Damian Thompson: The English bishops are trying to smother the Ordinariate. How long will Rome tolerate this situation?

15 12 2011

Damian Thompson writes:

Here are some quick observations on the Pope’s Ordinariate project, which it’s now clear requires an intervention from Rome if the “second wave” of ex-Anglican converts is to materialise.

1. Archbishop Vincent Nichols does not regard the provision of a main church for the Ordinariate as a priority. Here’s what he said at a recent press conference: “I think that is something probably beyond their resources at the present time, and I don’t think the Ordinariate would thank us, actually, to simply give it responsibility for a church that it would have to then maintain and upkeep.”

2. Most Ordinariate members do regard a main church as a priority. It suits +Vincent to claim that they don’t; perhaps it also suits certain Ordinariate leaders who have been slow off the mark on this one.

3. The English bishops are quietly reinterpreting (ie, ignoring) Benedict XVI’s instructions to them just before he left England last year. They have settled on a policy of incorporating Ordinariate priests into their dioceses and absorbing Ordinariate groups into the parishes where they meet. This policy, dressed up as a “welcome”, undermines the Pope’s vision of an Ordinariate independent of diocesan structures. Nichols is doing nothing to stop his bishops following this sneaky and subversive strategy.

4. The Vatican is well aware that the English bishops are trying to smother this initiative. The problem is being discussed at a high level. The question is: how will Rome respond?

5. Much depends on the Pope’s state of health. I gather that he is a little frail but essentially healthy for a man of his age. The enemies of the Ordinariate are counting on this pontificate coming to an end before the structures of the English Ordinariate are set in stone.