A reader has asked my comments on a recent Catholic Herald article by Damian Thompson. The notes which follow are, of course, purely and entirely my own private opinions.
DT, poor poppet, rarely gets things quite right. Hostility towards the Ordinariate is by no means anything like universal among the CBCEW. Quite the opposite. I have experienced only kindness and generosity from Crispian Hollis and Philip Egan, successive bishops of the diocese in which I geographically reside. Bishop Egan is a most distinguished and orthodox bishop who is exercising a very fine teaching ministry and is admired as a pastor by his laypeople and clergy alike. I consider it a piece of great good fortune to be living within his jurisdiction, even though he is not my bishop; and (from what I hear) there are not a few benevolent Catholic bishops around.
Nor is DT anywhere near being right in suggesting that the Ordinariate is about to fade away. The enthusiasm for it, and the sheer joie de vivre at our meetings, are almost palpable. It is true that one or two priests have "gone native" and submerged themselves into the Diocesan Churches, but this is not our major problem. Lack of money, of course, is. We had, as Anglicans, built up a number of quite wealthy organisations in our 150 years, but some 'continuing Anglo-Catholics' were so unkeen to see any of this shared out between them and us that they went to the Charity Commissioners. I can hardly deny that our poverty holds us back. It makes us, and our Ordinary, rather ... er ... beholden ...
But we do have a splendid organisation of Friends of the Ordinariate, which helps us in financial and other ways. Catholics sympathetic to our Ordinariate vocation to promote vernacular but highly traditional and beautiful worship, could stand with us by joining with or contributing to the Friends.
One reason why we in the Ordinariate are admittedly a bit shorter on laity than we would like to be is the policy of the Church of England, of never allowing us to take a church with us or even to share a church with a 'continuing' congregation. Anglican layfolk are extremely attached to their church buildings, which very often embody the endearing evidences of the struggles of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. One C of E bishop allegedly said "I'd rather see one of my churches bulldozed than let the Ordinariate have it [or even share it]"; which may be a very natural episcopal attitude in fallen, human terms, but it would have been Nice to see some evidences of Christianity and of grace among the Anglican Episcopate. Of our two churches, one came our way because the C of E had already got rid of it into secular hands; the other, because some Methodists, anxious that their chapel should remain in Christian use, with a generosity of mind which should shame the Anglican episcopate sold it to our local Group on reasonable terms.
I might add that the Anglican Use Church of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio gives a splendid example of what can be done by a truly dynamic pastor. By now, only a minority of Fr Phillips' congregation have 'Anglican Previous'. But his numerous Masses and his very fine school are packed. It is quite an experience to hear so many Hispanic voices getting their mouths round Cranmer's Tudor English!
One reason why we lack a little (but not very much) of our original sense of impetus is an unwillingness somewhere in the Catholic system to make it easy for Anglican clergy to transit into the Ordinariate. I know quite a number of priests who had always planned, when they qualified for their full C of E pension (at 65ish), to be able to offer themselves for ministry full-time in the Catholic Church for no more recompense than a rent-free presbytery. The guidelines for their admission to the Ordinariate presbyterate seem to me, as far as I understand them, a bit ungenerous. One almost wonders if there might not be Catholic bishops who would rather see one of their churches bulldozed that to let Ordinariate Anglicans staff and maintain it! One hears quite often, or so it seems, of Catholic diocesans planning to amalgamate parishes and close churches. But, properly managed, there could have been an available pool of experienced pastors willing to help out and thus keep the churches open. It is not quite too late, even now, to adopt such a policy. We could call it the Flood Gates Initiative.
But poor old DT did get it dead right at one point. Not that his words represent Rocket Science: even I with my very modest intellect have often advocated this on my blog. I refer to the releasing of the Ordinariate Mass for every priest who wished to use it. That would be a tremendous leap forward in the Church's Mission to the English people. An obvious way of doing this would be to empower our Ordinary to grant faculties to Diocesan Clergy to celebrate our Mass for their people. Again, however, this matter is not entirely in our hands. Some Catholic bishops might be less keen than others. Who knows.
But it is lawful already for a Catholic priest who is asked by members of the Ordinariate (who lack an available Ordinariate priest) to celebrate our Mass to do so, without any special faculties. Perhaps local on-the-ground initiatives are called for.