BBC Radio 4, Sunday Programme, 30 January 2011. Click here to listen to the interview, beginning at 25:45.
Edward Stourton: Do all Britain’s Roman Catholics welcome the Ordinariate, the body set up by Pope Benedict to allow disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while maintaining many of their own traditions. No, is the short answer. Tina Beattie teaches Catholic Studies at Roehampton University and, Tina Beattie, your problem with this is what?
Tina Beattie: Well, I don’t want to call it a problem, but I think many of us are perplexed about what this means in terms of the Catholic Communion, and indeed obviously for relations between our two Churches. The Catholic Church has a unity that’s not based on likemindedness or sameness, and it’s very puzzling to know how this very homogenous, small group of likeminded people, offered a quasi-independent place within the Catholic Communion, is going to fit in and become part of us.
And is your objection partly to do with the fact that you don’t like what they stand for? Particularly on the question of women’s role in the Church?
I’m not happy about that, no. And I think actually, dare I say it, it’s a peculiarly Protestant thing to join a church because of what one doesn’t like, as a gesture of protest – that’s where the word comes from. It would be wonderful if they were coming in for the positives, and the joy, and the wonders of being part of this worldwide Communion.
Perhaps they are, a bit..?
I’m sure they are, but why now? You know, if that’s been so attractive for so long, why this mass movement now, really?
You think it comes down to women priests – women bishops, more specifically?
Well, clearly there’s been unrest for a long time since the ordination of women. But, you know, there are many Roman Catholics who welcome the ordination of women in the Anglican Church, and see it even as prophetic. There are many gay couples taking communion and living openly within the Catholic Church. So, if there’s a sense of wanting to get away from all that, I think they’re going to be a little disappointed.
A lot of people will listen to what you have to say, and say ‘yes, that’s fine; clearly an area of disagreement between you and them, but shouldn’t you just welcome them into your Church?’
We should. And I think we…
You’re not really doing that… You’re saying you’d rather not have them.
That’s why I’m not saying it’s a problem, I think we’re perplexed. We don’t know yet what this welcome means. If I go to a mass of the Ordinariate, is that..? Obviously it’s part of the same Eucharistic Communion, but then, why does there need to be this separation? I welcome the riches of the Anglican liturgy coming into the Roman Catholic Church. There’s a lot to celebrate. They can bring with them enormous wealth that maybe we’ve lost in our rather more watered-down traditions. I think they’ll find that the Roman Catholic Church is a lot less aesthetic in its worship than High Anglicanism. So, there’s a big process of adjustment ahead, and of course we want them to do that. But I think many of us would feel happier if we were welcoming individuals, who’d come in – I’m a convert; I know what it feels like to make that change – if it was individuals coming in with a more open and positive attitude to why they were coming, maybe.
Isn’t the reality, though, that they are relatively small, and certainly too small to make a real difference to the character of the Catholic Church as a whole – probably too small to make a difference to the character of the Catholic Church in this country, let alone in the world?
Well, they’re being taken somehow as archetypal of English Catholicism at the moment, and I think Pope Benedict has a rather romantic idea about what that means. The Catholic Church in England is a huge, cosmopolitan shambles of an institution, really. And, yes, I think let’s wait and see, let’s wait and see. But we need to be persuaded.
What would it take to persuade you?
It would take finding that these people had brought with them the positives from their Anglican tradition. Also that they were pastorally sensitive to some of the issues: not least the issue of married priests. I think one of the real pastoral concerns in all this is that, you know, there are many, very, very fine celibate priests in the Catholic Church, and I know many of them personally. I also know many of them who would dearly love to be married and not have to give up on their priesthood. And that’s not an option they have. These men have been asked to make an ultimate sacrifice for being Catholic priests, and it’s a little unsettling to see the haste with which others are able to come and bring all… I know they lose a great deal in material terms, but they don’t have to give up that most fundamental choice between priesthood and marriage which Roman Catholic priests have had to do.
Well, we must leave it there. Perhaps we’ll come back and talk to you again when you have a better sense of how it’s going.