05 January 2011

The English Ordinariate

William Oddie writes in the Catholic Herald:

The English ordinariate, it seems, will be well on its way by the middle of this month. Three former Anglican bishops were received into full communion with the Catholic Church during a Mass at Westminster Cathedral on January 1. One of the comments following the Herald online report, noting that they were received in secular clothing, opines that “For Bishops to wear ties is simply saintly and to lose all that prestige they once held is stunning to the mind of a Catholic Bishop”.

Well, indeed. But I think that their former prestige is the least important aspect of what they are giving up: they are abandoning certainty and recognition within an established institution, for uncertainty within an institution – the ordinariate – that doesn’t even exist yet. What this shows is an absolute faith in the Catholic Church of which it will be a part, especially as it is embodied by the present Holy Father.

I last saw the most senior of the three, John Broadhurst, formerly Bishop of Fulham, splendidly caparisoned in full episcopal fig (I have known him, on and off, for over 30 years, and have never seen him except in clericals: I can hardly imagine him in a secular collar and tie) at the 150th anniversary of that great Anglo-Catholic institution, Pusey House, Oxford, just after the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus. I asked him for his reaction to the document (it was pretty clear that most of those present were elated by it): his reply had to do, not with the visionary excitements of the proposed ordinariate, but with its practicability: “it’s doable”, he simply replied.

Now, it’s being done (by him and others), and at a dizzying speed. After their ordination on January 1, the three former “flying bishops” will be ordained to the Catholic diaconate on January 13, and to the priesthood two days later. This, I am pretty sure, is unprecedented: Anglican clergy have previously had to undergo a period of seminary training before they are accepted for ordination in the Catholic mainstream.

What this new development demonstrates, apart from anything else, is the degree of knowledge, gained by the former Cardinal Ratzinger after a decade and a half of discussions with these men, of their already existing understanding of and belief in Roman Catholic doctrine and practice (entirely based, since its publication, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and on other essential Catholic texts). The Pope is well aware that the Anglo-Catholic clergy who will inaugurate the world’s first ordinariate already have a degree of authentically Catholic priestly formation which some of our seminaries are today far from achieving or even attempting.
Read the whole article here.