Anglican Yes to Women Bishops an “Obstacle”

Vatican’s Unity Council Notes Regret at Vote

By Kathleen Naab

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2008 ( A Church of England decision to pave the way for the episcopal ordination of women is an obstacle to union with the Catholic Church, the Vatican affirmed.

A late Monday vote following four hours of debate at the general synod of the Church of England affirmed “that the wish of [the synod’s] majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate.” The decision foresaw special arrangements for those who are opposed to the move, though those arrangements were not yet well defined.

A communiqué from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity responded to the vote in a communiqué today.

“We have regretfully learned the news of the Church of England vote that paves the way for the introduction of legislation that will lead to the ordaining of women to the episcopacy,” it said. “The Catholic position on the issue has been clearly expressed by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

“Such a decision signifies a break with the apostolic tradition maintained by all of the Churches since the first millennium and is, therefore, a further obstacle to reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.

“This decision will have consequences on the future of dialogue, which had up until now borne fruit, as Cardinal Kasper clearly explained when on June 5, 2006, he spoke to all of the bishops of the Church of England at the invitation of the archbishop of Canterbury.

“The cardinal has been invited once again to express the Catholic position at the next Lambeth Conference at the end of July.”

The Lambeth conference, a 10-yearly meeting, is scheduled this year for July 16 to Aug. 4.


However, troubles were already brewing in the Anglican Communion before Monday’s vote. On top of the issue of women bishops is the issue of homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage.

Some Anglican leaders called a meeting in Jerusalem in late June to discuss what they called the preaching of a “false Gospel” regarding sexual morality. They eventually decided to stay in the worldwide Anglican Communion but form a separate council of bishops, the Global Anglican Future Conference. Many of those Church leaders are planning to boycott the Lambeth conference.

Reactions to Monday’s vote within the general synod were also varied. Bloggers reported weeping during the debate. And many have spoken of a mass exodus of Anglicans headed to the Catholic Church.

The July 9 Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano cited experts in Anglicanism who affirmed that the future of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Church of England will encounter new difficulties, “in part because of the evident lack of unity within the Church of England itself.”

According to the article, by Roberto Sgaramella, the decision made by the synod in York is not unexpected, because the majority of bishops of the Church of England had already said they are in favor of the ordination of women bishops. Rather, what surprised those cited was the unwillingness of the majority to find a solution for all those who do not intend to recognize the authority of women bishops.

Those interviewed by L’Osservatore Romano said they expect that two or three years might be necessary for the regulation to be approved by future assemblies and at least five years before a woman is actually ordained a bishop for the Church of England.

Nevertheless, the lack of a clear solution for those who dissent from this decision and the decision itself “might create a profound crisis of conscience for those bishops, pastors and faithful opposed to the ordination of women. Not to be excluded is the fact that a certain number of these persons suffering religious crises might find the solution to their spiritual problems by adhering to the Catholic Church or other Christian confessions,” the paper reported.

It concluded by saying: “The present difficulties of dialogue between the Church of Rome and the Church of England, however, must not discourage Christians from praying to God and acting for full unity.”

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation

Subscribe to the ZENIT Daily Email Newsletter

Receive the latest news of the Church and the world in your inbox every day. 

Thank you for subscribing! We will confirm your subscription via email. Please check your spam folder if you do not receive it soon.