Giles Pinnock: Personal Ordinariate – a personal take

21 11 2010

From OneTimothyFour, by former Anglican priest Giles Pinnock.

The Catholic Bishops of England & Wales have announced how the Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans will come into being during the first half of 2011. Read their statement here.

Confirming much speculation, the former not-yet-retired Anglican bishops who enter the Ordinariate will be Ordained as Catholic Deacons and Priests very quickly and the former Anglican priests who follow them shortly afterwards will also be Ordained as Catholic Deacons and Priests pretty quickly, around or at Pentecost 2011, their formation taking place intensively before and continuing after their Ordination.

The phrase ‘indecent haste’ might come to the minds of some, but let’s think about it. Are these men going to get Catholic Ordination on the cheap, barely having to break step and only for a few weeks not being called and regarded as Father? Or will there be more too it – to whom much is given, from them much will be expected?

I can’t see on a practical level – at the very least – how it could have been done any other way. As a very recent convert Anglican clergyman who does not intend to join the Ordinariate, I feel I have barely landed in the Catholic Church, have not entered the discernment process and – if it is to be – would not be Ordained as Catholic Priest for at least, I guess, three to four years. My formation &c would take place before I were Ordained, as might ordinarily seem right and proper.

But the establishment of the Ordinariate is not ‘ordinarily’. By its very definition, it is concerned not with individual Anglican clergymen with no-one in tow other than their own family, such as me, but groups of Anglicans, often formed out of the Anglican parish communities looking to the Anglican priests who will have led them to the Ordinariate.

They are to be Received into the Church together, as groups accompanying their shepherds, their Anglican priests – it seems reasonable that they need those Anglican priests to continue to lead them, at least initially. If they had to wait two or three years for them to be their Catholic Priests, the group coherence which brought them to the Ordinariate might start to ‘lose its structural integrity’ (Star Trek’s phrase for a spacecraft falling apart, sorry).

And to take it to a very personal level, might I be jealous of my former colleagues and friends who will become Catholics after me – just – and yet be Ordained two or three years before me? Do I rue my decision not to wait and join the Ordinariate? No, to both.

But is that because I am unconvinced by the Ordinariate concept, either in principle or because I don’t think it will work in practice and so don’t want to hitch my horse to its wagon? Again, no.

It seems to me highly probable that the Ordinariate will prove an important step in a true ecumenism that will bring eventually large groups of Anglicans into the Church, and as such will be important and valuable per se. There may be all sorts of practical and personal problems and hiccups to delight the critics, but where the ARCIC process has for forty years drawn an utter blank because it has enjoyed no-one’s full confidence, Anglicanorum coetibus and Benedict XVI, Pope of Christian Unity, walk the walk rather than just talking the talk.

But I am not intending to join the Ordinariate, simply because I do not believe that its service is the particular purpose for which God has created me and called me into His Church – although neither can I say that I have yet discerned what that purpose is.

And I suspect that if the day comes when any Anglican seeking the full communion of the Catholic Church is routed automatically and without option to the Ordinariate, that might prove to be a bad thing, simply in the context of the discernment of each person’s particular vocation.

Because for the Ordinariate to be now and in the future not a containment facility for ex-Anglicans (as is uncharitably suggested, for example, on the first comment here) but a positive force in the life of the Church, what must – and I think will – lie at its heart will be a sense of a very particular vocation and apostolate, to which not all former Anglicans will necessarily be called.

And those who are called to it may well have quite a task on their hands – financially, numerically and in terms of defining and preserving the much-discussed ‘Anglican patrimony’, bringing to a full flourishing the ‘Catholic potential’ in Anglicanism of which Pope Benedict spoke when head of the CDF.

The pioneers of the Ordinariate deserve the prayers of us all, and whatever support, spiritual and practical, we are variously able to give.


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