The response to my questions about the Catholic claims has been interesting, and I am only sorry Struans is on his holidays and therefore unable to contribute. It seems to me, as I said in response to a comment from Fr Aidan Kimmel, that I’d like to know more about how the Orthodox organise themselves. I’ve a suspicion, but no more than that, that the old stereotype about the Orthodox being organised around ethnic lines is no longer as true as it was when I was a lad. When I was at University there was one (now very famous) Don who was Orthodox, but I don’t recall that there was much of an Orthodox presence, and though I recall going to an event in London, it was very ‘ethnic’ – full of White Russians I recall, all of whom regarded Communism as the work of the Devil and hoped that Barry Goldwater was going to win the American election (that dates it, and me). I went along to a lecture by an Anglican priests who was a member of a society named, if I recall aright, after St Sergius, which was putting forward the idea that the Anglican Church was effectively the English version of Orthodoxy, and as I remember it, the actual orthodox folk there were far from convinced, but it left me with the indelible impression that although there was no way of accessing it then, Orthodoxy was not only a viable alternative, in terms of Apostolicity, to Roman Catholicism, but closer to the way the early Church had operated; indeed, in so far as it seemed to consist of a church around its bishop, it was actually close to what the Baptists did in so far as they were in communion with each other, but did not attempt to say that one bishop (or in our case elder) had authority over another. I’d be interested to hear more from any Orthodox readers Jessica may have.
I say this because what shines through the responses is that whatever an official line might be, under the banner of ‘unity’, even in the Roman Catholic Church (and I put it that way not to offend Roman Catholics, but so as not to offend those who also lay claim to the ‘catholic’ label) there is more choice than one might imagine. I can see that the traditionalists might lament the old Latin Mass, but I do wonder whether they have ever read the revised Missals from the 1950s, which really were not terribly good; the idea that the decline began with Vatican II is good polemic but bad history. So, whilst one might (and I would) say that it is not sensible to campaign for women priests, I can see why the ACTA brigade might do so and argue that once upon a time all the reforms of Vatican II were opposed in the name of an unchaging tradition which has changed, so why not this? I can see, as I say, the arguments for why not this one, but equally, why ACTA might pursue it. To themselves they look like courageous and farsighted folk, to the traditionalists they look like a right shower of fifth-columnists in need of a wall and a firing squad; yet both groups are within the Catholic Church – although the way in which some of them write about each other might make a chap wonder.
Human nature, fallen as it is, is what it is, and even when being regenerated through Grace, I am afraid it does not seem to incline folk calling themselves Christians to all face in the same direction. In some shape, size and form, choice is something all churches have to deal with – the question, I suppose, is how?