"Given the kinds of statistics I've outlined - that is, too many churches for the numbers of priests and worshippers we actually have - it's no wonder that many bishops have readily borrowed ordinariate priests for their dioceses.
"Anglicanorum coetibus was, in this sense, an unexpected windfall of additional clergy. There are, I believe, currently 60 ordinariate priests on loan to the English and Welsh dioceses, with most of these assigned to parishes. I recognise, of course, the benefits and expediency of such arrangements. As it happens, I have been glad of 'borrowed' ordinariate priests in two dioceses I've lived in. Bishops need priests, and priests - and their families - need stipends. Nevertheless, I don't think the current model of plugging gaps in ordinary diocesan provision is, in the long run, a sensible one for either party.
"From my outsider's view - I'm neither a member, nor eligible to become one - the ordinariate offers the Church in England and Wales (Scotland too!) a significant pastoral opportunity: the possibility of a permanent structure, fully part of the wider Catholic community, but with its own distinctive liturgy, spirituality, musical traditions, parish culture and atmosphere. Rather than being simply a one-off fix to bring a wave of former Anglicans into full communion with Rome, it is genuinely sustainable. It is continuing to attract former Anglicans and others (not excluding other Catholics) on its own terms, while at the same time being a community in which children are brought up, who in turn bring up their own children in it.
"Christ's Church has plenty of room in it for such a body, as is again amply proved by the Eastern Catholic churches ... with the ordinariate offering a niche way of 'being Church' that complements, rather than competes with, the default normal parish offering.
"I've even seen it work - in Texas, of all places. Last year I stood at the back of a packed vigil Mass at Houston's ordinariate Cathedral of our Lady of Walsingham. The next day there would be four further Masses, all using the Divine Worship missal and all similarly well attended. Around a third of those present, I was told, were former Episcopalians and their families, a third were cradle Catholics of various types, and a third were converts from otherChristian denominations, other religions, or no religion at all. ...
"From where I'm kneeling, we seem to have a God-given cure to many a diocesan bishop's headache. So why are our dioceses not queuing up for the ordinariate to take otherwise under-threat churches off their hands, and on extremely advantageous terms? This is a genuine question, for I am genuinely puzzled."
This is the end of an article by Professor Stephen Bullivant in the Catholic Herald. (Father Zed reprinted most of the aricle, but only briefly alluded to this final section.)
I have no other status in the Ordinariate than that of an incardinated retired priest. But, entirely as an individual, I agree with every word of this. I would only add something which has come to me as a widely heard rumour, with a number of sources, but for which I cannot vouch. It is that, somewhere in the Church's system, there is blockage point, a spirit of negativity, with regard to the rapid and smooth 'reordination' of former Anglican clergy ... what our jargon calls 'respraying'.
I have no idea why this should be, if indeed it is so. Might it possibly be that some bishops hope their staffing problems will soon be solved by the mass ordinations of married deacons? Or do stretched diocesan finances dictate the closure of churches and the commercial development of their sites? I dunno!
But I am kneeling somewhere very close to Professor Bullivant. If the English Bishops wanted an influx of what he describes elsewhere in his article as "dozens of young and energetic clergy, thoroughly immersed in British culture, and with years (if not decades) of pastoral experience as well", they could have them for the asking.