Comments: women clergy: the Catholic Herald interview

Williams' contemplation that over time there could be a reversal on women's ordination is realistic. The same as it was possible over time to forget the spirit in which the Protestant Reformation occurred, the spirit of both Luther's, or Jesus' spirit of acknowledging the holy in the unclean.

Especially when there is no biblical underpinning to why the marginalised or women should be treated with respect. Especially when the passages that promise the eunuch and foreigner a name (Isaiah 56:3-7) or elevation of woman from servant to wife (Hosea 2:16) are discounted and ignored by established churches and their sponsored theological colleges.

Reforms need to be underpinned by biblical affirmation that is defended by souls committed to honoring the full intent of the Torah/bible, and not just those portions that self-flatter or justify the status quo.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 9:25am GMT

A brilliant piece of spin from Damian Thompson, just see how all the reporters take a ride on this piece of creative analysis!
And the crunch comes when Jonathan Petre actually asks Christina Rees (who should be “upset” etc) and what does she say
“His comments may upset some people, but they shouldn’t.”
And this is the front page lead in the Telegraph ………

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 9:59am GMT

Hi, interesting story this one. Rowan Williams has never yet given me an interview. I have been understandably ridiculed when I've dared to complain about this in the past on my blog. I mean, as if the Archbishop of Canterbury should deign to speak to the Religion Correspondent of The Times. How could I be so presumptious to dream of such a thing? In spite of the complaints of Lambeth Palace, there does appear to be a direct contradiction between what he actually said and what he meant. I hope Lambeth Palace will forgive me if I dare to indulge in the tiniest, weeniest bit of schadenfreude here. Especially as I was give the third degree by my newsdesk this morning as to why we 'missed' the story. I calmed them down by explaining that the Catholic Herald's editor-in-chief also writes leaders and tv reviews for the Telegraph. RW has never given an interview to Jonathan Petre either, but I guess Jonathan sort of got one by proxy today. Well done both!

Posted by Ruth Gledhill at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 11:15am GMT

Andrew Brown has drawn attention to some similarities and differences in these reports at

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 11:34am GMT

It seemed obvious to me that this is a story about nothing.

I have another. The Archbishop was approached about whether hell would freeze over. He replied that he could conceivably think it would, but only over a very long period, and he would have to be convinced of an argument. However, he was absolutely sure that the narrative that it would stay a very hot place would continue for all eternity.

The press reports that Archbishop Williams thinks that hell could freeze over, the headlines somewhat undermined by the reports.

(Meanwhile they missed the words "argument" and "narrative").

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 1:50pm GMT

Ruth reading your posting here, today, I understand why Williams hasn't let you interview him.

Reading your other writings, I find them unreliable & misleading,also.

Posted by laurence roberts at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 2:02pm GMT

Rain forced me to take the bus rather than cycling into work this morning, and as a consequence I instantly lit on the Telegraph's front-page headline in the corner shop and bought it to read on the way into work.

I haven't seen the Catholic Herald article, but there was nothing in the substance of either of any of the copy the Telegraph ran to justify their hysterical "Williams: we may rethink women priests" front page headline. Nothing what so ever. Although I suppose "Williams: it's just about conceivable we may at some unspecified future point change our minds on women priests but it's not very likely" doesn't sell papers.

I'm not surprised at Damian Thompson spinning a story from this non-comment. This sort of non-story with a conservative RC spin is what he specialises in and has always specialised in. I'm a bit more surprised at the Telegraph but, then again, this is their second front page lead in a week that has had no substance behind it. Tuesday's "Iran picks Bin Laden's successors" headline, which seems to have nothing more behind it that Con Coughlin having a few gins with US Department of Defense political flunkies, was even worse.

Sad times at Canary Wharf.

Rowan Williams has never yet given me an interview. I have been understandably ridiculed when I've dared to complain about this in the past on my blog. I mean, as if the Archbishop of Canterbury should deign to speak to the Religion Correspondent of The Times. How could I be so presumptious to dream of such a thing?

Ruth, Ruth, Ruth! Maybe the reason why he doesn't want to give you an interview is because you're another reporter who has a history of 'sexing up' stories to get them in a better position in the paper, too, Ruth. And I sort of see where you're coming from - it can't be easy to be a religious correpsondent in an overwhelmingly secular and disinterested country.

But, really, if you want to interview the Archbishop of Canterbury, you really need to resist the temptation to stretch facts to run him down at every opportunity. Then you might have more credibility with the Lambeth Palace press office who, after all, where all appointed by your great hero George Carey and share much of your Evangelical and homophobic agendas. Shouldn't be too hard to meet in the middle, should it?

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 2:23pm GMT

Don't worry. The Archbishop of Canterbury hasn't offered me an interview yet either!

Posted by Dave Williams at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 3:21pm GMT


Reporting used to be honored as having a prophetic role. Bringing truth to light where the corrupt and complacent would prefer it unsaid. Asking the hard questions. Challenging souls' complacency.

Being told that your reporting needs to be based on making potential sponsors comfortable tells you how blind and complacent some souls have become. They are so used to the media being tied into advertising sponsorship money that they have become boot lickers to power brokers.

As the hard questions. Confront people. Challenge souls' complacency. But do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Don't worry about whether the establishment want to talk to you or not. If you are doing the right thing, their failure to talk to you will merely reflect light back into their darkened corner.

One of my joys in the last few years is that more often than not when they move to neutralise me, they end up in a worse space than what they were before. It has been one of my joys. As I have said to a couple of close friends in the last week. If no one is going to placate me, at least I am having fun being the pussy in the canary cage. Swish. Swish.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 4:10pm GMT

Points taken Gerry and Laurence, I do understand this and do not have high hopes at all for the future. But if that applies to me why didn't it apply to the Herald? Damian has been far more critical of him than I ever have. Also, I really do not run him down at every opportunity.

Posted by Ruth Gledhill at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 4:13pm GMT

Accusing someone of having a homophobic agenda -seems like the threatening and abusive controls aren't working at the moment Simon

Posted by Dave Williams at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 6:09pm GMT


why did The Herald get the interview? Maybe "that would be an ecumenical matter"? Would Damian Thompson have got the interview if he was still working for the Telegraph rather than the Catholic Herald? Maybe the Lambeth Palace Press Office felt it was worth working with a reporter they might mistrust for the sake of getting into a decent spread in a high circulation RC newspaper?

If that's what they thought, they really have got their fingers burnt.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 6:29pm GMT

'. . . got their fingers burnt'? I don't think so. I suspect Lambeth Palace is feeling rather pleased. And is it too fanciful to suspect an element of collusion between the Telegraph headline writers (and others) and the Catholic Herald? There can have been few more compelling reasons for a 'secular' Telegraph reader to search out a copy of the Catholic Herald - to see if the Archbishop really did say what the headline says he said.

Oh yes, when +Rowan and +Benedict meet I really do hope they find time to talk about or better still play some Mozart. The Holy Spirit might then be really busy.

Posted by Stephen Wikner at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 8:04pm GMT

I found the tone of the interview very condescending. The interviewer subtly patronised Rowan Williams throughout. His replies were as thoughtful, engaged, modest and genuine as his interlocutor was game-playing, and snide, it appears to me.

Also it has all the hallmarks of the old style RC denomination I thought they'd been growing out of to some extent, at least. But the Herald clearly has not, and soothes its a blinkered readership with such tones--presumably.

Ratzinger, of course, is now going as full-steam ahead as he can get way with, in undermining Vatican II ( having done it for years in last job).
How dare they call the meeting of the two church leaders 'an audience' ? Who the ---- do they think they are ? What are they playing at?

I was glad that Rowan did confront the interviewer--however gently-- with some of the problems with his denomination --on grace, Thomistic ideas and eucharist; and the notion of 'papal' infallibility. And the easy, attempted equation of 'Catholic' with 'RC denomination'.Also the notion that 'ecumenism' is a process in which we all join the RC denomination ! Glad that Rowan implied --in the nicest possible way--what complete bollocks!

It was a delight hear him speak of Fr. Joe and being one of his many many boys. Hopefully those who never knew him, will want to read his biography.

Posted by laurence roberts at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 9:39pm GMT

Perhaps the Herald and Jo Rtzinger could think on this ?! :---

15 Women Who Took Up Roman Catholic Priestly Roles Face Excommunication

Fifteen Roman Catholic women in the United States, including some Californians, face excommunication after taking up priestly duties following their ordination in recent ceremonies designed to challenge the all-male priesthood.

On Thursday, Jane Via of San Diego, who was ordained in June and planned to say her second Mass on Sunday, met for two hours with the local bishop, who laid out the ramifications of her actions.

Three women in other states have received letters from diocese officials warning that they chose to excommunicate themselves when they participated in an illicit ordination near Pittsburgh on July 31. In San Jose, diocese officials warned that a woman priest there was not properly ordained.

I'm scared of being shut out of the church and not even being allowed to be buried in a Catholic cemetery, said Via, 58, a San Diego County prosecutor. But I'm breaking an unjust law and I will accept the consequences.

Along with Via are three other California women who are saying Mass. They like to call themselves valid but contralegem, against the law.

Dozens more women, generally in their 50s and 60s, are preparing to be ordained in the future, said Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, which became a nonprofit organization in Fairfax, Va., in June after advocating for female priests for 31 years.

All of the ceremonies were conducted on chartered boats theoretically beyond the jurisdiction of the local diocese  amid the medieval pomp of the traditional rite.

Via was among two women ordained on Lake Constance, which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland, in June. In the first service of its kind in the United States, eight women were ordained in the July 31 ceremony at the confluence of three rivers near Pittsburgh. A year ago, four women, including a Canadian, were ordained in the international waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Canada and the United States.

Presiding over some of the ordinations were three European women recently consecrated as bishops in secret ceremonies allegedly led by five bishops who remain in good standing with the church. The identities of the male bishops, who wish to remain anonymous to avoid excommunication, were notarized and then placed in a bank vault, the women priests said.

Posted by laurence roberts at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 9:51pm GMT

I think Rowan Williams really does need to do something about his lack of media skills.

Just about every interview he does is full of this sort of opaque statement.

Its easy to blame the journalists, but lets be honest - the AofC is a political job, and Rowan has no political skills at all.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 10:16pm GMT

What a tempest over nothing. The Archbishop's actual remarks were thoughtful and by and large, gracefully expressed.

I understand (to an extent) the fuss over the misleading headline but don't understand the tempests and fusses in the comments above!

Posted by Anna at Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 10:38pm GMT

Just let's look at this, from the same interview:

I might want to refine the language a bit. Of course, the Eucharist is a symbol, but I think what Flannery O’Connor was saying is that if it is just a symbol in the sense that it is something detached from what it is about, and it is just working in your mind -- well, no, that’s not it. The Eucharist is not a visual aid and it’s not a jog to memory. It’s an event, an encounter. And if it is not an event in which some utterly earth-shaking change occurs, if it is not an encounter with the risen Christ, well, indeed, to hell with it. It just becomes something that we do as opposed to something God offers or does. That’s at the centre of my own feeling about the Eucharist.

...What I want to say: the bread and the wine, the sacrament, become fully and perfectly the carriers of the agency of Jesus, as fully as his literal flesh and blood are the carriers of his agency and identity. And what that means and how that happens, I am not sure we can carve up quite as neatly as St Thomas.<

The problem is, it is a symbol, it is just working in the mind, whatever direction it has come from (how else? where else?). it is not real presence, which, if it was, would answer how it works, if it is as an "encounter" fully as his literal flesh and blood.

The problem is, it gets very confusing, but in addition to this, we have: "refine the language a bit" and "the centre of my own feeling" and "What I want to say" and "what that means and how that happens". It becomes, in the end, because it cannot be other, forms of expression. So he wants the fullest possible understanding of eucharist, high as it can get, but gives no means for it, and then has his approach as a subjective expression and language about it.

It is both, and and neither; and it lacks clarity, however nuanced and exploratory - but it is not exploratory because he always wants a full orthodoxy and high view claimed without a foundation for that height of theological claim.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 3:31am GMT

The remarks were unfortunate, like similar remarks about gay-related issues -- a too frank glimpse into the coolly pragmatic mindset of bishops anxious about church unity. Nonetheless, it is delightful to find a churchman who speaks as freely, as humanly and with as much culture as RW -- and if "media skills" means muzzling oneself in order to preempt the wilful pettiness of debased journalism and ecclesiastical cranks, then we should be grateful that at least some public figures foreswear the said skills. Performatively, RW's various interviews are altering the nature of church authority -- in stark contrast to the laconic and impersonal style of Roman Catholic bishops and the Vatican, who not only put a curb on their own communication but seem to discourage open discussion at every level in the Church. Better the garrulousness of Anglicans to the sense that communication is lamed and vitiated by fear.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 3:46am GMT

The "real presence" and "transsubstantiation" are not at all as simple to state or to conceptualize as Pluralist seems to imply. The RCC upholds transsubstantiation as a fitting description but not as any kind of definition of the eucharistic transformation, and the elaborate metaphysical refinements of Thomas are extremely problematic, using Aristotle's categories in a way that Aristotle would consider impossible -- as Fitzpatrick points out in the book that R Williams recommended (in rather misleading terms, as if it were a defence of Thomas rather than an attack).

The categories of encounter and meal event cannot be banished from talk of the Eucharistic transformation, for Christ is present in the sacrament in function of these, and not in a reified magical way. The entire meal event is transsubstantiated into an encounter with the risen Christ.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 8:29am GMT

The BBC story has moved on again.
Well, Anna - talking to leaders of the women’s' movement yesterday they said they had been overwhelmed by calls from hurt people.
I think this is a good example of what Gerry describes as a “sexed up” story, in fact now we have all read the interview something approaching a total fabrication.
It seems, as you can see from Ruth’s congratulations above that as long as a journalist gets a story on the front page, matters of accuracy are irrelevant.
Pointing this out, finding the sources behind the “spin”, looking at why this was done, all help us to see how those who work in the industry influence opinion and use their privilege to inform or misinform public opinion.
Andrew Brown, who comments here and who is referred to above has great skill in exposing these things and does us all a service.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 8:31am GMT

Which , Martin, explains just why RW absolutely must up his act with regard to the media. For a long time he refused to talk to the press and was rightly criticised. But I think we can now see why. I'm sorry, but I simply think he is not up to the job. he is too vacillating, there's no passion there at all.

The Guardian leader writer got it spot on:
Dr Williams' defenders insist that the Anglican communion's virulent internal debates should be seen as proof of its vitality. Instead, it looks as if Dr Williams' disastrous inability to make a vigorous case for the liberalism that once distinguished his career has inflicted yet more collateral damage.

Resign, Rowan. The last thing we need is a spineless hypocrite who can't even defend what we all thought he believed.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 9:51am GMT

Gerry, Damian does still work for the Telegraph! He writes leaders, think pieces etc.
Stephen, I can assure you Lambeth Palace is not feeling pleased. "Hurt" and "burnt" are the accurate descriptions.
Martin, my 'congratulations' were meant partly in an ironic sense. But it is certainly the case that the pressures we are under at present, in the present battle between us and the revamped Telegraph, are almost intolerable.

Here is what I've just posted on the Coin thread on this issue, in response to some really criticisms of me by another Coin member. I really am not trying to excuse myself or my profession, I take responsibility for what I write. I am engaging in this debate on lists to aid understanding of how the media works, to improve my own work but also to help Lambeth Palace and the Archbishop. I'll post original criticisms as well.

' ***, I understand your concerns and take them on board. I am always willing and open to criticism when justified, and some but not all of yours is. You might also want to think twice before shooting the messenger perhaps? It has been an extraordinarily stressful and difficult week for me, thanks to this story.

I was summoned from my child's parent staff association meeting at a primary school late on Wednesday night to follow up the front page splash in Thursday's Telegraph. I had all of 15 minutes to write a follow up to the Telegraph, late at night, and was seriously told off by my news editor for missing the story in the first place. My story appeared in the third edition onwards of Thursday's Times, the same day as the Telegraph splash appeared, and online that day. I certainly did not have access to the Archbishop's quotes in context at 11.30pm on Wednesday night. The only context I had was the Telegraph I'm afraid.
Perhaps *** you are unaware of how this story came out in the first place? ABC agreed to do an interview with the Catholic Herald in advance of his Rome trip. The Catholic Herald's editor in chief is Damian Thompson, who is also a leader writer and feature writer on the Daily Telegraph. He has written pieces in which he has made his utter contempt for Rowan William totally clear. If you read my latest blog, you will see my own opinion of RW. So far from being contemptuous of him, I believe him to be a lovely and much misunderstood man. But as RW has never given an in depth interview to me, I have never had an opportunity to write this for the paper. I am constantly on the back foot when writing about him, having to follow up other people's interviews and decipher difficult, if beautiful, speeches.

I am not trying to justify the necessary faults of my profession at all, just to let you know that on this occasion, I think your criticism is a little too harsh, that is all.'

Posted by Ruth Gledhill at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 1:25pm GMT

[Editor's note: Because Ruth's comment was over the word limit, I have split it into two, what follows are not my words]

Here is the criticism [to which the preceding comment was the response]:

' Because in context, the ABC's remarks clearly (and I know that this phrase is something of an oxymoronic combination of words and I am certainly not defending his peculiar ability to provide soundbites which say the precise opposite of what he means) didn't mean what you said in your article, and if you had access to his words in context, I don't see how you could have missed that unless you are a great deal less bright than I take you for. The remark about the possibility of a rethink was actually talking about the sheer unlikelihood of such a thing; and the remark about 'not having transformed the church in startling ways' was actually part of a very valid thought about the sheer 'ordinariness' of women's ministry, which is actually the most common thing that has been said to me by people who had initial doubts but have subsequently come round. Most do not have some kind of road to Damascus experience; they just experience the sacramental and pastoral ministry of a woman in some context or other and realise that, oh, that was OK; it wasn't strange or different in whatever way they had built up to expect; the sex of the priest turned out to be either irrelevant or mildly helpful instead of a stumbling block. That was the overriding impression the first time I received communion from a woman priest - which rather neatly also happened to be the first time I had received in white wine rather than red - and I realised afterwards that iconically, the second difference had been what occupied my attention, not the first. I do not expect you to fight the Archbishop's corner - far from it - and if anything you say convinces him to learn a style of public speech that can be more clearly 'understood of the people' without the need for diagrams perhaps you will unwittingly have served a good purpose, but I do expect you, in a paper such as yours, to be capable of reporting an accurate precis of his meaning rather than simply leaping gleefully on the juicier out-of-context quotes and actively misleading your readers.'

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 2:41pm GMT

"I am not trying to justify the necessary faults of my profession at all"

And, to be fair to you and your colleagues, Ruth, we 'consumers' of the media get the media we deserve.

Both the Telegraph and, even more dramatically, the Independent have taken a filleting knife to their traditional journalistic values and both have reaped the reward commercially. The Independent, in particular, looks more and more like a left-leaning Daily Express with every passing day. Not to mention the way trash free newspapers like the Metro, London Lite, etc., have eaten into the sales of the qualities, especially among 18-40s.

Basically, if we want quality journalism, people will continue to provide it for us, but if editors and newspaper managers decide that only sensationalism and spin sells, then Ruth and her colleagues will continue to protect their own jobs by sexing up stories.

Or is it just a case that all the discerning readers are on blogs these days?

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 4:44pm GMT

It's kind of interesting isn't it. On other threads we've been discussing things like certainty and how the Church knows truth. There's also been some discussion about what it means to listen to others.

Presumably there will be a good number of people here that think that schism is a bad thing. They will notice that this interview is in the context of a coming meeting with the Pope. If the CofE wants to travel down the road with the RC Church much further in terms of unity then it will have to have some form of dialogue. That theorectically opens up all sorts of arguments on both sides.

Is either side prepared to give way on Transubstantiation, on women's ministry on the celibacy of the priesthood, on papal infallability, on the role of Mary and the Saints, on the doctrine of justification?

All of that has implications the other way, how then does the Anglican Communion relate to the Methodist Church, Baptists, FIEC, New Frontiers...

I'm prepared to read Rowan's comments in the context of a negotiation. An acknowledgement that these sorts of things will have to be discussed an an indication of his position on the.

Posted by davewilliams at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 5:22pm GMT

I understand what Spirit of Vatican II is saying here, but there are channels by which an "event" takes place, unless of course it is thrown open to mystery.

Channels include something physically happening to the bread and wine, which is in the same category as a miracle, and we know this is counter to science.

Another means is mental, by direct impression. It might be us, or it might be another into us. The effect could be the same, but it is mental.

A more refined and collective means is socio-lingistic, and here the happening to us is the way that language does work, as part of a corrective enterprise. This is the structural thing, from Levi-Strauss and all that, and deep grammar, and going from that right through to structures of society and including theology.

It all sounds too elaborate, so there is the post-structural, where all of that is itself relativised.

As well as mystery of actual encounter, there is the other mystery, the don't know as mystery.

I often don't know, but I suspect it is a mental activity, and a language one too - because language is symbolism, and bread and wine are symbolism, and I further want my religion to get rid of the subjective-objective divide, and for it not to be anti-scientific, or anti-social anthropological.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 5:24pm GMT

I do hope that Lambeth Palace will give Ruth the opportunity of a sensible interview soon.

Posted by Alastair Cutting at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 6:23pm GMT

The comments about the content of what Rowan is supposed to have said, and responses to unfair spin have been taken up on a more recent thread (thank you Simon).

Back to Ruth's issues:

The phrase "No emotions please, we're Anglican" comes to mind. There is a tendency to eschew anything that might be strongly emotional. That is a good trait in terms of pouring calming oil on turbulent waters. But it can be a bad trait when it becomes ostrich behaviour blind to risks. The affluent classes were held in contempt in the lead up to World War II for their refusal to discuss risks in "polite" company.

There is a role for the media in encouraging us to discuss things that we would prefer to ignore. Even if that does stir up emotions.

At this present time, we are grappling with developing models capable of building peace, justice and sustainability for countless future generations. This generation has the potential to literally wipe humanity off the planet by continuing to tolerate and pursue nihilistic paradigms. We need to be shaken out of our complacency. Like a battleship carrier, inertia carries us forward and it is only with an incredible amount of consistent pressure that it is able to change direction. And even then, it does it awfully slowing and almost imperceptibly at the start.

Ruth has highlighted an issue with the Anglican Communion infrastructure. I hit the same wall back in early 2005. There are no means to gain access to appeal to a higher authority if you are outside the official chain of command. So if there is collusive organisational corruption, bullying or errors in your diocese, too bad. There are no channels to find out if your comments have been received by the relevant parties, let alone even read, let alone considered.

Ruth's issues are not unique to herself. She is doing a valid jounalistic enterprise in highlighting the difficulties she has in accurately portraying and commenting on the Communion's communication strategies.

It is laughable that Lambeth's cohorts complain about the annoying voices from the wilderness; when they have consistently used ostrich strategies to avoid engaging contentious problems. If they appear in a less flattering light than they desire, then maybe they should look to getting their house in order.

The issues that both Ruth and I have faced are not unique.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 9:25pm GMT

Once again I garble my words - a collective enterprise I should have written, though it just might be corrective too.

As for the press and inteviewing, clearly in the Catholic Herald Rowan Williams received more than burnt fingers, and is an object lesson, plus he and the staff will have clearly noticed the press saliva at work about a missed story, even when that story was a nonsense and turnaround from what was stated.

Fortunately the Church Times was a better interview, and this will have been noted too.

So Ruth Gledhill may be waiting rather longer for her interview, as may many others, because she too showed the saliva of the press hounds, in seeing the story as an object in itself even when it was close to rubbish.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 17 November 2006 at 9:54pm GMT

"Channels include something physically happening to the bread and wine, which is in the same category as a miracle, and we know this is counter to science."

"Physically" is somewhat unfortunate here. Physical realities are what science grasps, and it is evident that physically there is no observable difference between a consecrated and an unconsecrated host.

The Church refers to a change in the substance of the host -- and substance is not only a very obscure term (as Newman pointed out) but it points not to physical matter but to the being, ousia, of something. A change in being is what is what transubstantiation means.

Is this a miracle? Again, one must distinguish between physical miracles -- say water changing into wine -- and the elevation and transformation of human being in grace, salvation, resurrection to eternal life. The Eucharist is the guaranteed presence of the latter kind of miracle.

This presence may lack its full potency in practice if it is divorced from the presence of Christ in his Word and in the community. Lack of prayerful attention, individualism, and narrow focus on the isolated miracle conceived in magical terms are three ways in which the Eucharist is lamed. All three are among the factors underlying the present grave liturgical crisis in the RCC, it seems to me.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 8:08am GMT

Thank you Pluralist, frankly I am not hopeful any interview ever from Lambeth Palace, but at least no-one can accuse me of being in the CofE's pocket. I probably should drop this thread but just want to continue my probably hopeless attempt to convince you and other sceptics that we journalists, while sinners perhaps more than most on occasio, are not always deserving of demonisation. There was no saliva in my mouth at all on Wednesday night at 11pm as my son lay asleep in bed and I longed to go to sleep but was under inordinate pressure to follow up the story. Mouth dry with anxiety and stress is closer to how it feels when this kind of thing happens. I called the poor press officer at Lambeth Palace, who also has young children and leads an exhausing and stressful life when this kind of thing happens. He confirmed the quotes were, technically accurate and gave me a brief quote about it being misleading, which I used. I could not professionally have refused to do the story under those circumstances. As I've said before, it was a complete nightmare. How anyone thinks that we journalists enjoy or revel in this sort of mess is completely beyond me.

Posted by Ruth Gledhill at Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 5:44pm GMT

I have found the concept of transignification a helpful and fruitful concept vis-a-vis eucharist.

(Even though I myself no-longer participate in the outer sacrament )

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 8:20pm GMT

I don't know what a guaranteed presence is. To raise my game somewhat, I cannot see anything guaranteed when it depends on hope.

What if a pro-science view of transubstantiation is promoted then, as above, which I think is a revision: let's suppose there is no focus on a magical change, as it will get none from me, that there is prayerful attention, and that individualism is countered (not sure what is wrong with individualism - but I've already stated the symbol system is collective), then what is the difference between a view as put by me and one suggesting real presence?

I can think of possible answers but Spirit of Vatical II is the one proposing this view of real presence, whereas I don't think I can use the term as it creates too much confusion - it does, indeed, what Rowan Williams does which is to push a claim too far from the position he uses.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 9:34pm GMT

The presence of Christ in the Eucharist cannot depend on hope -- that would certainly be to deny the reality of his presence.

As to our assurance of the real presence, this is not based on hope either, but on our faith in the words of Christ as remembered and repeated by the Church.

There were theologians in mid-20th century who tried to connect transubstantiation with the new atomic physics. Such an enterprise was bound to lead nowhere, since it was based on a category error.

R Williams stresses that Christ is acting in the Eucharist -- a good shift from fetishized notions of presence. Eucharistic adoration is presented by Vatican documents since the time of Pius XII as an extension of the eucharistic action -- again going against fetishization. (The critique of fetishizing attitudes to the Eucharist was advanced by African theologians in the 1970s.)

The intimate connection of the Eucharist with the struggle for the Kingdom -- for justice and peace -- in response to the "Signs of the times" -- is also an important element celebrating the Eucharist according to the mind of Christ.

Of course even a badly celebrated Eucharist is the vehicle of the real presence, Christ is acting wherever two or three are gathered, his word is heard, and his last supper is celebrated.

But to body forth this blessing in a vibrant and energizing liturgy is the challenge today -- churches that can do this should be consulted humbly by churches that have trouble doing it.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Sunday, 19 November 2006 at 6:24am GMT

SOV2, Abslutely! There's nothing worse than going to a place where God is the senile old uncle who sits in the back of the church and drinks His tea while the rest of us get on with the business of telling each other how good we are. It has always been, for me, a flaw in the Anglican Church that so many of our clergy seem to have no trouble with The Gathering of the Community, but have big problems with what the community is gathered there to do. They can cope with some kind of airy fairy "Real Presence" that seems to be more about Jesus is in the building somewhere, because we have faith and He is with us always, but suggest that there is a mystical element, that the bread and wine actually in some way become something else and they either glaze over, dismiss you as a kook, or have an apoplectic fit about incipient Roman Catholicism.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 2:44pm GMT
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