One of the oft-made criticisms of the report is that it begins to introduce a curia-type of centralisation into Anglicanism. Yet, as Aidan O’Neill says, the Church of Rome offsets the power of the Vatican by emphasising the place of conscience. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger puts it: “Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed above all else, even if necessary against the requirements of ecclesiastical authority.”
The Windsor report acknowledges no equivalent checks and balances to safeguard individuals against the will of its newly imagined ecclesiastical authority. That makes it a very dangerous document.
In a report out this week, members of the Church of England House of Bishops Theological Group and the Faith and Order Advisory Group have argued that “any commonly agreed standard of faith is bound to be difficult for those who disagree with it. However, a necessary part of Christian discipleship is learning to accept the constraints of living within a community that makes decisions that we may not agree with. A necessary part of the baptismal vocation involves dying to self.”
This is a shameless piece of doublethink. For Bishops Hind and Nazir-Ali, dying to self apparently only applies if you are in the minority. Furthermore, it suggests that the principled resistance to homophobia is, in fact, a form of selfishness – unchristian even. They go on to suggest “discipline to be exercised in cases where there is an explicit rejection of the report’s recommendations”. No space is offered to those who reject institutional homophobia in an act of principled dissent. No wonder people are worried as to what sort of thing the Anglican Communion is becoming.
The paper by Aidan O’Neill which is referred to can be found on The Tablet website and is titled Rights, responsibilities and religious bodies.
In today’s Guardian there is an article by Diarmaid MacCulloch about contemporary politics, The end of days: a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Telegraph continues that theme with Christopher Howse writing about Tony Blair in To kneel or not to kneel.
The Credo column in The Times is by Roderick Strange Those we have loved and lost reveal the way. However, more interesting is Matthew Parris who writes about Ruth Kelly and Opus Dei: Why Ruth Kelly’s faith and her politics cannot be separated. In particular he says:
It was disappointing, then, when Ms Kelly denied that she had ruled herself out of any ministerial job on religious grounds. Instead she is anchoring her position in the time-honoured — and thoroughly dubious — assertion that she knows how to distinguish between faith and politics. Ms Kelly insisted in an interview with the Daily Mirror that her faith was a private matter which had nothing to do with her job. “I have a private spiritual life and I have a faith. It is a private spiritual life and I don’t think it is relevant to my job,” she said.
What? That is wholly inconsistent not just with the whole drift of Opus Dei’s work, but with Christ’s teaching. Of course one’s faith, and the moral code anchored in it, is relevant to one’s job. It is impossible to read the Gospels in any other way.