Fr Simon Chinery writes in Catholic South West, a publication of the Diocese of Plymouth:
Of all the Dioceses of England and Wales, the Diocese of Plymouth contains one of the larger collections of Catholics of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (former members of the Church of England who last year moved to the Catholic Church in groups of clergy and laity). Many Catholics in the diocese, though, are rather unclear as to what the Ordinariate is, and what it is for. In this first of a regular column in Catholic South West we will try to answer some of the questions that are often put to us.
Is the Ordinariate a half-way house between the Catholic Church and the Church of England?
No, members of the Ordinariate are fully members of the Catholic Church. Their priests are able to celebrate Mass in any Catholic church and their laity may receive communion throughout the Catholic world. Likewise any Catholic may attend an Ordinariate Mass and fulfil their Sunday obligations and any Catholic priest may participate in Ordinariate celebrations.
Is the Ordinariate a ‘church within the Church’?
Only in the same way that the Diocese of Plymouth is! The universal Catholic Church is made up of many particular, local churches – Dioceses, Religious Orders, Personal Prelatures and Ordinariates – all joined through their communion with the Bishop of Rome. Each local church has its own leader – a Bishop, an Abbot or an Ordinary – and these local Churches work together for the mission of the Church under the Pope. The leader of the Ordinariate is Mgr. Keith Newton who is answerable directly to Pope Benedict, and the priests and people of the Ordinariate owe their allegiance and obedience to him rather than to the Bishop of Plymouth. Nevertheless, the members of the Ordinariate residing in the Diocese of Plymouth cooperate fully with the mission of the Catholic Church in this area and their priests are fully involved in the life of the Diocese working in parishes and chaplaincies alongside their work for the Ordinariate.
Is the Ordinariate just a temporary measure to help unhappy members of the Church of England move into the Catholic Church?
That is not the vision of the Holy Father, nor the legal basis of the Ordinariate. There is no time limit on the Ordinariate other than in God’s eternal plan. Cardinal Levada, one of the most senior members of the Vatican staff recently compared it with the Ambrosian Rite – a distinctive way of being Catholic that has existed within the Roman Church for many hundreds of years. Pope Benedict firmly believes that the Anglican tradition contains riches that can add to the Catholic treasury and enhance its liturgical and pastoral strength.
What happens next with the Ordinariate?
It is envisioned to be a permanent bridge to help groups of Anglicans come into the full communion of the Catholic Church, but more importantly to be a new force for mission within our country and the world. Pope Benedict is committed to a New Evangelisation and the Ordinariate is a personal project of his to strengthen this activity.
Internationally, new Ordinariates are expected to be erected very soon in the United States and then in Australia and Canada.
In this country, preparations are well underway for the next ‘wave’ of priests and congregations to move across from the Church of England next year.
Locally, the groups established this year in St Austell, Buckfast and Torbay have been organising and consolidating in their new homes and situations. They have begun their independent and distinctive existence alongside the diocesan parishes which have shown them such great hospitality. Now they are starting the missionary activity entrusted to them by the Holy Father.
Next month we hope to bring you a report of VOICE, an exciting youth event in Torbay organised by young people from the Ordinariate, and on Advent Sunday at 6pm at Christ the King, Plymouth the Ordinariate are offering an Advent Carol Service drawing on the riches of the Anglican musical tradition but offered in the fullness of the Catholic Church.