Just 10 days old, the personal ordinariate for ex-Anglicans in England is taking its first baby steps amid much international attention.
Father Keith Newton, former Anglican bishop, now Catholic priest, and the founding ordinary, spoke with BBC on Sunday about some of the questions the first members are ironing out.
The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is the first response to Benedict XVI’s 2009 apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum Coetibus” (Groups of Anglicans). It provides for Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining elements of their distinctive Anglican patrimony. And as the first such ordinariate, it will serve as a model for those to come in other countries.
The question on the minds of many is: How many people are going to leave the Church of England and cross over to the ordinariate?
For Father Newton, predictions are unwarranted.
“[E]very person has to make an individual profession of faith,” he told the BBC. And because of that, it’s impossible to know numbers.
He suggested that about two dozen groups would make the change, and the size of each group could range from 10 to 70.
“But we won’t be sure about the numbers until people actually make that commitment,” Father Newton said.
The commitment does imply a significant step, and some members of the Church of England are still hopeful that Anglicans disappointed with changes in the Communion will yet find a way to stay within its fold, rather than becoming Catholic within the ordinariate.
A dozen Church of England bishops released today a pastoral letter explaining their hopes in this regard, affirming that “we are seeking a way forward that would enable us with integrity to retain membership of the Church of England.”
Though admitting that they “do not want to build up false hopes” and that previous attempts to “persuade the Church of England to make the kind of provision that would enable us in good conscience to remain within its fellowship has been thwarted,” the bishops said they are nonetheless “duty bound” to continue seeking “a way out of the impasse.”
“We recognize the huge change of heart that would need to happen for us to succeed,” they wrote.
On the way
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported today that seven more Anglican priests and 300 parishioners have announced their intentions to join the ordinariate. The group is from three parishes in Essex and three in East London.
For these people and others like them, a period of catechesis will begin this Lent, and just before Easter, they will be received into the Catholic Church so that they can participate in the liturgies of the Triduum as Catholics. Catechesis will then continue through Easter.
As for the clergy, their ordination to the Catholic priesthood — for those who are accepted — is expected on Pentecost, followed by another two years of formation.
Once incorporated into the ordinariate, both clergy and laity face the issues that could be expected from a fledging community: among others, where they’ll worship and how they’ll pay the bills.
Regarding the possibility of continued collaboration with the Church of England, Father Newton clarified to BBC: “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.”
That doesn’t change the fact that the switch is a big one, and that money is still needed.
Father Newton reported that the Catholic Church of England and Wales made a donation of ₤250,000 ($400,000) and others have promised donations.
“In the long term the ordinariate will have to be self-financing, but this is going to take some time to get there,” he said.
And his priests face a reality 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,” Father Newton added. He noted hopes that “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.”
“We’ve got to look at how each individual priest will have sufficient resources for him to live in a reasonable way,” the ordinary affirmed, “and that’s particularly if he’s a married man with a family.”