Christopher Lamb: Ordinariate – start of the conversion of England?

12 03 2011

Christopher Lamb is Home News Editor of The Tablet and has published this piece on The Tablet Blog:

The answer to that question is yes, if you are the writer of this month’s editorial of The Catholic Voice of Lancaster, the diocese’s newspaper. To quote from the editorial itself: “For centuries Catholics have prayed for the conversion of England, hoping against hope that God’s grace and people’s goodwill would mend the fracture in the English Church. The Catholic Voice of Lancaster sincerely believes that Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham represents the first, tentative, shoots of this longed-for reunion.” This suggestion might rile Anglicans and irritate Catholics who find such sentiments triumphalist. Others may say it is far fetched thinking as the ordinariate will only be small and on the margins.

However, while the tone of the editorial may jar, it addresses a question that has returned with the ordinariate: is full unity between Catholics and Anglicans possible? Before the ordinariate the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) seemed to be drifting. Since Anglicanorum Coetibus we have Arcic III, which will meet in Bose, Italy in May.

In a debate last year on the motion “England should be a Catholic country again” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a veteran of ecumenical dialogue, offered a roadmap for unity. “My vision for the English Church is two-fold. Firstly, that it be united with the Universal Church – Catholic means universal – and secondly to bring to the Universal Church the particular characteristics and genius of the English which would, indeed, be an enrichment for the whole Church.” He said a united Church would offer a witness to the world far more effectively than our divided communions. Surely ecumenists cannot simply be happy with talk but no action?

In response to the Lancaster editorial, Anglican Bishop Christopher Hill, a member of Arcic, said that while he thought the ordinariate was not the answer to Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity, the intention of full, corporate unity remains Arcic’s goal.

And as Pope Benedict XVI explained on his visit, the ordinariate is offering a full reunion, albeit on a small scale. Many are sceptical of the scheme, but what the Pope’s offer to Anglicans has done is put the question of Christian unity, and how it might be achieved, back onto the agenda.