Joan Lewis (EWTN): Interview with Fr Keith Newton (Part Two)

23 02 2011

EWTN Vatican Insider presenter, Joan Lewis, interviews Fr Keith Newton. Part one was broadcast on Saturday 12 February 2011 – a transcript can be found here. Part two was broadcast on Sunday 20 February 2011. The audio file can be found here, and a transcript is produced below:

JL: Welcome back to Vatican Insider and the second part of my conversation with Fr Keith Newton, the new Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I was in London to learn more about this new structure in the Catholic Church, the O, and Fr Keith was very gracious with his time. In case you missed the introduction last week, Fr Keith was, until recently, an Anglican bishop and after 35 years of ordained ministry, entered into communion with the Catholic Church and was ordained a Catholic priest on January 15 by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. At that time, Pope Benedict named him as the first Ordinary for the Ordinariate, and of course Father will explain this all to us in a minute.

Ed: There is an overlap with last week’s interview in the audio file. The new material is reproduced here:

JL: If you look at this, I mean this is history in the making for the Catholic Church, it is for those joining the Ordinariate – the very creation – it is a huge historical step, and like anything big in history, each coming day was always the unknown and some challenges, let’s say, are going to have to be faced as they crop up – and you just may find untold sources to help overcome those, untold sources of income or… many, many things.

KN: Well we’ve already found – those of us, the three ex-Anglican bishops who’ve become Catholics – an incredible generosity from people, not only priests but lay Catholics as well who’ve been delighted. For instance, I’ve just been given a car! I was wondering how I was going to manage and, out of the blue, somebody’s given me a car – that was unexpected. So I think there will be a generosity – we’ve experienced that already. The night I was received into the Catholic Church, which was the 1 January, my wife and I had come home from Westminster Cathedral and we were just sitting in our house, and not many people knock at the door of our house in the evening, and the doorbell went and a Catholic priest I’d never met before came, introduced himself, brought us a bottle of Champagne and a box of chocolates to welcome us – it was really kind.

JL: Oh, how lovely! I think all of you are going to be experiencing an awful lot of that – I think the generosity of the people I know, I think it’s going to be wonderful – and Divine Providence, you know. There are reasons for joy obviously for those entering the Ordinariate but part of the journey is sad – we’ve kind of alluded to it – it involves the ‘parting of friends’, which I think is actually a Cardinal Newman expression – leaving a Church; a physical building but one that was a spiritual home (I’m trying to imagine leaving mine – Santa Susanna’s in Rome) so talk to us about that for a minute.

KN: In a sense it’s a lot more painful for some Anglicans than it is for Catholics, I think. It’s sometimes said that Catholics go to Mass and Anglicans go to Church and their spiritual life is often very much bound up with the building in which they worship. And therefore it is going to be a painful thing – it’s going to be putting behind something which they’ve loved and setting out into an unknown future, and that is going to be hard for very many people. I mean, from my point of view, I feel sad about the people that I will leave behind. I mean, over the last nine years I was an Anglican bishop, I had 80 congregations I looked after, not all of them are following and not all of those congregations which are following are following completely, so there will be people in the Church of England who will think that I have left them and I’ve been a false shepherd – and that’s quite painful. But I do reassure myself that, you know, the Eastern shepherd was a person who led from the front and not from behind. In England, shepherds always go behind the sheep, but in the East the shepherd leads, and the sheep follow.

JL: I never thought of that – and you make me think, with what you just said, of an expression I did hear in the few days that I’ve been here. Some people have said – those who are remaining will have said to those who are leaving for the Ordinariate: you have abandoned us. But one person, joining the Ordinariate, told me “It was the Anglican church that abandoned us, because it abandoned its roots”.

KN: Well I think that’s the way that many of us feel. I mean I would say that I haven’t really changed my views since I was a new Anglican priest 35 years ago. But the Anglican Church has shifted – it’s not only about the ordination of women, but on moral issues, and also on issues on doctrine, I mean it’s not quite as bad in England as it is in the States but in the Episcopal Church in the States, you do feel that the even basic Christian beliefs about the divinity of our Lord, about the Trinity, about the virgin birth, are under threat and are questioned and not thought to be important. And it is strange in the Church of England that the only thing that seems to be a definition of ‘orthodoxy’ does seem to be that you have to believe that women can be priests. You don’t have to believe anything else – you can doubt anything else, but you really have to believe that women can be priests.

JL: Just one final question – you’ve given such a great education on the Ordinariate today, and obviously in coming months when people are received into the Church – I think we’re looking at a schedule around Lent time, and then priests being ordained around Pentecost, is that correct?

KN: Yes. What’s being planned is that those who wish to join the Ordinariate will leave the Church of England before Lent begins. And during Lent there will be a period of catechesis for reception during Holy Week so that those – because they’re not catechumens, they’re already baptized Christians – they will be received probably on Maundy Thursday so that they can take part in the Easter Triduum, and they will continue their catechesis after Easter until about Pentecost. For the clergy – they will be received at the same time, with their congregations, but as well as the catechesis going on, they will be also receiving formation in the priesthood, which again will start at the beginning of Lent and go through to Pentecost. Sometime during Easter, the Anglican priests will be ordained to the Catholic diaconate and then they will be ordained to the priesthood in Pentecost. And then their formation will continue after that for up to two years.

I think it’s important to say that, although this seems very quick, they will go through the same discernment process that any seminarian has to go through in order to make sure that everything’s OK before they are ordained.

JL: So we have some wonderful events, happy events, to look forward to. Now, just really one last question. How have – to the best of your knowledge – how have Catholics been informed about the Ordinariate and how it will work? I mean, I’m doing a show, some of the other media has done it – are there official parish bulletins or articles in papers? Do you know how that has been handled?

KN: I think there’s been more in the papers over the last few weeks, since the three ex-Anglican bishops were received, and we were ordained in Westminster Cathedral on 15 January. Before that there was not very much – I think it’s partly because there are real sensitivities about relations between the Anglican Church in England and the Catholic Church, and we do not want to undermine the greater ecumenical endeavours, and so there has to be real sensitivity and there’s no sense of triumphalism. I do think, probably the average Catholic in the pew will not know very much about this. Certainly in parishes where there is an Ordinariate group there’s been great warmth, and they will know more about it. But I do think there probably needs to be a bit more education on the issue, so that the average Catholic understands what’s happening because I think there’s a danger of real misinformation – in fact I listened to something on the radio only this weekend in which someone was giving the impression that we were only becoming Catholics because we want to escape the ordination of women and said that that issue of the ordination of women is in the Catholic Church as well. Well, it is but it’s a different sort of argument in the Catholic Church – the Catholic Church is clear that this is not allowable – but we’re not coming for negative reasons, we’re coming for positive reasons, and that needs some education for people to understand that.

JL: Right. Well I want to thank you very, very much for your time. I wish you a wonderful journey – you’re going to be continuing this with many former parishioners and priest-friends and may God bless you along the way. I hope my listeners, and all of their friends in parishes welcome (if they have Ordinariate friends) then I hope they welcome them with open hearts and great joy, and this will be a new Easter and new Pentecost for all of us, won’t it?

KN: It will, I mean just remember that we’re becoming Catholics – everyone says “Welcome Home”, and that’s what it feels like. And although we’ll be this particular structure – it’s just that we’ll be Catholics.

JL: Yes. Well that’s exactly what I want to say to you – welcome home – and we’ll see each other in Rome sometime. I’ll come back here for some ordinations and then we’ll see each other in Rome, so God bless.