Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Beyond the End of Our Noses

A few days ago, someone left a comment on our blogpost The Extraordinary Form in Hong Kong, asking what the contents of that post had to do with the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  A response was provided, stating that, as explained in the opening paragraphs of the post, the Ordinariate was part of the Catholic Church, and that it was a good thing that Ordinariate members were interested in what was going on in the Catholic Church.  It would be ridiculous for us not to be.

The person who left the comment didn't leave any clues as to their identity, so we cannot know if it was someone quite genuinely asking a question without any preconceptions or prejudice, or if the comment was an uncharitable attempt at a snide remark. Given that doubt, it should be made clear that the rest of this post refers to a general phenomenon, and is in no way an assault on (nor a guess at) the views of Anonymous of a few days ago.

I must confess to having been rather irritated by the question raised in the comment: I know, I should know better than that.  What irritated me is that it reminded me of a habit amongst some of delighting in fantasising that the Ordinariate is somehow pointless.  Those prey to this phenomenon criticise the Ordinariate as not being Anglican enough ("What's the point of it?") and yet simultaneously and no less ill-informedly criticise the Ordinariate as not being Catholic enough ("Why don't they just become 'proper' Catholics?").   Anonymous of a few days ago brought all this to mind because his or her remark seemed to imply that Ordinariate members should only be interested in the Ordinariate.

When they leave polemic aside and reflect calmly, I wonder what these people believe that those like me thought we would be signing up to when we joined the Ordinariate.  I wonder what they think our motives were.  They cannot seriously imagine that we wanted to create a little ghetto for disgruntled ex-Anglicans to hang about in, a ghetto in which we could ignore the rest of the Church.  They must surely know that we were answering a call to Unity in the Catholic Faith, in the Catholic Church, in communion with the Successor of St Peter.  No longer do we sojourn in a halfway house.  They cannot be under the misapprehension that we were called upon to renounce anything of our Anglican past, they must know that indeed the contrary was asked of us, that we should bring our Anglican Patrimony with us so that this might become part of the wider treasures of the Catholic Church

Ordinariate members are fully part of the Catholic Church, and we are full of joy to be so.  We are not Ordinariate members first and somehow members of the Catholic Church second.  We are delighted to have come into the full communion of the Catholic Church: joining the Ordinariate was a wonderful means of achieving this, it was not itself the goal. 

We do indeed look beyond the end of our noses, and realise with great happiness that we are part of the Church, part of an "organisation" that is present around the world and has over a billion members.  We are not interested in obsessing only about our little constituent part of the Catholic Church. 

Ordinariate members do not (and should not) spend their time focusing solely on their own immediate environment, ignoring the wider Catholic Church around them. The shortest of trawls of Ordinariate-related blogs makes this perfectly clear. Fr Ed Tomlinson talks regularly of the joy of unity that the group of Anglicans he led out of St Barnabas Tunbridge Wells and into the Catholic Church now shares with their now fellow Catholics in Pembury, and of what has been achieved for his group by both Monsignor Newton and by the Archbishop of Southwark and his Area Bishop John Hine. Fr Edwin Barnes frequently highlights joint events with diocesan parishes, indeed one of his recent posts talked of how he had attended two Chrism Masses this year, the Ordinariate Chrism Mass and also the Portsmouth Diocesan Chrism Mass.

As Anglo-Catholics, we for many years managed to cling on to the belief that the Church of England was part of the one Universal Church, separated from the wider Church only by misfortune and accident of history.  This was the vision that was shared for generations, but it was also a vision and ecclesiology that crumbled around us, a phenomenon that caused Dr Eric Mascall and many others great anguish.  Now that we are undoubtedly fully part of the Catholic Church, why would anyone think that we would not rejoice in being in that wider communion, why would anyone think that we would not be interested in the Catholic Church as a whole?

Two follow-on comments :
  • Criticisms of this nature are often accompanied by melodramatic sweeping comments such as ".....and I know lots of Catholics who are very worried by the Ordinariate."  Well, perhaps such people do, but from personal experience, I can only say that I have encountered nothing other than joy and welcome from my fellow Catholics.  Members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group were especially touched at the support shown to the Ordinariate's First Anniversary Evensong and Benediction by members of the St James's parish congregation.
  • There are some who rather mystically decree that the Ordinariate is not about Unity.  Their logic escapes me entirely.  It really does.  Unity is about people coming together, not about finding new and exciting ways in which to split Christianity.  This marvellous initiative from Pope Benedict, who is truly showing himself to be the Pope of Christian Unity, is a real gift. 
In one of our earliest posts on this blog, The Universal Church, we referred to how when we were Anglicans we thought we knew all about the concept of believing in unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam, we even sang those words every week, but now that we were truly part of the Catholic Church, we had realised that we had a lot to learn.   What a joy it is to learn about being part of the Catholic Church, and to come across its treasures across the world.


  1. I don't think you should worry too much about the anonymous comment. You'll never be able to please everybody, and there's always someone who's not happy about something!

    As a Catholic since birth, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. I find the posts insightful, erudite and very polite. I am very happy about the Ordinariate, and happy that members of the Ordinariate want to learn and discover more about the wider Catholic church.

    There may be a number of Catholics who don't know too much about the Ordinariates but one thing is for certain, and you will find this anywhere in the Catholic church no matter which country you're in (I live in Japan), that whenever we hear of someone coming home to Rome, everyone is overjoyed. If we're this happy about an individual, imagine our joy at groups!

    I had a run-in with a particular TAC priest in America on an Ordinariate-bound blog last year. He has just been received into the Catholic church via the American Ordinariate. At that time, his attitude was he wanted to be in communion with the Pope but wanted nothing to do with the local RC parish round the corner. He, and many others like him, considered themselves above regular Catholics. He saw himself as high-church and was very unimpressed with regular Catholic worship. I tried to tell him, as politely as I could while I was harangued by others like him, that how could he hope to be in communion with the Pope but not with other Catholics? Worse of all, the Pope asked for those joining the Ordinariate to share their treasures. If he and his kind didn't want to have anything to do with us poor Catholics, how were we to enjoy those treasures? I hope and pray he had a change of heart before his reception.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Terry. As I said in the blogpost, the experience of all of us in our little Ordinariate group is that our fellow Catholics are delighted that we are now together with them. Certainly, there are many Catholics who do not fully understand what the Ordinariate is about, but they are all delighted - at least those we meet are - that people are joining the Church.

    In response to your last paragraph, one of the joys of now being Catholics is that we can go to any Catholic Church, we are no longer restricted by having to find somewhere with the same vision as our own small subset of a particular denomination. We talked about precisely this in a November post on a visit to Holy Apostles Pimlico.

    The Ordinariate is a wonderful thing. It is not, however, the end goal, but rather the fantastically generous, sensitive and intelligent means to achieve the purpose of our move from the Church of England, being that of Unity with the Successor of St Peter and thereby with hundreds of millions of other Catholics.

    Thank you again for your comment. I have visited Japan many times, and am delighted that this blog is being read in that wonderful country.