Yesterday I looked in detail at why the Ordinariate faces hostility from certain quarters. Today I tackle a different issue arising from the Catholic Herald article- the reason why some Ordinariate clergy are doing more than others regarding our development. To do so I want to take some imaginary clergy of the Ordinariate- but place them in real settings- that we might discern why some have more enthusiasm and better morale than others.
Father Autonomy entered the Ordinariate with a reasonably large group of people. He was sent to a small Catholic parish facing closure and given control of development within that parish. Despite initial hostility from certain cradle Catholics, and a lack of support from some within the deanery, he was at least able to roll up his sleeves and work hard to establish the Ordinariate vision.
Five years on and Father Autonomy and his parish is flourishing. There is now a weekly Divine Worship Mass, young families have joined the congregation, and the new organ is helping the choir embraced the now normative plainsong and polyphony drawn from the church’s own treasury. A beautification project has helped the people to love their house of worship once again. The future looks very bright for the Ordinariate in this place.
Father Dependent entered the Ordinariate with only a handful of followers. His tiny group were asked to join the local parish, a large thriving church with several hundred at Mass each Sunday. Father Dependent was set to work as a sort of curate- being given lots of duties within the parish to ensure his keep. His Ordinariate group could find no viable slot for worship on Sunday morning- so they meet on the Second Sunday of each month at 4pm. The group has grown by 50% which means there are still only a dozen souls at each monthly meeting.
Five years on and Father Dependent, who is passionate about the Ordinariate, feels guilty and demoralised. He is working incredibly hard for the diocese and just doesnt have the time to build up the Ordinariate in that place. Sunday afternoon is a lousy time for Mass and he cannot see how the Ordinariate group will survive long term; not least as the members are now used to worshipping Novus Ordo Sunday morning by Sunday morning. He too is getting used to the diocesan way and can see that there is a danger he might turn native. He attempts Divine Worship but the poor ordering of the church does not suit it and he has zero control of the set up in the sanctuary. The future looks challenging in this place.
Father Rebellious joined the Ordinariate with a group but only as a means to an end- he would never have been ordained a Catholic priest without it. He used the Roman Rite as an Anglican and secretly wanted to go native to the diocese the moment he joined. For this reason he slotted in with the standard diocesan pattern and did nothing whatsoever to establish the Ordinariate. He has caused some damage by bad mouthing it to any who will listen. The bishop gave him a good living in a thriving parish.
Five years on and, whilst his financial situation might have helped the Ordinariate, he has never sent a penny to the centre. His brother priests feel betrayed by him. He is now settled in a successful parish where he is in control. He has no inclination to use Divine Worship and does not bother to attend Ordinariate meetings. He has been in talks with the diocese to transfer for he cannot see why he shouldn’t benefit from the pension and health care provision. The Ordinariate never happened in this place. Which is lamentable as the potential for growth was significant.
Father Chaplain entered the Ordinariate with a small group who couldn’t hope to support him financially. He was therefore employed as a chaplain to a giant hospital which takes up the lion’s share of his time. His group is drawn from a large geographic area but most are committed to meeting regularly. They use a local church every week but at an unpopular hour.
Five years on and Father Chaplain is exhausted. He would love to do more for the Ordinariate but he lives 40 miles away from his people and is on call most days of the week. He struggles to attend meetings with other Ordinariate clergy due to his working hours. Yet he remains a good friend to them. Because of his enthusiasm his group have held together well and there are reasons for optimism about future development. But people cannot see how this will happen unless he is freed to be their priest.
What can be done for each group?
There then are a some typical case studies. It becomes clear why some groups are doing better than others. It also becomes clear why some clergy are better situated than others to find confidence in the overall mission. The work of the hierarchy of the Ordinariate must now be this; to ponder each individual setting and make inspired changes where the Ordinariate mission is thwarted or strangled.
Could Father Rebellious be sent to the busy chaplaincy, given that he doesn’t care about the Ordinariate anyway, that Father Chaplain might take over his group, rescue that situation and enable them to flourish? Is there any way resources and a building could be found to help ween Fr. Dependent off diocesan support? He would then be free to put his energy and talent into the building up of our mission rather than serving diocese first and his own ordinary second.
Every group needs to be looked at afresh. And where a situation is manifestly not favouring the Ordinariate questions must be asked in collaboration with the CDF and diocesan bishops. And this is exactly the type of conversation and analysis the report ‘Growing up and growing out’ was written to facilitate.
Please God it is not just placed on a shelf in fear but bravely engaged with. Radical decisions need to be made if each group is to be ensured of success into the future. We simply have to build our own non-geographical diocese and not just a devotional society type sandwich club to indulge priests of a certain disposition.