25 June 2014

The Parting of Friends

It seems an eternity ago; another age; but in reality it's little more than three years. Back in those Church of England days I had the considerable privilege of sitting round a table in a basement in Gordon Square with half a dozen others in a Working Party, putting together a statement about our theological position (Consecrated Women). There was a great sense within that group of a mission: to fill up and then to guide a lifeboat to the rescue ship. Most of us are now in the Ordinariate; but others, including some of those who seemed most enthusiastic and vocal about the 'Roman Option', are still with the remnants in the Church of England, gratefully scavenging whatever scraps Christina Reese lets drop from her table. They include one who was, as well as being a member of our Working Party, also the secret Theological Adviser to an initiative unrelated to the Working Party: a secret group of Anglican bishops (seven diocesans and at least a couple of others) who made secret dead-of-night visits with secret overtures to Rome but who drew their secret and trembling toes back up out of the water when Benedict XVI made public his offer of an Ordinariate. (I wonder if those bishops - especially the five of them who are now associated with the Society of SS Wilfred and Hilda -  feel at all ashamed about how they treated that dear good old man as they sit - only one of them is still in post - in their retirement homes, nothing to do now except to polish carefully each day their Reasons For Not Going and to feed the cat and to go to Waitrose with their wives).

I often think about the still-Anglican members of that Working Party, and my other friends in the priesthood and episcopate of the provinces of Canterbury and York, with great affection, mingled with sadness at the thought of how much fun, how much sense of real purpose, they are missing out on; how much real talent is being wasted on a dead end; how very much some of them could offer to the great project outlined by Aidan Nichols, of repatriating to Catholic Unity all that was good in Anglicanism. So far, we haven't attended to much more than the liturgical side of things; I claim that I am doing my humblest best but there's work here for dozens (especially, but by no means only, those with academic skills). And there are others ... Fr Brooke Lunn; Fr David Holding; many more ... who have spent decades talking about Unity with the See of Peter ... what is one to say ...

I ought to make it clear that I am not 'proselytising'. I do not have in mind younger clergy who have, with a good conscience, discerned a particular ministry to be completed within the Church of England. I am not thinking of those who are not and never have been 'papalists'; those for whom going to Rome is as problematic (or even more so) than staying. I have in mind solely those who, when we were together, by their words and body-language, made clear that Rome, 'the rock from which we were hewn' as one of them repeatedly put it, was the answer to our pressing need; those who cheerfully said to a PEV 'Give us the lead, Bishop, and we'll follow'; those who told us that they would just put in the few more years necessary to secure their pensions and then join us; and, inexplicably, have been nowhere to be seen since the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus.

Of one thing I am sure. When their time comes, it must be made easy for them (and indeed also for those ex-diocesan bishops, if only they can be man enough and humble enough). There must be no unpleasant nonsense about how they missed the opportunity when the 'terms' were easy. Men who have spent 50 years in the Sacred Priesthood, who are priests to their fingertips, must not be told that they are "too old" for the presbyterate of the Ordinariate; that never again can they expect to stand at an altar holding in their hands the Adorable Sacrifice, that vocation which in the Mind of the Eternal was theirs before the ages began. There must be no subtle (or unsubtle!) systems of discouragement. The spirit of Benedict's gracious intentions must be honoured to the full. The doors must be widely and generously and permanently open. These are good and able men, fine priests, who are called by God to give service in His Vineyard. To treat them in any way otherwise would be very wicked.

But I do urge them not to hang around. We're Keeping The Home Fires Burning until you are ready to Come In From The Cold! Risky, however, to leave it! Do you really want to die in the C of E as it is now, let alone as it will be in a couple of decades? What would you lose by making discreet enquiries?


Eques said...

Sadly, for many papalists on this side of the great water, there has already been a great deal of unpleasantness, indeed a powerful dissuasive such as to convince many that their papalism was grievously misguided.

stpetric said...

I recall similar comments here on the western side of the pond--as from a prominent SSC leader who forcefully reminded the brethren perhaps ten years ago that "corporate reunion" was always a value of the Society. Yet he's been a no-show ever since Anglicanorum coetibus was promulgated and the Ordinariates came into being.

austin said...

I now live in a prominent American Catholic Archdiocese, am a member of the US Ordinariate, and attend a diocesan parish as there is no Ordinariate presence at all in the city. I have often wondered why, since this is part of what used to be the "Biretta Belt" and there are many Anglo-Catholics (revisionists, admittedly) and former ACs.

Recently, I had a conversation with a former Episcopal priest whom I met at mass. He renounced his orders, became Catholic, and was hoping to start an Ordinariate group. Nothing doing. Apparently, the Archdiocese sees the Ordinariate as the thin end of the wedge with regard to married clergy and has no intention of allowing it to operate here.

For this situation to persist implies, I presume, that the Ordinary is effectively subordinate to the local authorities -- though that is not the legal arrangement as I understand it.

I can understand why many possible Ordinariate candidates continue to totter on the brink under such circumstances. For things to change, there would have to be more vigorous leadership and outreach. A more welcoming stance from the Catholic leadership would not go amiss.

Innocent said...

@ Austin, why do you seem to be giving up so easily? I don't understand. You see the ordinariates where made for you and other ex Anglican catholics, and not the diocesean catholics,so the onus is on you to set up an ordinariate. All you need to, is to look for your like minded collegues, come together, set up an ordinariate community then look for a ordinariate priest for advise, but do not expect that diocesean catholics will set up an ordinariate community for you. I am a Diocesean catholic of Malawian origin but resident in South Africa. When were faced we a need for setting up a Malawian Catholic Community in our South African parish, we as potential members simply met together and set up our group, then we asked the parish priest to recognise our existence at the parish. Today we have a thriving Malawi community in a South African parish, with our own choir, prayer group, welfare society etc. So my advice for you is to work from the part to the whole, and not from the whole to the part.

God Bless,


Innocent said...

Austin, I wonder you seem to be giving up so easily, I thought the ordinariate was meant for ex Anglican Catholics like you. So I would think the onus is you to set up an ordinariate or not, but expect that diocesean catholics would not set up one for you. Ofcourse I must admit, I do not know how your local culture is open to this exercise. I am a Malawian, diocesean catholic but based in South Africa. When we felt a need to set up a Malawian Community at a South African parish, we the potential members simply met, and then set up the group, and finally contacted the parish priest for recognition.
I therefore would advise to try and do like wise, working from the part to the whole.

God Bless.

austin said...

Innocent: The point I was trying to make was about clergy who have hesitated to join the Ordinariate. In many places, there has not been a positive or welcoming environment which is naturally discouraging.

With regard to your other points -- I do not expect the Archdiocese to set up an Ordinariate. But we have a situation in which the local diocese has an effective veto on ordinations, since the Ordinary must request ordination for candidates by the local bishop. If the bishop will not oblige, there cannot be a clergy leader.

My family of four are the only Ordinariate members we know of in our city. Not critical mass for a group, I fear.

FrereRabit said...

For as long as dear old Prebendary Brooke Lunn doesn't have a computer, nor reads blogs, I hope someone is passing on your thoughts to him! As the beneficiary of his Catholicism and first trained as his sacristan in order to learn the liturgy many years ago, I am amazed he never came to Rome. Brooke, they cannot kick you out of the retirement home now!

Innocent said...

Austin, you said,"But we have a situation in which the local diocese has an effective veto on ordinations, since the Ordinary must request ordination for candidates by the local bishop. If the bishop will not oblige, there cannot be a clergy leader."

I do not know the process for ordaining ordinariate priets, as we do not have an ordinariate here in Africa, but If my memory serves me right, I read that Ex Anglican priests wishing to join the ordinariate as priests, are required to submit their application letters to Rome,If their application is approved by Rome, then the ordinary can request the local diocesean Bishop to ordain the priest. I therefore am suprised as to how the local diocese can have an effective veto to prevent the ordination of an ordinariate priest, after Rome has already given him a clearance?

austin said...

In fact, the nulla osta from Rome has been followed by the refusal or reluctance of a local bishop to ordain in several instances. Bp. David Moyer in Philadelphia is a prominent example.

It seems to me that giving leadership to married Anglican former bishops in the Ordinariates may have been a deliberate "training wheels" policy. It keeps the groups under local episcopal authority to a certain degree and is an insurance that nothing too dangerous will happen in the early stages of the experiment.

One hopes that, in time, there will be set of proper bishops and that ordinations will be more a matter of course.

Innocent said...

Thank you Austin for the enlightment,All I can say is that lets pray to God so that your intention of setting up an ordinariate community should come to fruition someday.

God bless.

Catholic Left-winger said...

Austin, I would say that the situation for Bishop David Moyer has absolutely nothing to do with the local Bishop's opinion on the Ordinariate. Indeed, Bishop Moyer has just celebrated his last Mass and applied to join the Ordinariate as a, for now, lay member so that his former Good Shepherd, Rosemount-based community can apply to join the Ordinariate with him. There is already an Ordinariate parish in the Diocese who are offering pastoral care to his Fellowship of Blessed John Henry Newman.
Bishop Moyer's refual of a votum was to do with his ongoing (at the time) legal battle with TEC and other legal battles. The Diocese could never have been expected to take that on.
Hopefully, now he has laid his legal battles aside, and with the passage of time to heal, he will eventually receive his votum and become a priest within the Ordinariate.

RSC+ said...

Fr. Hunwicke,

You've no doubt been asked this question before, but how does the UK Ordinariate differ from the US Ordinariate? Stateside, it seems they're directing individual priests to seek the pastoral provision rather than the Ordinariate. Is there a similar apparatus in the UK, or does the Ordinariate there accept both individual clergy and clergy bringing parishes?