A Father in God: a Father in Deed

Crispian Hollis, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, announced his retirement earlier this year.  He is approaching seventy-five, and is due to hand over his office to another.  Yet when he ordained me four months ago, and more recently ordaining three ordinariate priests, he could not have been more pastoral and caring for us and our families.

He admitted that originally he was puzzled at the Holy Father's initiative with Anglicanorum Coetibus, and worked hard to understand it.  Now he is one of its firmest advocates among the Catholic Bishops, and is determined to help us make it work.

Today he included us Ordinariate priests along with his Diocesan priests, sending us all a letter.  He explains in it that he has been unwell, had had a scan, and that the likelihood is that he will have to face major surgery sometime in September — yet he is still determined to join the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes at the end of next month.

He asks us for our prayers — and I should like to extend that request to you reading this blog.  He has proved a true Father in God to the Ordinariate in his diocese.  We owe him a great deal — and praying is the very least, and the very best, we can do for him.

[These few photographs of Bishop Crispian picture him among his people, and at an Ordination.]

POSTSCRIPT:  You may have seen that one of the Catholic Societies of the Church of England has been able to make a donation to the Ordinariate.  There was a request from Msgr Newton for a much smaller donation from the Church Union.  The request met with opposition from some of the Officers of the Union.  Accordingly I shall not stand for re-election as President, and if you want to read my reasons you will find them at http://www.churchunion.co.uk/index.htm.  Now I find that the link is not, apparently, working; you might need to Google Church Union and go from their Church Observer page to the Welcomepage. Good hunting!

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.

20 thoughts on “A Father in God: a Father in Deed”

  1. Two points. I think it is amazing that Bishop Crispian Hollis has changed his mind about the Ordinariate, considering that it was he who thought Cardinal Hume had had a brainstorm after the consequences of the General Synod's decision to ordain women became apparent in 1992. Cf William Oddie.

    It does not surprise me that the Church Union has taken an obtructionist line on assisting the Ordinariate. It has long ceased to be a strong political force and now consists of a ragged residue of High Church opinion. The days of F. P. Coleman, the most gifted secretary since the war, have long gone. Intellectual and theological force is a thing of the past.

    All the British Anglo-Catholic societies – the CBS, Guild of All Souls, Church Union, Fidelity Trust, Society for the Maintenance of the Faith, Society of the Faith etc – have enormous funds derived from decades of legacies made by Anglo-Catholics for whom prayer for reunion formed a central part of their intercessory lives. Only the CBS and the Catholic League have been willing to make significant subventions to the Ordinariate. The remainder's reluctance to do so points to an absolute anti-Roman mentality that has formed part of the Anglo-Catholic movement from the beginning and is now in the ascendant, despite the positions held by past members. They have nothing to support with their capital and are simply sitting on it. Perhaps the rewards will be scooped up by Affirming Catholicism, a body whose policies are anathema to orthodox Anglo-Catholic practise.

  2. Bishop Hollis is atypical of the RC hierarchy of England and Wales. I'm not sure that any other bishop is the grandson of one Anglican Bishop and the nephew of another. Also, few were as well educated. His parents were gentlefolk – his father was a Tory MP for Devizes. They were friends of Ronald Knox and Evelyn Waugh and were received into the Church at about the same time. His education was therefore that of his class – Stonyhurst, National Service, Oxford and only then the seminary and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He is very much loved and his announcement that he has been diagnosed with a probably malignant bowel cancer is very sad news. It is absolutely typical of him that he has postponed his surgery in favour of a pilgrimage to Lourdes. He's been leading pilgrimages there just about annually since 1967.

  3. John Bowles has harsh words for some Anglican clergy. It is, of course very hard indeed to face up to the logical consequences of what is happening in the Church of England. Many of the best minds of our time did just that when they thought through the implications of the ordination of women. Others have now made a perilous leap of faith in response to Anglicanorum Coetibus. There are of course others who are deeply troubled by the implications of the CoE purporting to consecrate women bishops (how can one be out of communion with one's diocesan?) and who are preparing to make the crossing. It's not easy to give up a home, a stipend, a church, a congregation for the uncertainty of the Ordinariate – in fact it requires great courage.

    Yes there are those who are hoping against hope for some fudge which will enable them to continue to operate what one might categorise as a church within a church.

    But we should remember that is very hard to for many clergy to face up to the fact that they will probably have to leave behind most of a congregation nurtured for years, The CofE laity see and hear the vast majority of the CofE episcopate and clergy assuring them that everything is doctrinally sound and for the good of the church. Voices crying in the wilderness tend to get drowned out by the re-runs of Dawn French in "The Vicar of Dibley".

  4. The biggest test of Anglo-Catholic integrity lay in the General Synod's vote in favour of the ordination of women in 1992. This led many to realise that the Church of England could no longer claim to be Catholic in a recognisable sense and the result was the departure of many clergymen and an even greater number of instructed laymen. The promulgation of Anglicanorum Caetibus has led to more departures. Nobody who fully understands Catholic integrity can continue to remain in a body that has abandoned a serious claim to be part of the Catholic Church. Whatever rites and ceremonies they use, they are now merely High Churchmen in an intrinsically Protestant sect, perpetrating a self-authenticating tradition founded on make believe.

    The principle point of my earlier comment was to emphasize the lack of integrity in the use of significant capital by Anglo-Catholic societies. This has principally been accumulated from legacies left by earlier generations in order to promote the Anglo-Catholic cause. Many of those who made the legacies would, if they were alive today, be unable to recognise the modern Church of England. It is entirely foreign to their understanding of the Church, and the Anglo-Catholic position they espoused is no longer tenable. The obvious use of these legacies is application to the funding of the Ordinariate. 'Papalist' bodies like the Society of Mary and the Society of Our Lady of Walsingham have massive capital reserves lying idle. Those who enabled these reserves to accumulate would rejoice at the papal initiative that brought the Ordinariate into being as much as they would despair of a body they believed was once fully Catholic. It was the aim of catholicizing the Church of England from within until reunion could be achieved that formed part of their convictions.

    It is easy to make sentimental excuses for not following the path of truth but the essence of a priest's life is to teach the truth as revealed by Jesus Christ and a failure to do so constitutes little more than self-seeking accomodation. The remaining shrines of Anglo-Catholicism are little more that ritualistic, congregational entities deprived of any basis for solid teaching. They have become anachronistic and no longer have a valid place in current Anglicanism. Yet the considerable financial reserves held by Anglo-Catholic societies no longer have an application that their founders and former supporters would recognise. If these considerable reserves were applied to the support of the Ordinariate much good would be achieved consistent with the convictions of the past. It would only take £5m to establish the Ordinariate on a secure foundation and these societies could provide that sum with ease.

    1. "Nobody who fully understands Catholic integrity can continue to remain in a body that has abandoned a serious claim to be part of the Catholic Church. Whatever rites and ceremonies they use, they are now merely High Churchmen in an intrinsically Protestant sect, perpetrating a self-authenticating tradition founded on make believe."

      In other words, the Church of England had reduced itself to the status of — or effectively acknowledged that it has always been the same kind of institution as — the Church of Sweden or, indeed, the other Scandinavian Lutheran state churches.

      1. The work of Diarmaid MacCulloch has as conclusively demonstrated the Protestantism of the English Reformation, as Eamon Duffy has demonstrated its lack of necessity. Both have succeeded in making Anglo-Catholic claims look like self-authenticating fantasy. The main difference between English and Scandinavian Protestantism is that the latter was less destructive and more ritualistic.

  5. Mr Bowles,

    Before one makes any assumptions about what a particular charity can or cannot do by way of support for the Ordinariate, it is vitally important to look at the terms of the trust to which the trustees are duty bound to respect. Those terms vary quite widely from society to society.

    1. By a happy chance a majority of the trustees of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament are members of the Ordinariate and this has not prevented them from making a generous subvention from the Confraternity's funds. Nor has the Catholic League been constrained by its title deeds from giving similar financial support. I believe that the League is shortly coming to an end because it aims have at last been realised.

      I would hazard that the majority of Catholic societies could do what they please with their funds. Many years ago there was a secretary to the Fidelity Trust who regularly made the point to beneficiaries who applied for funds deposited in the Trust for their benefit that the trustees could spend their funds on ocean cruises and were in no way bound the honour their obligations in the breach.

      All terms of the Anglo-Catholic societies are fulfilled in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, not least those associated with the Anglican shrine. As far as the shrine's own title deeds are concerned, is the prohibition made by Fr Patten to the buildings being given to Rome. At the back of his mind lay the conversion of the Benedictine monks of Caldey in 1913 which annoyed many of their former supporters. Had Fr Patten lived to the present time (a physical impossibility, I realise) he would have had no hesitation in changing his mind.

      1. Mr Bowles: your assertion: "I would hazard that the majority of Catholic societies could do what they please with their funds" is in all probability stuff and nonsense,

        Trust objectives for charities are rarely drawn so widely as to enable trustees to act with absolute discretion. Each society will have its own constitution and its own rules. Ultimately these fall to be construed by the Courts. The trustees are under a duty to act within the terms of the particular trust instruments and they can be held personally liable if they act in breach of trust.

        In the case of the CBS, it went through the necessary hoops to extend its objects to encompass the Ordinariate some time before making its grant. Nevertheless the trustees took care to obtain the advice of leading counsel before proceeding. In the case of CBS there have been persons who have objected under the misapprehension that the members of the society should have been consulted. As it happens I think they are wrong about that, but the Charity Commission or the Court could rule otherwise – one hopes not.

        I am aware that the Catholic League has always had particularly wide objects and it has always been an interdenominational charity. It has given much support to the Ordinariate.

        As appears from Father Barnes's initial post, the objects of the Church Union appear to be differently drawn and two different Counsel have produced opposing opinions as to what it may do.

        In such circumstances, the only safe course for trustees is either to procure an amendment of the trust instrument to clarify the position or to obtain a declaration from the Court as to the proper interpretation of the trust objectives. Both courses may involve considerable time and expense.

        The fact is that the Ordinariate needs resources and it is to be hoped that Catholics will step up to the plate and be generous in their support of their newly-welcomed brothers and sisters in Christ.

        1. Trust deeds can be varied by the Charity Commissioners when the conditions of a trust have changed. The application of the work of the Anglo-Catholic societies has been nullified by fundamental changes in the nature of the Church of England. There is no longer anything for them to address. Their aims have either been achieved (there is no need for tabernacle treasuries or black vestments nor of incentives to venerate Our Lady; a theological and doctinal base for Catholic order is no longer applicable) or have ceased to apply in a realistic form.

          The aims of these societies have been collectively subsumed into the Ordinariate where their work is continued as the norm rather than a choice. If their trust deeds are read objectively there is nothing to stop them from contributing towards its maintenance.

          The only exceptions are societies that hold the patronage of livings, ie the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith and the Guild of All Souls. But even their accumulated capital would be better spent on the Ordinariate. Given diocesan reorganisation and administration, notably in country districts, it is hard enough for them to carry out their objectives.

          I have been a trustee of three redundent trusts which have been given a new life by variation without the intervention of counsel's opinion. That is part of the work of the Commissioners. It is usually a small body of belligerant opponents which brings in expensive lawyers or litigation. Fortunately the4se trusts were so obscure that this was obviated.

          1. The last two sentences of my comment should read: It is usually a small body of belligerant opponents which bring in expensive lawyers or litigation. Fortunately the trusts were so obscure that this was obviated.

  6. Now I hear from Msgr Broadhurst that he too is not standing for re-election, though he has been a member of the Council of the Church Union for nearly forty years, and vice-chairman for fifteen. It is hard to see how the objects of the Trust can be met when there is nothing left in the Church of England which can any longer allow it to be called "catholic"..

    1. Mgr Barnes

      Were you and Mgr Broadhurst to remain associated with the Church Union, would not this be a re-run of the Anglican and Roman sections of the Society of the Holy Cross that briefly followed the crisis of 1992? I believe that the Roman section has been abandoned?

  7. Just as a postscript, I note that the website of the the Church Union proclaims its objective to be "Seeking to promote and renew Catholic Faith and life within the Church of England"

    I agree that the fantasy of a "church within a church" has effectively become untenable. The CofE is already part of the Porvoo Communion with the other Lutherans Churches in Europe to which Dr Tighe refers. Perhaps the Church Union should adopt St Jude as its new patron.

  8. he will have to face major surgery sometime in September — yet he is still determined to join the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes

    I'm surprised by your "yet'. Ought it not be "so"?

    1. I'm not sure that a blog post should be analysed as if it were an encyclical.

      Your choice of words implies that the prospect of major surgery increased the Bishop's determination to participate in the diocesan pilgrimage, while the words of Father Barnes imply that Bishop Hollis regards his annual pilgrimage as the diocesan of Plymouth as having much greater importance than the timing of his surgery.

      If one looks at the record, the Bishop has led annual pilgrimages to Lourdes since he was part of the Oxford University Chaplaincy back in 1967 and he is Patron of CA Hospitalité which is the solidality which groups the doctors, nurses, handmaids and brancardiers for the sick as well as the chaplains.

      I suggest that Father Barnes has it right.

  9. I had the pleasure of meeting with Bishop Hollis when I attended a summer class at St. Aldate's college in Oxford. I attended a Mass at St. Aloysius church and he celebrated Mass. Very very "severe", but charming. I purchased a little book he authored called "Catholic Oxford" and he autographed it for me. I think he told me he was the son of an Anglican priest, and had converted. What a fond memory. Oh how I loved Oxford. Catholicism dripped from every noble stone. Great web too! Glad I found you.

    1. His father was an Anglican who became a Catholic, but not a clergyman; in fact, the father was a Member of the House of Commons for many years for the Conservative Party.

      1. Thank you very much William. I guess I was confusing him with the vicar of a very high-Anglican church next to where I stayed. I think it was called St. Barnabas. Spikey! The priest said if the Anglican church ever ordained women he would swim to Rome the next day. Wish I could recall his name. I stayed in an area called Jericho I believe. I waked over to the church one Sunday afternoon for a rosary service and there were 7 people. St. Aloysius was packed every time I went to Mass. Coming events cast their shadows.

Leave a Reply