"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.[No direct link because of the paywall - here if you think it's worth £1]
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."
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.