The darkest day in the History of the English Catholic Church was in 1993 when Ann Widdecombe and John Selwyn Gummer left the Anglican Church and became Catholics…..mostly over the ordination of women. Neither …..as Ministers in Thatchers Government struck me as being life-enhancers. ……a charge which might also be levelled by English Catholics watching IRA funerals in Norn Iron.
“English” Catholics are different. Aristocratic….posh……they even have the Duke of Norfolk as unofficial monrach, a kinda legacy to their recusant past. The better Churches in London …those “embassy churches” or “with links to a Jacobite past…have posh “English” priests in charge. They rarely fall into the hands of priests with (say) Italian or Irish heritage. Going to a service in Westminster Cathedral …..its a “whos who” of English Conservatism……the late Auberon Waugh, the late John Biggs Davison.
Catholicism seemed to be doing alright without Ann Widdecombe and John Selwyn Gummer. We had our traditional wings and our liberal wings. But the liberals took a hit with the exodus of traditionalists from the Anglican community.
The breaking point for Widdicombe was……women priests. Unfortunately Catholicism became the last resort of the “conservative” rogue. This set back the cause of women priests in the Catholic Church. But oddly boosted the cause of married priests…many of the ordained ministers who left the Church of England are in fact married.
In Ireland we tend to link the causes of “married priests” and “women priests”.
But there is in fact a difference between “married priests” which has a Biblical tradition and “women priests” who have no Biblical tradition……not that we should focus too much on the social mores of two thousand years ago when adopting to the 21st Century.