Monday, 7 February 2011

A little early in the year for the "silly season"

Another piece of wonderful silliness from Ruth Gledhill and The Times:

"Church of England clergy who resign and become Roman Catholic priests in the new Ordinariate group set up by the Pope could be subject to Anglican 'heresy trials' for disobedience.

As the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, opens today in Westminster, legal advisers have warned in a note to members that clergy who defect to Rome must first “relinquish” their orders under the 1870 Clergy Disability Act.
If they fail to do so, the lawyers warn in the note, the defecting clergy will under the law of the land remain obedient canonically to their former diocesan bishop or archbishop. This would mean they could be summoned to a tribunal hearing under the 2003 Clergy Discipline Measure, which has the power formally to defrock them and ban them for life."
[No direct link because of the paywall - here if you think it's worth £1]

An Anglican 'heresy trial' - that would be something to behold. Unprecedented? Perhaps altogether too dangerous a precedent in a contemporary Church which appears to have a veritable smorgasbord of heterodoxy on offer to those inclined to be so tempted.
But someone needs to remind Ruth Gledhill, and anyone who might take this kind of quasi-legal fantasy seriously, that this is the twenty-first century, not the sixteenth, and that the reigning monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, not Elizabeth I.

They must speak for themselves, but I doubt whether those who are considering a move to the Ordinariate will be too worried at this prospect. It does though conjure up the fascinating picture of former Anglican, now Roman Catholic clergy, being forced to answer for their "disobedience"  in the courts. Now we know, as Dickens' Mr Bumble said,  that the law can sometimes be an ass - but not that much of an ass.
Memo to those concerned: if you are going to issue a threat, make sure it's one which is half-way credible.


  1. I don't think there is a threat. Nobody in the C/E hierachy is stupid enough to go down that road. The lawyers were just pointing out what the law says so as to cover their own backsides.

  2. A question to (canon) lawyers 'out there': since when has disobedience been regarded as a heresy?
    Fr Peter

  3. Are there any clerical disabilities still? You can now serve on a jury or stand for parliament. What remains?

  4. I am reminded of William Palmer (Palmer of Worcester) writing (I think) to Dr Wiseman to upbraid him for his presumption in accepting a schismatical ordination and claiming to exercise episcopal ministry other than under the permission of his legitimate superior, the (Anglican) bishop of Worcester...

  5. minor point, but it is Miss (or possibly Ms) Gledhill. Ruth is married, but uses her maiden name in her professional life.

  6. Thanks,I've amended the post appropriately


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