Fr GEOFFREY KIRK chides a misguided prelate Archbishop
Anglicans and Tradition and the Ordination of Women by H.R. McAdoo, Canterbury Press, pbk £11 .99
As PIO NONO once famously observed, "La tradizione son'io". And Cardinal Manning, the former Archdeacon of Chichester, agreed with hint wholeheartedly. As an Anglican, Manning had seen enough of private judgement masquerading as an appeal to ancient precedent; as a Roman Catholic he became the champion of the cause of an all-powerful Magisterium. And Manning's was not the first, nor was it to be the last, change of position in the elaborate quadrille on the subject of tradition and authority which Anglicans and Catholics have been dancing since the Council of Trent.
By and large it has been the Anglicans who have been the conservatives, objecting, in particular, to the innovations of 1871 and 1952. But the ordination of women to the priesthood has changed all that. As David Lunn, the Bishop of Sheffield, wrote to a friend in 1991: "Traditionally, the Church of England has criticised the Free Churches for dispensing with the historic apostolic ministry and the Roman Catholic Church for making necessary to faith new doctrines on Papal authority and the role of Mary which lack adequate authentication in the scriptural record. In this Measure [women's ordination] we seem to be shooting
ourselves in both feet at once."
Meanwhile, as the Anglican self-mutilation got under way with a vengeance, Papal authority did its own modest volteface. John Paul II expressed himself on the limits of the Magisterium: "The Church," he said in 1994, "has no authority whatso_e_ver_to confer priestly authority on women."
This book, by a former Anglican Archbishop of Dublin who has something of a reputation as an interpreter of classical Anglicanism in a Church which has for the most part torn up its title deeds, is an attempt to explain how a body committed to imposing no doctrine which cannot be demonstrated from scripture (Article XXI) and to interpreting scripture according to the lights of the Primitive Church, has managed to introduce into every one of its forty-four dioceses a ministry which the Bible certainly does not enjoin, which was repugnant to the
Fathers of the first four centuries. It makes, in consequence, a most interesting read.
For almost two thirds of the book McAdoo deals with the development of Anglican attitudes to scripture and tradition. Even for a lover of 17th and 18th century English theology like myself, this is not riveting stuff. Jewel, Hooker, Taylor and Patrick: they are the usual figures, dealt with as usually they are handled. These days there is a certain frisson attached to the name of William Wake, since, based on Norman Sykes's partisan performance, George Carey claimed him for the innovators. But there is nothing here to titillate.
The entertainment begins when the former Archbishop enters modern terHtory. Here one apparently committed to being guided by the bishops and fathers of the Undivided Church puts himself wholly into the hands of a bunch of narrowly selected modems. In dealing with the Christ
ian Church in the Apostolic period, Karen Jo Torjesen, Elizabeth Shussler Fiorenza, Giorgio Otranto and even Jerome Murphy O'Connor would not be one's first choice as biblical expositors. Nor is Sister Lavinia Byrne quite on a par with John Chrysostom, or even William Laud.
He paints for us a picture of the earliest church as sexually egalitarian and filled with women exercising roles of eucharistic presidency. Paul was apparently particularly eager for such female participation. McAdoo finds it easy to distinguish between Jewish prejudice and Christian inclusivism, and not unexpectedly comes down in favour of the latter.
Those in favour of women's ordination have one strong suit, which is that most people are of the opinion that everyone knows more about these things now than they did then. McAdoo could have spared us the rather laborious reading by saying as much at the start.