Damian Thompson's take on the matter in The Telegraph is predictably snide, even ending up by hinting at some kind of undefined reconciliation with Affirming Catholicism - in itself a borrowed barb:
"...But the English bishops associated with Forward in Faith and the Society of St Hinge and St Bracket (or whatever it's called) are not keen to be drawn on the subject – except to affirm the Church's traditional teaching on marriage...." [here]Damian Thompson is, of course, no friend to Anglo-Catholics in whatever guise they may appear - I seem to remember at least one well-loved and respected person now high in the councils of the Ordinariate feeling the lash - or is it flick - of his aspiringly Waugh-like quill a few years back.
However, the article by Fr Stephen Keeble in this month's New Directions * (via Anglican Mainstream), which Mr Thompson quotes for support for his opinions, is an altogether more serious contribution and deserves to be quoted at greater length:
"...The Society’s bishops’ statement begins with a declaration of their pastoral and teaching office as stewards of the mysteries of God, yet in declining to affirm the Church’s teaching on this important matter they have added to the confusion and uncertainty within the ranks of theMany of us would agree. And for that very reason I don't buy into the argument that the Bishops of the Society are shifting (or can shift with any integrity) their position. It would make complete nonsense of their determination to hold fast to Catholic order if they were to give such substantial ground in terms of Catholic moral theology - and the blessing of even "'‘faithful’ and ‘covenanted’ same-sex relationships" would do precisely that ... it would also, of course, introduce into our own ranks precisely the degree of anarchy which is set to tear the Anglican Provinces in Britain apart...
Society’s supporters and exposed it to serious questioning concerning its claims to catholicity. One is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that the Council of Bishops’ contrivance to say as little as possible is the key to understanding its position.
The purpose of the Society, according to its website, is ‘to promote and maintain catholic teaching and practice within the Church of England’. Forward in Faith, on its homepage, is said to be ‘committed to the catholic faith as the Church of England received it’ and to ‘long for the visible unity of Christ’s Church, and especially for communion between the Church of England and the rest of the Western Church’. The translation of these declarations into anything approaching practical reality would entail doctrinal clarity and coherence, and a focused dedication to the ecumenical goal....." [page 27ff]
Yet, of course 'doctrinal clarity and coherence' do not, as Pope Francis reminds us, prescribe the intemperate denunciation of those who, along with all of us, stand in need of God's mercy and forgiveness, however unsatisfactory their beliefs and lifestyles may appear in the light of the wider catholic tradition. On that basis alone the recent statement of the Bishops of the Society [also here - page 19] is enough.
* Thereby giving the lie to those who would regard the publication as irredeemably conciliatory to the Establishment and lost to necessary controversy and essential debate.