The Tablet: “A unique moment”

14 01 2011

From the Tablet, by Elena Curti:

History will be made today [Saturday 14 January 2011. Ed.] when three former Church of England bishops are ordained into the Catholic priesthood. They will become leaders of the world’s first ordinariate set up to accommodate groups of traditionalists who want to cross the Tiber while retaining their Anglican patrimony

What was once a marathon for traditionalist Anglicans joining the Catholic Church has become a sprint, in the words of Edwin Barnes, one of the former Anglican bishops poised to join the ordinariate. Certainly the final lap has proceeded with extraordinary speed in the last few weeks. January began with three former Anglican bishops being received into the Catholic Church. This week,  the “personal ordinariate” of England and Wales formally comes into existence, and immediately after that, three former bishops are being ordained as Catholic priests by the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.

It was in November that 50 former Anglican priests and around 35 groups applied to join, although the numbers may have since grown.

During Holy Week, the first major wave of former Anglicans will be received into the Catholic Church and become founding members of the ordinariate, and around Pentecost, the first big group of former Anglican priests accepted for ordination will be ordained Catholic priests after undertaking a 12-week crash course at Catholic seminaries.

It is clear that the pace is being dictated by Rome, and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is working overtime to make it all happen on time. While attention was first focused on Anglo-Catholics in the United States and Australia when the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus was published in November 2009, it has since emerged that Anglicans in England had been petitioning the Pope for a way out of the Church of England, poised to ordain women as bishops with the likelihood of scant provision for dissenters.

Whatever reservations the bishops may have had about the invitation, they are now preparing to welcome the new Catholics. On Tuesday, Archbishop Nichols said the launch of the ordinariate and the ordination of the three former bishops was “a unique moment and the Catholic community in England and Wales is privileged to be playing its part in this historic development in the life of the Universal Church”. On the same day, the Bishops’ Conference’s general secretary, Fr Marcus Stock, issued a 10-page document setting out details of the new structure and addressing “frequently asked questions”.

On the question of why England and Wales had been chosen, he said he could only specu­late on the reasons. “It could be there is recognition that the home of Anglicanism is in England and Wales. More likely the bishops here are very advanced in their preparations for the ordinariate, or the numbers who have indicated that they want to be members of the ordinariate are such that it constitutes the capacity to make the ordinariate work,” Fr Stock told me.

One of the most pressing issues facing the ordinariate will be finance. The first wave of Anglican priests are expected to resign their posts on 1 March. Fr Stock made it clear that,  once they have resigned, they will have to cease their Anglican ministry forthwith and begin preparing with their lay groups to join the Catholic Church. Attitudes of diocesan bishops will vary, but it is likely that the priests will stop receiving their stipends soon after their resignations, and in some cases will need to find accommodation quickly for themselves and their families. Fr Stock said Catholic ­bishops were ready to make provision if necessary, and they were also trying to identify paid work for the newcomers as chaplains in schools, hospitals and prisons, as well as the possibility of supply work in local Catholic parishes. The ordinariate will have to be self-financing, though it has received a £250,000 donation from the bishops’ conference as well as “substantial” donations from individuals, communities and charities.

Fr Stock is keen for the Holy Week receptions into the ordinariate to be sensitive in order to maintain good ecumenical relations.”There will be no semblance of triumphalism, but what there will be is a warm welcome for people who have had a difficult journey.”

A principal church for the ordinariate has not yet been found and finding suitable premises, said Fr Stock, is not easy. “It’s got to be a reasonable size, it’s got to be in a location where there are good communications. There have to be potential facilities for social activities and meetings, maybe even some office accommodation for the ordinariate’s base, and some associated living space for the ordinary close to the principal church.”

The name of the ordinary, or leader of the ordinariate, will be announced via a papal bull issued by the Secretariat of State soon, and speculation is growing that it will be the former Bishop of Richborough, Keith Newton, one of the bishops being ordained today as priests.

Ordinariate parishes will be able to use the Roman rite, but the only liturgical rite presently available that respects Anglican patrimony is one used in the United States called the Book of Divine Worship. It is not yet approved for use in England and Wales, but Fr Stock said the ordinariate was looking to a much wider recognition of Anglican patrimony.

“Rather than just a missal, we are probably looking at a sacramentary – something that would include other rites than just the rite of Mass that would respect that Anglican patrimony: things like Evensong, Morning Prayer, marriage rites, funeral rites which might have variations to what we currently use in the Roman breviary. All that has to be developed by the ordinariates themselves.”

Stories have already emerged of disputes within Anglican parishes where the priest and part of the congregation want to join the ordinariate. Some priests interested in joining the ordinariate are worried about what the future holds. Fr Tim Bugby, honorary chaplain at the Anglican Church of Christ the King in Bloomsbury, central London, told a meeting for those contemplating the move that Anglican priests had been warned they risked losing their licence and their living just for speaking out in favour of the new body.

“We are aware that a great deal of pressure is being put on them – that if you declare for the ordinariate then you will have to give up your licence,” said Fr Bugby.

Last October, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he was interested in establishing a pastoral group with members from the Church of England and the Catholic Church that would offer help and advice to those thinking of crossing the Tiber. Such a group existed to ease the move of Anglican priests to the Catholic Church after the Church of England voted in 1992 to ordain women priests. Such an idea might well find favour with Archbishop Nichols, who in his statement this week praised the “sensitive leadership” of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Benedict on his visit to Britain told the hierarchy that the ordinariate was a “prophetic gesture” that “can serve the wider cause of visible unity between our two Churches”. There are plenty of Anglicans – and a few Catholics – who do not see it that way.  Sensitivity will be needed on both sides in the coming months.

Timeline for the personal ordinariate of England and Wales

This week: Decree will be issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that will formally establish the personal ordinariate of England and Wales. It will give the name and location of the see.

Saturday 15 January: Ordination to the Catholic priesthood at Westminster Cathedral of three former Anglican bishops: John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton (they were due to be ordained to the diaconate at Allen Hall seminary, London, on Thursday).

From Tuesday 1 March: The first Anglican priests who want to join the ordinariate will resign from their posts in the Church of England. After 1 March, lay Anglicans who apply will be encouraged to attend local Catholic churches and will undertake the Evangelium course – a form of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults programme.

Ash Wednesday, 9 March: First wave of Anglican priests and groups of laity enrol as candidates for the ordinariate.

Holy Week: Reception and confirmation of former Anglican priests and laity into the Catholic Church via the ordinariate.

Easter to Pentecost: Formation continues for lay and ordained members of the ordinariate.

Pentecost: Ordination to the priesthood of those former Anglican clergy whose petitions for ordin­ation have been accepted by the CDF, having been ordained to the diaconate during Eastertide.

After Pentecost: Formation of newly ordained clergy continues in Catholic theology and pastoral practice “for an appropriate amount of time”.

June: Governing council for the ordinariate set up.