Fr Keith Newton on Radio 4: Transcript

23 01 2011

Interview of Fr Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

on BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme, Sunday 23 January 2011

It’s a trickle that could become a significant exodus. Or not, depending on whose predictions you believe. Three former Anglican bishops have been ordained Catholic priests within the new Ordinariate, created by Pope Benedict to make space for disaffected Anglicans. And the man named as the leader of the group says he will not be looking back in anger at the church he’s left. Fr Keith Newton, the former bishop of Richborough, joins me now.

Fr Keith, good morning to you.

Good morning.

How many Anglicans do you expect will join you?

Well I think it’s very difficult to say and I wouldn’t want to make predictions about it because every person has to make an individual profession of faith. Until they actually decide to sign-up to the Ordinariate, we won’t know the numbers. I mean we think there’s going to be about two dozen groups; the size of those groups varies from perhaps ten, to fifty, to sixty, to seventy, but we won’t be sure about the numbers until people actually make that commitment, so I wouldn’t want to make any predictions about it particularly.

We have reports today from the Catholic Diocese of Brentwood that vicars in Chelmsford, Hockley, Benfleet, and parts of East London are being trained to become Catholic deacons and then priests, and that they’re bringing with them up to three hundred of their congregations. That’s a substantial figure.

Well I mean, again, I wouldn’t want to say if it was actually three hundred, I think that’s slightly optimistic and we’ll have to wait and see.  They’re certainly not being trained at the moment—I think that’s incorrect; I don’t know where that’s come from. And until they actually decide to resign then they’re still Anglican clergy, and none of them have publically said they are going to resign. But if they do resign to join the Ordinariate, the formation will not start until after they’ve resigned.

When does the Ordinariate begin its work?

The Ordinariate has started. It was erected last Saturday when the three of us were ordained in Westminster Cathedral, and now there will be a process which will begin round about the beginning of Lent, both for laity and for clergy. The laity will have a period of catechesis with their clergy–that’s learning about the Catholic faith—between Ash Wednesday and Easter, and just before Easter those who have decided finally that they wish to become in full communion with the Catholic Church, will be received into the Catholic Church so they can take part, then, in the Easter ceremonies—in the rites of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Day.  And then that catechesis will continue throughout Easter-time.

In the case of the clergy, which is the second point you asked, they will begin formation again during Lent and that will continue until Pentecost, when we expect those whose petition for ordination has been excepted will be ordained. But that formation will continue on after Pentecost, for up to two years.

Are you expecting that the Church of England will permit you to share some space in some of their buildings?

Well I think this is going to be on a case-by-case basis. I certainly hope that in some particular circumstances the Church of England will be generous and there will be some sharing of Anglican premises. I think normally, probably, our groups will worship in Catholic churches, and obviously if they had their own building that would be best. It might be possible for them to share with the local Catholic congregation, but there are some circumstances where we hope there will be negotiations for sharing of buildings, but those things have got to take place in the future.

Do you think it’s reasonable to expect the church you have left to continue to provide a roof over your head?

We’re not asking for a roof over our head. I think people describe this as though we’re competing companies; actually we’re all in the mission of the Church, in a variety of ways, and I think it would be quite an ecumenical thing for us to try and work together, and even those congregations which could share; there are certain things they could do together. We’ll have to see whether that’s possible.

What about the financing of the Ordinariate? How much money has been set aside to accommodate ministries?

Not very much, as you know. The Catholic Church in England & Wales has been very generous in giving a quarter of a million pounds, to set up the Ordinariate. We’re looking for other people to donate some money, we’ve received a few offers already and there are some others. In the long term the Ordinariate will have to be self-financing, but this is going to take some time to get there. So we’ll need donors—the Catholic Church will be helpful in finding some property for the clergy who need property to live in. We’re hoping we’ll find some forms of part-time work, particularly chaplaincies in schools, or hospitals, or prisons—something that is linked to the priestly life that they may be able to do, and we’ve already had some offers from some charities who might find some part-time work. There will be work to help in the local dioceses in which an Ordinariate congregation is set—what you’ve got to understand: that Catholic priests are paid in a very different way from the way Anglicans are paid and so there’s a whole new system we need to get into. So if they take part in helping to supply in the local diocesan Catholic parishes, they will receive some money from that, so there are various ways. We’ve got to look at how each individual priest will have sufficient resources for him to live in a reasonable way—and that’s particularly if he’s a married man with a family.

Fr Keith Newton, many thanks to you.