Cardinal tells Anglicans that women bishops would destroy unity

Cardinal Walter Kasper has warned the Church of England that a move to ordain women as bishops would destroy any chance of full unity with the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Catholic News Service reports that Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that if the Church of England adopted such a resolution the "shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance."

"Instead of moving toward one another, we would simply coexist alongside each other," he said.

His remarks came in a speech to a private meeting of the Church of England bishops in Market Bosworth, England, just four months after the bishops agreed to set up a working group to outline a process through which women might be consecrated as bishops.

Although three of the world's Anglican provinces have already agreed to consecrate women as bishops, Cardinal Kasper said decisions made by the Church of England had a "particular importance" because they gave a "strong indication of the direction in which the communion as a whole was heading."

Saying that he spoke with "pain and sadness," the Cardinal warned the bishops of their historic decision's grave consequences, both to ecumenical relations and to the interior unity of the Anglican Communion.

Among the most serious of these, he said, would be that the goal of restoring full church communion "would realistically no longer exist" because it could not exist "without full communion in the episcopal office."

A decision in favour of women bishops made broadly by the Anglican Communion, he said, would also represent a turning away from the "common position of all the churches of the first millennium."

He said this meant that the Anglican Communion would no longer occupy "a special place" among the churches of the West but would align itself closely to the Protestant churches of the 16th century.

Cardinal Kasper said that although ecumenical dialogue would continue the loss of a common goal would "rob such encounters of their elan and their internal dynamic."

He said a further consequence of a resolution in favour of women bishops would be that the Catholic Church would inevitably continue to refuse to recognise the validity of Anglican orders.

Cardinal Kasper was among a number of speakers invited to address the meeting by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In a statement on Tuesday, Archbishop Williams said nothing was achieved by avoiding hard questions and that he appreciated the spirit with which the Cardinal had shared his concerns.

"As we consider whether women should be ordained as bishops in the Church of England and what shape any possible legislation should take, it is important to have this kind of honesty and clarity about how changes made here might impact upon the common commitments of our two communions to the search for full visible unity in Christ's church," he said.

Vatican official to Anglicans: Women bishops would destroy unity (Catholic News Service 7/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Sandro Magister: Lajolo and Kasper, Two New Additions to Team Ratzinger (L'Espresso 7/6/06)
Church unity 'impossible' if women become bishops (London Times 7/6/06)
Ecumenical plate-spinner: Cardinal coordinates multi-faith dialogues (Catholic News Service/Catholic Online 2/6/06)
Guide for Spiritual Ecumenism in the Works (Zenit 1/6/06)
Pope says married Christians of different faiths can signal unity (Catholic News Service 26/5/06)

8 Jun 2006