It was nice to receive praise in the combox from an Anglican vicar because I was extolling the via media. You may know that the via media is a favorite title for the Anglican muddle. Fortunately, the Catholic via media and the Anglican via media are analagous as sleep is to death.
The Catholic via media is an active process in which we seek to discern the truth in all positions (not just ‘right’ or ‘left’) and then define that truth and defend it and live it out. This is very different from the Anglican via media which is simply the toleration of contradictions.
The Catholic via media is a process of discernment and distinction and decision. We are discovering what is true and (by that process) rejecting what is false. This is possible because we have an agreed infallible authority to enable and empower the process. The Anglican via media on the other hand is simply the agreement that they will disagree and still drink tea together.
An example from real life will illustrate what I mean. When confronted with the demand for women to be ordained the Anglicans disagree heartily. Their solution is that they will ‘live in tension’. They will erect ‘structures of mutual respect’. In other words, the matter will never really be resolved. It cannot be resolved for they have no authority to resolve it for themselves. Consequently the whole thing remains a muddle and in this muddle they rejoice.
The Catholic via media says, “There is goodness, sincerity and truth in these demands for women’s ordination. Let us listen and pray and come to a decision.” So after much careful deliberation a decision is made: “The Catholic Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests.” Now we have something solid to work with. The decision angers some people. Some leave the church perhaps. The next step is to continue to work out what the Spirit is saying to the church. Are the demands for women’s ordination simply acts of rebellion? Not necessarily. Not always. The Church continues to explore the role of women in the Church. She looks back with self examination. Has the Church oppressed women? Are their complaints valid in any way? If so, how? If women are not to be ordained, how should they serve? What therefore are the implications for the priestly ministry? Should the church be so clericalized? Let’s look again at the proper role of the laity…etc.
There is none of the perpetual limbo of ‘living in tension’ here. Instead there is a clear decision on which positive forward action can be taken.