1 January 2016


Of course, we clergy like rituals and things because it makes us feel we have point. But perhaps 2016 could be a real Year of Mercy for a particular category for whom God has given us in the Ordinariates a responsibility. A real door rather than a merely ritual door.

Back there in the Church of England there are clergy, good men, priests to their fingertips, or even bishops, who would very much rather not be in the Church of England. But they have for some reason come to feel discouraged from regularising their relationship with the Apostolic See of S Peter.

Would 2016 be a splendid opportunity to deal with this situation? An end to the dreaming-up of reasons to turn priests away; an end to "You're too old" or "You're too young" or "You haven't got a 'group'" or "You would have to be tested for a year or two before we could possibly consider 'ordaining' you"; and all the rest of it. The Holy Father's gesture to the SSPX is surely a hint that his Jubilee of Mercy could have an ecclesial, as well as an individual, dimension. And, as the Church of England, now cosying up to the Scottish presbyterians, goes yet further down the path of consolidating its proud role as just another tedious proddy sect, there may still be left within it a few principled 'Catholic' clergy and laity who will come to discern how badly they need their truest home.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus burns with longing to gather all into what Blessed John Henry called the One Fold of the Redeemer. What would better suit the intentions of Pope Benedict for the Ordinariates; or the hopes of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy; than for the gates, which seem to me to have got a bit stuck, to be flung wide open?


Anonymous said...

I don’t think the Pope’s Doors of Mercy are purely ritual. They are concrete manifestations of the Church’s desire to reach out, to “publicise” God’s mercy. Technically considered, I suppose the Door constitutes a sacramental.

For Anglicans, the gates of mercy were thrown wide open when Benedict promulgated his entry protocol. Of course, in purely administrative terms, in an age of widespread priestly and other sex abuse it is only right and proper that careful checks are be made of anyone desiring to join the Catholic priesthood. But the Door of Mercy is always open. You just gotta walk through it. Come on in - the water’s lovely, if a little choppy at the moment.

William said...

You hint at a greater, and even more needless, barrier when you (correctly) place the word "ordaining" in inverted commas. The "Leonard judgement" established the principle; it would be an act not merely of mercy but of logic and of historical and theological consistency for the See of Rome to acknowledge the wider applicability of that principle.

Woody said...

The other problem seems to be refusal of the Roman authorities to allow ordination of men who were Catholics and now wish to return. I think we in the Ordinariates have lost not a few men and their followers because of this impediment which really just smacks of tribalism. Basta! If Pope Francis can correct that hurrah for him.

Tom Broughton said...


William Tighe said...

"The "Leonard judgement" established the principle"

What principle? That Anglican Orders have always been valid, despite Apostolicae curae? Me genoito! That "Dutch Touch" Anglican Orders are valid, or possibly may be? And, if so, what "Dutch Touch" Orders? Those to the presbyterate and/or to the episcopate? (There are plausible reports to the effect that it was the late Msgr. Leonard's episcopal orders were possibly those most effectively a la hollandaise, but that he agreed not to raise that question with the Vatican, which in turn came up with that odd scheme of dispensing altogether with a diaconal [re]ordination and allowing a conditional presbyteral one.) And were those bishops such as Richard Rutt, John Klyberg, Conrad Meyer, and all their sequaces, all devoid of any Dutch touch pedigree? I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Frankly, it seems to me that the "Leonard Judgment" did not establish any principal whatsoever, but in the light of the treatment of all subsequent quondam English Anglican bishops - not to mention that of Anglican bishops elsewhere - it has to be regarded as a kind of curious lusus naturae; and that it is the treatment of these other bishops has "established the principle," insofar as any principle has been established at all.

William Tighe said...

"it has to be regarded as a kind of curious lusus naturae"

I should have added to this, "like the sub conditione ordination to the presbyterate in 1968 of the former American Episcopalian clergyman John Jay Hughes by Bishop Hoeffner of Muenster (subsequently Cardinal-Archbishop of Cologne)." Fr. Hughes' case is the only other known case of a man ordained in an Anglican church ever being accorded a conditional presbyteral ordination (in Hughes' case also a conditional diaconal ordination) in the Catholic Church. The details are set out in detail in Fr. Hughes' autobiography, *No Ordinary Fool: A Testimony to Grace* (Tate Publishing, 2008: ISBN: 978-1-60604-182-6) and make for interesting reading: both the Bishop of Muenster and the Holy Office in Rome seem to have decided, "on the fly" as one might conclude, that the mere presence of an Old Catholic "consecration pedigree" in the Episcopalian bishops who ordained him, one to the diaconate, the other to the presbyterate, sufficed in itself to permit the sub conditione ordinations.

Anonymous said...

I think there may be grounds for reasonable care and discernment in some of the circumstances mentioned (e.g. Catholics who left and are returning), but I'm puzzled by "you're too young" (how young is ordination allowed ordained in the CofE?) and "you're too old" (too old for what - offering Mass and hearing confessions?). Are these reasons being given as a cover for selection according to fashionable political correctness.

Austin said...

One complaint from American Episcopalians who are trembling at the brink: the principle that (apart from incoming married Anglican clergy) all viri probati will be celibate. Dissenters maintain that a married parochial clergy is so ingrained in Anglican tradition that it should be regarded as part of the patrimony.

This is a genuine obstacle for some. I incline to agree with them that the ruling (made when and by whom?)was unfortunate. I joined the Ordinariate on the first day possible, however, and give obedient assent if that is required.

William said...

Well, Dr Tighe (I had a private bet with myself that you would have something to say on this subject), it may be that the cases of Dr Leonard and Fr Hughes¹ were treated by Rome in an utterly capricious manner, careless of the facts; or it may be that they were regarded as quite unique, with determinative features that could not reasonably be thought to apply to any others than themselves. But unless one holds one of other of those propositions, those cases would appear to have been dealt with on the basis, first, that there was reasonable doubt as to whether the (purported) invalidity of Anglican ordinations² asserted in 1896 could, in the changed circumstances³ obtaining in 1994, still be maintained with absolute certainty; and secondly, that where there existed such reasonable doubt, then the prudent course of action (bearing in mind the relevant Canon of Trent [DS1609]) was to proceed by means of conditional ordination. (To ordain conditionally does not, of course, concede any point; it merely refrains from making an assertion of the ordinand's lay state.) It is not clear to me in what way those principles are negated by the fact that in other cases such prudence was not in practice exercised.

I judge no man's conscience, and have the utmost respect for my many former colleagues (some of them close friends) who, like our present gracious host, considered that they were able to submit to absolute 'ordination' (our host's inverted commas there) in spite of having no doubt whatsoever as to the orders they had received and exercised within the Church of England. But it is a heavy – and, much more to the point, needless – burden to lay upon others that they, too, should come to the same conscientious conclusion, or else cease to exercise their priesthood.

¹ And maybe others besides: some of those who were deeply involved with "the Roman option" have named to me certain other men who were likewise conditionally ordained (but without publicity) around the same time as Dr Leonard; but I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of these reports.

² It is inaccurate, and confuses the issue, to speak of "Anglican orders" in this context. I know of no-one, of any persuasion, who claims that there are such things as "Anglican orders", rather than simply orders, tout court, with the issue being whether those orders are conferred and received as a result of ordination by an Anglican hierarch.

³ Apostolicæ curæ was not, and did not claim to be, a judgement for all time, regardless of any future, at that time unforeseeable, developments.