Bishop Peter Elliott: A Catholic welcome for Anglicans – the Ordinariate in the Living Church

13 06 2011

Bishop Peter Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and Episcopal Delegate of the Australian Bishops’ Conference for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, gave this address at an Ordinariate Information Day at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell, Melbourne, Victoria, on June 11, 2011. It is reproduced here from the Anglo-Catholic blog:

On this Vigil of Pentecost 2011 we have much to celebrate. The establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham within the Catholic Church in England has been accompanied by warm welcomes. The same pattern will soon unfold in the United States, Canada and Australia. The generous offer of Pope Benedict XVI is taking concrete visible form. The offer itself is a welcome from the Successor of St Peter, and his welcome is generating much good will in the Church.

It is significant that we meet at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell, one of Australia’s finest parish churches, combining Romanesque and Renaissance styles. This domed stone church was built in 1914 by a man of vision and imagination, Father George Robinson, himself a former Anglican. On the eve of the Great War he appealed across Australia to raise a national shrine in the Melbourne suburbs in honour of the Patroness of Australia, Our Lady Help of Christians, also known as Our Lady of Victories.

This Marian title recalls a critical moment in history, the sea battle of Lepanto, 1571, depicted in the glowing colours of the West window of this minor basilica. We see Pope Saint Pius V leading the people of Rome in fervent prayer, that through the intercession of Mary Help of Christians victory would be granted and Europe would be spared. Today we may entrust our enterprise to Our Lady’s help.

A personal ordinariate

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus of November 4th 2009 was Pope Benedict XVI responding pastorally to requests for help from traditional Anglicans, requests to Rome that began over twenty years ago. The Apostolic Constitution establishes “a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church”.

As the Apostolic Constitution defines it: “The Ordinariate is composed of the lay faithful, clerics and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally belonging to the Anglican Communion (now Anglicanism) and now in full communion with the Catholic Church”, to which is added significantly “or those who receive the Sacraments of Initiation within the jurisdiction of the Ordinariate.”[1] The future of what amounts to a national diocese for specific people is thus not restricted only to former Anglicans. Moreover any Catholic is free to worship and receive the sacraments in Ordinariate parishes.

Anglicans become members of the Catholic Church in and through the Ordinariate by applying in writing,[2] and application forms will be issued later this year. Then they make a Profession of Faith and receive the Sacraments of Christian Initiation (in practice Confirmation and the Eucharist). Then they are to be registered as members.[3] The rule of faith for the Ordinariate is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. [4]

As we can see in England, Anglicans are entering full communion within a distinctive ecclesial community, maintaining the “Anglican Patrimony”, their own traditions and customs, including liturgical privileges. At the same time, these Personal Ordinariates will be part of the Roman Rite. As the Constitution and the Complementary Norms from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith indicate, each Ordinariate is meant to relate pastorally and practically with the particular Church (the local Catholic diocese) and to the Episcopal Conference of the nation or region where the Ordinariate is erected.

From the very beginning the Ordinariates work with the Episcopal Conference. Relations with Episcopal Conferences and Diocesan Bishops are spelt out in the Complementary Norms. [5] The Ordinary, whether a bishop or a monsignor, will be a member of the Episcopal Conference. It is that ecclesial context that I address today, envisaging the place of these Personal Ordinariates in the living Church.

Within the Church

Many who have come here today are Catholics who want to find out more about this Personal Ordinariate. But Catholics should not see the Personal Ordinariate as merely an interesting enterprise or a historical event to observe. I hope that they will want to be part of it, at this stage, in the sense of walking with Anglican men and women who are making so many sacrifices on their pilgrimage to unity with the See of Peter. Although each person comes in a group, he or she will need a Confirmation sponsor. This custom is a normal Catholic practice. As I tell the sponsors at the Confirmation Masses I celebrate, “You are like a second god-parent. As you place your hand on the shoulder of the candidate when I anoint with Holy Chrism, you enter a spiritual relationship with that person. Walk the Christian journey of faith with the one you have sponsored. Be there to encourage, guide and counsel.”

The Ordinariate thus speaks to us of the corporate nature of Catholic Christianity, that none of us come to God alone, rather we always come to God with others, as a community, God’s People, the living Body of Jesus Christ in this world through which the Holy Spirit works. We need one another. We need to be in communion with one another, through communion with the successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles.

The personal stories of the Ordinariate journey are beginning to be shared. An old friend from my years at Trinity College, Melbourne, David Fenton, entered the Ordinariate in England during Lent. I was deeply moved to learn from him that, at the recent Ordination Mass in Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, another old friend was reconciled. David Pierson came into the Ordinariate in his wheelchair, frail in body but clear as ever in mind — and great in heart. His wife, Veronica is a well known teacher in the Billings Ovulation Method for the natural regulation of fertility. I came to know her and the Pierson family during my time in the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome. They exemplify the Christian family as a communion of life and love.

The Australian Project

In the light [of] the first ordinations and reconciliations in England reported on the Ordinariate Portal website, people are asking about the timeline in Australia. We have been advised that the Ordinariate will take shape here next year. I know that many, including myself, had hoped it would be sooner, but it seems best to take the necessary and somewhat complex steps slowly and surely, inspired and encouraged as we are by recent events in England and the interesting prospects for growth that that are already being revealed.

In Australia the process of forming the Ordinariate is moving steadily on three levels. At the May meeting of the Catholic Bishops of Australia at the tomb of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Ad Hoc Commission for the Australian Personal Ordinariate was established at my request to represents the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC). The Commission is supervising the whole process, working with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is chaired by Most Rev. Denis J. Hart, the Archbishop of Melbourne, and the other members are Most Rev. Geoffrey H. Jarrett, the Bishop of Lismore, Most Rev. Brian Finnegan, Apostolic Administrator of Toowoomba, and myself. We are assisted by Fr. Brian Lucas, Secretary of the ACBC.

At the second national level, the Australian Ordinariate Implementation Committee (AOIC) brings together the main “players”, that is members of the Anglican Church of Australia (ACA) and the bishops, clergy and laity of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (Traditional Anglican Communion, TAC). In a collaborative way this committee brings before the Commission grass-roots concerns, practical issues and proposals to facilitate progress towards an Ordinariate. At a third level, local working groups, beginning in Melbourne, already anticipate various practicalities and the kind of detailed planning that is needed for a smooth transition, for example organizing events such as this information day.

I recently compared the first four Ordinariates, England, USA, Canada and Australia to cabs coming off a taxi rank. This was thought to be an unfortunate simile. A worse metaphor describes the Ordinariate as a bus — a limp pun on “Coetibus”, with derisive undertones. Perhaps a train might be a better metaphor — a train that is already moving.

The Lay Faithful

Courses of formation in the Faith for the lay faithful are under way in the groups around Australian that are seeking to enter the Ordinairate. Formation is focused on an intense study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The “Evangelium” Course from England has been found most useful. I also commend a new Australian publication, The Creed by Father John Flader. This is the first volume of his Tour of the Catechism, published by Conor Court.

To be welcomed involves getting to know people. I have mentioned personal friendships with Catholics, which are most important during this time of transition. We are also considering another complementary approach, that is, when an Anglican group is “adopted” by a nearby Catholic parish. There is no sense of being “absorbed” in this possibility — let me make that clear, but a mutual enrichment in charity and faith can arise when two communities come together on a journey.

Again I need to raise a delicate but unavoidable issue. I urge Ordinariate-bound Anglicans who have remarried after divorce to take your situation to a diocesan marriage tribunal so that your reconciliation in the Ordinariate will in no way be impeded next year. Even if you received an Anglican permission to re-marry, this will need to be evaluated carefully to see if this conforms to Catholic requirements. However, I have been assured that Catholic Canon Law is followed in the Traditional Anglican Communion, which should facilitate matters for members of the TAC when they approach a tribunal.

Another question is membership of a Masonic lodge. In spite of what you might hear from time to time, Catholics are not permitted to be Freemasons. Men seeking to enter the Ordinariate will need to resign from the lodge. This raises the spiritual challenge, whether commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour and membership of his Church takes priority in your life.


From time to time my attention is drawn to negative material that appears on some blog sites, authored by a few Anglicans and Catholics. I urge Anglicans who feel drawn to the Ordinariate not to be distracted or discouraged by these provocations and to be sceptical about the accuracy of information provided. It is best to ignore these uncharitable comments and to pray for these people who somehow seem to be threatened by the choices others are making. P

eople make choices according to conscience. But they need encouragement, especially in a vast land like Australia where groups are found in all our major cities and in isolated rural areas. Prayer is the key to overcoming discouragement, and with that study of the truths of faith and the practice of works of charity and compassion. The spiritual way to the Ordinariate is a path of faith and charity, hence the third virtue, hope.

The Clergy

For their part, the clergy seeking ministry in the Ordinariate are finding priest mentors among their Catholic brethren. These are often old friends, the fruit of ecumenical life in our times. The Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has invited some Anglican clergy to take part in its annual conference later this month.

While they come under the authority of their own Ordinary, the clergy of the Ordinariate will be part of the brotherhood of priests and deacons that is found in every Catholic diocese, usually described as the presbyterium. They will minister primarily within the Ordinariate, while working alongside other priests of the Roman Rite in the local diocese. Catholic priests come under the authority and pastoral care of bishops who are close to their clergy, whose first priority is the pastoral care of their clergy. So the Ordinaries will model their ministry, their episcope, on apostolic tradition and pastoral compassion. The Code of Canon Law defines the apostolic authority of the bishop, but also sets out the limits of that authority and the corresponding rights of priests and the lay faithful. For both clergy and laity The Code of Canon Law is a great gift and part of the intensive formation of candidates for priesthood in the Ordinariate is a knowledge of Canon Law.

The Church of the Torres Strait

At this time we should keep the Church of the Torres Strait in our prayers. At their Synod two weeks ago Bishop Tolowa Nona and his clergy and people decided to request an Ordinariate of their own in those islands that lie above Cape York, the Northernmost tip of our vast Australian continent. That request has been forward to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Our gratitude is due to Archbishop John Hepworth who has cared for these people, always respecting their culture and traditions, to their chief pastor, Bishop Tolowa Nona and his clergy who have assisted their flock in the Torres Strait to move towards an Ordinariate. What we hope to see unfold gradually in the Torres Strait will set a significant precedent for other regions where a classical Anglo-Catholic mission tradition still holds fast.

The Liturgy

People are asking about the progress towards a distinctive Ordinariate liturgy, an integral part of the offer of Pope Benedict XVI. [6] The Roman Rite in its two forms is always there for the Ordinariate, but liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition are being prepared, subject to the approbation of the Holy See. The liturgy of the Anglican Use parishes in the United States is one model for developing a “use” for the Ordinariates. I recently visited the Anglican Use parish of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, Texas, and was privileged to celebrate Mass in the beautiful new gothic church according to their usage.

Drawing on the Anglican patrimony and Catholic traditions, an Ordinariate liturgy is being prepared by an international commission, in which I have played a small part. The introduction of this usage happily coincides with the introduction this year of the richer and more accurate English translation of the post-conciliar Roman Missal which is much closer to Anglican liturgical language. The new ICEL texts reflect not only dignity and better style but a reverence before God and the mystery of Christian worship.

Here we also see what the Ordinariate brings to the wider Church. The liturgical use in the Ordinariates will contribute to the deeper and more spiritual renewal of liturgy that has quietly emerged in recent years, the fruit of the Eucharistic project of Blessed John Paul II and the liturgical wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI. I note that progress has aroused the interest of a most significant website The New Liturgical Movement, which I recommend to anyone who loves the liturgies of the Church, West or East.

The liturgy should embody those transcendentals that inform what is best in Christian civilization, that is, whatever is good, true and beautiful. I am sure that the liturgies of the Ordinariates will always represent these transcendentals.

Vatican II

The Ordinariates take shape as the whole Church prepares to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council in 2012. Those being reconciled in an Ordinariate are beneficiaries of the Council’s ecumenical vision, commitment and mandate. Let us never forget that. Moreover the Catechism of the Catholic Church embodies the teachings of this Ecumenical Council. In different ways we are all share the heritage of the Council and its richer understanding of the Church.

However, as half a century separates us from the Council events, much rethinking is taking place as to what the Council Fathers intended and particularly how the Council was applied across five decades. This takes the form of a vigorous conversation about how the Council should be interpreted, a “hermeneutic”. Pope Benedict invites us to understand and interpret the Council in terms of what went before it, that is through a “hermeneutic of continuity”, seeing the Council not as some break with the past but as resting upon all previous Ecumenical Councils and papal teachings, which are not to be negated but re-applied for our times, as Blessed John XXIII envisaged. We also bear in mind that the world has changed much since 1962.

The conversation about the hermeneutic seems to be polarised in Italy at present, apparently between those who see the Council as a necessary and radical rupture with the past and those who reject the Council as an unwarranted rupture. There is a need for balance here, to respond to the Holy Father’s guidance. I know that former Anglicans in the Ordinariates will have much to contribute to this conversation, helping to bring fresh insights and balance to the re-thinking that is emerging in the Church.

Under Her Mantle

This year Anglicans and Catholics are coming together to celebrate another anniversary. It is 950 years since the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a Saxon noble woman, Lady Richeldis, at Walsingham in Norfolk. The shrine she initiated was despoiled by Henry VIII and then restored last century. Now this is the spiritual centre where pilgrims come to two national shrines of Our Lady in England, one Anglican, the other Catholic, yet both working together in ecumenical harmony. Mary brings people together under her mantle. She also has provided the title that has been granted to the Ordinariate in England. In due course we may expect a similar, but distinctive, title for the Ordinariate that will be erected in Australia.

Our Lady of Walsingham means much to me personally. My final journey to reconciliation with the Catholic Church began in the Autumn of 1967 when, as an Oxford undergraduate, I made a pilgrimage to the Anglican shrine. I prayed in the candlelit gloom of the Holy House and was surprised by grace. Mary took charge of my life and brought me into that “full communion” which so many Anglicans seek in the Ordinariates. In our lives at times we see a “particular providence”, as Blessed John Henry Newman put it, as God leads us into ways we never imagined. People involved in this wonderful process remark on this mystery of God working through us.

On the pilgrimage of the Ordinariate, whether we are walking the pilgrim way ourselves or joining others as companions or sponsors, we all pray as the apostles did in the upper room at Pentecost “with Mary the Mother of Jesus”. With her we ask the Holy Spirit the Paraclete to achieve through our lives the unity that is so dear the Heart of Christ our Lord.

[1] Anglicanorum Coetibus, I # 4.

[2] Cf., .Ibid. IX.

[3] See, Complementary Norms, Article 5 #1.

[4] Anglicanorum Coetibus. I # 5

[5] See, Complementary Norms, Article 2.

[6] See, Anglicanorum Coetibus, III.