This is the second part of a press conference with Fr Keith Newton on January 17th. Questions and interjections by Bishop Hopes are in italics; the rest of the text is Fr Keith's responses.
Q. Won’t it be very difficult to manage in effect a diocese spread across England and Wales? Won’t there be practical problems?
Well it rather depends how many groups there are eventually in the Ordinariate, but it’s not very much different from what I’ve been doing for the last eight and a half years, to be honest. I’ve been travelling a lot across what’s basically half Southern England from Lincoln down to […] across to Hampshire. I know this is larger but there are fewer groups at the moment. So I don’t think that’s impossible. If there are thirty groups, then I think it’s perfectly feasible that I could have oversight of them. There are obviously constraints in terms of transport. But then you’re not going to see them every couple of weeks are you? Thirty groups for me to look after would be quite manageable. Obviously if the Ordinariate grows and you had two hundred congregations that will be quite different. Eventually it’s possible there could be two ordinariates in the Episcopal Conference area: it just depends how this develops.
Q. How does it compare with your old job; non-territorial, where the clergy are not going to be paid? I’m talking about resources too? It's going to be quite thinly stretched?
Well it is. We are being helped. You heard the message from Cardinal Levada on Saturday that he hoped the Catholic Church in England and Wales would help not only in terms of prayer but also in terms of material needs. We’ve already had an example of that in some money being given. There’s going to be help in housing. There’s going to be help in finding enough money for priests to live. I can’t answer any of those questions at the minute. We’re just beginning to do that. But already we have had people approaching us with possibilities of finding employment, or giving money, and we’re trusting that God will lead us in the right direction.
Q. About conversions from people who are already C of E… People will join you now in bits from different parishes and parish groups. It’s difficult to see that growing organically? You’ll be relying on conversions of people already in the Church of England unhappy about some aspects of their lives?
There may be that, but there are plenty of people out there who have no practice of the Faith at the moment. I hope this is going to be an evangelistic tool. I think it's part of the Pope’s vision for the evangelisation of Europe; it’s just a very small part. I hope the Ordinariate is not going to live for itself, and look beyond its borders to be evangelistic. Not simply saying to people who at present in the Anglican Church, ‘come and be Catholics in the Ordinariate’. All that will happen I’m sure. But we will be looking to people who have no faith; we have to be warm and opening and missionary.
Q. I am not suggesting any selfish motive, but isn’t it a difficult message to sell? There’s the question of rather complex Churchmanship; won’t it be hard to sell?
I suppose it will be a very English form of Catholicism. It might have a particular way of getting into the communities that perhaps Catholic priests have not had. We talked about our Patrimony so often and everyone seems to go on to liturgy, but there are lots of things about having been an Anglican which we will be bringing. Until we start doing that I can’t — we can’t — see how that will flourish. We have an attitude to the wider community, an attitude to mission that we bring. It's not that the Catholic Church has not wanted to do this, but by nature of its numbers its impossible. It’s very different if you’re ministering to a congregation of 50, 60, 70 or ministering to a congregation like the one where I worshipped recently, where the normal Mass attendance is 1200 on a Sunday. But I think Anglican priests who are going to be part of the Ordinariate will have a vision of a relationship to the community which I hope will be a gift to the Catholic Church. But I don’t know the answers until the thing grows, but I certainly don’t want it to be inward looking.
Q. You’re fully Catholic. Why shouldn’t you be paid by the Catholic Church?
Bishop Hopes: There’s a very simple answer to that. Every diocese looks after itself financially and otherwise. It will be same for the Ordinariate. The Ordinary actually is going to be responsible for seeing that it is financially sound and that everybody receives money and food and so on. But at the moment, the Catholic dioceses in England and Wales are supporting the Ordinariate because we know there is no finance.
Those groups that are coming over — there will be money from that group which will help support the priest. That may need to be added to from different quarters to give that particular person the resources to live on if he’s married or got children. Some may have to have some sort of work. One of the interesting things about the Apostolic Constitution is that it does allow the clergy to have a job if necessary. It rather depends on how much the group can support, how much paid employment there might be — all sorts of issues. All these have to be worked out for the individual priest. What you have to remember is that we are moving from a situation in which an Anglican priest gets a given stipend in order to do certain things, to a situation where a Catholic priest receives his support in a very different way. I know you say he receives a stipend of this much which is very small. But certainly other things are paid for him in a way that we’ve never done in the C of E. So we are moving to two different ways of looking after the clergy.
How long do you think the £250k will last?
I shouldn’t think it will last very long. It depends what we’re doing with it. I don’t imagine that quarter of a million pounds will basically be to pay all the clergy. That’s not what it’s for, I don’t think. [What] we must start very soon is a fund which will top up the clergy’s pay if we can’t get it to what’s necessary. We hope it will come from a number of difference quarters. It may be that a priest can have a part time post as a chaplain which will provide £5000 per annum. Maybe his little group may provide £5000 per annum — by then you’re half way there, more or less.
Bishop Hopes: Each of our Bishops are looking at possibilities in their areas.
Q. What kind of jobs?
Chaplaincies would be one particular thing — prison or hospital or school chaplaincies. There are other organisations — I would not want to say just now which they are — which want to help by saying there’s part-time work that we can provide — doing something within the Catholic Church which may be done by a layperson at present which perhaps might be done better by a priest.
Q. Bishop Alan, you’ve made this journey yourself in the past. Do you have any advice for these new priests?
Bishop Alan said, “I have been doing nothing but give advice for the last year. I think from my own journey which I made 16, 17 years ago, I keep telling everybody, ‘Just trust in God; everything will work out well’. And it does. Father Keith said this morning he has made an almighty great leap of faith. That’s what you have to do; that’s part of this journey. I have always assured him and others who are going to go down this path that if they can do that they will find warmth, they’ll find welcome and they’ll find incredible support and encouragement too from the Catholic Church”.
Q. Do you have a feeling it has gone too quickly?
No, I don’t think so. All these things seem very quick but we’ve been thinking about this for the last fifteen months since the Apostolic Constitution. And I know that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith feel very strongly that the first priests needed to be in the Ordinariate quite quickly so that we can help to gather and help those who are coming over. That’s why we’ve been ordained within two weeks. The others will go through a longer process. They will have some formation from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost. It’s very important to say that formation will continue afterwards. It’s not that they will have any less than any other clergy coming from the C of E who wants to be a priest into the Catholic Church. It’s just that it will be done in a different way. It’s important that those priests will pass to their groups. There will be an intensive bit of preparation before Ordination, but that will go on for up to two years.
Q. Housing and Churches – Uncertainty?
I hope there will be less uncertainty.
Bishop Hopes: There won’t be any uncertainty.
Q. Can you put a figure on the numbers who may come over?
I wouldn’t want to say any number. Until a person actually says, 'this is what I want to do’, then they have the opportunity to say 'I’ve decided not to do it'. They have to be committed to being a Catholic. Although we say it's groups, within those groups everybody has to make a personal decision. It’s what my colleague Fr Andrew said; it’s a bit like going on a charabanc outing to Walsingham. You have to pay your own fare and get on on your own, but then the bus travels along. Every individual has to make a declaration of faith and receive confirmation and chrismation. But they will do it together. Until they do it, I can’t say. Some of the groups may be a dozen or twenty, some may be 60 or 70. Until that moment comes we just can’t say.
Q. Any advice to those thinking of taking the step?
Be courageous, trust in the Lord.
Q. Do you know where yet you will be living? Where the Principal Church will be?
We were asked that before you arrived; the answer is ‘no’ to both of those questions. Presently I live in the house where I have lived as Bishop of Richborough and I will be there until the end of March. Between now and then, the Catholic authorities, I hope and I expect, will find me an appropriate place where I can live. At present I don’t know where it will be. It will be somewhere in London, I expect. And again, the Principal Church — we will have to have some conversations. It says in the deed of erection (which will be put on the web site) that there will be a consultation between the CDF, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Ordinary where that Principal Church should be.