Ordinariate Analysis by John L. Allen

This article appears in The National Catholic Reporter.

No earthquake from overture to Anglicans

By John L Allen Jr

LONDON — From time to time in the church, developments come down the pike that stir up enormous reaction at first, but that, over time, never quite seem to produce the earthquakes that breathless commentary predicted.

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 decision to revive the Latin Mass is arguably one such case, as is a 2005 Vatican document barring homosexuals from seminaries. Both became an instant cause célèbre, yet, at least so far, most people would say that neither liturgical practice nor seminary formation has been truly turned on its head.

In the U.K., some observers believe a similar point might be made about the recent creation of a new structure, called an ordinariate, to welcome groups of former Anglicans into the Catholic fold.

When it was unveiled two years ago, supporters hailed the ordinariate as a way to end the ecumenical logjam between Rome and Canterbury. Critics predicted it would corrode relations with Anglicans, and that it would drive Catholicism to the right by embracing Anglicanism’s most determined opponents of women clergy and homosexuality.
Today, the ordinariate has been established in England and Wales, with some 1,000 laity and 64 clergy scattered across 27 different communities. Whatever one makes of it, there’s scant evidence of a revolution.

Observers say that a freeze in Anglican/Catholic relations hasn’t materialized, and the membership of the ordinariate is less ideologically defined than some feared (or, perhaps, hoped).

“The perception was that this would create a lot of division, and frankly I think some people wanted it to be a form of division,” said Fr. Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales. “I don’t think it’s created the acrimony that people were anticipating.”

Despite some early skirmishes with Anglicans — could ordinariate groups, for instance, worship at their former Anglican churches? — Stock says that for the most part, things are calm.

Observers likewise dispute the notion that the ordinariate is composed largely of right-wing ideologues.

“People might be surprised to find that we’re depressingly middle of the road,” said Fr. Mark Elliott-Smith, who pastors a small ordinariate group in central London. He said there’s a wide range of opinion, from staunch traditionalists to fairly progressive “Vatican II” types, with most people in the center.

In any event, Elliott-Smith said, members are not coming into the Catholic church to pick a fight, having had their fill of conflict in Anglicanism.

“We’re not battle-hardened,” he said. “We’re battle-weary.”

Observers also say the ordinariate does not seem poised for immediate significant growth beyond its present size, which represents roughly .02 percent of the 5 million Catholics in England and Wales. If anything, some contraction may be in the cards, as several clergy are already beyond retirement age.

Some predict a “second wave” of entrances in 2012 if, as expected, a synod of the Church of England confirms a decision in favor of women bishops. Yet that influx too seems likely, in percentage terms, to be relatively small.

“The second wave will probably be half again [the number of laity], and half the number of clergy,” said Diana Morphew, a lay member of the ordinariate in London. She predicted the crop in 2012 will be “more like a dozen clergy, and maybe 500 people.”
In the meantime, the ordinariate faces steep logistical challenges, including paying clergy stipends and finding stable places of worship. At the moment grants from the bishops’ conference, foundations and private individuals are filling the gap, but over time it will have to become self-sustaining.

None of this, however, is to suggest that the ordinariate can’t become an important part of the Catholic landscape.

Fr. Mark Woodruff, a former Anglican and an advisor to the ordinariate, believes it can help the Catholic church enhance its “engagement with the state and with civil society,” which has always been part of Anglicanism’s heritage in England.

Contrary to those who say the ordinariate is a blow to Anglican/Catholic relations, Woodruff also insists that it has an ecumenical vocation of keeping alive the dream of full unity between Rome and Canterbury.

“If it forgets that, it must fail,” Woodruff said. “I’ve stressed time and time again to these friends of mine that I do not want you to come in and pull the ladder up.”

“Otherwise,” Woodruff said, “it’s just going to be an ecclesiastical granny flat, and we don’t want that.”

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

24 thoughts on “Ordinariate Analysis by John L. Allen”

  1. After centuries of intolerance, The English are now known for their moderation. It is very unbecoming for the English to go into battle in the name of Religion. The English have learned their lessons well. Civility still reigns and that is why the ordinariate was launched without causing much of a splash!

        1. The above comments show the division of opinion within the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham about the Order of Mass they are likely to use. A priest of the Ordinariate I met recently said that many do not want a local rite but would prefer to use the modern Roman Rite, as they did in the Church of England. He intimated that it was only a few Southern English congregations who seemed keen on it.
          'It's not what we want,' were his words. In this he demonstrated a pure example of Anglican Patrimony and that is independence of thought and action. Yet the anticipated mishmash of sanitised Cranmer and the Sarum Rite is what is intended to give tham a liturgical identity.

          1. I don't see why this need be an issue except for naysayers desperate to grasp at any prejudicial straw they can find. AC and the CN make it clear that the Ordinariate will have free and unhindered access to at least three rites: the OF, the EF and the AU.

            Any and all of the ordinariate parishes in England and Wales will be able to use the OF (and express their Anglican patrimony in other ways), if that floats their boat.

            Ordinariate parishes in the UK or elsewhere (notably in North America) that wish to worship according to a revised AU will also be free to do as well.

            Where's the problem?

          2. It's hardly as if all diocesan parishes are identical in the way they celebrate Mass. The Catholic Church is not a monolith.

    1. Two good things have come of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Firstly it has eased the passage of a thousand people into the Church, with the prospect of more to come. Secondly, it has provided some much needed priests to the Church in England.

  2. Things happen on the internet at lightning speed. We're all waiting for the next snippet of news from twitter or blogs or wherever. If we don't get that instant fix then we get disappointed.

    The Church isn't like that. Parishes and groups will take time to come together, mature and grow. Once all the hype about numbers and venues has died down, we might actually get a chance to listen to what the Spirit is saying.

    It will happen – in His good time, not ours.

    Pray; reflect; adjust.

    1. Can anyone deny that the return of the Eastern Catholic Churches to the See of Peter has been fruitful over the past 400 years? That process began in 1596, with the Belarusian Church, and has continued with the Syro-Malankara Church as recently as 1930. These re-unifications have brought over 16 million faithful back to the Catholic Church.

      You must also accept that this has had at least some influence on the increasingly warm relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

      Good thing they didn't have the internet in 1596.

      1. The Orthodox just love the existence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. And how they stood in solidarity with the Romanian Greek Catholics as the state tried to crush them.

        1. LOL, I bet that this is sarcasm :)
          Truly, oriental Catholic Churches are rabidly hated by the "Othodoxes" Churches. The Russian Orthodox Church even allied with Stalin in order to crush the Ruthenian and Ukrainian Catholic Churches. That's why I call the ROC "Stalinian Orthodox Church". Fortunately, now the ROC do not have the power to crush an entire Church, but it would have it, it would certainly crush the Latin & Oriental Catholic Churches in Russia, Ukraine etc…
          The "Orthodoxes" are merely oriental Protestants who, by an accident of the history, kept valid sacraments.

      2. Can anyone deny that the return of the Eastern Catholic Churches to the See of Peter has been fruitful over the past 400 years?
        Well, yes they evidently can, and have done so.

        1. I wasn't referring to the political hierarchy of those Orthodox Churches who chose to stay outside the Catholic Church. I was referring to the 22 sui iuris churches now in communion with the See of Peter. Though there are many contributors on this site more learned than I on this topic, my quick research shows no Eastern Catholic Churches in 1595 and 22, with about 16 million members, in 1930. I describe that as fruitful. (Someone please correct the figures I've quoted, if they’re incorrect.)

          While you may disagree that these now Catholic Churches are having any effect on the relationship between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the links below might suggest otherwise.

          Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue Lays Out a Vision of Unity in Unprecedented Document
          7 October 2010 Representatives of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches have issued two new documents outlining immediate steps they can take to overcome their thousand-year separation. The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation finalized these agreed statements when it met at Georgetown University in Washington, September 30 to October 2. The Consultation is co-chaired by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh.

          The first statement, “Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future,” is an unprecedented effort to begin to visualize the shape of a reunited Catholic and Orthodox Church that would result from the reestablishment of full communion.

          The second statement, “Celebrating Easter/Pascha Together,” is a re-affirmation of the Consultation’s 1998 document, “A Common Response to the Aleppo Statement on the Date of Easter/Pascha.” In this new text, the members emphasize the importance of a united witness to the Resurrection of Christ, which lies at the very center of the Christian faith, and the scandal caused by the inability to celebrate this feast day consistently on the same date

          Orthodox Bulgarians call for unity with Catholics “urgent”
          23 October 2009 The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has recognized the urgent need to find unity with Catholics. The president of the diocese of Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, Tichon, Ivanov, told the Pope that the union is necessary because citizens do not understand the divisions and discussions between Catholics and Orthodox.

          1. "(Someone please correct the figures I've quoted, if they’re incorrect.)"

            Well, just off the top of my head, the Maronite and Italo-Albanian Churches were in communion with Rome prior to 1595 and still are.

            1. I stated “return” of the Eastern Catholic Churches in my first comment. I'm sorry if that somehow implied I was including those eastern churches that were never out of communion. (Sorry if the “no churches in 1595” in my second comment caused the confusion.)

              For anyone still wanting to understand my perhaps still unclear point–without nearly instant, worldwide naysaying on the internet, a whole series of re-unifications took place over a span of 300 years. Perhaps Anglicanorum Coetibus could be the small stone that one day starts an avalanche of Christians reuniting with the Catholic Church.

              Give it a chance. In 300 years we will know what happened.

  3. Even more, the Maronites were NEVER separated from Rome.

    "You must also accept that this has had at least some influence on the increasingly warm relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches."

    Absolutely not! The issue of the "unite" (they don't like this word) Churches has always been a problem in the relation between the West and the East.
    For most of the Orthodox they are simply traitors, and by many Roman Catholics they are still treated with mistrust. (Just go to Eastern Europe to prove this).

    Exactly the problem of the "Unite" Churches was the reason why the original request of some Anglicans (mainly TAC) to become a unite Western Church was rejected by Rome.
    Please do not connect the issue of the Ordinariates with the Unite Churches. Rome was clear enough by stressing that the Ordinariates are/will be part of the Westerm Rite that precisely this should be avoided.

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