Bishop Peter Elliott on Church as Communion and Next Steps for the Ordinariates

Today as we rejoice in the Communion of the Saints of God, we might do well also to consider what Bishop  Peter Elliott, Australian delegate for Anglicanorum Coetibus has to say in The Messenger about Communion, and our options as Catholic Anglicans.

Bishop Peter Elliott celebrates Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

…it is a matter of some urgency to clarify the options that confront traditional Anglo-Catholics at this time.  At first sight there seem to be four options: 1. Rome, via the Ordinariate or by personal reconciliation;  2. Eastern Orthodoxy; 3. the Continuing Anglicans; and, 4. remaining in communion with Canterbury.

However these options fall into two groups. If you take either of the first two options, you are entering communion with traditional apostolic Churches which understand the Church in terms of communion.  In the second two options you are either joining some form of independent association of continuing Anglicans or you are choosing to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The key word is “communion”.  On that we can all agree.  Across the four options, in varying degrees, this is a shared understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.  But communion as a visible reality depends on bishops.

He turns his searchlight on the option of hanging on at all costs; the option being encouraged, it seems, by the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid:

An ecclesiology of communion also throws light on the last option, that is, when some Anglo-Catholics choose, even reluctantly, to remain in communion with Canterbury, “come what may” as they say.  Note that I only refer to convinced traditional Anglo-Catholics.  I do not include those Anglicans who, in conscience, do not hold to the necessity of apostolic order as taught by the Tractarians and their successors, that is, that bishops are of the esse of the Church.

Hard questions can be asked.  Could it be said that Anglo-Catholics who choose “to remain” have embraced congregationalism?  Do they contradict their own Tractarian insistence on “our apostolic descent”?  Are they now saying that the Church is a collection of local congregations of those who maintain Catholic doctrine and sacramental practices?  In this perspective, each parish becomes a Church in itself.  But how can that be?  What would St Paul, St Ignatius of Antioch and all the Fathers of East and West, say about this?

The vicar and parishioners can dig in and hold on, but others may ask whether they are in “the trenches” — or just down a bunker?  They can ignore the bishop and persistently regard their parish as a Church in itself, but whether they like it or not, official Anglicanism carefully maintains the forms of apostolic order.  Inevitably the day will come when empirical reality conquers.  The vicar will retire or die and. because this is pretend congregationalism, the parishioners know that they have no authority to provide a successor.  Then the bishop they pretended did not exist, will act.  He or she will send them a vicar not of their choosing or even close their church.  Do not these sad projections expose the unreality of the fourth option –when chosen by traditional Anglo-Catholics?

I would encourage you to read Bishop Peter's entire piece: but here is how he speaks towards the end of it about the practical steps needed for those considering the Ordinariate:

The steps towards establishing Ordinariates in the United Kingdom, the US, Canada and Australia are well under way.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has recently approved programs of preparation for the laity and formation for the clergy who intend to be reconciled through the Ordinariate. Here the key resource is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Clergy will also need to familiarise themselves with the magisterial sources for systematic and moral theology and the Code of Canon Law.  The “magisterium at your finger tips” may be found in an excellent series of paperback volumes, Precis of Official Catholic Teaching, obtainable from the United States.  These handy books take us into the living teaching voice of the Popes and Councils.  I also recommend the new United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

To establish the Ordinariates, two stages are envisaged next year: 1. the reconciliation and ordination of clergy who have applied for Orders in the Ordinariate and been accepted, then 2. at a later date, the first reconciliations of the lay faithful. The clergy will therefore be in place to welcome and minister to former Anglicans in a community that maintains the familiar Anglican patrimony of worship, spirituality, scholarship and pastoral care.  We saw how that patrimony has enriched English Catholicism during the magnificent papal visit to Scotland and England, particularly during the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman.

More concrete details will appear soon. I believe the model will be set by what proceeds in the United Kingdom in terms of a clear time line built around the two stages.  However, at present it is important to keep informed, for example through circles such as the Friends of the Ordinariate.

Read the entire essay at The Messenger.

Fr. David Elliott on Finding an Honorable Way Forward

Holy Trinity, Reading

Fr. David Elliott of Holy Trinity in Reading has a very fine new piece on his blog looking at the way forward for Anglo-Catholics in the UK.  Here are a few sample quotes:

I have been much struck in the past year by the number of people from around the world who have assured me personally and the parish of HTR of their prayers. This was magnified by my recent trip to Italy. Many of the nuns I met in various bookshops and other outlets indicated their fervent prayers for us. A Roman Catholic seminary I visited not only showed hospitality beyond expectation but assured their prayers for us and for the success of the ordinariate. In contrast I have hardly received any such messages from the Church of England. These and other issues give a great deal to ponder. Below I offer some thoughts under three brief headings.


The distinction between our us and our Oxford Movement forebears is that they were kicking up a stink to remind the Church of England that it IS catholic. We are kicking up a stink to tell the Church of England that it is NOT catholic. If we want to be catholic and we are saying that the church to which we blong is not, what's the point in trying to get a haven for ourselves within a church we believe is un-catholic?


Much has been made in recent days privately and in the press about the catholic group in synod. William Oddie has written an excellent piece on the Catholic Herald Website. I note also however that the chairman of this group unwisely wrote a letter in last Friday's Catholic Herald to express his deep regret that Bishop John Broadhurst had signalled his intention to resign. Bishop Broadhurst's reasons will run deep. He has invested a large part of his life to fighting a cause for catholicism within the Church of England. His reasons for now leaving must run along the lines of that which I have written above. But it is important for Canon Killwick and others in the General Synod of a catholic persuasion to note that just as Bishop John has made a monumental decision, their decision to 'stay and fight' is no less monumental. And just as Bishop John will have to justify his reasons so will they. I believe that the decision of most of those who wish to fight on derives from an honourable position to see the business through. Many of them have themselves invested great time and energies to the process thus far and are keen to ensure they look after those who are unlikely ever to leave the Church of England. What is so very difficult however is to see how this can be done in an honourable way.


No less serious in my mind is this extraordinary alliance with the Conservative Evangelicals. Are we to understand that those with whom on other issues we disagree almost entirely are to be the catholics' bedfellows on women bishops? Is the trade off that lay presidency at the Eucharist is OK (we all know it already happens unofficially). Are catholics to lay down every other principle in order to block a piece of legislation to be passed by an organisation which we already know to be un-catholic?


So… is there a future for the Society model. In short, yes. The Society model is a perfect model for disgruntled evangelicals. They too have set up a society (I think it is going to be named after S. Augustine (of Canterbury I guess, not of Hippo)) and for them this is an ideal model. They have very different scruples about what is a church and the society model will work perfectly well for them. They also have the advantage in this situation of not being against women priests but only against women in authority (an incumbent or a bishop) which would make the society model ideal for them precisely because they are NOT CATHOLIC.

Read the entire post.>>>

William Oddie Fisks SSWSH in The Catholic Herald

The Catholic Herald, which has given us so much good reporting on the Ordinariate over the last year, has a new piece online by William Oddie, author of The Roman Option, calling SSWSH an "incoherent scheme to undermine the Ordinariate."

Catholic Anglicans: don’t be taken in by this incoherent scheme to undermine the Ordinariate

The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda is not a credible alternative

By William Oddie on Friday, 22 October 2010

You may not have noticed it (I had hardly noticed it myself) but the C of E (having with deliberation decided not to make any “special provision” for those opposed to women bishops) is currently mounting a last-minute attempt to undermine the Ordinariate for Catholic Anglicans which is expected to be erected in the New Year. This scheme (which I have absolutely no doubt has the discreet backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury) would be laughable if there were not a real possibility that it might persuade some Catholic Anglicans who are seriously considering coming into communion with the Bishop of Rome to stay where they are. They should be warned: have nothing to do with this scheme. It seems to me to be dishonest, deceitful and both morally and intellectually bankrupt.

The name of the disreputable organisation which hopes to inveigle those Anglicans seriously considering the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus into staying exactly where they are is the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. This was set up last month with the backing of 10 bishops claiming to be of Catholic mind; I can only say that I know some of these men of old and the ones I do know are about as “Catholic” in any real sense as a clockwork banana.

They claim that they are “committed to the full visible unity of the Church for its mission in the world and also to holding central the gift of the threefold order of ministry shared with others, received from the first millennium and held in trust for an ecumenical future” – a shared ministry officially rejected by their own Church nearly 20 years ago. They speak warmly of the Ordinariate, which, they say, is “an exciting initiative for those for whom the vision of ARCIC of corporate union has shaped their thinking over recent years”.

So why don’t they join it? The sting in the tail is in the last paragraph of their creepy statement: “The crucial issue is the ministry of the Pope himself, as the successor of St Peter. Anglicans who accept that ministry as it is presently exercised will want to respond warmly to the Apostolic Constitution. Those who do not accept the ministry of the Pope or would want to see that ministry in different ways will not feel able to accept Anglicanorum coetibus.”

In other words, they really think that they can plausibly claim to be “committed to the full visible unity of the Church” (there it is, in the very first sentence of their mission statement) while absolutely rejecting any notion of being in communion with the pope. So their ludicrous outfit (which naughty Damian Thompson has dubbed “St Hinge and St Bracket”) will copy the Ordinariate in every detail but one: they will not be in communion with the pope (that is with over half of Christendom) but they will be in communion with all the women bishops the validity of whose orders they refuse to accept, and with the disintegrating Church which will have ordained them. Incoherent, or what?

They say: “It will require courage, and vision on the part of those who accept the [Pope’s] invitation, particularly amongst the first to respond”. True. And for those Anglican “Catholics” (and the dismissive quotations marks will now become inevitable) who do not have the courage or the vision there is always St Hinge and St Bracket. Is that really what they want? The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe rather than the Pope? Where’s the vision in that?

Do the Ordinariates & SSWSH Need One Another?

Despite the rhetoric being bandied about in this rather unreal period before the Ordinariates are set up, and as the situation in the Church of England itself becomes ever more confused, when persuasion and recruitment are never far from the top of the agenda and everyone is concerned to justify their own personal reactions to the Anglo-Catholic endgame, could it be that SSWSH and the Ordinariates, far from being warring rivals for the remnant of those in the tradition of the Oxford Movement, may turn out to be complementary and even part of the same journey of faith?

Much of course will depend upon the attitude of SSWSH's episcopal leadership. Will they attempt to rubbish or even downplay the structures which will be set up as a result of Anglicanorum Coetibus, or will they (as I hope) keep their powder dry and their options open? They must have been given food for thought by the recently restated opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, presumably speaking as the leading spokesman of the Anglican Communion as a whole, that women's ordination is a 'second order' issue. From the addresses and interviews he has given in recent months, the worrying truth seems to be that even Dr Williams himself has no visceral understanding (sympathy is another matter, few question that) of those for whom the whole concept of "second order" issues makes very little sense, particularly when applied to matters which have a bearing on the nature of communion and the validity of the sacraments. Purely on an empirical level, if women's ordination really is a second order issue for the Anglican establishment (although their attempts to relegate it to the status of 'adiaphora' have run into an ecumenical brick wall) why then has it become such a test of loyalty and even qualification for office in our church? Given that, the question needs to be asked how much real generosity could ever have been expected and how much leeway will the embryonic Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda be given now by the C of E establishment, when the very premise for the Society's existence is so profoundly misunderstood even by those of our opponents we thought did, to an extent, understand us? Because without that leeway, the SSWSH bishops will have to resort to illegality and defiance (how much appetite there will be at this late stage for that is anyone's guess — not much, is mine) and ultimately will be forced out of the Church of England altogether.

Again, Reform and the Catholic Group should be extremely wary of placing too much confidence in knife-edged votes in General Synod. As in England in 1991, we experienced the same degree of over-confidence in Wales in 1996, and the most surprising people either changed their minds, abstained or absented themselves for all kinds of reasons, genuine, confused or self-serving.

On the other hand, SSWSH could very well, if it is regarded by its leaders and members as a kind of halfway house for those who realize they will in time have to leave the familiar shores of the C of E to swim either the Tiber or the Bosphorus, help to keep alive precisely those liturgical, theological and pastoral traditions which the Ordinariates hope to repatriate within the Catholic Church, and which are rapidly being ditched by the western Anglican mainstream.

For the Ordinariates themselves, hoping to grow steadily, the presence of a well-disposed Anglo-Catholicism, even on a C of E life support system, could in all kinds of ways be more advantageous than one which has been suddenly put to death. Even if I am being consciously over-optimistic and resolutely non-confrontational in saying all this, such an situation can only have the shelf-life only of one generation of clergy. Votes in synods will see to that, given that Anglicanism has now been revealed in the words of one blog as "a fallible denomination whose essentials are up for votes." Some might think that in itself is reason enough for considering leaving.

Surely the task in which we all believe is the defense and the setting free of the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism, the attempt if not to save Anglicanism from itself (it's now too late for that) then at least the setting up of an authentic, orthodox and evangelistically effective alternative to the present doctrinal and ethical chaos. (Many of us would wish to add that in order to achieve this, union with the Successor of Peter is essential, not optional.) So, then, we should be single-mindedly serious in pursuing that strategy and not allow ourselves to be distracted and divided from one another by the short term political tactics necessary for even temporary survival in the quasi-parliamentary governing structures of contemporary Anglicanism. Whichever side of the Tiber we find ourselves in a year or so, we will still have more in common than that which separates us, the battles are essentially the same, and our divisions more about time scale than anything more theologically substantial.

As for the prospect of a joint C of E / CBEW committee in order to better facilitate the setting up of the Ordinariates, the critics are right. It's an excellent idea if it could be concerned with the transfer of property and resources and with resolving any disputes arising from that. Failing that, some offers of "help," however well-intentioned, are best declined.

Some animals lose their essential nature if they are domesticated.

Catholic News Service Story on Ordinariates

Please read the whole thing as I have only included parts for copyright reasons:


The bishop who leads the largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England said he plans to resign by the end of the year and join a personal ordinariate when it is established in England and Wales.

“I am not retiring, I am resigning,” Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham told an Oct. 15 meeting of Forward in Faith, the traditionalist group of which he is chairman. He added to applause that he expects to “enter the ordinariate.”

Bishop Broadhurst told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 18 telephone interview that he was “absolutely, absolutely” certain that a personal ordinariate would soon come into existence in England but did not know exactly when.


Several Anglican organizations have reacted to mounting speculation of many more conversions by announcing in an Oct. 19 statement that they can amend the church’s legislation on women bishops to protect the rights of objectors.

They believe they can force the Church of England to recognize the newly established Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda as an Anglican equivalent of the Catholic ordinariate that would offset the many possible defections to the Catholic Church.

The society will be nearly identical in structure to a Catholic ordinariate, having no women priests or bishops, and its members will be served by their own bishop rather than the local diocesan bishop.


A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales told CNS Oct. 19 that no timetable had been agreed on for the establishment of an ordinariate.

He said the bishops were awaiting confirmation from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that there was sufficient interest in the ordinariate before it could be set up.


I find a couple of things interesting in this.  Had anyone else heard the SSHSW was supposed to be an Anglican equivalent of an ordinariate?

And what does sufficient interest mean?