity and space to think!)

-he did not mean Anglican fudge which has allowed some people to become bishops even though they deliberately and knowingly contradict so many of the his words....but then he warned about wolves disguised as sheep too!

we need to get back to his words if we are to use his name!"

NP, if your point on 'Anglican fudge' refers to female or gay bishops, perhaps you could point us to the words of Jesus that these bishops 'contradict'? And the recorded travels of Jesus through the non-Jewish lands of Samaria and others surely show an agenda of 'respect' and 'diversity'?

Posted by: Richard on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 10:56am GMT

Nersen dear, what makes you think there isn't "ambiguity" in the Good Book?

And didn't Jesus die exactly because of "space to think"? Wasn't his space to think un-approved thougts the very reason both the Romans and the Sanhedrin wanted Him out of their ways?

And what if the Wolves signifies the agents of disrespect and certainty?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 9:10pm GMT

Glad you're back, you haven't been posting for a while, and I wondered where you'd gone. As to Jesus' prayer that we all might be one, I think perhaps you're missing a nuance. How are we, fallible humans that we are, to accomplish this unity? Well, we need to pray, not asking for what we want, but that we might want what God wants. Thus, we need to be humble enough to put aside our own wants and ideas and needs and listen to what God wants, and to each other. It requires the humility to see God in everyone, no matter how far from us they are. It is only when we show true Christian self sacrifice that we can recieve from God the gift of unity. As long as we shout at each other about what's true, and what's "in the Bible" and how we know better than someone else, and how we're "orthodox" and someone else is a "revisionist", or how we're Liberals and defending justice while others are "conservatives" and oppressing people, we will never be unified. And Protestants have gone to the "plain word" of Scripture for the past 500 years, yet even the Fundamentalists can't agree on what it means, so I don't think unity is to be found in adherence to a printed word when our fallible human nature and our pride make us unable to agree on its meaning.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 3:06pm GMT

I still cannot see the problem with having women priests. Nobody has ever explained to me why it is that nuns cannot "say" mass.

Posted by: Old Father Thames on Monday, 27 November 2006 at 7:26pm GMT
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