C.of E. Bishops – better than some others

The Tablet had an article last week by Francis Davis entitled Players in the public square.

Catholic bishops are often overshadowed in the national debate by their Anglican counterparts, as shown in the furore caused by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s critique of the Coalition Government last week. A Catholic academic and political adviser asks why this may be…

A sample of the analysis:

…For a start, there are more than 100 Church of England bishops across 43 dioceses compared with 29 Catholic bishops across 19 dioceses in England. Catholic bishops in these dioceses shepherd around 4,000 clergy in England while the Anglican tally is double that number, bringing with them spouses and children whose joys and sorrows have direct consequences for the success of diocesan ­ministry.

The Anglicans have more than twice the number of schools – 4,820 with more than a million pupils – giving them greater presence in communities and opportunities for encounter. These schools are mainly primaries while the Catholic Church has far more ­secondary schools. There are 2,000 Catholic schools altogether in England and Wales ­educating 860,000 children.

I have also selected for closer examination the 19 Church of England bishops whose dioceses most closely compare with their Catholic counterparts. In these dioceses, Catholic ­bishops are generally older and remain in post longer than the Anglicans. The average Catholic episcopal age is 66 and their average service a decade at the diocesan helm compared to 60 and just over seven years for the Anglicans. Church of England bishops normally retire a decade younger than their Catholic counterparts.

This contrast in institutional reach and episcopal age is mirrored by matters of formation and experience. Each of the 19 Church of England bishops I surveyed had at least one degree from Oxford, Cambridge, London or another leading university. Only nine Catholic bishops in England have degrees from outside Catholic institutions, with some having pursued all their studies from secondary age in a seminary. Four of the current Anglican bishops have published more books between them than all English Catholic ­bishops combined since the Second Vatican Council. This is not only a question of class, as half of both groups surveyed were schooled in grammar or other state schools…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 June
Simon Sarmiento, of the blog-site ‘Thinking Anglican UK’, summarises what he sees as the seminal argument, in The Tablet, on the relative merits of Bishops in the Church of England – as compared with their counterparts of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
One can wonder whether, or not, the fact that the C.of E. Bishops have a greater number – relatively speaking – of Oxbridge or other leading university graduates, this has any great effect upon their capabilities as Church Leaders. With most Catholic Bishops obtaining their educational formation in  the seminary, one wonders how exactly that affects their later engagement with the secular world?
Also, the fact that most Anglican Bishops have experience of family life connected with marriage and the raising of children, would seem, to the writer in the Tablet, to have practical consequences for the capability of their opposite numbers in the Roman Catholic Church as pastors to families.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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