Fr Christopher Phillips: Ordinariate? Pastoral Provision?

17 11 2011

Fr Christopher Phillips writes at the Anglo-Catholic:

Cardinal Wuerl has announced the date on which the Ordinariate will be established in this country. Now comes the inevitable parsing of every word and phrase, looking for nuanced clues in a way which would make Sherlock Holmes envious. Anglicanorum coetibus itself is able to bear such scrutiny because of its very nature as an Apostolic Constitution, but a report to members of a bishops’ conference cannot, nor should it.

Speculation about the continuation of the Pastoral Provision office under the able leadership of Bishop Vann, running parallel to the Ordinariate under the leadership (also able, we hope) of an Ordinary, has led to guessing as to the reason why this will be. Some commenters on this blog have concluded, after hearing Cardinal Wuerl, that the Ordinariate will be only for those clergy who enter with a group of laity; whereas the Pastoral Provision will be for those solitary clergy who come with no community. Respectfully, I would assert that is not the case. The divide is not to be determined by whether there is a parish or community entering with a cleric.

Anglicanorum coetibus makes it clear that Anglican patrimony is the definitive reason for an Ordinariate to come into being. Pope Benedict XVI stated that there is a three-fold objective when it comes to this patrimony: that it is to be preserved, that it is to be nurtured, and that it is to be shared with the wider Church. This is what should determine the path for an incoming Anglican clergyman. If a man is dedicated to the ideals outlined in the Apostolic Constitution, the Ordinariate is the place for him; if he is not especially interested in our Anglican patrimony, proceeding through the Pastoral Provision into diocesan ministry would be more appropriate.

One path is not better than the other. They simply are different, and are intended to accommodate people’s different spiritual journeys. The same it true for the laity – there are some who find that their best spiritual home is in the local diocesan parish, while others find strength and sustenance in a spirituality which reflects our patrimony.

Even at the beginning of the Pastoral Provision, these two paths were evident. A majority of the Pastoral Provision priests have carried on fruitful ministries in diocesan parishes and chaplaincies, with no reference whatsoever to the Anglican Use. Others of us felt called by God to establish parishes and communities in which we could do what the Ordinariates are now coming into existence to do.

Just because a priest has an Anglican background, doesn’t mean his place is necessarily in the Ordinariate – in fact, I remember a former Episcopal priest who had entered into full communion with the Church just before I did, who said (referring to the fact that we were bringing a separate liturgy with us), “They should give up those things, and become real Catholics.” I hope that attitude is a thing of the past, but it indicates that the Ordinariate wouldn’t be the best place for that particular priest.

The Holy Father is giving us an opportunity to use our liturgy, our devotional life, and our particularly Anglican approach to the Faith, as a tool for evangelism and a means of helping to bring about Christian unity. To fulfill that mandate, the Ordinariate needs clerical leadership which is committed to the vision outlined in Anglicanorum coetibus. It takes more than simply coming from an Anglican background. It requires a commitment to the raison d’être of the Ordinariate.