Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Catholics Joining the Ordinariate

Some press coverage has been given recently to a "clarification" given by Bishop Alan Hopes, an Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Westminster and the episcopal delegate to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  The story can be found here on the website of the Catholic Herald.

In fact, what Bishop Hopes said is not really a clarification on the subject of who can join the Ordinariate, it is more of a statement of the long-established facts.  This being said, his having brought this issue back into the public arena is useful and welcome, and gives non-Ordinariate Catholics who were formerly Anglicans a chance to express their support for the "outstanding achievements"** of the Holy Father in the field of Christian Unity, and for his appreciation of the value of the Anglican heritage, or Patrimony, that every former Anglican brings with him or her.

Article 5 of the Complementary Norms of Anglicanorum Coetibus states the following in respect of the laity. 
The lay faithful originally of the Anglican tradition who wish to belong to the Ordinariate, after having made their Profession of Faith and received the Sacraments of Initiation, with due regard for Canon 845, are to be entered in the apposite register of the Ordinariate. Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate.
In short, this says that if you have come into the Catholic Church from the Anglican communion, whether through the Ordinariate or not, you may express your wish to belong to the Ordinariate and be entered in the register of the Ordinariate.   In practice the exclusion on baptized Catholics means that those who have been brought up in the Catholic Church are not eligible to join the Ordinariate, unless they have a family connection of some kind. 

Just as interestingly, Article 4 of the Complementary Norms provides for the Ordinary to incardinate into the Ordinariate not only members of the Ordinariate but also former Anglican clergy who are now in the Catholic Church (whether or not ordained as Catholic priests already) but who are not in the Ordinariate.
The Ordinary has the faculty to incardinate in the Ordinariate former Anglican ministers who have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, as well as candidates belonging to the Ordinariate and promoted to Holy Orders by him.
Therefore Bishop Hopes could, should he wish to, and should Monsignor Newton agree, join the Ordinariate as a Bishop.  I'm sure we all know many very fine Catholic clergy who were once Anglican clergy and who are not in the Ordinariate, who, should they ever wish to, could do the same.  

That discussion leads on to the question posed by one of the commenters on the Catholic Herald piece mentioned above, being why a former Anglican who is happily installed in the Catholic Church but not in the Ordinariate would wish to join. 

Well, first of all, clearly there is absolutely no obligation on them to do so, nor any expectation whatsoever that they ought to.  It would be entirely a matter of personal choice, and no-one suggests otherwise. 

Second, I would suggest that that comment in particular reflects the ongoing obligation on all Ordinariate members, as mentioned by Monsignor Newton in his sermon at our recent Anniversary Solemn Evensong, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, and indeed in this and also this recent blogpost of ours, to explain to non-Ordinariate Catholics what the Ordinariate is all about.

Beyond that, a former Anglican who is now a non-Ordinariate Catholic would be expressing their support for the Holy Father's initiative contained in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, and expressing thanksgiving for the value that through it the Holy Father and the entire Catholic Church place on the Anglican Patrimony that all Anglicans joining the Catholic Church bring with them.  They would also be expressing their shared desire for the reunification of Christendom, particularly of Catholics and Anglicans, the path taken by Blessed John Henry Newman, by them, by Ordinariate members and by many others over the centuries.

Given that the Ordinariate is a full part of of the Catholic Church, their "worship life", as it were, would not need to change at all.  If they wished to participate in Ordinariate events, they would most certainly be welcome, as fellow members of this body of people dedicated to the goal of Unity.  However, they could continue to be together with their existing parishes.  Members of the Catholic Church are free to attend services held in, and to receive the Sacrament in, buildings/parishes run by Ordinariate clergy, Diocesan clergy, Oratorian clergy, Jesuit clergy, Servite clergy......

Nothing in this blogpost is intended to criticise former Anglicans who are now Catholics but not in the Ordinariate, most definitely not.  Our direct experience is that all the former Anglicans we know in the Catholic Church outside the Ordinariate have been hugely supportive of the Ordinariate, and we should certainly like to express now our gratitude to them for all they are doing and have done.

All we are saying here is that the Ordinariate is open to all former Anglicans in the Catholic Church, just as it is open to all Anglicans wishing to come into the full communion of the Catholic Church, even if for obvious reasons, most discussion usually focuses on the latter group rather than on the former.  However, all those who wish to bring those elements of our joint Anglican Patrimony that are consonant with the teachings of the Catholic Church into the spiritual armoury of the Catholic Church, and who wish to express their support and thanks for the Holy Father's wonderful initiative, are eligible to join.

Joining the Ordinariate, either as an incoming Anglican or as an existing Catholic is a simple way to express through your actions your being at one with Dom Lambert Beaudoin's wonderful 1925 concept of l'Eglise Anglicane Unie non AbsorbĂ©e, unity without absorption. 

That final remark leads us to one small, but important, clarification of our own.  Not having seen the original text of Bishop Hopes's piece in The Newman, we are not sure if this is due to authorial shorthand of expression or to editorial amendment at either of The Newman or The Catholic Herald, but clearly the following extract is prone to misinterpretation.
As for the future, it may be God’s will that it should be the present structure, but maybe in 50 years’ time the ordinariate will become fully integrated into the Catholic Church. Who knows? We must wait and see.
I think I recall reading Monsignor Newton commenting on the same point, that no-one quite knows how the Ordinariate will look in 50 years from now, but the way it has appeared in the Catholic Herald's quotation of Bishop Hopes's article in The Newman could be subject to one of those wilful misinterpretations that can be found all too readily on the internet.

The Ordinariate very clearly is fully integrated into the Catholic Church.  That is an incontestable fact.  However, it has a structure that allows it to sit alongside and not inside the structure of the geographical dioceses in whose territory it operates.  For example, we in the Marylebone Group attend mass with our friends at St James's, who are members of a parish run by diocesan clergy, yet our Ordinary is Monsignor Newton whereas theirs is Archbishop Vincent Nichols.  What counts is that we are all in full communion with our Holy Father Pope Benedict, the Successor of St Peter, and that the shared heritage we now build together in the Catholic Church enjoys the benefits of both their Patrimony and ours.  That is a powerful practical expression of steps being made towards Unity.

**  From parish notes written by the Provost of the London Oratory, the text of which can be found (at the time of writing this blogpost) at this page.  The relevant extract is reproduced below :
Another of the Holy Father’s outstanding achievements is his inspiring work for Christian Unity in setting-up the Ordinariates for former Anglicans. What a brilliant way of cutting through the plethora of mealy-mouthed verbiage and foggy thinking that has characterized so much ecumenical activity in recent decades, verbiage and fogginess which may indeed have had the very best of intentions, but which nevertheless achieved so little in real terms.


  1. My mother gave up a great deal when she entered the Catholic Church from the Anglican over 50 years ago. She wishes the Ordinariate well and will enjoy Evensong in the Catholic Church if she gets the chance but not choosing to join the Ordinariate is hardly showing a lack of support to the initiative of His Holiness.
    All the best in Marylebone, I hope your growth will be great and sure.

  2. Absolutely agree with you, CLW. No-one can or should (and I hope no-one does) criticise existing Catholics who joined before the Ordinariate was around. We have found them to be extremely helpful and indeed enthusiastic about what is happening now. Thanks for your message.