Fr Mark Woodruff: Some Catholic hopes for the Ordinariate

2 05 2011

An edited version of the following article was commissioned for the April edition of The Portal Magazine, which the Catholic League supports financially. Fr Mark Woodruff is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Westminster and currently acting director of the Catholic League, from whose blog this comes:

We are seeing what the Ordinariate means for Anglicans – but what of Catholics?  I suspect most are unconcerned or unaware; many will be amenable or supportive. Yet criticism persists. My hope is it will allay suspicions and soon show that it will enrich us all. Meanwhile, it has been interesting to compare recent criticisms with those dismissed in the early 1990s.

“They are anti-women.” But, by confusing ministry with clerical ordination, few Christian churches have begun to explore the scope of the lay apostolate. I hope that, out of the close involvement and leadership of the laity in Anglican organisational, pastoral, evangelistic and liturgical life, the Ordinariates can reveal new dimensions to the active participation of lay people in the Catholic context, particularly that of women.

“They are disloyal to their own Church. They will bring their party divisions with them.” But Catholic Anglicans have not wanted to undermine their Church, but call it more deeply into the mystery of the Church as a whole. I hope the Ordinariates will add to Catholic awareness of Christians looking beyond the particular – and even separation – to the universal, a reality that has been hard won.

“They are only interested in liturgy.” I hope the Ordinariates will make the most of how their liturgical culture was formed – pastoral presence, a captivating presentation of the Gospel, theological teaching through hymns and sermons of substance, an adoring glimpse of the Kingdom in music and worship. Surely these instincts are Catholic and the Ordinariate will add to the Church’s resources for the re-evangelisation of culture.

“Who do they think they are, telling us about Englishness?”  Our Anglican and Catholic bishops are aware that their churches are not rivals, but speak to different parts of society. I hope the Ordinariate – with its Anglican sense of relationship with civil society, its rootedness in language and culture, and its long experience of Catholic Apologetics – will contribute something between what fellow Catholics and other Christians bring to the discourse between faith and society, of which the Pope spoke so powerfully in Westminster Hall.

“They will set back ecumenical relations.” It depends on whether you just want relations, or unity on Christ’s, not earthly terms. In the daring imagination behind Anglicanorum Coetibus, for a fluid world one size no longer necessarily fits all. In England we have dioceses, religious orders, the Ukrainian exarchate, the Bishopric to the Forces and ethnic chaplaincy networks. In North America, India, Ukraine and the Middle East parallel jurisdictions are part of the norm. Canon Law also envisages special structures, where otherwise it may be difficult for people to fit in with the normal forms of the Catholic Church. Thus in the Ordinariates the Catholic Church is showing that its imaginative embrace of diversity, even complexity, is the measure of how universal it is.  It ought to be that there is nothing that is truly distinctive of Anglicanism or other traditions for which, in the unity of the apostolic faith, space with integrity cannot be made within the Universal Church that subsists in the Catholic Church. I hope the Ordinariates will be true to a profound ecumenical awareness.

“It’s a fast-track .” But the Ordinariate expressly delivers on 150 years of hopes for corporate reunion. Their clergy and faithful have been formed in a “beloved Sister” and lived a Catholic life, as they prayed for decades for the Churches to unite ecumenically. Now, reconciliation will indeed be personal, but that is no reason to dissipate Anglicans’ existing bonds of communion, already partially shared with the Catholic Church, or to deprive them of their pastors and fail to nurture their ecclesial life. A glory of the Catholic Church is that people can come from every nation, rite and culture and be in the full communion of the Body of Christ wherever they go. I hope that the Ordinariate will likewise signify the abundant possibilities of participating wholly in the community of apostolic faith we share.

“It’s a granny-flat for the Anglo-Catholic fantasy. And a dummy run for the Lefebvrists.” But it implements some remarkable developments in the way the Roman Catholic Church will operate. (A) Each Ordinariate has a mandatory governing council, responsible with the Ordinary for key decisions and involving clergy and lay people. (B) These synodal bodies, not the Nuncio, will recommend the names of successive Ordinaries. And (C) there is ongoing provision for the ordination of married men to the priesthood on a case by case basis.  Whether these are patterns to be followed by the Latin Church more generally, we can only wonder. But as the Ordinariates become a facet of our Catholic identity, I hope they inspire confidence that the long wisdom of other traditions can be embraced in a way that is also true to the Catholic Church.