"I have arrived at home". Even if his schedule these days leaves little time for emotion: Sometimes it does burst out of John Broadhurst, the 68-year-old former Anglican bishop of Fulham. Also and especially in view of his upcoming ordination as a Catholic priest, probably the most drastic step in the relationship between the Anglican and Catholic churches since 1994.
At that time, the introduction of women's ordination triggered an ecumenical ice age. Broadhurst is consecrated together with his two comrades-in-arms, former bishops Keith Newton and Andrew Burnham. "Is this what we always wanted?" he asks himself. "Yes, that's it!" In this context, the consecration is not only a symbolic act of acceptance into the Catholic Church. Rather, this Saturday marks the beginning of a new ecumenical era, with the almost simultaneous announcement from Rome of the establishment of the first "personal ordinariate," the new legal form that allows Anglicans willing to convert to Catholicism while preserving their own traditions. Ecumenism, critics say, will henceforth consist of a "return ecumenism". Broadhurst does not challenge this – on the contrary. He considers the ecumenically proven talk of a "unity in diversity" as nothing but "rubbish" (nonsense).
It would be easy to see Broadhurst as an obdurate conservative. Striking his position on ecumenism, brute his rejection of women's priesthood, in general of all feminist theological endeavors. The women's priesthood, one of his points said, is partly to blame for the hemorrhaging of parishes in the Anglican Church.
No question – Broadhurst polarizes. His biography reads like a perfect example of an Anglican careerist: originally baptized Catholic, he quickly found a spiritual home in his Anglican environment. He attended London "s elite King "s College; ordained priest in 1967. He spent his pastoral apprenticeship and itinerant years in various London parishes before finally being elected as the youngest member of the Church of England's General Synod in 1972. He became Bishop of Fulham in 1996.
Husband and father
Of course, one should not reduce the long-serving husband and father of four children to his pithy sayings. He flatly rejects the Pius brothers, for example. His bookshelf also contains works by Karl Rahner, Hans Kung and feminist theologians. First rule of savvy church politics: study and know your enemies. "I am conservative, but not a reactionary. I know what is being played in the world," he says.
Thus, with a large dose of pragmatism, he has been working persistently for 15 years – in response to the allowance of women's ordination in the Church of England – at the head of the Anglo-Catholic movement "Forward in faith" to move closer to Rome. In England alone, he has been a member of about 1.000 priests and 8.000 lay people gathered around him. Their driving force to this day is primarily disappointment with the "double face" and "lack of integrity" of the Anglican world community.
If one looks for the personal motives that drive Broadhurst, he also likes to refer to the Second Vatican Council. Subsequent study of the Council documents, he says, "opened his eyes" by offering "the perfect synthesis between a Protestant-influenced personal principle of faith and the notion of the Church as a community of believers. He realized, "Everything I was looking for is here, is in the Catholic Church, is realized."
Admirer Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI has played his part in this almost rapturous relationship., which Broadhurst has always admired. Thus it reports not without pride of a two-hour personal discussion 14 years ago with the Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at that time. Since then, he also thinks he can detect a change in Ratzinger's writings on ecumenism, especially the Anglican Church.
Broadhurst does not have a good word to say about "his" church. "The Anglican experiment has failed – the communion is visibly disintegrating," he is convinced. The community is more divided than ever, the debates about the ordination of women and the ordination of professed homosexual priests have led the Church into a crisis from which it will not recover. A conciliatory farewell looks different – but there is no time for frustration: the ordinariate must be filled with life, on which – Broadhurst knows – everything depends, if in the end not the "Anglican experiment" but the Anglo-Catholic model is to fail.