Austen Ivereigh on The Ordinariate and Wikileaks

11 12 2010

In a blog article for American Magazine, Austen Ivereigh comments on the content of diplomatic cables, released by the WikiLeaks website, which address the issue of the Ordinariates. Amongst other things, Mr Ivereigh says the following:

[T]here is one item which seems quite extraordinary, which in the UK is leading the reporting of this story: the alleged claim by Francis Campbell, UK ambassador to the Holy See, that Pope Benedict’s creation in September last year of a church structure for the reception of groups of Anglicans risked the worst crisis in Anglican-Catholic relations in 150 years. Even more bizarrely, he is reported to have told the US deputy chief of mission to the Holy See, Julieta Valls Noyes, that the move could lead to “violence” against Catholics.

As I told BBC News this morning — watch here — I knew, reading this, it wasn’t true: not just because I know Francis Campbell, and his reaction to Pope Benedict’s initiative; but because no UK diplomat with any sense — and Francis has more than many diplomats put together — would have said something so lurid and exaggerated.

He would have spoken about the tensions with the Anglican Church which Anglicanorum coetibus occasioned, the difficult position it put the Archbishop of Canterbury in, and the offence caused to Lambeth Palace by the way in which the move was announced — all of which are also reported.

But the remarks about crisis and violence are obviously half-heard, decontextualised, and distorted. I can imagine Campbell briefing a US diplomat about the history of Catholics in the UK, how in previous centuries they were subject to persecution and violence; and these words being cobbled together with other remarks in a second-hand report of a one-sided conversation more than a year ago, in which quotes are assembled after the fact by junior diplomats eager to big up the importance of their cables to Washington. Campbell, of course, cannot say what he did or did not say, because the UK Foreign Office is not commenting on the WikiLeaks.

What the cables miss out are the other parts of the picture: the fact that the Anglican-Catholic dialogue talks (ARCIC) are resuming; that the ordinariate was a response to applications received from former Anglicans in Australia and America; and that the coming ordination of women as bishops by the Church of England was likely to provoke many Anglo-Catholics to cross the Tiber anyway, without or without the ordinariate.

As it happens, whatever his understandable feelings at the time about the unilateral way Rome announced the move, the Archbishop of Canterbury has since spoken warmly of the ordinariate, of the sharing of gifts it will potentially enable and how, therefore, it is a means of advancing the cause of eventual Catholic-Anglican unity.

Click here to read the full article.

This BBC video has more on the subject.