Church of England politics and endless fascination go together like beans and bacon - or should we say bangers and mash? In this case, the attention falls to The Rt. Rev. John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, who on Friday informed a session of Forward in Faith International (of which he is chairman) that he expects to join an ordinariate when one is formed, and thereby effectively defect to the umbrella of Roman Catholicism.
If he does, he'll be the first Anglo-Catholic bishop to go through with it.
Broadhurst's distaste for C of E positions - apparently General Synod's women-bishops vote being the final straw - will come as no surprise to those who've watched with the least interest. In February he said on BBC's HARDtalk that "the Anglican experiment is ... over," and a few months later he was noted as one of those planning an ordinariate in secret meetings between three CoE bishops and advisers to Pope Benedict XVI.
Not content to be done with pouring out gasoline over his pulpit, the bishop was quick to toss a lit match over his departing shoulder.
"I think the Ordinariate will cause a huge shock," he said.
"A lot of people have said it won't happen and have underestimated the impact that it will have.
"I don't feel I have any choice but to leave the Church and take up the Pope's offer. The General Synod has become vindictive and vicious.
"It has been fascist in its behaviour, marginalising those who have been opposed to women's ordination. We have not been given any space."
None of which is to say that the ordinariate idea isn't gaining ground, although we should of course be taking predictions of mass exodus with a block of salt, and the bishop's hateful comments about the church that has mothered him these many years don't exactly leaven the conversation with any sense of reality.
Well, whatever was said, it was sufficient for the Telegraph's Damian Thompson to puff that he'd had about enough.
For God’s sake, Bishop Broadhurst, will you put a sock in it? It’s good news that the Bishop of Fulham is joining the Pope’s Ordinariate, and he’s right to says that its impact will be greater than its critics imagine. But he’s always had a habit of shooting off at the mouth, and his ranting description of the Church of England as “fascist” in its treatment of traditionalists is a prime example.
Some Catholics will feel that Bishop Broadhurst shouldn’t be joining the Catholic Ordinariate at all if he would rather have stayed in an all-male pocket of the Church of England. Pope Benedict takes a more understanding view. Many distinguished converts of the past 150 years left Anglicanism because they were forced out by one innovation or another. I can think of senior Roman Catholic priests in this country, now wonderful servants of the Holy See, who left the C of E reluctantly. The process of conversion isn’t always intellectually tidy, particularly if you’re leaving the spiritually intense but ecclesiologically chaotic DIY environment of Anglo-Catholicism.
But it’s one thing to join the Ordinariate with mixed feelings; quite another to slag off the Church of England as some sort of vicious fascist monster. Speaking to the Forward in Faith assembly on Friday, Bishop Broadhurst described himself (rather smugly) as someone who dares to say what others only think. Not on this occasion, I hope. The bishop should get his bitterness out of his system before he crosses the Tiber.
It may be noted that all this happens with a minor tangential drama happening simultaneously: England now has its first CoE parish to take up Benedict on his offer for disaffected Anglicans to sign on to the ordinariate option when it becomes available. St. Peter's Church in Folkestone, Kent, has been receiving alternate pastoral care from The Rt. Rev. Keith Newton, bishop of Richborough.