Transcript: Q&A Session on the Constitution

21 11 2010

This is an edited transcript of the Question and Answer Session with Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith, and Bishop Alan Hopes.

1.      There are 5 bishops joining. Are you expecting any more? Is it true 50 Anglican clerics are joining? Can you give us any idea how many lay Anglicans are coming in, and how many groups are joining?

+Alan Hopes: I think in answer to those three questions, I can only tell you that we know that five bishops are coming into the Ordinariate. They’re the only people who have actually indicated that they’re going to do so. So I can’t  really give you any answer about the numbers, but of course there will be… I mean, you know, we expect a number of groups to come across with their clergy. I think that at the moment there are about 30-odd groups that will be set up in the initial establishment of the Ordinariate. And I think, yes, about 50 clergy will be joining. I can’t tell you how large these groups are, and I can say that quite categorically.

+Vincent Nichols: People have expressed interest. But the only decisions that have been publicly made are the 5 bishops, and we cannot make decisions for other people. They have to make their decisions. Now, while they’ve expressed interest, and that’s fine, but they’re the only ones we know who have actually publicly said that ‘this is what I’m going to do’, and have acted on that decision. But the expectation is there, as Bishop Alan has explained.

2.      Who will choose the Ordinary? Will there be a temporary one first?

+AH I can only tell you that the Ordinariate will be appointed by the Holy Father, and that name will be announced when the Ordinariate is established, again by the Holy Father.

+VN I don’t think there’s any prospect that an Ordinary will be elected by the members of the Ordinariate at any point.

3.      How guilty do you feel that your church will benefit from Anglican difficulties?

+VN I think you have to get this in the broader perspective, as we said very clearly in the original statement, this is a response to requests. And it’s very interesting that yesterday, speaking in Rome, Archbishop Rowan said that he did not view this as an aggressive act, so I don’t feel guilty. This is a response to requests, and I think you have to be very sensitive to the point at which people arrive in their lives where they have a profound conviction about where and how they must live their Christian discipleships. And it’s out of respect for that imperative of conscience that all of this takes place. And again, if you look at the words that Archbishop Rowan used in Rome yesterday, he talked about with his two suffragan bishops, how much they talked through these matters with him, and while he said that he regretted this, he said that ‘they go with my prayers and blessings’. So this is not a process of rivalry or competition between our two churches.

And indeed, we believe that mutual strength is very important, because we have a shared mission, we have a shared task. We are not in competition over the task of bringing the gospel to this society. And, at the same time, we are planning a continuation of our series of joint meetings with Anglican bishops, with bishops of the Church of England. We will meet again for a couple of days in April, so that our mutual cooperation and deepening communion continues as well.

4.      What would be your message to all the parishes that do lose clergy?

+VN That, I hope, they will understand, that they will respect the decision that their clergy have come to, and maybe those who go with their clergy, and that they will understand it as sensitively and profoundly as their Archbishop, as the Archbishop of Canterbury does.

5.      Have any decisions been made regarding buildings?

+AH I think you’ll understand really that those decisions have to be made once we know where those groups are going to be, and they’ll be made locally – and those decisions will come out of local discussions, rather than from the top.

+VN I think obviously it depends on the situation, it depends on the disposition of churches anyway, but we absolutely respect the ownership of property – we’re not seeking to acquire properties. And I think, from our point of view, the simpler route is the best, and the simpler route is that those who are becoming Catholics use our Catholic churches.

6.      What about church-sharing? And ‘shared communion’? Would you rather they came out into Catholic churches in the main?

+VN Well, again, I think these are decisions to be made in each locality. It depends, I would suggest, on the availability of churches. I think our preference is for the simplest solutions. And the simplest solutions are probably that those who come into the Catholic Church use Catholic churches. But each situation has to be looked at as it emerges.

7.      Is it correct that the Ordinary doesn’t have to be a Catholic bishop?

+VN The ordinary does have to be a Catholic, but he doesn’t have to be a bishop. It is within church law quite proper for a priest who is not an ordained bishop to exercise ordinary jurisdiction. And that’s all the word means, that he exercises ordinary jurisdiction. So it doesn’t have to be a bishop. And that’s all very clear in the Constitution and norms laid down a year ago.

+Peter Smith Absolutely – so he will be a Catholic! Because that’s what they’re doing… They’re coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, so, taking about shared churches and confusion – when they celebrate mass, Catholics who are born and bred Catholics like me could go to their mass, and I’m in full communion with them, and they’re in full communion with me.

8.      Isn’t there something in the document which says that born and bred Catholics can’t join the Ordinariate?

+AH They can’t join it – they can’t say “right, I’m a member of the Ordinariate”; they have to remain within their own dioceses.

+VN This is not a ritual church that is being established, so it’s not as if the rite defines the Ordinariate. So, any Catholic can go to any mass anywhere. but, where you belong, so, whose jurisdiction you come under, is either a diocese or the Ordinariate. And those who are already under the jurisdiction of a bishop as baptised Catholics, cannot join the Ordinariate, cannot switch jurisdiction.

9.      Will Alan Hopes be the ordinary?

+VN You’ll have to wait till January, because it’s the choice of the Holy Father.

10. What place will the ordinary have on the Bishops’ Conference?

+VN They will be a member of the Bishops’ Conference, and while our constitution doesn’t allow for this eventuality because we never foresaw it, they will be a full participating member, I am sure.

11. What will be the liturgy for reception of convert clergy?

+AH They’ll be ordained, not received as Catholic deacons and priests, and they’ll be ordained in the existing Catholic liturgy. There is some idea that there may be an Anglican Usage in the Ordinariate for those who wish to use such a liturgy, but for the most part, they’ll probably use the existing Catholic liturgy.

12. What is the Anglican patrimony?

+VN This is the question that is most intriguing, and again, Archbishop Rowan referred to it yesterday, and again in the quotation that we give you from the Holy Father on our page. This, I think, lies at the heart of the prospect of this Ordinariate as, in the Pope’s phrase, a ‘prophetic gesture’. But the thing about a prophetic gesture is that you don’t see it in all its details now: it’s sensing something, and the Pope’s point is very important. He says that, through this Ordinariate, both the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church will grow in a practical appreciation of each other’s riches. And because that will happen, that will be part of the way that the two communions as a whole grow together, and in that sense he believes it will point the way forward for us.

So, what are the riches? Well, they’re not to do so much with bricks and mortar. They are to do with patterns of personal devotion; they are to do with what each of us regards as suitable spiritual reading; they are to do with how we approach the Fathers; how we approach some of the traditions of faith. They are to do with our sense of mission, because often clergy in the Church of England have a much broader sense of mission than us traditional Catholics do. They are to do with patterns of church governance, as to where there are consultative bodies and how they work. So I think in saying this Ordinariate is a prophetic gesture, what I think the Pope is saying and, as I say, Archbishop Rowan reflected it yesterday, is that we will learn more about each other in practice through this, and that will serve our wider purpose of full, visible communion.

13. Will more power be exercised by the laity? Will there be more devolved power?

+VN If you look at the Constitution and the complementary norms, then they do put in place a pattern of consultative bodies which the Ordinariate is expected to use which do not exist at present in Catholic dioceses. The Pope is open to this influencing the Catholic Church.

14. Formation: from whom, where, who is forming them?

+AH Those who are contemplating this move have actually been encouraged to begin their preparation already, and they started off in the middle of September and the beginning of October, and they’ve been studying the Evangelium course, which looks at Catholic doctrine, Catholic ethical matters, prayer, scripture and so on. And they’ve been working through that solidly each week. So their clergy have been doing that with them, we hope, and that will continue until the beginning of Lent. And then in Lent, already a course is being put together to help them with their sacramental preparation for reception into the Church at Easter.

That goes for the clergy as well: the clergy will have an intense formation period from the beginning of Lent right up towards Pentecost, and our seminaries will be asked to put forward a course for that. But the course is being worked out with the CDF in Rome, and the continuing formation will be based on that document.

15. Will the clergy go to the seminaries to receive this formation?

Yes. We’re in conversation with all the seminaries.

16. Will the constitution of the Bishops’ Conference to be rewritten? How will +VN feel about having a married man on the Bishops’ Conference?

+VN I personally don’t find talking to married men with children in the least bit difficult but that apart, no problem. But there won’t be married bishops. I don’t see why he wouldn’t have voting rights…

+AH He does have voting rights. But any other other bishops who convert could be invited to join the Bishops’ Conference. They won’t have voting rights.

17. Is this back-door married bishops?


18. Will it grow? What about money?

+VN I don’t know, we just have to wait and see. This is something new, we’ve not been here before the decisions are not ours, we’re responding to what the Holy Father has asked us to do, and I think we’re doing that in a very open and generous way

But decisions are with those who at present are in the Anglican Communion or on its edge, and they have to make up their minds. But we’re open to whichever way this develops: whether it develops into something significant, or whether, over time, the groups that come, just naturally absorb themselves into Catholic dioceses: we just have to wait and see.

The Constitution is quite clear that the clergy of the Ordinariate are the responsibility of the Ordinariate, and that’s true financially as in every other way. Now, that’s very difficult for the Ordinariate as it gets started, so we have been looking to gather together from one or two contributors and trusts a fund so that the Ordinariate can get going, and the dioceses have agreed that they will put £250,000 towards it so that it can begin to fulfil some of those responsibilities. But we will do this together to begin with, because the Ordinariate is part of the Catholic community in England and Wales. But the precise and final outcome of the second question depends on the Ordinariate.

+AH Just to re-emphasize what I said earlier – where these groups are going to be formed, local dioceses will respond generously too, with regard to housing and looking for ways in which they can be sustained – at the beginning, anyway – financially.