Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent of The Times, is interviewed by John Cleary on ABC Local ‘Sunday Nights’:
JC: The other interreligious, or inter-communal, issue which is raising a few eyebrows – if not hackles or necks – is the whole issue of the Anglican Ordinariate within the Catholic Church, and the way this is unfolding. To what extent in Britain are there sings of mass movements of clergy from the Anglican tradition to the Catholic tradition?
RG: Well it’s pretty significant. There are about to be ordained in a couple of weeks, 54 former Anglican clergy (ordained priest – most of them have already been deaconed) and they’re being ordained at Pentecost and that’s really when the Ordinariate does properly exist as an entity.
The new liturgy that’s been prepared – it was hoped that it would be published in time for the priestly ordinations but it is in fact not going to be ready or published for a few weeks yet although it is now finished, I understand.
But about 900 laity have gone as well. The reason that these 61 clergy, I think, entered Allen Hall on a part-time basis for training (and of those I would say it looks like half a dozen or so have dropped out or had their ordinations delayed for one reason or another). Critics have dismissed this as insignificant and a tiny number, but I don’t think that – in an era when there is a shortage of priests, especially in the Catholic Church – I don’t think that 54 Church of England clergy, well-trained clergy from the Catholic tradition going into the Catholic Church can be said to be insignificant – going in as priests: I think that’s pretty significant. I think it’s going to be big help to the Catholic Church here which has a shortage of priests in many dioceses. Already arrangements are being put in place for these clergy to administer not just to their own Ordinariate Groups who will meet as separate congregations, but to other Catholic parishes and groups in need of priests, in need of Mass on a regular basis.
JC: What’s this issue speaking to? Is it saying more about the state of the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church? And if it is saying something about the Anglican Church, what’s it saying about the Anglican Church?
RG: Well you know one of the things that I think – and I could be totally wrong here – but if we look back at which Congregation has led the setting up of the Ordinariate, it’s the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And it’s interesting that we’ve just had, over the last few days, the meeting of ARCIC (the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) under the auspices of the Council for Christian Unity – the Vatican side of it. And here we have talks about unity on the one hand and here, under the CDF, we have actual unity taking place – a sort of bridge. And there was very interesting report that came out a few years ago about how unity might eventually be achieved and it hinted in that report that unity would come about from the grass roots through individuals, as much as coming about through top-level talks. And I believe the Ordinariate is almost a bridge – could be a bridge – to ultimate unity. Now I do admit that is a very positive – possibly over-positive – way of looking at it and of course there is huge distress and divisions which have actually led to it being set up. In the Church of England the ordination of women bishops, which is coming up soon (it’s in the process of being debated by the church as a whole, by diocesan synods) – it’s that which has been a catalyst for the Ordinariate. And it came about because some Church of England bishops – very distressed by the thought of women bishops – went to Rome and had meetings with Cardinal Levada at CDF, and asked for help. And this was his solution. They went straight to the top – I think even they were surprised by easily they got straight to the top. And recently a couple of them went back to meet the Pope again, and what he was particularly interested in was the number of clergy going over, because that’s what’s important – that’s where the seeds of the future for the Ordinariate lie.
So it comes out of division but it is division that’s leading to unity, or potential partial unity – a literal bridge between the two churches. And so I think it’s a fascinating ecclesiological experiment, if you like. But the fact that it has this canonical structure set up by the Pope – you know, everyone was surprised by this, even the Catholic bishops here, the Archbishop of Canterbury – they were all rather taken aback by the seriousness of it. It’s a strong canonical structure, so it’s not going to go away – it can’t be dismissed as the isolated lump that’s just going to disappear, it’s not. It’s set there in Canon Law, which is the equivalent to being set in stone, so I think we have to take it seriously.