Seventeen Deacons

Acts records the first seven deacons; today there are seventeen more, former Anglican priests who were ordained in Westminster Cathedral.  No doubt there will be many pages of photographs eventually; now I seem unable to download any, which is a shame since there was a good picture of Fr Colven in conversation with one of us new boys, Fr Robert Mercer CR.

Fr Colven was one-time Master of SSC, and was part of the exodus to Rome in the early 90's, when first the Church of England tried to ordain women to the priesthood.  Fr Mercer has been an Anglican Bishop in Africa, a leader in the Church in Canada, and now worships with the Ordinariate Group at St Agatha's Portsea (see 'Ten Years in a Portsmouth Slum', by Fr Dolling).  Today we were in the Cathedral together with thirty or so other priests to assist at the Ordination, and especially to lend our support to our own candidates.  For Fr Mercer, of course, that was John Maunder.  What a great signal this sends out, that even if the Church of England cannot decide who is, or has been, an Anglican, the Church of Rome is more ready to accept those from other parts of the tradition.

In my case, Fr Brian Copus was my special concern, being a member of our Ordinariate Group in Bournemouth — though there were so many others who have been my friends from years back, and it would be invidious to pick out only a handful from the seventeen who were ordained today.  Others will forgive me, though, if I do mention Fr Stanley Bennie.  He is (so far) the most far-flung of our British Ordinariate — he lives in Stornoway, out in those Scottish Isles which seem to belong more to the Atlantic than to anywhere on the Mainland.  I met him first when I conducted a Chrism Mass for a beleaguered little Scots group — and now two of them are Catholic clergy.  May that number soon increase!

In his sermon Msgr Burnham said that if Catholic Anglicans were true to their words, we might expect a large influx after the General Synod in July — though somehow he seemed to doubt how far that would materialise.  Maybe another line in another patch of sand?

We had a very good turnout from our little Ordinariate Group in Bournemouth — some had left home at dawn to get to Westminster for 10am.  It is very cheering to see so many representatives of groups from all over the country.  We really must do this more often.

Another Former Anglican Bishop

So now we have a sixth ex-Anglican bishop in the Ordinariate — and a very distinguished one indeed — Robert Mercer C.R. no less.  It was so good to be present with a number of Ordinariate priests at his Ordination to the Catholic Priesthood in Portsmouth Cathedral yesterday, the Feast of the Annunciation, transferred to Monday.

Fr Mercer flanked by Mgr Newton and Bishop Alan Hopes

There will, I am sure, be many more 'official' photographs of the occasion.  I have some taken at odd moments which might give a sense of the very happy day when I can get them downloaded!

Vesting for the Ordination: Frs Robinson & Smith of the Ordinariate, & Fr Glaysher, parish priest from the Isle of Wight

There was some Anglican Patrimony in the hymnody — "Sing of Mary, pure and lowly" written by a Cowley Father, Roland Palmer, (and sung lustily to Beethoven's 'Hymn of Joy'), and, at the end, Percy Dearmer's "Jesus, good above all other" sung to Quem Pastores.  The Cantor throughout the Mass was Catherine Christmas, who fulfilled the same duty at my ordination a year ago.  Where has that time gone?

Also traditional was the Cathedral Bunfight — good to be celebrating on a Solemnity so that we could all enjoy a glass of wine with a clear conscience.  Especially good, too, that there were many present from the TAC congregation which worships at St Agatha's Portsea — several of them will very soon, I hear, be following Fr Mercer into the Ordinariate.  So let's keep our prayers going for them, and all who are soon to be following this path.

Among those enjoying the hospitality were the Parish Priest of St James' Spanish Place and the Chaplain to the University of Canterbury — trail-blazers both, one the former Master of SSC, the other the one-time Secretary General of the Church Union.  Ah, those were the days!  I have pictures of them; but for some reason I cannot download them, so I shall cut this post short and try to insert pictures into my own Ancient Richborough site.  Sorry!

Under Newman's Eye


Reading Oratory School

We met at the Oratory School near Reading, founded by John Henry Newman.  The occasion was a Colloquium, organised by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.  I went there, as did a number of other priests of the Ordinariate, not quite knowing what to expect.


Ever since leaving the Church of England last year, there has been a Society of the Holy Cross-shaped hole in my life.  The SSC was a great support and encouragement to Anglican priests during the dark days of the 1990s, and it had continued to sustain many of us until we joined the Ordinariate.  Did the Catholic Church have anything like this to offer?

 By Divine Providence it was just about the time that we were leaving the CofE that the British Province of the Confraternity was being founded.  It came about as a direct response to the Visit of Pope Benedict, and his beatification of Cardinal Newman.  For me, the aims of the Confraternity seemed to echo those of SSC: in brief, Fidelity, Formation and Fraternity.  But how would we ex-Anglicans be received?  I wrote to ask if it would be possible for us to join and attend the Colloquium, and had a very positive welcome.

The welcome at the Oratory School was no less warm.  What is more, I was pleased to find some familiar faces — not just from the Ordinariate, but also the Secretary to our Portsmouth Diocesan Finance Council, Dn Stephen Morgan, and Fr Selvini in whose Anglican Parish we had once conducted a Mission from St Stephen's House.

Dn Bradley, Fr Elliott & Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett

There were others, too, who had begun their priestly formation at SSH, or had some other past link with Anglicanism.  Of the Ordinariate, Mgr Burnham was present — no doubt to hear Mgr Andrew Wadsworth of the ICEL speaking about the new Translation of the Roman Missal.

Formation before the Liturgy Lecture

Fr Simon Heans is earning a crust back in teaching, so it was a busman's holiday for him to come to a school during half-term.  Even more this was so for Fr David Elliott who, besides looking after the Reading Ordinariate Group, teaches at the Oratory School.  You probably know, from his blog, that Fr Ed Tomlinson was there from Sevenoaks, and other bloggers are likely to add their own take to the event.  At both Masses during the Conference, Dn James Bradley, photographer extraordinaire and personal Deacon to the Holy Father, did the Ordinariate proud by never putting a foot wrong.  So six of us in a total attendance of fifty was a pretty good representation.  As more of the Ordinariate get to hear about the Confraternity it seems likely that more will sign up — though already there are twenty Ordinariate paid-up members.  Oh, and our Guru from Allen Hall was there too, Fr Stephen Wang.  So it was a very happy occasion.

For me, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury was a huge help, basing his talk on priesthood not just on St Jean-Marie Vianney, the Cure d'Ars, but also on his own pastoral experience.  Mgr Andrew Wadsworth opened up the new translation of the Missal in very revealing ways — how a new, more serious register of language might help in engaging the laity more fully in worship, and how reverting to the ad orientem approach to the Altar might remind us we are worshipping the Almighty, not our local community.

FIDELITY Bishop Geoffrey

Before we left we heard Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett from Australia, giving us the history of the Confraternity in the antipodes — for our international brotherhood began in the USA, continued in Australia, and has only now reached Britain.  He was prepared to answer, he said, "easy questions" — so Fr Peter Edwards rescued him when a googly was bowled asking his opinion of the English Hierarchy.

In all, a wonderful occasion.  We expressed our Fidelity to the Holy Father and the Magisterium at every turn, but especially in the Liturgy.  We were helped in our Formation by all those who addressed us.  Perhaps above all I welcomed the Fraternity I found, making me feel truly welcome in this part of the Catholic Church.  The Fraternity's web site gives information about future meetings, and about how you can register an interest.  While primarily for Clergy, it is possible for lay people to show their support by becoming Friends of the Confraternity.

The Societas Sanctae Crucis — Society of the Holy  Cross — has a long and fascinating history in England and beyond.  For me, this week's meeting in Reading recalled some of the same spirit as was shown in the early days of SSC.  How good the Lord is, in preparing a way for us.

No distant scene; one step enough for me. Mist begins to clear at the Oratory School.

Fr. David Houlding Interview

As the details begin to emerge of the Ordinariate for England and Wales, there is a danger of losing sight of how other people feel.  Fr David Houlding gave an interview to Ruth Gledhill.  It has been on YouTube, but it is difficult to grasp an interview at one hearing.  So I have transcribed it, in the hope that it will help others to understand just where one of the proponents of SSWSH stands.

* * *

Fr David Houlding SSC

I am concerned by the direction the Church of England seems to be going.  That's one of my reasons for staying in the Church of England.  I do believe in the C of E and I love it very much.

We don’t want it to appear as though we are criticising our friends… who have decided they have to move to the Catholic Church to seek communion with the See of Peter — that it is a very honourable catholic thing to do.  So I think we have not been able to say anything.

But nor do we think we are betraying the cause by staying in the C of E.  We’ve still got a job to do for the church, and we’ve still got to fight for the catholic understanding of the church.  And therefore that’s where we are: it’s important that we carry on and don’t just give up.

R.G. I think people well be very relieved — people such as myself for example — that the church is not losing its entire catholic wing.  But yet Fr Broadhurst intends to remain as chairman of FiF?

Yes.  He is.  Now whether that will last, I think, is very difficult because Forward in Faith, whatever he says, is an Anglican organisation; it is a political body fighting for a catholic future within the C of E.  If you actually feel that is no longer achievable for perfectly good, understandable reasons, then you do have to leave it behind; I think sometimes the things that you love…  Bishop John has loved Forward in Faith.  It’s been his life.  He probably finds it very hard to leave it behind.

R.G. And of course members of FiF love Bishop John; but are you really saying that he should resign?

Yes… because he doesn’t have any integrity by staying.  I don’t think it will help him to move things forward in the C of E if he does stay.

R.G. Father John?

This is not to criticise him; this is not personal.  He’s been a friend of mine for many, many years.  I think for him he is doing the right thing.  It is not a criticism of any of the bishops.  Rather it is an endorsement that they must leave things behind in order for us to move things forward.

R.G. Are they all in FiF?

Yes they are.

R.G. Do you hold a position in FiF?

I’m a member of the Council.  No more than that.

We have a lot of work to do.  We have to move things forward.  But we can’t do it, if you like, with a mixed agenda.

R.G. And is it the view of the Council that they should all resign?

I think it’s the view of the Council that we need to put a new leadership in place to move things forward.  I think that’s generally the overall feeling that I pick up.

(Spy cartoon of Bp of London and of Fr Mackonchie)

That’s Fr Mackonochie and he started up SSC; And I’m now the Master of the SSC.

Of course I looked at the Roman option with interest; for the catholic position as it were comes from the Roman Catholic Church and there is obviously going to be an obvious closeness; that means that we don’t just make the rules up as we go along, that we do look for authority from the wider catholic church in the decisions that we have to make in the C of E.  There is something about that Church of England its identity and the reason for its existence that is catholic; it is the Catholic Church in this land.

R.G. I know you’ve been among those working hardest behind the scenes to try and create some sort of  provision which is acceptable to all sides in this.  But at the moment it doesn’t look as though it will work.  What will you do if it just goes though without provision?

Well that is of course the $1000 Question.  I don’t know the answer.  I cannot believe that things will… but I  agree with you.  It does look very difficult at the moment.  Because we don’t want to create a separate church on the one hand which is in danger of doing that.

R.G. It’s a sort of 45th diocese rather than a free Province?

Yes, that’d be would be a very nice way of putting it.

R.G. We’ve seen this beautiful vicarage.  What period is it?

Oh it’s 1894 — designed by the same person as the church.

R.G. Now various World War analogies have been flying around; Wallace Benn said he thought we were in January 1939; John Broadhurst said the Church of England is fascist.  Do you believe we are in a war situation?

I think we are in a situation where we have to struggle for survival.  I think when you are cornered — human beings are after all only human — when you are cornered you do feel very threatened and you’re angry.  I get very angry about this issue sometimes.  You do say things that are a little bit too forceful.

How many do you think will go to the Ordinariate?

I think at first it will be small; because we’re still not sure what the Ordinairate is or what they are offering.  Some people are ready to go; if that’s where people are, I have no problem with it: they should go.  But there are other people who aren’t ready to go — people like me who still feel there is still something to do in the Church of England, it is business as usual…  We need to carry on doing our work.  I don’t see the need to go at this particular point.  And especially if you are involved in the discussions and the arguments like I am, and in the Synodical Process, I don’t think it's helpful just to back out now.

* * *

There was a little more about Fr Houlding's parishioners, but above is the gist of the interviews.  I am tempted to comment; but I think that is best left to readers of the interview, especially those who know Fr Houlding and heard him trying to commend SSWSH at the 'Sacred Synod'.  And now, let's just be happy because we have the details of the Ordinairate for England and Wales, and what we are being offered is more than generous.  Laus Deo!

Choir Dress

Our readers always seem to get more excited about "tat" than any other topic, so I thought I would stir the pot a little after an induction this week in Portsmouth diocese.  It was one of those curious occasions we have come to expect in the present, increasingly shaky, dispensation of The Act of Synod.

The new Incumbent among his people

The Parish of SS Peter and Paul Fareham has been a bastion of catholicism in Portsmouth (Anglican) diocese for many years.  The church itself is a bit of a hotch-potch; reputedly some Saxon long and short work in the ancient Chancel (which is now the North Chapel), a Chancel by Blomfield, and the heavy hand of, I think, Nicholson on much of the rest.  The great Fr Leslie Chad made liturgical sense of the space he inherited, putting in a very good nave altar, and confining the old High Altar and Tabernacle behind the Rood Screen, itself moved a bay or two to the east.  The Licensing was equally confused, set within a very decent Mass but including the various diocesan liturgical committee's bright ideas, such as taking the new incumbent to see the font and telling him what it is for.  It gives the 'lay chair' (which I thought you only came across in dentists' surgeries) and the Area Dean something to say.

So the licensing of the new parish priest was to be undertaken by Portsmouth Diocese; except that there is a vacancy in See, so the Bishop who did the legal bit was Ian Brackley who has been Bishop of Dorking (in neighbouring Guildford diocese) for the past fourteen years, and is just ending a stint as Commissary during the vacancy in Portsmouth.  Neither was the local Archdeacon on hand to assist him, since he is becoming bishop of Basingstoke, a suffragan of Winchester… and all three dioceses involved were, until some ninety years ago, all part of the Diocese of Winchester.  I hope that has not left anyone too confused.  The celebrant was the Provincial Episcopal Visitor, Keith Richborough.

Licensing Sermon

In the early 20th Century the C of E busily created new dioceses believing the church was growing apace.  Ever since that time it has shrunk, but left itself with far too many dioceses and bishops — and churches.  Portsmouth, once simply an Archdeaconry of Winchester with its own Archdeacon but no suffragan bishop now is established for a Bishop and THREE Archdeacons!  Guildford, equally, was an Archdeaconry.  It has its own Bishop, Bishop Suffragan, and two Archdeacons.  What is more, whereas Archdeacons used to have other responsibilities (usually Parishes) they have become increasingly insulated from reality by having no parochial responsibilities.

The vacancy in Portmouth, after the long illness of the previous diocesan bishop, was the ideal time to start reversing the trend.  It would have been no great problem for the Bishop of Winchester to have held Portsmouth in plurality, until all three dioceses were sorted out in due course.  But, no, the system will not allow it.  There have to be Acts of Parliament to undo the follies of our forefathers and reduce the number of  bishops.  General Synod prefers to spend its time ridding itself of catholics, rather than getting the diocesan system to face reality.  It is all a little like the Royal Navy, now with more Admirals than ships.

Well, back to the important topic of What to Wear.  Fr Christopher Woodman SSC was in plain alb and white stole, since he was assisting Bishop Keith of Richborough who celebrated the Mass.  There were others in cassock and cotta, some with and some without stoles.  There were some in surplice, scarf and hood.  The Bishop of Dorking was in Cope and Mitre; what a former bishop of Kensington used to call "matching hat and coat".  He carried a pastoral staff which looked like a close relative to a knob-kerry.  The Celebrant was, of course, properly attired in gold chasuble and mitre.  Earlier in the day I had lugged my black rochet and chimere down from the loft (others might have worn scarlet, but I do not like pretending to an Oxford Doctorate which I do not possess).  Is it part of the Patrimony?  I do hope not, it weighs a ton.

Choir Dress from Chelmsford and Winchester

It was good to have many brethren from our local SSC Chapter supporting Fr Christopher.  He takes on a new responsibility at a difficult time — even the Bishop of Dorking acknowledged as much — though he went on to be quite insensitively up-beat about how catholics should go on contributing to the C  of E forgetting that his liberal friends have made this impossible.  I believe Bishop Keith took him to task afterwards.  There was an outstandingly good bun-fight, and we returned home wondering just what it was we had been doing.

Report from Holy Trinity Reading

Yesterday's meeting at Holy Trinity Reading was evidently a great success.  Fr. Elliot posted the following on his blog:

Thank you to those who sent messages of support ahead of our meeting last evening. It was a very beneficial meeting and a whole range of issues were discussed. We were pleased to have representatives with expertise and knowledge in a number of areas: a seminarian, a priest able to advise on implications of canon law both Anglican and Roman Catholic, and two FSSP priests from Reading, Fr de Malleray and Fr Leworthy who were able to share their own experiences of being a part of the Fraternity of S. Peter, Church sharing and self-financing.

I was greatly encouraged by the thoughtful questions which were raised, and the courage which many people are displaying. There is much still to consider not least to do with buildings and financial structures. Much of this is in the hands of various hierarchies and we wait to hear further news from both the Roman Catholic and Anglican hierarchies as to how churches intending to take the leap into the ordinariate may proceed. In the meantime we continue to pray for guidance by the Holy Spirit.

Below is Fr. Elliot's full report on the meeting.

* * *

Meeting at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Reading
on the subject of the Apostolic Constitution
Anglicanorum Coetibus

The meeting was chaired by Fr David Elliott, parish priest of Holy Trinity. Most of the attendees were from Holy Trinity though there were representatives from elsewhere. Among those visiting were a priest with expertise in canon law of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, an Anglican seminarian, and two priests of the FSSP in Reading, Fr Armand de Malleray and Fr Leworthy. This meant that a greater number of questions could be answered from people with expertise in different areas.

Fr Elliott began the meeting by introducing the Apostolic Constitution using the headings What? Why? Where? When? and How?

Continue reading "Report from Holy Trinity Reading"