“Our rulers hold democracy in contempt.”

No, that’s not from a Tea Party member or someone on the NRO site (although it could well be, and for good reason), but from an Englishman, Thomas Pascoe, writing on The Telegraph site about the recent and narrow vote in the Church of England against having women bishops. Pascoe continues:

In Parliament yesterday, Sir Tony Baldry announced that the new Archbishop of Canterbury would be summoned to Westminster in the coming weeks and told that MPs will not wait for a new vote on women bishops. He will be instructed to organise another vote ahead of the agreed five-year timetable. The Church of England will be expected to choose women bishops this time, and they will vote again and again until they get it right.

The laity of the C of E have voted already, but it matters not. What matters instead is that a political class looking for the turnip ghost of a new -ism to fight have found a way of impressing a class of journalist ignorant of all but their own emotions. Caitlin Moran, for instance, who begins her bizarre Times (£) piece on female bishops thus:

Look, I know nothing about the Church — other than that, in the 1980s at least, it held the best jumble sales. I don’t know the rules of the Church, or the stories, or the history. I don’t know the 2,000 years of context… But then, this week’s vote against women bishops seemed like such a clear failing of logic that you didn’t need to know the laws, stories or history, in the same way you don’t need to know the wider context of seeing someone brutally mug someone else in the street. Whatever the whys or the wherefores, it’s just always gonna be wrong.

Ms Moran’s understanding of the issues hinges on a belief that the Church is essentially a grown-up game of let’s-pretend, with boys dressing up in silly hats and pretending to have a magic biscuit. Her view, and Parliament’s, amounts to this: if they must play, we will make them play nicely and include girls. She makes no effort to understand the theological context or the path of doctrinal development, because it never occurs to her that her gut instinct could be wrong.

I don’t disagree with Pascoe’s criticisms in the least. But here is the problem (or at least one big problem): when Henry VIII broke from Rome, he set in motion the process that finally led to the Church of England being, in essence, a democratic institution. Its doctrines and practices are not, in short, understood to be rooted in divine revelation and God-given authority, but in the will of the people. Which is not to deny that many Anglicans believe otherwise; but such is the general lay of the land.

Pascoe is right: the rulers do indeed hold democracy in contempt, but they actually hold doctrine in contempt far more. In a sort of perverse irony, they are merely doing to the Church of England what Henry VIII did 500 years ago: claiming the authority, as political rulers and cultural elites, to do with the Church of England what they see fit and best based on their whims, which are simply the whims of the politically-correct caste. The Church of England is, after all, of England, which means that as England goes, so goes the Church of England. And Pascoe bitterly acknowledges as much when he states, “Having decided upon the desirable outcome, the Commons is now determined to impose its will on the democratic processes of the Church. After all, why should the wishes of adherents be privileged over those of 650 parliamentarians, none of whom has a mandate on this issue?”

The Church of England has lived by the democratic process; it is has been dying by the same process for decades. And now, as it dies, the vultures of -isms will swoop down and finish off the weakened body. Sad, perhaps, but not altogether surprising. Catholics should pay attention for at least two reasons: first, because it shows where the continued push by various dissenting groups for more “democracy” eventually leads; secondly, because when (and it is a matter of “when”, not “if”) the Church of England allows women bishops, expect many to look to the Catholic Church, which should be ready to offer a safe haven for those willing to fully embrace the bark of Peter.

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.