The balancing act


It is clear from comments on recent posts that certain people still imagine the Ordinariate exists outside of diocesan structure and is in competition to the wider church in this land. Nothing could be further from the truth. Critics and friends alike do well to remember this; the Ordinariate is part of the Latin Rite not a separate structure disconnected from it.

Which is why our priests were ordained by diocesan bishops having attended formation arranged by Allen Hall. As one bishop remarked to a layman questioning our validity- ‘if he isn’t a proper priest nobody else is either!’ We begin to see why it was easy for Ordinariate priests to transition into parishes to serve any Catholics who worship there. At the most fundamental level we are priests like any other. And so Ordinariate members are free to attend Mass in any church; just as diocesan Catholics are welcome to worship where our priests operate too. We are one despite having our unique mission to fulfil.

Take St. Anselm’s. It is now served by Ordinariate priests but it remains a diocesan church. The parish having the same status as any other in the deanery. Of course it is distinctive; our priests are beholden to the Ordinary first and diocesan bishop second…as would be the case for any parish run by religious. And our charism and patrimony provides distinctive gifts. As is true for Benedictines, Augustinians, Jesuits, etc etc… So we might offer Divine Worship as well as the Novus Ordo but the parish is a parish like any other.

Oh that our critics would get this into their heads! When we seek resources and buildings and control we are not wrestling them away from the Latin Rite. We are the Latin Rite. It is not therefore hostile action but the offer of help. Akin to an organisation moving an employee into that place where they can be most effective for the overall gain of the company. Our vocation is to help the Church as part of the reform of the reform. We are not a breakaway schismatic group called to dwell in the ghetto- and should this ever happen we would have failed our mandate. But nor are we called to simply function like all others. Difference can be healthy where unity exists.

Back to Pembury and we might eventually seek some sort of agreement, say that appointments be made at the discretion of the Ordinary, to ensure long term Ordinariate flourishing (as has occurred at Precious Blood) but we would never seek a break with the diocese. That would be pointless. We are called to be a body breathing with two lungs and we would not have it any other way.

Why then a call for our own buildings? Because where smaller groups are under the control of non-Ordinariate priests, and/or unable to book slots for worship conducive to growth, there our mission is struggling. Only an idiot would fail to see that the Oratorians, for example, would struggle to thrive if forced to book services at Farm Street, as opposed to having their own building to reflect their patrimony. Yet that does not mean Farm Street is in competition with the Oratory. Far from it.

So why do people imagine granting the Ordinariate help is a negative move or a danger to other parishes? I suspect it is because what they really oppose is change; a fear of the reform of the reform itself. In truth it is not that we are too separate- as they state- that annoys them but rather that we are far too close…the liturgical vocation we have been given by the Congregation for Divine Worship proving an irritant and unwelcome gift to accept. But that discussion is for another day. Let us remain focused on our intended identity and belonging.

What becomes clear is that there is a careful balancing act for every Ordinariate priest and group to consider. We must remain distinctive and yet also a functioning part of that which we joined. Lean too far into diocesan inculturation and we fail to build the Ordinariate as the Holy See requires. Lean too far into the Ordinariate and we end up in a ghetto. Between these two pitfalls lies our true goal.

And the hard work isn’t only for those of us in the Ordinariate. The Catholic church called all Catholics to welcome the Ordinariate, to support it and be generous. It is hard to fulfil our mandate if begrudging cold shoulders are offered or meanness or nastiness is exhibited. There just isn’t any room for the sulking elder brother from the prodigal son! But where people have proved open and generous and accepting- there something beautiful has occurred. So at the end of the day it really does take two to tango! Stubborn refusal to dance- from either side of the relationship- must be resisted for it can only bring sorrow to God’s heart and a thwarting to the vision of Pope Benedict.

Consider the image accompanying this post. That is how the Ordinariate is intended to function. The balancing man being the groups where they exist. The rope being the support and resources we are given. The left hand is that of our Ordinary and the right hand is that of the diocesan bishops. We need all working together to avoiding falling by the wayside. A precarious position but with so much potential. Please pray that the balance is found.

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7 thoughts on “The balancing act

  1. I am less sure that the problems of co-existence are theological or ecclesiological. Every bit of the country is in a Catholic parish and, in most dioceses, the clergy depend on the income they receive for their ‘living’. Anglican benefices are also called ‘livings’, though nowadays the income of the clergy does not depend directly on them. Thus, when an Ordinariate priest takes over a diocesan parish he does not deprive anyone else of anything and generally is well accepted by fellow clergy. If he is saying masses, or celebrating the sacraments, in someone else’s parish, then he is affecting the local priest’s income (or the diocese’s’ where monies are sent in centrally). It follows that, in such cases, we shall encounter fear, saintliness, parsimony and generosity, according to whom we are dealing with. The answer, it seems to me – and it will take some years and patience to get there – is for the Ordinariate neither to acquire premises in someone else’s parish – though we have a couple of good examples of that being the best way forward at this time – nor to convene Ordinatiate congregations at unsocial hours in someone’s parish, but to look for solutions where Ordinariate groups and clergy can staff and populate existing parishes, much on the lines of religious orders or the ICHP. That will need patience and quite a bit more imagination than we have all mustered to date. I am very happy that Portsmouth is one of the three or four dioceses which is showing the way.

  2. If you meant ICKSP when you wrote ICHP, then you will find that the situation at present is that neither the Dome of Home or St Walburge’s are any longer parish churches, but are designated ‘shrine churches’. Their former geographical parishes have been assigned to neighbouring parishes. I think the situation may be the same with the FSSP at St Mary’s Warrington. I don’t think any English bishop has had the courage to assign a parish to a traditional order yet.

    1. I work in the Lancaster Diocese .
      Sacred Heart, Ashton-in-Ribble, Preston and St Walburge were amalgamated in 2011 to create a new parish of St Walburge and Sacred Heart. Priest-in-charge (Parochial Adminstrator) is a Nigerian priest on loan to the diocese, a member of Missionary Society of St. Paul, who celebrates Novus Ordo Mass at Sacred Heart on Sunday morning and a Vigil Mass at St Walburge. St Walburge is staffed by priests of ICRSP who exclusively celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on Sundays and weekdays (except the Vigil Mass). So St Walburge’s is still a Parish church of the diocese.

      1. More or less what I said. St Walburge’s is designated a ‘shrine church’. It was one of the conditions placed by Bishop Campbell on handing over the church to the Wachistes that one Bugnini mass must be held there for the parish. The ICKSP have taken on full responsibility for the running, upkeep and restoration of the building, I understand.

  3. But canonically it’s still one of the parish churches of the diocese. This is in contrast to St Ignatius, Preston, which is no longer a parish church (no English Mass celebrated) but has been handed over to the Syro-Malabar community for their exclusive use under the new name of St Alphonsa’s. .

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