19 December 2013

Ecumenism and the Ordinariate

Not long ago, there were reports that the Catholic Chairman of ARCIC had raised the possibility of the Catholic Church extending a general permission to Anglicans to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches. I think it should be realised that such a move would lead to an explosion of ill-will against the Catholic Church. You see, there would be an initial Anglican euphoria: Rome at last is recognising us!!! In some Anglican reactions to Archbishop Longly's words, signs of this have already been apparent. You wouldn't believe how deep the Anglican hunger for recognition by Roman Catholics is, even though they rarely translate this longing into a resolution not to diverge any further from Catholicism. But this euphoria would soon give way to the realisation that the arrangement was not reciprocal (i.e. did not allow Catholics to approach Anglican clergy for the Sacraments). The reaction to that would be that the new Roman initiative constituted an outrageous insult to the reality of the priestly ministry of Anglican clergy. And even if Rome did allow Catholics to ignore Apostolicae curae and receive the Sacraments from Anglican clergy, would she allow such reception from Anglican women clergy? It is not easy to imagine any imaginable Rome wishing to go down this path. (Although, of course, that admirable, liberal, and politically correct pontiff, the Next Pope But One .... or Two ... or Three ... the only pope that liberals are prepared to obey ... he can always be relied on ...)

I do, however, feel that the Ordinariates, given their own particular charism, ought to utilise the current canonical arrangements so as to be generous to those Anglican Catholics who, while repudiating the present policies of the Church of England, still, for whatever reason, linger the other side of the Tiber. Let us examine those current arrangements.

The Catholic Ecumenical Directory, to which Longly referred, deals sensibly and straightforwardly with the question of sacramental sharing between Catholics and non-Catholics. I do not propose to look at the norms concerning such sharing between Catholics and members of those Churches whose sacraments are accepted as valid by the Church. Nor at the rules concerning Catholics and the sacramental celebrations of ecclesial bodies where the Church does not discern sacramental validity; but simply at the admission of non-Catholics to Catholic sacraments. I have in mind particularly the Mission and Apostolate, in terms of its own specific charism, of the English Ordinariate.

I will not repeat all the provisions of Canon 844, or of Directory Paragraphs 129ff., nor of the 1998 document of the (English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish) Hierarchy One Bread One Body. I will start with the following: the Church "recognises that in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments [of the Eucharist, Penance, and Unction] may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial bodies"[my italics]. The conditions "are that the person be unable to have recourse for the sacrament desired to a minister of his or her own Church or ecclesial Community, ask for the sacrament of his or her own initiative, manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament, and be properly disposed". It is understood that "unable" does not mean simply physically unable, but extends to morally unable.

The Directory urges ordinaries to establish norms concerning "grave and pressing need", and leaves it to individual ministers to judge according to the norms of the Directory when an ordinary has not done so. When an ordinary has done so, the individual minister acts in accordance with that ordinary's norms.

One Bread one Body cites the phrase "unable to have recourse" and comments "In our countries, occasions when such fellow Christians cannot physically find a minister of their own community will be rare". This was true in 1998; but a very much more complex situation holds true today. True, there are still quite a lot of Anglican clergy scattered around England; but, for Anglican Catholics, most of them are not much use. Some Anglican clergy may be women, and the layperson concerned may not be able to discern that they truly are priests. Even where a local Anglican priest may be male, even perhaps a male who belonged to Forward in Faith, a thoughtful and conscientious layperson may be unable to accept his ministrations if he acts as an alternate sacramentally with an ordained woman, or (because his Parochial Church Council has declined to pass Resolution C) is under the sacramental care of a bishop who accepts women into his presbyterium. There are already vast swathes of the country where such devout laypersons are in effect unchurched. People used to travel to my church from forty miles away. As the Church of England moves inexorably towards Women Bishops, this situation will become even more extreme.

It would be quite improper to suggest that Canon Law should be flouted ... and I am not even suggesting that CIC needs to be changed. I do not think that it does. Its provisions seem to me to be thoroughly well-judged. But there could be quite a gulf between a narrowly restrictive interpretation of what Canon Law says; and a pastorally sensitive deployment of the permissions and possibilities which it envisages. I myself when in the Church of England benefited, in Ireland, from just such a pastorally sensitive approach on the part of an Irish diocesan bishop, and I would like to feel that members of the Ordinariates will be no less pastorally sensitive and generous.

3 comments:

Fr Paul Spilsbury SSC said...

Thank you for your usual admirable clarity, Father. I trust your remarks will be noted where they need to be.

William Tighe said...

A friend of mine, to whom I sent this posting, responded:

Hmm. I wonder, though, whether that would not lead to a situation in which people lived as Catholics without ever having to make a profession of Catholic belief.

Of course that is the situation of cradle Catholics, but still...
Well, OK, for some it might ease them over that terrible divide. But it seems to me that having to "submit" to convert conveys some benefit to the soul.

Joshua said...

It reminds me of Derek, God rest him; he was happily married to Bridget, and raised a family of twelve with her; but while she was R.C., he was technically Greek Orthodox, having begun life as an Irvingite, then gone East when they shut up shop.

However, as his bishop had excommunicated him for attempting to bring the Charismatic Renewal to the Greek Orthodox, he was accorded permission to receive Holy Communion along with his wife and family in the Catholic Church; and lived thus, not quite in communion, though daily receiving the same, for the rest of his life.

Of your charity, please pray for his soul.