UNTIL very recently, there was great talk of the unification of the Catholic and Anglican Churches: with ARCIC I and ARCIC II ironing out the difficulties, with press coverage of the possible unification placing every move and word of the bishops under a media spotlight, everyone in Britain was beginning to agree that unity was around the corner.
Yet today, I think matters seem less clearcut. A few developments within the Anglican Communion namely women priests and the Anglican reaction to AIDS — as well as some of the age old differences about abortion, contraception, etc. are rearing their heads and placing obstacles in the path of an imminent unity. I was, of course, born and brought up an Anglican. And although I probably would not have taken the major step of conversion to Catholicism if I had not met Mother Theresa, there were always issues which, as an Anglican, I felt distanced me from my Church.
One terribly important point upon which I could not agree with the Anglican bishops was — and is — abortion. It still appears to me as incongruous, incomprehensible, that men and women who proclaim their Faith in Jesus Christ can accept that murdering a creature of God will not displease Him. How can one reconcile love of God with murder of one of his children? Already the Anglicans' acceptance of contraception seems to me a total negation of
procreation — when a child is conceived, are we not simply enacting the miracle of life? But abortions shocked me even more, I am 100 per cent in support of Humanae vitae.
It was indeed the abortion issue that catapulted me to "notoriety" when, in 1967, I was quoted as doubting the system of monarchy. Whatever my feelings may be about the need for a monarchy in this country, I remember my disappointment in the Queen's signing of that Act. She held there, in her hands, the fate of every unborn British citizen, and she signed a piece of paper that legalised the murder of an unborn child.
Moving away from the abortion issue — the question of women priests in the Church is another obstacle that stands between the two Churches, and one which I fear Cardinal Hume is right in saying will prove "difficult" to surmount.
Have we not, for more than two thousand years, survived very well with a man behind the altar, a man serving Communion? Have we not, for two thousand years, felt comfortable with the system that was started by the Apostles? Those who are pro women priests talk of the fall in vocations, and of the need to embrace more people within the Catholic priesthood. But is the priesthood to extend quantitatively? Are numbers more important than adhering to the original concept of a male priesthood?
A matter such as this one of female priesthood will, no doubt, cause a schism within the Anglican Communion, and moreover, further distance the Anglicans from ourselves. What does emerge, loud and clear, from the ARCIC I and ARCIC II talks, as well as from every speech Pope John Paul II makes, is that this Pope will not turn his back on the traditions of our Apostolic Church, that he will never see such a change through.
And so I ask, of those who support these great changes: if these revolutions within the Catholic Church are destined to rock the boat, to provoke cracks in the ancient structure, will your success not prove a Pyrrhic Victory? Is it better to see the Church crumble than to accept some of its restrictions?