28 October 2009

Anglican Clergy

One friendly RC blogger has suggested that the acceptance of Anglican clergy into RC presbyteral ministry might not be unconditional. I agree, but feel strongly that the checking be left to the Ordinariates and not be in the hands of English RC bishops. For reasons that I think are obvious; mainly, that an Anglican is best placed to know whether the training at a particular place at a particular time was in fact adequate.

It is certainly true that those "NSMs" 'trained' on correspondence courses run by the mainstream C of E will need some real training. I once asked a priest, NSM, in a London Anglo-Catholic shrine church, to hear my confession; it became clear as we went along that not only had he had no training himself in this ministry, but had clearly never himself made a Confession. At the end, I had to get up and find a BCP and show him the Formula Absolutionis in the Visitatio Infirmorum and tell him to say it.

And our constituency is not entirely without clergy who are remarried divorcees or have married divorcees, who would clearly need to be interviewed by a canon lawyer. And there are clergy who belong to proscribed organisations, like our daft old friends the 'Freemasons'. Etc., I fear. Quite so. But this must not be made an excuse for ponderous processes of 'discernment' really designed to discourage all but the most persistent. The model should be the behaviour of a French bishop in the 1990s, who, so I heard, phoned up Cardinal Ratzinger to find out if he could employ a couple of Anglicans whom he knew (they had a holiday cottage in his diocese and were fluent in French). He was told, on the phone, to go ahead (the faculties would follow by post). On Shrove Tuesday the two said Mass for the last time as Anglicans; on Ash Wednesday were received into full communion; after Easter ordained deacons sub conditione; at Pentecost ordained priests sub conditione. I don't think that quite matches the speed in Archdeacon Manning's case, but it's better than most people have had to put up with who have fallen into the hands of the English RC hierarchy. Another practical point: clergy who 'poped' years ago and are still sitting around being 'discerned' should have access to the new arrangements. They've suffered enough.

On a happier note, may I say that I hope there will be mechanisms for clergy to be loaned. Particularly if a number of retired but active clergy take the option, they might outnumber the available congregations. Perhaps they might be loaned to local RC dioceses, if it is possible to find room to squeeze them into Mass rotas without depriving current RC clergy of their cherished privilege of Quinquination. Or we could be of use to bodies like FSSP. Or, if SSPX accepts its own Roman Offer, to them. Some Anglican clergy are Byzantinophiles, who might relish the privilege of ministering to Melkites or Ukrainians.

We Anglicans are very versatile.


John F H H said...

A very balanced observation, father, and a breath of fresh air amongst some of the wilder speculations of the blogosphere.
John U.K.

Anonymous said...

I have had positive conversations with RCs on the topic of "loaning." I believe it to be a very real possibility. At the parish level, many a haggard RC priest would love to have a clerical helping hand if only for hospital and house calls (and wouldn't it feel good to show up with one's English Ritual...).

There are a lot of nice old fellows who became priests as a leisure time activity, choosing it over a greeter's job at Wal-Mart, who haven't a clue as to liturgy, ritual and the like (let alone apologetics and Church history) who will need a crash "how to" course.

The exciting thing is that RAs (Roman Anglicans) will have a fresh opportunity to crush the head of the provincialism serpent. No more should the phrase "well, that's just how we do things here," be tolerated.

Death to provincialism!

G said...

Surely it's not the training that determines the validity of a priestly ordination? A lay MDiv graduate is still a laic, and a locally called priest without a theological degree is still a priest.

johnf said...

I agree with all your correspondents.

Have you noticed, Father the upsurge in bile and hysteria from characters like Dawkins, Hitchens and Fry since the Holy Father made his dramatic offer.

'Dawkins, Hitchens and Fry...'

Sound like characters out of a Roald Dahl novel.

Maurice said...

Not sure what you're a so afraid of. If you're called to Communion with the Holy See then that's what matters. Questions of ordination follow later. As a FAC I really don't understand what all this talk of bad treatment by Catholic bishops is all about. Most of us FACS were treated with kindness, respect and amazing generosity. I would never have dared put the kind of 'conditions' in place that you infer. I was happy to place myself in the hands of the local bishop, live a lay Catholic life and see if it was right that I should be a Catholic priest. I was constantly humbled by the (usually undeserved) respect that I was given.

No conditions! You just have to do it and see! Courage is always rewarded.

Unknown said...

Two issues. First, many Anglo Catholic laypeople do not go to auricular confession, preferring, according to Anglican tradition, to join in the General Confession. This is not just a matter of personal preference, and may present a serious obstacle if they are required to attend auricular confession. Second, Freemasonry is not merely a proscribed organisation. Freemasons are, so I understand, individually self-excommunicated. That is, in joining the Masonic Order they ipso facto excommunicate themselves, and any sacraments they receive would consequently not be valid.

motuproprio said...

I suppose it all depends what you mean by 'Anglo-Catholic'. The Anglo-Catholic formation I received stressed the need for auricular confession for 'serious matter', my priest pointed out the difference between cleaning windows with a hosepipe and polishing each pane with a chamois leather. (He also warned me that the C of E had an awful lot of Protestants in chasubles.)

_ said...

Freemasons are, so I understand, individually self-excommunicated.

This was true under the old Code of Canon Law, but is no longer the case. Nonetheless, it is considered a grave sin by the RCC - confirmed by Cardinal Ratzinger himself - so those who have previously been part of the Craft will have to abjure their involvement. (Let's hope Oxford's Apollo can cope with the loss of at least one member.)

That is, in joining the Masonic Order they ipso facto excommunicate themselves, and any sacraments they receive would consequently not be valid.

Being excommunicated does not cause the sacraments received or confected by a person to be invalid. Reception or confection in such a situation would, however, generally be sinful and/or illicit.

Joshua said...

Forgive my ignorance, but as a Catholic impatiently waiting for these Ordinariates to be set up (for the glory of God salvation of souls, and - purely selfishly - for me to be able to have a traditional local Mass at last), I have no idea what an NSM is: of your charity, please enlighten me.

(I must say, I have heard that here in Australia the Anglican clergy can be stunningly ill-educated: too many seem to have done only some two-year diploma.)

Rubricarius said...


NSM is an acronym for non-stipendiary minister i.e. they are not a rector or vicar with an income from their church. Clergy on the cheap perhaps some would say, but often those who have had other careers and come into ministry later in life, and have other means.

Independent said...

A glance through Crockford's Clerical Directory would rapidly disabuse one of the impression that Anglican clergy are "stunningly ill-educated" as Joshua says. Even now after years of decline rhe number of graduates of good universities is impressive. In secular learning they certainly are more impressive than their catholic counterparts. However whether they are better trained is another matter. How many know how to administer the sacraments? How many have been trained (unlike in St Stephen's House under Arthur Couratin) to hear confessions? How many have received instruction on preaching? I do not know, perhaps others can enlighten me.

Joshua said...

Please - I spoke only of my very limited knowledge of things in Australia.

Here in Tasmania, the local Anglican Bishop is a very very Low Church fellow, who's been laying hands on hastily retrained ex-policemen and others, whom he's made a sort of second-grade part-time clergy for rural areas, with limited licences. He's also let it be known he opposes all wearing of vestments (so out with the chasuble and in with the business suit), and has mercilessly sold churches, merged parishes and renamed them all, removing all saint's names. You can imagine how many Anglicans here feel...

GOR said...

In a former life I was the Catholic chaplain to a large hospital in the North of England. The Anglican chaplain - ‘Geoffrey’ - was of the Low Church persuasion and we would run into one another on occasion on the hospital campus (we both drove the same model and color of car – which caused some confusion for the staff as to which of us was ‘onsite’ at any given time…).

Once, as I emerged after administering Extreme Unction (it wasn’t yet the “Sacrament of the Sick”…) to a patient in extremis, he was waiting for me and enquired what I had been doing.

“Giving Extreme Unction”, I replied.

“How do you do that…? He enquired further.

Conscious of the fact that, while I had studied at the Gregorian I was no Ludwig Ott, I gave him the two-penny explanation of: “Sacraments: Matter, Form, Effects, Minister, etc.”

Geoffrey reflected on this for a time and then said: “Thank you - I think I’ll try that!”

I’m not sure if Geoffrey qualified under the heading of “NSM” but he was certainly remiss in his knowledge of Catholic Sacramental Theology - which probably wasn’t high on the curriculum of his training.