While the Swedish Lutherans and US Episcopalians now have lesbian bishops, the Episcopalians are headed by a woman bishop, and the UK Anglicans a little unexpectedly have finally approved women bishops without qualification and without the proposed two tier structure to mollify the conservative faction – in the Catholic Church, even the discussion of female priests, like discussion of married priests, is officially off-limits, taboo. It is not surprising that this outdated intransigence should have resulted in some women simply going their own way, initially with the help of some sympathetic male episcopal supporters. Now, with a handful of bishops of their own, they are able to train and ordain without further help from male colleagues, even in the face of spluttering and rejection by the Curial cabal in the Vatican. Fresh ordinations of Roman Catholic womenpriests have become so routine, they now pass with barely any notice outside the local press: Fr Ray Gosswirth on his blog describes how he recently assisted with more ordinations in Rochester just recently.
Meanwhile, the UK decision on female bishops has again reminded us of how speedily women’s inclusion in the Anglican clergy has advanced. As in the Catholic Church, the first women were ordained without official approval, and in the face of hostility. When the formal approval came, it was after a tense battle, which ended in a narrow victory only after extensive qualifications and opt-outs were approved. The path to female bishops has been equally arduous, and it had been expected that approval would come once again only after a close vote and concessions to the conservative faction -but no, the vote last weekend was clear, with no concessions required. Women bishops are coming to the UK church, on just the same basis as men.
So the headline in today’s Telegraph that there is to be a woman priest ordained in Italy, in an Anglican church, would probably suggest either the rebellious Roman Catholic Womenpriests is behind it, or an Italian off-shoot of the Anglican communion. Both assumptions would be wrong.