A couple of friends will, almost certainly, respond to this, but I'd be interested to hear from others, too. Having grown up in an evangelical Anglican church, I both know the arguments and understand the instincts of that constituency of the church, even though I'm no longer a card-carrier for that viewpoint. However whilst I have seen the arguments put, I have some unresolved questions about the traditionalist catholic position within the C of E, regarding the recent debate on women bishops etc. Now the dust is settling from Synod, I'd be genuinely interested to read some responses without it being a ding-dong battle.
My interest is around the what is usually called the three-fold ministry. Some churches which came out of the reformation, separated from what we now call the Roman Catholic church, retained the pattern of ministry of that church - i.e. they continued to ordain deacons, priests or presbyters, and bishops. The Church of England is one such church. As things stand, Anglican ordination is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, having been declared null and void in a Papal Bull called Apostolicae Curae in 1896. This continues to be the RC position, and those Anglican priests who have become Roman Catholics have had to be ordained again in order to serve as deacons or priests.
If I have understood the arguments correctly, one of the key concerns for traditionalists is to keep Anglican ministry as compatible as possible with that in the Roman Catholic Church, so that a formal reunion is still possible, with the aspiration that recognition of Anglican ordination might also be part of that. That being the case, my first question is why was there so little fuss when women were ordained deacon in 1987? If the three-fold ministry is that important (and the traditionalist position would say it is), then surely the admission of anyone to any of those 3 orders needs to be in keeping with Roman Catholic practise?
Ordaining women deacon caused a reaction at the time in terms of women being seen in dog collars, but there was no exodus and no structural provision for conscience. In fact Andrew Burnham, a leading traditionalist who was a 'flying bishop' and has now become a Roman Catholic, had a woman deacon on his staff when a vicar in Nottingham. If ordaining women as priests and bishops is seen as unacceptably moving us away from the historic churches (Roman Catholic and Orthodox) then it seems to me that the key moment was 1987. Either that or you have to say the diaconate doesn't matter as much, which is not the historic view of three-fold orders. (Conservative evangelicals could cope with women deacons, as it didn't place them in positions of authority, so women becoming priests/presbyters & bishops were the problem for them.)
The second issue is more about the aspiration of my traditionalist colleagues. I presume that the reason they don't just become Roman Catholics is that there is something about being Anglican which they would wish to retain if Anglicans were reunited with Rome. My question is what, exactly, would they hope to carry through into a church which came under Roman authority? Many traditionalist catholic Anglicans already accept Roman Catholic understanding on many theological issues, and many use Roman Catholic liturgies, so I imagine it's a hope of carrying the church community into formal unity and recognition. Perhaps there is also an aspiration that something of the Anglican experience, story and possibly even some liturgy, might find an accepted place in any future union. But I'm not clear on what that really means, and many of their fellow Anglicans, whilst keen on ecumenical cooperation in many areas, wouldn't accept all that being a Roman Catholic entails - which is why they're Anglicans.