27 August 2016

Ordinariates and Thompson

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.

24 comments:

vetusta ecclesia said...


It has long been my opinion that part of the hostility of the "parson's egg" bench of English RC bishops to the Ordinariate is their fear of the Anglican intellectual tradition.

Dave Prichard said...

The truth hurts. I, for one, am glad and grateful that DT has publicly articulated what a lot of Ordinariate people (lay and clergy) have been saying privately for some time. Let us hope that this article, which hits a number of nails squarely on the head, encourages some healthy and fruitful debate about the current state (and future) of the UK Ordinariate.

Francis said...

The main issue is the very disappointing response (an understatement) from Anglican Catholic-minded laity. Pope Benedict thought he was offering the best of all possible worlds: solid doctrine, (assuredly) valid orders, excellent inculturated liturgy and above all Englishness (never Fr. -- or indeed Bishop -- Fintan O'Shaughnessy's strong point).

Enough Anglican clergy came across to the UK Ordinariate to man an entire English Catholic diocese. But if attachment to church buildings is such a deal-breaker for lay Anglicans, aren't some English Catholic bishops right to be privately sceptical about the Ordinariate and its chances?

A few weeks ago I took my family to Portsmouth for the weekend and for a change we thought we would go to Mass at St. Agatha's. We had never been to an Ordinariate Mass before and were interested in what it would be like. My 16 year old son was amazed. "That was the real deal" were his words as we left church. "Why can't we have this everywhere? Our usual Mass is just like a lecture in comparison." Quote, unquote. Unfortunately there were only a dozen other people in the congregation.

So maybe Damian isn't so wrong after all. Ordinariate clergy have to be honest about the lack of Anglican lay follow-up. Maybe the future is to concentrate on offering the Ordinariate's liturgical and spiritual treasures to ordinary Catholics. A large proportion would prefer them to the blandness on offer in most of mainstream English Catholicism.

Sixupman said...

Many thanks Father.

Cherub said...

Well I don't think DT is fairly categorised as "poor old". In any case what he says seems to me to be more accurate than Fr Hunwicke allows. Now of course Fr H will defend the Ordinariate and even the Catholic bishops some of whose as individuals are very kind. But the truth is that generally they have not been all that welcome. And politically Bishop Hollis was never keen -indeed quite the opposite. No DT has told some home truths which are better off acknowledged if the Ordinariate in the UK is to advance in the way I hope it might. Realism is difficult to face. And DT's message, confronting and all that it is, needs to be taken rather more seriously than Fr H would seem to allow.

mark wauck said...

If I may play Devil's Advocate ...

Let me preface my remarks by stating that I'm fully in sympathy with the Ordinariate. One of my sons attended Our Lady of Walsingham in HO (originally at my suggestion) when he lived there.

However, as regards Anglican clergy who prefer to remain Anglican until they qualify for a pension, then expect to be welcomed with open arms when they profess a fully Catholic faith after they reach age 65, I think a skeptical attitude on the part of Catholic bishops is at least understandable. These bishops would regard such clergy in a different light than Anglican laity, and might question their convictions and devotion to the Church.

I realize, of course, that the situation is complicated, both personally and historically, and I don't doubt that some Catholic bishops discourage such Anglican clergy out of unworthy motives. A generous attitude is surely best. Still, some of them may well be acquainted with Anglican clergy who made the leap before age 65 at considerable personal sacrifice.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I think I take exception to the suggestion that "of course Fr H will..." etc. etc.. I thought I had been rather brutally frank and "confronting" about a number of problems that DT seemed not even to be aware of; and I think I know rather more home truths than some other people about what it's really like in there.

I would be surprised if regular readers of this blog share cherub's view that I am some sort of patsy for the English hierarchy. Nor am I convinced that he/she has extensive first-hand knowledge of +Hollis's attitudes.

Cherub said...

For the record, I do not think Fr H is anyone's patsy. All I meant was that Fr H is mistaken. As it happens I know a lot more about the goings on leading up to Anglicanorum coetibus than he realises. But this is not about who thinks he knows more. It is about reviewing where the Ordinariate is and how it can best realise its mission. I for one would live to see Solemn Mass celebrated according to the new Missal in the various Cathedrals in order that more people could really experience the treasures which have been released in the Church through this Missal. And of course I would like to see all priests able to use that Missal. But, I meant no offense to Fr H from whose writings I have learnt much over the years. And if I have given offense I apologise to Father. We may disagree on this matter, but that does not lessen my admiration for this first class blog and for the indomitable zeal, scholarship, and wit that it demonstrates.

Sixupman said...

There exist more than two open-minded bishops,though they might only be counted upon one hand. It is a disgrace that parishes are to be closed throughout E&W, but few bishops appear to have the imagination to call upon ICkSP, FSSP, or The Ordinariate for assistance. Their entrenched ecumenism does not extend that far.

Peregrinus Toronto said...

Just a note from across the pond.

Our very modest success in attracting Anglicans to the Ordinariate in Canada is not due to the buildings that they cannot bring. Rather, in our case it is due to four decades of relentless liberal erosion of Catholic faith in a Anglican dioceses led by secularist 'sea of faith' bishops. Anglo-Catholic (much less Anglo-Papist) practice and witness was always thin on the ground in this country where Anglicanism was planted by Church of Ireland clergy and other 'evangelical' low church types.

I quite agree that the future of the Ordinariates lies in outreach to Catholics generally and especially those who have been baptized but not confirmed. Fr. Phillips is, of course, as noted, the living testament to how welcoming traditionally Catholic populations into a parish can bring great success. I had the same wonderful experience when listening to one of his several youth choirs practice at OLA San Antonio. Looking back to the choir loft I saw it filled with bright young Latino faces producing wonderful English choral music -- a testament to the power of Anglican patrimony.

The other demographic that we need to work on is the orthodox, even evangelical Protestants who are seeking theological and liturgical depth along with what they often cannot even name -- the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. At St. Thomas More, Toronto, we have received people from Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal and Seventh Day Adventist backgrounds. I submit that these people and other 'seekers' and not luke-warm middle-of-the-road Anglicans are the future for the Ordinariate in North America at least and perhaps in the UK and Oz.

Celia said...

The Ordinariate in the diocese of Hallam (Sheffield & environs) now has a weekly, weekday, Mass in the Cathedral.The congregation is tiny so far- never more than 10-but that's no worse than the Traditional Mass used to attract and several of the people attending, myself included, are 'ordinary' Catholics.
One hurdle to overcome is the gross ignorance of lay Catholics. I was asked in all seriousness by a 'prominent' laywoman in the diocese, a former hospital chaplain among other things, what exactly the Ordinariate was 'Aren't they some sort of Protestant group? Really? We can go to their services?' and so on.

Woody said...

As a Texan, I have no first hand knowledge of the Ordinariate situation in the UK, so cannot add anything directly on point. However, as one who lived under the Anglican Usage/Pastoral Provision regime, as a layman, of course, I would be surprised if the bulk of the E&W bishops did not have the same attitudes towards the Ordinariate that we saw so often in the US under the AU, namely that the conservative bishops had a hard time wrapping their heads around the married clergy part, while the moderate/progressive bishops feared the perceived conservatism of the Anglican converts. I sense that perhaps the married clergy part is no longer so troubling to bishops of a conservative and generous bent, for which one gives profuse thanks. However, as the implementation, or lack thereof, of Summorum Pontificum made clear, the bulk of the bishops are not conservative. My impression is that those men see the Ordinariate liturgy as a kind of surrogate for the EF, and they do not like it, because it signifies a hermeneutic of continuity, rather than the hermeneutic of rupture that they, and the majority of their feminist and femniized flocks, prefer.

austin said...

The archdiocese in which I live (USA) at present was thoroughly hostile to the idea of the ordinariate and did its best to stifle the infant in its cradle. There were, admittedly, very few interested laity. But the clergy were put off by deep hostility to the idea of married priests from the chancery. One priest renounced his Episcopalian orders, converted through RCIA (which should not have been required), and applied for ordination. After four years of waiting, he went back to ECUSA and resumed his ordained ministry. The message was effectively sent that OCSP would go nowhere in this jurisdiction. No support or recognition came from Houston either, as far as I know. I consequently attend a local tridentine mass and occasionally take my children to the Anglo shrine parish to learn some hymns and see that there are churches where people actually talk to one another and constitute a community rather than simply assisting at mass together.

Charles Wilson said...

Dear Father,

I’m sure you don’t remember me but I have fond memories of meeting you on two occasions when you visited Our Lady of the Atonement (OLA) in San Antonio, of which I am a founding member. (http://church.atonementonline.com/ . As you know, we began in 1983 with no more than fifty individual members and have grown to slightly less than one thousand families. Our school is undergoing a major expansion and, when it is completed next year, the church and school buildings will contain some two million square feet. I hope you and your readers will forgive my bragging.
DT compared the progress of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham with that of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter here in the U.S, and Canada. This comparison was not really fair because we in North America enjoyed advantages that were not available to our brethren in the U.K. The Anglican provinces in both countries were several years ahead of the Church of England in ordaining women priests and those members who did not accept this change formed various “continuing churches.” One such group was called the Pro Diocese of Saint Augustine of Canterbury (PDSAC) and one of its affiliates was Saint Anthony’s Parish in San Antonio. Some former Episcopalian priests, including some from the PDSAC approach the Holy See asking to be considered for ordination as Catholic priests and for the continued use of some elements of the Anglican Liturgy. In 1980, a favorable response was received and this led to the implementation of the “Pastoral Provision (PP).” (http://www.pastoralprovision.org/history.htm) There were groups in Canada and the U.K. was requested a similar measure; but the Catholic bishops in both countries were totally opposed.
OLA was the first PP parish in the U.S. and others followed over the years. They were erected as personal parishes of whatever Catholic diocese where they were located. When Anglicanorum coetibus was implemented here, the newly erected Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter had a number of PP or continuing Anglican communities waiting on its doorstep. OLA remains a PP parish and I believe you are aware of the reasons. However, I pray that we will become an Ordinariate parish in good time. In the meantime, we are happy and doing very well as a personal parish of the archdiocese of San Antonio.
Another advantage that DT did not mention was the attitude of the American bishops and their Episcopalian counterparts. While there was opposition to both the PP and the Ordinariate, I think it is fair to say that it was not as extensive as it was in Canada and the U.K. Three Ordinariate parishes in Omaha, Baltimore and Arlington, Texas were able to bring their Episcopal parish buildings with them. Also, PP and Ordinariate parishes have been welcomed to worship in Catholic facilities.
Like you, I am not as pessimistic as DT about the future of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

God bless you,

Chuck Wilson

Prayerful said...

An earlier commenter mentioned how Canadian Anglicanism was substantially the work of Church of Ireland and Evangelical minded clergy. I would think that Anglo-Catholicism and the Ordinariate would be utterly alien to the Church of Ireland. Perhaps the need to be clearly demarcated from Catholicism meant Anglo-Catholicism never took root in Ireland, except in respect of some artistic influence. Irish Catholic bishops of old might have also taken grave exception if Protestants were appearing to ape Catholicism. The Church of Ireland never made much of an effort at proselytising, barring spasmodic efforts like the Achill mission, and quite possibly both Irish Anglicans and Irish Catholics were content to leave well enough alone.

I hope the Ordinariate succeeeds in the UK. It could bring many back to Rome, and their missal could have a wider application. It bridges traditions of the English language and Sarum Rite to age old Roman Rite.

Jacobi said...

As the priesthood declines the attitude of the “Catholic system” will change. I'd go to an Ordinariate Mass if one were closer.

Couldn't agree more that any priest in any English speaking land should be free to say the Ordinariate Mass. That is so obvious. Equally, Ordinariate priests might also say the Gregorian Mass. It's as much your Mass as any other Western Catholic. 9.30 and 11.30?

The 9.30 would then be so much more prayerful than the present English translation of the Pauline Mass, and I suspect you would get some young unattached people, male and female in the congregation?

Mike Hurcum said...

don't you dare fade away Father

Sixupman said...

Might it be, that if the Ordinariate were given a church & presbytery of their own [not as lodgers as it were] the quality of their worship would become known and spread abroad, thereby attracting congregants. But there is the rub. I quote a diocesan bishop's refusal to havv a Traditional Order take-over an iconic church - " ..it would attract congregants from other parishes", competition. [btw: under another bishop, a Traditional Order did come in to a much wider benefit to the diocese concerned.] Bi-ritual would oil the wheels.

Charlesdawson said...

I know nothing about the Ordinariate, and I must admit, as a lay Catholic, I was just a tiny bit startled by the revelation that there are in existence a number of Anglican ministers whose route to conversion to the true Faith is based on their pension date. Of course it is commendable that they (and their families if they have them) do not wish to be a financial charge on the Church. But what about Article XXVIII? How can they subscribe to that (or not) at the diktat of the Department of Work and Pensions?

Sixupman said...

Charles:

They may have had domestic obligations to consider.

dunstan said...

The problem with DT's otherwise attractive proposal is that Anglo-Catholicism was profoundly influenced by the liturgical changes of the modern era with the consequence that many of the priests and people in the Ordinariate have no feel for or experience of traditional liturgy. As was apparent in our Forward in Faith Masses, 'modern Roman' was the thing to be. Although I've no desire to be it now and use the BDW whenever possible, I can sympathise with my brother priests and their people who find it difficult to make the transition. I often reflect on the irony that since becoming a Catholic in the Ordinariate I have said more prayers drawn from Anglican sources (I say the office from the Customary) than I did whilst engaged in Anglican ministry.

dunstan said...

Lest I appear to be perverse in rejecting modern Roman ways, I should point out that I spent six years looking after a small and elderly congregation. I was tattracted to the church because I wanted to say Mass ad orientem

Paul Halsall said...

"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."

I'm sorry but cannot you really not see what a problem this presents. While I can see good reason to "stay on for the pension" it hardly represents heroic commitment to the Catholic religion.

Little Black Sambo said...

"...it hardly represents heroic commitment to the Catholic religion."
Should membership or even the priesthood be restricted to heroes? Is Mr Halsall himself a hero? He is too much concerned with "Lord, what shall this man do?"