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Preparing for worst in wake of women priests.

The recent flap over "dissident Anglicans" has generated as much disinformation as information. Take the former bishop of London, Graham Leonard, 71. Ever since the Nov. 11 synod vote approving women priests, he has been negotiating "terms" with the Catholic bishops and hinting that some form

of Uniate church or personal prelacy might be the solution.

Now that both these suggestions have been turned down, Leonard would have us believe that he never seriously envisaged them and that what he wanted has come to pass. Cardinal Basil Hume has, he makes it appear, taken his sagacious advice.

This is designed to mask the truth that there are no serious terms for Anglicans moving as a group. Yet Fr. Peter Geldard, one of the chief spokespeople for the dissidents, persists in believing, against all the evidence, that "eventual total integration" leaves room for a solution in which "the church of England would be united but not absorbed."

But the reconciliation of individuals, which is what is happening now, is not corporate reunion; therefore, the Beauduin formulation does not apply.

Yet both Leonard and Geldard seem poised on the brink of entering the Catholic church. But they are now unlikely to be bringing with them the hundreds of Anglican priests that were being talked about only a month ago.

This is because, for all their wishful thinking, they are capable of straight theological thought. The same cannot be said of Forward in Faith, the umbrella movement that brings together all those Anglican Catholics who are said to be troubled in conscience by women's ordination.

"The trouble with the Anglican communion," said someone who ought to know, "is that it never had a Vatican II." The May Day gathering of Forward in Faith confirmed this verdict. There they were, clergymen somewhat to the right of Archbishop Marcel Levebvre, with pompons on their birettas and the regulation 36 buttons on their cassocks.

Can these be the men (they are mostly male) who are about to "swim the Tiber"? "Who's for croquet?" would be more apt. This meeting showed that Forward in Faith has been deceiving us all and perhaps itself.

At the heart of the dilemma they faced after the Nov. 11 synod was the contention that they were not opposed to the ordination of women as such. They were opposed to it because of their belief that a synod of the Church of England was merely a provincial synod and could not presume to decide for the universal church to which they claimed to belong.

As a genuine problem of authority, that deserves to be taken seriously. It also implies that if Rome, me day, approved the ordination of women, then that would be OK.

However, the Forward in Faith meeting made it transparently clear that these Anglicans just don't want the ordination of women, period. They don't like change of any kind. They are nostalgic for their childhood or youth.

The commonest word on their lips is betrayal. They have identified the real enemy that threatens all churches: Its name is "liberalism."

Here is John Broadhurst, chairman of the movement: "Let no one imagine it ends with the ordination of women priests. America, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden -- all show the signs of this new religion, the father/mother God, the androgynous Christ who speaks not of the gospel but of paganism."

So the dissident Anglicans are condemned to swing in the wind, desperately unhappy about the Church of England but fearing to lose their "identity" in the much bigger Church of Rome.

Some of them cast envious eyes toward the Orthodox Church and the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople. But the Orthodox churches, though "sound" on women, are really very foreign and are hardly home.

The risk is that they will end up in limbo and form a dissident sect. They have certainly burned their boats with George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury. At the Forward in Faith meeting, the name "George Carey" was greeted with boos, hisses and cries of "Who?" (laughter) and "Get rid of George Carey."
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Title Annotation:Church of England
Author:Hebblethwaite, Peter
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:May 14, 1993
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