11 November 2009

Response to questions...

Of all the aspects of the Apostolic Constitution, the section which seems to be the cause of most concern and questions is found in the Complementary Norms, Article 5 §1. The lay faithful originally of the Anglican tradition who wish to belong to the Ordinariate, after having made their Profession of Faith and received the Sacraments of Initiation, with due regard for Canon 845, are to be entered in the apposite register of the Ordinariate. Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate.

First of all, this is referring to future situations because at this point there is no Ordinariate.  Therefore, every Catholic baptism, whether in an Anglican Use parish or in a territorial Latin Rite parish, is administered 'outside the Ordinariate.'  Does this mean that the hundreds of people I've baptized at Our Lady of the Atonement over these past twenty-six years will be ineligible for membership in the Ordinariate?  Obviously that would not be the intention expressed in the Constitution. 

What about Catholics who have been baptized as regular Latin Rite Catholics whose children have received one or more of the Sacraments of Initiation at an Anglican Use parish?  Obviously, the child is eligible for membership in the Ordinariate, and it's apparent that the parents would have that same eligibility.

Because there have been Anglican Use parishes in existence for many years, there are many people who have made attachments to these parishes.  They've been married in these parishes; their children have been baptized in these parishes; their loved ones have been buried from these parishes.  Do we think for a moment that the Holy Father, who has been overwhelmingly generous in this Constitution, would intend that these Faithful should not maintain their ties - indeed, their membership - in these parishes? Of course not.

What about an older couple, with no other ties to a parish other than the fact that they've attended for years and have made the parish their own?  Would the Church tell them, 'Sorry, this isn't your parish any more.'  I doubt it.

In fact, I asked these very questions when speaking with a couple of members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  As I was told by one of them who has been closely involved in developing the Constitution, 'What does membership mean, other than a person attends regularly, receives the sacraments regularly and contributes to the work of the parish?  There will be nothing stopping people from doing that in parishes of an Ordinariate when they are established.'

The only time there will be actual canonical questions is in the case of marriage.  The Sacrament of Matrimony must be witnessed by the proper pastor (or his delegate) of one or both of the parties.  If two persons wish to be married in an Ordinariate parish, neither of whom would be automatically eligible for membership, delegation can be given by one of their proper pastors for the marriage to be witnessed by a priest or deacon of the Ordinariate.  But those cases will probably not be frequent, and there are always ways of dealing with such things in a pastoral way.

I think the bottom line is this: the rule sounds as though it's exclusive.  But even the rule is tempered by the word 'ordinarily.'  Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership...  There's no such thing as a wasted word in an Apostolic Constitution.  The word 'ordinarily' wouldn't have been included in the text without the probability that there will be exceptions.  Those wonderful words, 'for pastoral reasons,' will be much in evidence, I have no doubt.

These are just my private thoughts.  I'm not writing with any authority or in any official way.  But I know how things have been working for the past twenty-six years in our parish, and have no reason to think things will change with the Apostolic Constitution.  And remember - the Ordinariate will have an Ordinary, a real live person who has the pastoral responsibility for those who are attached (or who desire to be attached) to this spiritual patrimony.  Surely he, in his pastoral role, will assist any Catholic who has a sincere desire to be part of this, no matter where they've been baptized.

Honestly, I don't think there's anything to worry about.  God's in control, and this is really going to work.