Educating the Ordinariate

Fr Stephen Wang

So what does all this preparation for the priesthood entail?  For the first flush of sixty or so former Anglican Clergy from the Church of England and the Church in Scotland, it is involving us in one day a week at Allen Hall under the aegis of the Director of Studies there Fr Stephen Wang.  He has a number of distinguished academics lined up to address us, and today it was the Dominican, Fr John Farrell.  He somehow managed to compress into little more than an hour a conspectus of Catholic Ecclesiology starting with Vatican I's Pastor Aeternus and its background (Wyclif, Boniface VIII, the Council of Florence down to the 'enlightenment').  This helped us understand how in Vatican I 'infallibility' (so often the great stumbling block for Anglicans) is less important than Papal primacy.

A brief respite

A brief respite to stretch our legs, and off we went again looking at Vatican II and seeing how it came very naturally from the conclusions of Vatican I: and we considered Lumen Gentium and tried to discern how the Church as an ideal and as a reality is indivisible; both/and, not either/or.  Both a structured society with hierarchical organs, AND the mystical Body of Christ, and so on.  We began to tease out the implications of "subsists"… how the fullness of the Presence of Christ's Church subsists in the Catholic Church ('subsistit' rather than 'adest') — but we know we shall have to return to this.

We were given a diagram to help us understand better the relationship of the local Church to the whole Church – and when it came to  the Ordinariate we were helped a little by analogies with Religious Orders – did we really hear a Dominican say that the Dominicans were a Virus in the whole body Catholic?

The Pope and the Church!

After lunch (a very nuanced Lenten lunch, as John Hunwicke might say) we went to our study groups in which we try to tease out some of what we have been reading over the past week, and what we have just heard from our Lecturer.

Teasing out the Truth (some of Group 1)

On returning to the Lecture Room, we had a very quick run-down from spokesmen for each of the Groups, giving a flavour of the diversity of discussion which arose from what we had heard and read.  Then, unusually today, we had a brief presentation from "Aid to the Church in Need" (you can find them at  We completed the day with Mass, and since some will be in process of Reception and Confirmation next week, we were handed a double bundle of homework; Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Pope Paul VI — a short document of only sixteen pages, since those who are able will be back on Tuesday next — and the more weighty Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II — and alongside it the customary readings from the Catechism; this time two hundred and fifty paragraphs to amplify the thirty-five pages of Veritatis Splendor … but then, we are getting Easter Week off!

Geoff Woolnough giving the feedback from Group 7

Fr John Selvini was a visitor today — some of us remembered him from his Anglican days in Golden Hill.  He assured us that what we were doing was far more thorough and worthwhile than what he had done in years of Seminary preparation after he joined the Catholic Church.  I hope Fr Wang heard that and was duly encouraged.  It really is a very intensive but hugely interesting undertaking in which we are engaged.  It will not give us all the answers; but it will equip us better to look for those answers in the years to come.

Author: Fr. Edwin Barnes

Bishop Barnes read theology for three years at Oxford before finishing his studies at Cuddesdon College (at the time a theological college with a rather monastic character). He subsequently served two urban curacies in Portsmouth and Woking. During his first curacy, and after the statutory three years of celibacy, he married his wife Jane (with whom he has two children, Nicola and Matthew). In 1967, Bishop Barnes received his first incumbency as Rector of Farncombe in the Diocese of Guildford. After eleven years, the family moved to Hessle, in the Diocese of York, for another nine years as vicar. In 1987, he became Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford. In 1995, he was asked by then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to become the second PEV for the Province. He was based in St. Alban’s and charged with ministering to faithful Anglo-Catholics spread over the length of Southern England, from the Humber Estuary to the Channel Islands. After six years of service as a PEV, Bishop Barnes retired to Lymington on the south coast where he holds the Bishop of Winchester’s license as an honorary assistant bishop. On the retirement of the late and much lamented Bishop Eric Kemp, he was honored to be asked to succeed him as President of the Church Union. Both these appointments he resigned on becoming a Catholic in 2010. Fr. Barnes is now a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, caring for an Ordinariate Group in Southbourne, Bournemouth.

12 thoughts on “Educating the Ordinariate”

  1. Thank you, Father Barnes, for this very encouraging report. I also must say that I am so very edified by the humility (as evidenced concretely by the absence of clerical garb) and commitment of the fine men undergoing this formation. You all are an inspiration and example to many of us.

  2. God bless all of you. I prayed for you before the blessed sacrament yesterday. Seeing the faces and hearing what you are studying is a great encouragement.

  3. God bless you all, that is the prayer I echo, for you fill a tired heart with joy .. it would be wonderful if you could take Holy Father's mission to heart and begin to evangelise Ireland (Anglican and Roman alike)! For some future consideration, perhaps? If ever the episcopy/ presbyterate here would dare to allow such a thing; ach! well, sure wishful thinking is a wonderful thing – though prayer is better, no doubt, no doubt at all …

  4. Dear Father Barnes,

    Now you have left me wondering why it is that "'infallibility is less important than Papal primacy" in Vatican I. Would you be so kind as to share a kernel of the answer to that one with me and the rest of your lay readership?

    Wishing You a Holy Lent and a Happy Easter,

    1. "This helped us understand how in Vatican I 'infallibility' (so often the great stumbling block for Anglicans) is less important than Papal primacy."

      While I cannot answer for Father Barnes and his understanding, it is plain that the Council Fathers merely defined the limits of papal teaching authority (infallibility in office) they affirmed the divine promise and decree that underpins this authority for successors of Peter as oversight at Rome and its communion in the church catholic (primacy in ministry). The divine authority to teach is an infallible source which all Christians must adhere to if they are to teach in Christ, from him and for his body, each according to the measure of Christ's gift – but not all are called to apostolic ministry, or, among apostolic ministers, to a role of primacy in care.

      'That apostolic primacy which the Roman pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching.
      This holy see has always maintained this, the constant custom of the church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.' Vatican I, Session 4.

      Thus, any sense of infalliblity in papal teaching rests absolutely on the successive character of Christian witness i.e. to a primacy of care honoured in Petrine ministry, a singular office which shares a common apostolic ministry to teach with divine authority: 'that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals' – so the call by Christ is first, that to a unique apostolic ministry second, only then is a pope's office defined .. here in terms of limits or extent in teaching authority (among other apostolic ministers). 1 On the institution of the apostolic primacy in blessed Peter

      The place of infallible teaching authority in papal office – although most hotly debated by the world, not least reluctant catholics (including Anglicans) – was merely a corrective definition; for the Fathers, and what Christians ought to take out of the Council, the key to understanding papal office is the role of primal care in the shared apostolic ministry .. not the severely limited extent to his teaching authority set out by the Fathers:
      in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
      in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
      he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church.

      P.S. It isn't only wary Anglicans who need to see, recognise and understand the very limited place that Vatican I had for the issue of our common source of infallible teaching authority, expressed here uniquely in the papal office, many otherwise well informed Romans need reminding of the actual teaching at the Council (as opposed to apologetic or ultramontanist rhetoric).

      1. J.M.J.

        It is well summed up and presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church when it teaches:

        890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

        891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

        892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

  5. For each of these fine and humble men, I will offer my prayers this Easter Triduum. May you all experience true peace, comfort, and abiding love in our universal spiritual home and a most generous reception and welcome from your local diocesan brothers and sisters.


  6. It is the character of a disciple to follow the Master. So it is with these our brothers in Christ who follow the Lord's call through the Church to undergo study with the humility and grace to be emulated soon by many more in the USA in their journey to serve mother church. My prayers will be with you and may the Holy Week mark you with grace upon grace.


  7. Can anyone tell me if catholics under the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham have to keep the rule regarding Easter duties?

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