Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Questions about the Ordinariate

Some time ago I commented that it is not appropriate to visit upon the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (or any other Ordinariate for former Anglicans for that matter) agendas that do not belong. So, for example, the line that uses the penury of the Ordinariate to berate the Bishops of England and Wales for their so-called attempts to undermine Pope Benedict's wishes with regard to the Ordinariate; and the line that sees Ordinariate clergy as "stop gaps" to plug vacancies left by the lack of vocations in Dioceses; or the inverse that makes great play of criticising the collaboration of Ordinariate priests with the pastoral work of Dioceses emphasising instead a different mission for them in the Church.

There are two related aspects to the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham that I do not quite understand. The first is what might be called the "choreography" around Anglican clergy and their (relatively few) lay faithful who cease to celebrate/attend in the Church of England at the beginning of Lent, with a view to being received into the Catholic Church at Holy Week or Easter. What exactly do they think their Anglican priesthood is about on that last Sunday that they celebrate in the Church of England, usually having had it already announced that it will be their last celebration before a move to the Roman Catholic parish nearby? A letter from Rev Norman Wallwork in The Times a few weeks ago referred to the former Anglican priests being "re-ordained" in the Ordinariate, giving the impression that this was a term being used by the Roman Catholic Church in this regard (it isn't - so far as I can see, this term is never used in Anglicanorum Coetibus or in the Complementary Norms) and seeing in it a recognition by the Roman Catholic Church of a legitimacy in Anglican orders.  A part of the idea underlying the Ordinariate is that those Anglicans who are recieved into the Ordinariate can preserve that which is of value in their Anglican practice and belief ("Anglican patrimony") as they become Roman Catholics. But, at the level of the experience of the individual Anglican priest being received into the Ordinariate, what does this mean with regard to the way in which they see their Anglican priesthood?

I think it is fair to say that the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is in need of more money than it has available to it, and that this gives rise to calls for financial generosity towards it by other Catholics. As it is developing, it seems to me to be presenting for ordination more priests (many more) than the pastoral care of its own faithful requires. In the phase of establishing the Ordinariate, and given that it is of the nature of the situation that many of the converts being recieved in the Ordinariate will be former Anglican clergy, there is an extent to which this can be understood. It also makes the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus and the Complementary Norms with regard to the collaboration of Ordinariate clergy with the pastoral work of their local Diocese something intrinsic to the situation rather than something accidental to it. This is the second aspect of the life of the Ordinariate that I feel I do not quite understand. In this situation, should there not be a preference for ordaining those former Anglican clergy who are not married, so that the law of celibacy is promoted, and fewer are ordained, contributing at least something towards financial stability for the Ordinariate?

A relation exists between these two questions, since both touch on the question of how the  priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church is experienced in relation to that previously experienced as an Anglican priest.

As a postscript: if the Ordinariate is to be seen as in some way a "new ecclesial movement" with a particular mission of evangelisation in the Catholic Church and in the world ... Many of the new movements have the juridical status of a Private Association of the Faithful, not of an Ordinariate. It is interesting in the present circumstances of the Ordinariate, with its quite disproportionate numbers of clergy compared to lay faithful (60 clergy to 1200 laity), to wonder whether Canon Law does offer another juridical status that would have been more appropriate than that of an Ordinariate.

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