A Transcript of Father Keith Newton’s press conference; most of the non-attributed questions came, I think, from Ruth Gledhill. It is difficult to convey the tone of voice: Father Keith became most animated when asked if he was concerned about those left behind… but if you want his tone, listen to the piece rather than reading it. This transcription is offered simply to help those who would rather see something in print. This is only Part I of the conference. It’s as accurate as I can make it without taking a week over it. The rest may follow, if anyone shows any interest.
17 January 2011 Press Conference held at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales. There was a welcome by Bishop Alan Hopes.
Thank you for coming this morning. We thought that today would be the most appropriate day to meet the new Ordinary of the new Personal Ordinariate. That was announced in Rome at the same time, and Keith Newton as the new Ordinary. So I want to introduce you to Fr Keith and leave the rest in his hands.
Father Keith said:
Thank you for coming this morning. You can imagine it’s been something of a rollercoaster of a few days. I jokingly thought we were slightly slower than Cardinal Manning, but the Archbishop tells me that Cardinal Manning took a couple of months; we three former bishops have taken just a couple of weeks. There’s been a lot happening since our reception into the Catholic Church on January 1st until last Saturday. I am very grateful to Archbishop Vincent and the Cathedral and all other members of the Catholic Church for the help and encouragement they have given us. And I am humbled to have been asked by the Pope to be the first Ordinary of the new Ordinariate. You’ve seen the statement I made. It's probably best if I answer your questions.
I notice you are wearing a Pectoral Cross? What is the significance of that?
It’s quite clear I am not a bishop. I was ordained into the Catholic priesthood on Saturday. But an Ordinary is a person who has jurisdiction — in this case over a given group of people. At present my jurisdiction is rather limited — to three clergy, two wives and three religious. Nevertheless, I do have jurisdiction of this first Ordinariate.
The nearest equivalent is an abbot in a monastery; he can carry a crosier and wear a mitre. Those privileges have been given to me; that’s why I can wear a pectoral cross and a ring. So I am not a bishop, but those privileges have been given to me, and I have oversight of those who will join the Ordinariate.
Will the others be able to wear the pectoral cross and ring?
No, I don’t think they will. They will be able to wear a mitre and carry a crosier when they’re acting on my behalf, for instance when they are presiding at a confirmation, which they will be able to do.
Will you have a vote in the Bishop’s Conference?
Yes, I will.
'Yes he will', says Bishop Hopes, 'and he will have a vote on finance as well, which auxiliary bishops don’t get'.
Fr Keith, jokingly: Don’t be jealous!
And on other matters?
Bishop Hopes: 'No, it is just on finance.'
The state of the religious? Are they technically laity at present?
Well, I don’t know what their position is in Canon Law, but it’s quite obvious from reading the Apostolic Constitution that Religious can be part of the Ordinariate. Those who have made religious vows in the Church of England — what they have done in the Church of England — has been respected when they have come over. The Catholic Church wants to respect what they have been. We are in a process of deciding how we can erect a particular religious community within the Ordinariate. This is going to take a little time. Just as what we have been has been recognised.
Did you have to say the sacraments you had done in the past were invalid? That’s been asserted by some on Twitter.
Nobody has asked me to deny anything. What I have been as an Anglican priest and bishop has been respected. There are fruits from those ministries; God has worked through me, I know. And that is respected.
Bishop Hopes: 'Can I just add that the Archbishop in his homily on Saturday acknowledged the fruitfulness of the former ministries of these three men'.
Press Association question: Have you any offices, or a church to worship in yet?
As for offices, we’ve been very generously given an office here in Eccleston Square for the time being. As for the future, we don’t know: we are in very early days. I hope there will be somewhere to live, and that there will be somewhere for me to work from. At the moment, I don’t know where it is going to be. As I say, we are in very early days.
Where are you living?
I’m still living in the house where I lived as Bishop of Richborough. The Church of England has allowed me to stay there until the end of March, and I hope that between now and then someone will find me somewhere to live.
Bishop Hopes: 'We are actively engaged on this.'
I don’t think they’ll expect me to sell the Big Issue outside the station.
Catholic Herald: How do you see the next couple of months unfolding for yourself?
I think it is going to be pretty busy. The most important thing is going to be working with Bishop Alan. Bishop Alan is the Episcopal Delegate. I hope he will be at my side helping me with this. We have to work out practical questions for those Anglicans becoming Catholics from Ash Wednesday until Pentecost. One of the great burdens of this upon me — I must say I was rather hesitant in accepting it — but I feel as a Catholic, the Holy Father asked me to do it, I must respond positively. But I am concerned we look after our clergy. It’s my responsibility for housing, for finance — not only for them but for their wives. We’ve got some resources at the moment but we’ll need more. That is going to mean a lot of hard work.
We are going to start looking into that, yes. There are one or two donors who have suggested they will help us. I’ll be meeting with them in the next few months and hoping they will be generous. The Catholic Church has already been generous with an amount of money from the Bishops’ Conference. There’s going to be help from them over housing. There are one or two organisations which are suggesting ways priests may have to earn money. I am very keen that if they have to earn money, it's doing something that is part of their vocation. Living out ways of being Catholic priests, not stacking shelves in Sainsbury’s. I hope they will do something to further their ministry.
Will you have a pension? When will you draw your pension?
I have. I could draw my pension now, but it would be reduced; I hope to draw in on 10th April 2017 when I’m 65 (now you know).
Do you have any income?
Absolutely none at present, but we’ll discuss that. I think this is a step of faith. People have said that you’ve to step forward and jump and you’ll be caught and I believe that. I’m putting my hands into the Church — not just my hands, my feet and everything.
What is your relationship with Walsingham? And the liturgy?
Walsingham is a very special place for Anglo-Catholics. But of course it does not belong to Anglicans. It is a place of pilgrimage and there are two shrines. I know the authorities at the Shrine want to examine ways in which members of the Ordinariate can continue to worship at the Anglican shrine. There will have to be conversations with the Guardians. Certainly one Guardian I’ve spoken to wants to see the Ordinariate as a bridge; we should be building bridges, not burning them down. I don’t look back at the Church of England with anger or bitterness. This move is part of my ongoing pilgrimage. I want to keep doors open between those who are still in the C of E and ourselves. Any way the Ordinariate can foster unity must be God’s work.
I’m very honest: I am not a liturgist. My colleague Andrew Burnham is a liturgist and he is looking with others around the world at what an Anglican liturgy might be for the Ordinariate. The CDF are fairly keen that there should be one liturgy for the Ordinariates wherever they are, not lots of different ones. There’s obviously the Book of Divine Worship which was produced in the USA for those who became Catholics under the Pastoral Provision in the '70s and '80s. I don’t know whether you’ve seen that book, it is an enormous tome; have you seen it? It wouldn’t fit on the shelf of the pew. That’s got quite a lot of material, and we’ll be looking at that. But we need something that will be acceptable throughout the world. In England it will be used by some but not certainly by everyone in England — not, at least, for the Eucharistic rite. Some of the priests in the Anglo-Catholic world and who will join the Ordinariate already use the Roman Rite and will continue to do so. Some will want to use an Anglican rite which has been ratified by the Congregation for Divine Worship, but that’s a process that’s going on but that’s not my department and I am glad to leave it to Bishop Andrew — sorry, Father Andrew. Old habits die hard.
Are you a Monsignor?
No. Not at the moment. I’m not quite sure what I am. As far as I am concerned, I am very happy with Father. I’m getting everything: Your Excellency, the Very Reverend, the Right Reverend.
Bishop Hopes. 'It’s Father at the moment'.
Yes, Father. As a Bishop in the Church of England, I’ve always preferred Father.
Was Women’s Ordination the factor which decided you?
That’s a factor; but Women’s ordination [was] only a factor in an ongoing process. I had conversations in '93 about being a Catholic, but I did not do so then. I have always wanted and longed for unity. In fact, this has gone on since my wife and I were teenagers. We can remember going to Liverpool Cathedral for the first sermon by a Cardinal in the Anglican Cathedral — for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; it was Cardinal Willebrands. There were lots of demonstrations outside, protestors. You can imagine Liverpool in those days: very tense feelings between Catholics and Protestants. This was the days before Archbishop Warlock and David Sheppard. I can remember that vividly, and ever since that day, we have longed for unity. My objection to the Ordination of Women has been the damage it has done to the goal of the ARCIC process: that was full ecclesial communion. That has disappeared. The Church of England has put obstacles up. Inasmuch as that’s an obstacle, I’ve opposed it.
It’s not the only reason. You don’t become a Catholic because you don’t like what’s going on in the C of E. You have to become a Catholic because you want to become a Catholic, and that’s very deep down in me. I can remember (I think it was 2006) going to Rome and sitting in St Peter’s Square for the General Audience and being incredibly moved by the sense of communion of all the people there with the Successor of Peter. I knew that was the direction we were going to go. I longed for a provision for people like us to continue that ecumenical journey — which I think has been stalled a little bit by some of the things the Church of England has done. That did not mean at that stage that I wanted to be a Catholic priest.
Why were you an Anglican?
Well, because I was born and raised within an Anglican family. I didn’t say "I’m sorry mum, I don’t want to be baptised." That’s what’s nurtured me in the Faith. When I first became a priest, I never thought I’d become a Catholic. Initially, you become part of the denomination in which your parents bring you up. My faith has been nurtured in it, and my vocation’s been nurtured in it. I want to take what I’ve been made into the Catholic Church.
What formed you and set you in the direction of Catholicism? Was there a particular incident?
You mean Anglo-Catholicism? You have to go back to a long process, where I went in Liverpool where I was brought up; if the church wore vestments you were thought to be almost beyond the pale. I was brought up in what was thought to be a Prayer Book Catholic Church. Our curates were much more advanced, as it were, than the parish priest was, and one guy who was a curate was a great influence on me in my teenage years. In fact, he was at the Ordination and the reception on Saturday. He had quite an influence on me as a young man. He helped me have a wider view of the Church.
When I came to King's as an ordinand to read theology, I was taught by Eric Mascall who was one of the professors there, and other members of staff that led me in that direction. It is a progression. It is very difficult to think of one or two particular incidents.
I don’t know about your family background. What would your parents and other relations say about your conversion?
My father is dead. My mother, she’s found it… "not difficult" would be wrong; she doesn’t quite understand I don’t think. She’s not objected in any way. I don’t think she quite realises what’s happened to me. She wasn’t able to come to the Ordination although she knew it was happening and she was very sad that she could not get there. She was even sadder that I baptised my first grandchild during my first Catholic Mass. That’s an unusual thing, I think, in the Catholic Church. She was sorry she was not able to come to that. My daughter is a Catholic as well; she was received in the middle of last year. Her husband’s a practising Catholic.
And the reactions in the Church of England?
Mostly we have had good wishes. It was very difficult when I resigned. There are some who felt I was leaving them, but who are delighted. There are some still in the C of E, who may not be part of the first wave, who were still delighted. There were some who wanted me to stay and find a provision within the C of E. I personally don’t think that’s possible.
How long is it going to take you to put together a Governing Council?
We will have an interim Council. You can guess who’s going to be on that! That will be my clergy; the three of us and Bishop Alan. An interim Governing Council, and we’ll be meeting together until Pentecost. It has to be at least six people; it can be more. Once the priests are ordained, we’ll talk about how that might be and what it's statutes might be. Half the Governing Council are elected by the clergy; half are appointed — by the Ordinary in the months after Pentecost.
Any clearer idea of the number of people and parish groups?
It’s very difficult to be specific about this because until individual members of the laity make that decision, we can’t be sure. I’d guess it will be about two dozen groups. Mostly around the South of England in the province of Canterbury; some in the North but not many. And about probably between fifty and sixty priests. But they’ll not all be stipendiary. Some of them will be retired. Some will be non-stipendiary, who earn their own money and they’re not a financial problem. About probably half of them will be stipendiary.
Can I ask if you have any sadness for the people you’re leaving behind?
Of course I do. How could I not for those that I cared for? The most emotional bit was the people who came for blessings that I used to give communion to. Some of them will be joining the Ordinariate, and some will not. I have real warmth about them. I enjoyed that bit of being a bishop. The best bit of being a bishop was meeting the people and being in the parishes. I’m really just a big parish priest at heart. I enjoyed those links with people. So of course I’ve been sad. But I hope that a number of people will follow me. As I was a bishop in the Church of England, the bishop has a role of leadership, and I thought that was important, that I should give a lead. I could have become a Catholic on my own. I have known Bishop Alan for a long while and I could have gone to him. As a bishop, I wanted at least the possibility of taking some people with me who wanted to follow that similar pilgrimage.
What of the future religious landscape?
I haven’t got a crystal ball, but I hope this is not in any way to be undermining the ecumenical life of England. I hope in fact it might be something positive for it, as the Pope mentioned in his speech at Oscott College: that by exchanging gifts, the things that we bring from Anglicanism and the things we receive from the Catholic Church, will be mutually helpful. And that will be a small thing for the move towards ongoing corporate unity, which must be an imperative for every Christian.
Originally the Church of England spoke of church sharing. Now it seems impossible?
I am not sure what you say is definitive yet. I don’t know what the answer is. Obviously there will be places where it will be easiest to worship in Catholic premises. There may be possibilities where there are some Catholic premises which are underused. There may be places where there will be a sharing agreement. There was never any idea that the Ordinariate would take buildings. That was just the Press. One or two bishops have said to me warm things about sharing. It obviously depends on the numbers going from that congregation. We don’t want any rancour or bad feeling. I would hope there is a possibility of some Ordinariate group sharing a church which they’ve used before. We’ll have to look at this on an individual basis.
[End of Part I]