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The waffler and the thunderer: why Anglicans and Catholics will never unite

6 April 2018

5:29 PM

6 April 2018

5:29 PM


Last week The Spectator published a fascinating and mischievous piece by Ysenda Maxtone Graham entitled ‘A tale of two Sarahs: the cuddly bishop vs the terrifying cardinal’.

The first Sarah is Sarah Mullally, who is just about to take office as the first woman Bishop of London; she’s a former nurse – indeed, the former Chief Nursing Officer and therefore Dame Sarah Mullally in her own right. But Hattie Jacques she ain’t: she’s friendly and ‘inclusive’ – i.e. fluent in churchspeak waffle after only two years as a suffragan bishop.

The second is Cardinal Robert Sarah (pronounced Sar-AH), African-born Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. He’s a traditionalist who is technically in charge of worship for the whole Catholic Church, though Pope Francis doesn’t pay a blind bit of attention to anything he says and has hemmed him in with his own allies.


Both the Anglican bishop and the cardinal could, in theory, become leaders of their respective Churches. It’s more likely in the case of Mullally, who has Lambeth Palace eating out of hand, but don’t rule out a sharp shift to the right at the next papal conclave if Francis keeps up his bullying ineptitude.

Anyway, here’s the sequel to Ysenda’s article: a Holy Smoke discussion in which I’m ruder about both prelates than I intended to be (and expect a thorough kicking from conservative Catholics for not paying tribute to the scholarship and holiness of the cardinal – my bad, as they say).

Ysenda, an Anglican with a gentle manner and deliciously sharp wit, is more than a match for me. But essentially we agree: the Catholic Church is Catholic, the Anglican Church is Protestant-ish and that’s how it’s going to stay. London’s so-called ‘Anglo-Papalist’ vicars, who now have to recognise Mullally as their diocesan bishop, won’t enjoy the podcast, but does anyone really feel sorry for them?

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