14 September 2010

Hoops and Fireworks

As the anniversary comes round today of the Holy Father's initiative, Summorum pontificum, one recalls that bishops have the option, after three years, to make comments about 'problems' which have arisen. It will be interesting to see what attempts are made to bully the Pope. These occasions remind us that the Roman Catholic hierarchy worldwide is a very varied body. Its range stretches all the way from those bishops who have themselves made enthusiastic use of the newly clarified legal status of the preconciliar rite; and those whose entire pastoral energies appear to have been spent dreaming up ingenious hoops through which to force any priest courageous enough to wish to do something which the Church's supreme legislator has stated he is free to do without hindrance.

Similar questions may arise with regard to that other example of Benedictine courage: Anglicanorum coetibus. Here again, those trained in the traditional art of hoop-making may have been enabled to deploy their ancient skills. Will Ordinariates be given, as their Ordinaries, men who have suffered alongside their fellow Anglicans for the last fifteen years; who know them and know their anxieties and their hopes; who already have the experience of pastoring them; or will somebody be parachuted in who left our faith-community fifteen years ago and has been 'clubbed' by a native Roman Catholic hierarchy and its ethos? If the latter, this will give a fair indication of who has 'won' in the competition to bend the ear of Cardinal Levada. And if the local hierarchies prove indeed to have won this personal game, that victory will almost certainly be matched by an institutional triumph: the issuing of Norms for particular Ordinariates which provide very adequately for the provision of hoops. Back in the early nineties, the English RC hierarchy was deeply practised in discouraging ('discerning', as it is technically known) Anglican clerical enquirers. ("What are the English Bishops so frightened of?" as somebody once put it.) It will be illuminating to see how its attitudes have changed, this time round.

But, even looking at it from the most pessimistic stance, something will most surely have been gained. Hostile hierarchies, unsympathetic towards the Holy Father's vision of a renewed Church, may indeed demonstrate their capacity to ensure that the Ordinariates, or some of them, have small, slow, and halting starts. But what will count will be what future generations make of them. The Gospels give us the Parable of the Mustard Seed; perhaps Divine Grace will supply a pendant narrative, the Parable of the Fireworks: about how the dampest of unwanted squibs became the most coruscating pyrotechnic ever discerned in the sky.


Father Mervyn Jennings said...

Father, what you say is right; the appointment of the Ordinary is crucial

Anonymous said...

The devil made a bold foray into the very guts of the Church thru the shattered doors of Vatican 2, the “Super-Evisceration”; nevertheless, it stands to reason that this murderer's actions have necessarily been defensive - after all, the old serpent can only do so much damage to the Church; and like with Job, God won't allow Mephisto absolute free reign.

I've been reading "The Ball and the Cross" by Gilbert Keith (Patrimony) Chesterton who (speaking of good book openings) gets it just right in the book's second paragraph: "All the tools of Professor Lucifer were the ancient human tools gone mad, grown into unrecognizable shapes, forgetful of their origin, forgetful of their names." Novus Ordo!

Rubricarius said...

Perhaps a better title for the post would have been 'smoke and mirrors'?

TommiAquinas said...

For the first time I can remember, I must disagree with Fr Hunwicke. I feel somewhat under-prepared for such an inherently foolish course of action!

The Ordinariates will need all the good will we can possibly muster from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. We can either be seen as 'competition' to the local flocks on the ground, or we can be in a great new partnership for the reconversion of England. If the former, we'll be shoved in the 3.30pm slot at the local catholic church with virtually no opportunity for mission. If the latter, the sky's the limit.

We need somebody who 'gets' Anglicanism and Pope Benedict's vision for its new home in the centre of the Catholic Church. We need someone with charisma and the respect of both Catholics and Anglicans.

As far as I can see, there is no requirement that the Ordinary himself be a former Anglican.

To me there's one outstanding choice, and that's Aiden Nicholls.

justin said...

"As far as I can see, there is no requirement that the Ordinary himself be a former Anglican."

Are you sure? My reading of AC suggests that he must be a part of the groups of Anglicans who avail themselves of the provisions.

In any case, I'd rather keep Aidan Nichols for us :) There are far too many dire English RC bishops, surely the English church deserves at least one good man?

Peregrinus said...

If a colonial may comment; the suggestion of Fr. Aidan Nichols as the Ordinary for England is a very good one.

It also solves the problem of transition for a priest or bishop who is currently an Anglican. The Ordinariate could be up and running the day after the Holy Father leaves the UK.

TommiAquinas said...

Justin, it depends if you read the text of AC or the spirit of AC! I'd assumed the same as you until this thought came into my head. I then read the text and the norms carefully and could see no such restriction.