I return again to my theme. Who interprets our ecclesiastical law? It is extraordinary to be told that the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor assures us that the Canons were observed in the matter of the deposition of two bishops this week. In secular society the equivalent would be for the prosecution to assure the court that all was being done in accordance with the law. I leave aside the undoubtedly canonical business of getting, or not getting, the three longest serving bishops to approve of a bill of attainder or of a committee meeting in private signing off on the alleged guilt of the accused.
That there is an overwhelming desire on the part of our bishops to shoot as many admirals as possible on their quarterdecks “for the encouragement of others” is respectably British but questionably Christian. I am often told nowadays that our doctrine and much of our tradition is the fruit of victory. “Winners write history.” Well it would seem obvious that we are in the hands of “winners” now and the history they are writing -may I become modern and wax anecdotal? – is that we make examples of at least one very old man whose wife is in the grips of a terminal disease, look as if we are after another elderly bishop, all in an attempt to “discipline” a bishop who has attempted to run off with the family silver, and perhaps warn two or more others not to do the same or else?
The “or else” is that without any form of trial or judicial hearing a group of persons will vote to declare that such persons have been deposed from the Sacred Ministry, our canonic version of a Bill of Attainder. The wretched bishops are obviously guilty and so “Off with their heads. ” Ah! we say but that means “our” sacred ministry rather than that of the Church Catholic. Yet we are not prepared to say “from the ministry ofthis jurisdiction”. It’s OK to imply it, or merely suggest that we don’t mean that which the language states.