Part of an extensive interview with Fr. George Rutler, pastor of the Church of St. Michael in New York City, in the Catholic World Report:
CWR: You’ve spent half your life as a Roman Catholic and half in the Episcopalian church. The Church of England—of which the Episcopalian church is an outgrowth—recently made the news by naming its first female bishop, Libby Lane. How has the Episcopalian church changed over your lifetime?
Fr. Rutler: It’s changed very significantly. It is vanishing. A few generations ago, it was the unofficial official church of the United States. It was a visible presence in the national order. It was prosperous and effective in many ways.
That’s all gone now. It doesn’t exist anymore. The remnant you see is post-Christian. It is a vivid but tragic example of what happens when you abandon a serious commitment to the teachings of Christ. Demographically, the Church of England will not exist in 20 years. Other Anglican groups outside England have been ordaining women as priests and bishops in recent years, and the result has not only been theologically chaotic but a demographic catastrophe.
CWR: More Roman Catholics in England go to Mass than Anglicans in England.
Fr. Rutler: Yes. And, more Muslims are going to mosques there.
[Fr. Rutler subsequently offered these statistics: 1) There have been 5.3 million fewer British-born people describing themselves as Christians, a decline of 15% in just a decade. 2) At the same time, the number of Muslims in England and Wales surged by 75% – boosted by almost 600,000 more foreign-born followers of the Islamic faith. 3) While almost half of British Muslims are under the age of 25, almost a quarter of Christians (Protestants and Catholics) are over 65.]
CWR: Some are excited to see Libby Lane become a bishop. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it “an historic appointment and an important step forward for the Church towards greater equality in its senior positions.” What is your reaction?
Fr. Rutler: That’s the sort of thing he’d say. He has called himself a “vaguely practicing” Christian. There are members of his own party who would call him a vaguely practicing thinker. His comments on religion can’t be taken seriously.
But regardless, just as the Holy See considers denominations such as the Church of England “ecclesial entities” rather than apostolic churches, Mrs. Lane and other Anglican “bishops” and “priests” lack valid orders, though I am sure they try to minister the best they can even if oblivious to their lay status. Pope John Paul II definitively made it clear that the Church has no authority to ordain women to Holy Orders.