First, the context for the Cardinal’s remarks.
The explicit issue before the bishops was how to advise the General Synod of the Church of England at its meeting next month. The synod has started the process leading up to the appointment of women bishops some 14 years after the same body decided in favor of women priests. Logically, as Cardinal Kasper admitted, one should lead to the other. The ministry of the priest was united with the ministry of the bishop. The fact that the 1992 synod ignored this connection, postponing the issue of women bishops for another day as if it were a separate issue, has produced a distortion in the Anglican theology of ordained ministry.
And The Tablet in commenting makes its very important point:
The answer to the question posed by The Tablet is twofold, First of all, they do not take sufficiently seriously and authoritatively, (a) the teaching of Scripture concerning Order in creation and the headship of the male; and further (b) they set aside sacred Tradition both of the Catholic Church and of the branch known as the Anglican Way. In the second place, they take the claims of the modern human rights movement (for equality for women in all areas and full rights for homosexual persons) as more important and authoritative than the teaching of Scripture and the lessons from tradition.
It must have occurred to many Church of England bishops listening to his address at Lambeth Palace that while talking explicitly about the likely impact of women bishops on Anglican-Catholic relations, Cardinal Kasper could equally well have been addressing the split in the international Anglican Communion over homosexual bishops. That linkage may deepen the theological argument when the House of Bishops presents its views to the General Synod. At risk of over-simplification, what Cardinal Kasper is saying to the Church of England about women bishops is precisely what the Church of England and the majority of churches in the Anglican Communion have been saying to the American branch of Anglicanism, the Episcopalian Church, about gay bishops.
They have been saying that the office of bishop stands not just for unity within a diocese, but above all for unity between dioceses and provinces, as a focus and sign of the koinonia or communio which is at the heart of the Church. Hence the American decision to ordain a practising homosexual bishop whose ministry is rejected by a large majority of other Anglican bishops worldwide shattered the Anglican communio and hence threatened to break up the Anglican Communion. Similarly a Church of England decision to ordain women bishops will change the nature of the relationship between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism for the worse, permanently and profoundly. The partial communio that has been drawing them towards convergence and unity will end.
There is not much room for dispute about this. Anglican bishops may ask themselves the slightly different question: does it really matter? Hasn’t the historic process of theological and personal rapprochement and reconciliation gone as far as it can go? (And isn’t the unwillingness of Rome to engage in a theological debate about female ordination also part of the problem?) But now they have to face a new question, vital to their own future. Can they demand that the American Church halts or reverses its moves towards homosexual bishops, for the greater good of the communio, while the Church of England dismisses an appeal from Rome over women bishops on the same grounds? Or to put it bluntly, how do they say “Yes” to women bishops and “No” to gay bishops?
Full-blooded liberals accept the ordination and consecration of both women and actively homosexual persons as required by the God of Love who in their doctrine is the author of modern human rights’ claims; most Evangelicals accept the ordination and consecration of women because they leave acquired the habit of reading the Bible so as to eliminate from its essence “patriarchy” and “headship”; and they reject the ordination of active homosexual persons because here they read the Bible literally at its common sense level.
Those of us who have made the connection between the ordaining of women and the ordaining of active homosexual persons have been consistently laughed out of court as it were in Anglican circles. It is good to know that others with greater influence and experience think as we do.