Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Federation of Catholic Priests

The executive of this Federation has just issued a letter for its members and for the leaders of the Anglo-Catholic constituency. Here it is:

July 19th, 2008

The executive of the Federation of Catholic Priests views with grave disquiet the decision of General Synod on July 7th not only to proceed to the admission of women to the episcopate, but also to provide no structural solution for the continuing reality of Catholic life within the Church of England.

FCP, primarily a devotional society, has always been an eirenic body. Equally, however, it has adhered firmly to the Catholic inheritance of the Church of England and sought to promote that inheritance as being the primary source, under God, of the well-being and worship of the whole Church. We greeted the decision of 1992 to admit women to the presbyterate with dismay; we have attempted to maintain and encourage the Catholic life from within the restricted compass of the legitimacy granted by that year’s Measure and the Act of Synod, and assured to Catholics by the speeches and actions that accompanied them.

However, the General Synod completely rejected any plan to provide provisions of enough substance to permit those who maintain the Catholic identity of the Church of England to live peacefully and with integrity within her. Our legitimacy, currently recognised not by the disputable abstractions of a code of practice but by expression in law and the ministry of the PEVs, will cease to exist. This situation will be intolerable.

As a matter of immediate concern, therefore, we ask the traditionalist bishops of the Church of England (and especially the PEVs, as those charged with the protection and advocacy of Christians of our “integrity”), together with the Council of Forward in Faith, and the leadership of the Society of the Holy Cross, to meet together and set up an executive body – a cabinet, as it were – to establish the demands of Catholics and draw up coherent policies to meet the situation. Further, we ask that such a group should include the best legal and theological minds that Catholics can draw upon.

We press upon them the need to negotiate forcefully with the leadership of the General Synod in order to establish firm ground upon which Catholics may stand in order to continue with integrity as members of the Church of England. We recognise that this is a difficult task. We take seriously the prospect that it may prove impossible. But while time remains to prevent the completion of Synod’s intentions we urge that it should be undertaken, to help the Catholic community within the Church of England hold together, and to prepare its members to find their way forward under God.

We also request members of FCP to make known to diocesan and suffragan bishops (and of course, to our PEVs) and to synod members their profound unhappiness with the step that has been taken.

Yours sincerely,

Fr Stephen Bould


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