Damian Thompson: The Ordinariate Catholics can’t arrive soon enough

9 03 2011

From Holy Smoke, the Telegraph Blog of Damian Thompson:

The first wave of Ordinariate faithful left the Church of England today to prepare for reception into the Catholic Church at Easter. It goes without saying that one Church’s loss is another’s gain. But, if this project flourishes in the way that the Pope intends, then the Catholic gain will be far greater than the Anglican loss.

For the moment, the members of the Ordinariate have to tread carefully. Critics of the scheme will pounce on any suggestion of Anglo-Papalist liturgical snobbery. Fortunately, the new structure seems to have attracted evangelists for whom beautiful ceremonies are a means to an end. In contrast, I expect the Hinge & Bracket crowd to stay in the C of E, even if it does mean inhabiting an ecclesiological fantasy worthy of Peter Anson’s Bishops At Large.

The challenge for the Ordinariate is to establish warm relations with fellow Catholics while challenging the institutional culture of the Bishops’ Conference. By that, I don’t mean they should pick fights with bishops, and nor do I expect them to do so. But what they can do is follow the example of several outstanding English priests who have turned their parishes into powerhouses of evangelisation.

There’s an upside to the fact that – with a few exceptions – the English and Welsh bishops have been chosen from a small pool of risk-averse careerists. It means that the most resourceful priests are still on the ground, reviving congregations rather than drafting socialist policy documents. They will relish working alongside an Ordinariate inspired by the Anglo-Catholic missions to the East End, surely a crucial aspect of its “Anglican patrimony”.

That’s what I mean by challenging the culture of the Bishops’ Conference: just getting on and doing things – knocking on doors without waiting to be “resourced” with “best practice” guidelines drawn up during “workshops” at some hideously smug one-day conference. But don’t get me started.