The Revd Anthony Chadwick: Ecumenism and the Ordinariates

1 07 2011

The Revd Anthony Chadwick responds to Mgr Mark Langham’s recent interview with La Stampa:

There seems to be something of a duality between the Anglicanorum Coetibus approach by the Catholic Church authorities and the continuation of the older form of ecumenical dialogue – judging by Mgr Mark Langham: The difficult dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans.

As Monsignor Langham has a position in the Roman Curia, he seems to represent a position that is just as official as the paradigm represented by the present Ordinariate in England and future Ordinariates in other English-speaking countries.

This English prelate working in Rome is very insistent that the “Ordinariates are not a task of this office, we take care of ecumenism. And, as the Vatican said, the road of ecumenism is different from that of conversion”. At the same time, ecumenism has changed in his view. Interestingly, the Apostolic Constitution is described as “a form of colonization, of imperialism”.

Duality of ecclesiologies? One true Church on one side and slow convergence by means of agreed statements and building links of friendship on the other? Can there be two ecclesiologies? If not, why is the ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Communion continuing?

A new intuition is emerging, the idea of the Church of England still being a partner in ecumenical dialogue in a way that is no longer possible with the American Episcopal Church or the extremely liberal dominant elements in Anglican Churches in English-speaking countries other than England. In Monsignor Langham’s mind, the Ordinariate ruined the progress of a conservative and Catholic-minded minority that would have done good by staying in the Church of England.

In parallel, we have a contrast between this revival of conversion (albeit in groups or individuals with the intention of forming former Anglican groups once received) and ecumenism. The emphasis placed on Blessed John Henry Newman very definitely shows the former point, rather than perhaps singling out other persons to be held up as good influences and examples.

There is naturally a considerable amount of cynicism about ARCIC in ordinariate-bound Anglican and conservative Catholic circles. But ARCIC continues with the blessing of the Pope himself. Are these meetings just a country club to give privileged men and women a pleasant holiday with first-class accommodation and fine food paid for by other people’s money? Why do these meetings continue? Obviously the Church of England is still an esteemed partner in dialogue, and there is still a possibility of pulling that institution back from the irreversible. Right or wrong?

Monsignor Langham finds difficulties with the present Ordinariate setup, and this is interesting from the point of view of a priest who was for some time the secretary of Cardinal Kasper. In the article I cited, the chief difficulties are the Ordinariate adversely affecting the trust the Church of England has in Rome. The other difficulty is being less discreet about giving dispensations from celibacy, and thus creating a duality between married convert priests and Catholics priests having to obtain a rescript of laicisation in order to marry, and then live in a less than honourable light. In other words – It isn’t fair!

Then, and this is coming from Monsignor Langham, what will be specifically Anglican about the Ordinariate. Unlike American Anglicans, the English Ordinariate is entirely formed of Anglicans of Anglo-Papalist tendency in terms of their theology, liturgy and sacraments. For the time being, the main difference is that most of the Ordinariate’s clergy are married, but this will be only exceptionally from the “second generation”.

I quote from the article:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already said that the Ordinariate may “last or be a temporary way to enter the Catholic Church”.

Did they really say such a thing?

Whichever “interpretation” prevails, I am sure the foundation of the American, Canadian and Australian ordinariates – which will not consist exclusively of Anglo-Papalists – will be a very great help in defining the possibility of bringing Anglican patrimony into communion with the Holy See. The quicker they are instituted, the faster the less positive interpretations can be put to rest and fears of the weak-hearted allayed.