Reactions from North’s supporters among the clergy run the gamut from horror to outright despair. Rebecca Feeney, an ordinand training for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House, commented that: “There has been consistently misleading and polarising rhetoric about the Catholic position, which has resulted in immense negative press about Bishop Philip – someone a lot of women, myself included, would not have trained or be training for priesthood without. For many, he is a living embodiment of what mutual flourishing means, and in light of this, the treatment he has received is particularly strange and cruel.”
Fergus Butler-Gallie, an ordinand at Westcott House, fired a mighty broadside: “I’d say that any affirmation that involves the personal smearing of a brother or sister in Christ is no affirmation at all and that, if anything, it makes the church look even more like a genitally-obsessed bunch of do-gooding hobbyists than ever before.
“The fact that the highest paid clergyman in the Church of England (Martyn Percy) can use the deanery of an Oxford college as a sniper’s post to take down a convincing advocate for the very poorest in society (with a columnist for the Guardian feeding him his ammunition) will send one message and one message alone – we care more about our own sub-Freudian internal wranglings than we do about the care of God’s people.”
Future prospects for the unity of the church are grim. This episode has sent a clear message to conservative Anglo-Catholics that they are not wanted. The same logic that barred North from his diocesan post will surely be applied to suffragans before long.