How would the ordination of women as Bishops affect the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Church of England? More specifically, how would it affect dialogue?
At the end of an article about Professor Henry Chadwick's thoughts on the matter, Independent Catholic News reports on the position taken by Archbishop Nichols:
Meanwhile, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, was asked during a press conference in London on Friday 16 November 2012 about the impact on ecumenical relations if the General Synod of Church of England General votes in favour of the ordination of women bishops.On 5 June 2006, Address of Cardinal Walter Kasper, then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke on the same subject to the Church of England Bishops on the ordination of women bishops (source: Zenit):
Archbishop Nichols emphasised that a vote for women bishops would “not fundamentally alter the dialogue and co-operation” between the two Churches.
The Archbishop added: “The dialogue will continue but this is a very significant step which the Church of England now stands about to take, it would seem.”
"What follows from these conclusions and questions? What follows for the future of our ecumenical dialogue? One thing is certain: The Catholic Church will not break off the dialogue even in the case of such a decision. It will above all not break off the personal relationships and friendships which have developed over the past years and decades. But there is a difference between types of dialogue. The quality of the dialogue would be altered by such a decision.It could be said that Archbishop Nichols recognises de facto that the state described by Cardinal Kasper was already been reached in England with the ordination of women priests. Surely that development in itself ruled out the possibility of the restoration of full Church communion? If we accept that to be the case, then the ordination of women bishops would not fundamentally alter the present dialogue and co-operation which is a matter or clarification, prayer and co-operation rather than any hope of shared communion.
Ecumenical dialogue in the true sense of the word has as its goal the restoration of full Church communion. That has been the presupposition of our dialogue until now. That presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to episcopal office.
Following that action we could still come together for the sake of information and consultation; we could continue to discuss and attempt to clarify theological issues, to cooperate in many practical spheres and to give shared witness.
Above all we could unite in joint prayer and pray for one another. All of that is, God knows, not negligible. But the loss of the common goal would necessarily have an effect on such encounters and rob them of most of their élan and their internal dynamic. Above all -- and this is the most painful aspect -- the shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance. Instead of moving towards one another we would co-exist alongside one another."
Cardinal Kasper's address stated explicitly that corporate reunion was now unreachable. In the Year of Faith, as we look again at the texts of Vatican II, it is worth noting another comment that he made in the same speech:
It [viz. the ordination of women bishops] would, in our view, further call into question what was recognized by the Second Vatican Council (Unitatis Redintegratio, 13), that the Anglican Communion occupied " a special place" among churches and ecclesial communities of the West. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century.