Answering the critics


Yesterday I explained why the Ordinariate, the freshest expression of unity within the Catholic Church, has endured criticism as well as friendship. I examined the predominant reasons why this vision, which the Pope labelled ‘prophetic’, can be challenging and/or uncomfortable.

To demonstrate the progress being made by the Ordinariate what now follows is an examination of the criticisms stemming from those wanting to pour cold water over the initiative. I will then show how, in every instance, the accusations are proving hollow. For the vision is strong and, I believe, the Holy Spirit is present in it.

1) The Ordinariate will never take off This was the first accusation and came days after the Vatican announced the initiative. It was followed by assurances that even if it did happen then it would take years to form. Instead everything came together within an incredibly short timescale. What became obvious was that this was seen as a pressing need in the eyes of Pope Benedict.

2) The Vatican is losing interest Once it became clear that the ordinariate would take off detractors began to claim the Vatican had lost interest having imagined that take up would be larger than it was. The aim was to sow doubt in the minds of those drawn to it. But far from losing interest the Holy Father repeatedly called for generosity in supporting the venture from the wider Catholic church. He also ensured that he visited England to beatify our co-patron John Henry Newman and ensured we were the last thing he spoke of before returning to Rome. He has gifted us financial assistance from his own resources and several key members of the CDF have visited to encourage and support us. Why at a recent meeting of Catholic clergy in Reading Archbishop Di Noia positively embraced me on discovering I was Ordinariate and assured me of how excited many people in the Vatican are!

3) The Ordinariate as second class option Perhaps the favourite put down of the detractors and first voiced by the Archbishop of York. I refer to the suggestion that those wanting to become Catholic would be better “doing it properly”. The idea being that the Ordinariate is a poor alternative to ‘real’ membership of RCC. But of course the truth is that we who joined saw clergy ordained into the Latin Rite by Catholic bishops of England and Wales. We then took up posts serving not only the Ordinariate but diocesan parishes and chaplaincies. The obvious point being that the ordinariate door places you in the same place as the Diocesan route. That is what unity is about. One is either Catholic or not and we Ordinariate members are.

4) The Ordinariate will never attract members I was one of the first to publicly endorse the Ordinariate option. I was then barraged with accusations that I would not join. I received hate mail and even had a blog erected against me by someone called Poppytupper which ridiculed my physique and character. Then letters were sent to Catholic bishops which made complaints against me and suggested I was not suitable for ordination. These all failed. The next accusation then was to suggest that growth would never happen. But I am delighted to report that this too is being shown to be untrue. The ordinariate now numbers 81 priests, 1 deacon, 3 seminarians, 3 nuns and 1350 lay members. It has recorded growth of over 15% in the last 12 months and I am currently in dialogue with some who are hoping to join us in the third wave. Slow, steady and manageable growth – exactly what is needed.

5) The Ordinariate has no Anglican patrimony Only yesterday the ever negative Canon Godsall tried to rubbish the Ordinariate by claiming that our Anglican patrimony is non existent. But again this is going to be proved wrong as the new Ordinariate Customary and Rite make clear. Those joining are at liberty to use all the liturgical practice of the Roman Catholic Church but will also be enriched by a new Mass stemming from the English Missal, we have our hymnody, Evensong and so much more besides. This will ensure that we find the balance between remaining part of the church we have joined whilst keeping our own history and traditions alive. It means we can cater not only to those versed in the Roman Rite from within the C of E but also those from a Prayerbook background and tradition.

These are just five of the ways people have tried to undermine us since our inception. Isn’t it wonderful that we have been so blessed as to overcome these and answer the critics on each occasion? The truth is that there has been a struggle at times and a spiritual battle has raged. My own sense is that the devil really doesn’t want this to happen!

However slowly but surely we are finding our feet and, through God’s grace, the tiny seed planted by Pope Benedict is starting to grow. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to overcome the remaining hurdles and ensure the vision is enabled to perform whatever purpose God has in store for it. These are exciting times and it is a privilege to be part of something that could play a part in the faith of this land in the future. Being Anglo-Catholic was, so often, about looking backwards to the 19th Century movement of Newman and the like. Whereas the ordinariate is about looking forwards very much to something which God is now doing in our day. We walk where Newman once led….

Oh and a final answer to the person who sent me a rude message yesterday wondering when I find the time to blog and hinting it must mean I do no work in the parish….the answer stems from another part of my Anglican patrimony. A baby in the family means I rise at 5am and have plenty of time to type before the day starts!

50 thoughts on “Answering the critics”

  1. The Ordinariate may well take off – it certainly needs more lay members and there, I think, lies the difficulty: I was surprised to find at Walsingham last week that most lay people are not opposed to the ministry of women – and I think this would probably be true if a poll were taken of all lay people in the Anglo Catholic tradition. You may find more priests join the Ordinariate but I would be surprised if many more lay people join – unless they are seriously mistreated by the Church of England. I think most Anglo Catholics just want to carry on being Anglo Catholics and if in years to come, their parish priest is a good Catholic woman, well they will very soon come to love ‘Mother’ as much as they loved ‘Father’. We are the body of Christ – each and every one of us. Now – why not give Hayley a break and let her write your early morning blog while you take care of the children? Come to think of it – we could all do with a break, Fr Ed.

    1. Sorry Gill but your cheap shot doesnt land. Hayley is sleeping in bed whilst I sit with a baby happy playing on the floor. I stop and start to care for him and ensure he is well. Nice try though….

      1. I’ve noticed over the past few years that there has been a gradual decine in the numbers of traditionalist Anglo-catholics going to the larger events in Walsingham and these are being replaced by Aff-Caths, who are neither affirming nor Catholic.

        Some of the people who used to go have left the Church of England, but I know for a fact that others haven’t and simply don’t go to Anglican events in Walsingham as they no longer regard it as ‘sound’.

    2. The aim of “Anglo-catholicism” at its inception was reunion with Rome, by returning the cofE to its Catholic roots.

      That has, in part, been achieved – the Ordinariates have been established (and continue to be established).

      Those who remain in the Anglican Fellowship that you say are “happy to carry on being Anglo catholics” are not Anglocatholic by its very definition, as they have no interest in unity with Rome; and they are willing to accept the ministry of someone that it is impossible to impart ministry upon (and it stands in the way of reunion with Rome).

      Truly, a bluff has been called – the wheat and chaff have been separated, with those who really are “Anglo Catholics” being drawn to the Ordinariates.

      Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

    3. @ Gill:
      When a woman is “ordained” in the C of E, it just doesn’t “take,” even if the “bishop” presses hard on her head. If you are happy with lay ministry, then stay away from the rest of us and stop trolling.
      You left the Catholic Church, presumably for the usual “personal” reasons, and that is unfortunate. Maybe one day you can be reconciled. Your constant justifications for being “Anglican” are unconvincing and fool no-one.

      1. Are not all the baptized, whether ordained or not, members of the laity? Similarly are not all the baptized called to servants, that is ministers? We should have no problem with lay ministry, is there any other kind?

  2. According to the same figures, this year’s growth has already much exceeded 40%, and according to reports by a number of Ordinariate groups some more people are to be received before Christmas, so one can safely estimate the annual growth rate at close to 50%.
    Honestly I must admit that I am of small faith, as I haven’t really expected such healthy figures, taking into account that: (i) The “regulatory” canon framework has not been accepted yet, so there are still “groups” rather than regular “parishes” in the Ordinariate; (ii) For the same reason and for shortage of funds (though reportedly the financial situation is much more stable now), the question of separate buildings has not moved forward yet apart from some splendid exceptions, like St Agatha’s (clearly, the Ordinariate prefers to invest its limited resources in people, i.e. training of new priests, than in real estate, which seems to be very evangelical attitude), and (iii) last but not least, in purely human terms, a general feeling of expectancy among traditionally minded people that women bishops legislation might fall after all does not seem to favour Ordinariate growth.

    1. “a general feeling of expectancy among traditionally minded people that women bishops legislation might fall after all does not seem to favour Ordinariate growth.”
      I’m sorry Ian, but if this is the only reason these people will become Catholic, then they should stay where they are.
      The Ordinariate is about, first and foremost, unity. Coming over just because they don’t want to have a woman bishop over them will not help the Ordinariate cause.

      1. “if this is the only reason” is the key in your statement. As long as negativity (i.e. developments within the Anglican Communion) is not the ONLY reason, but rather an impulse or ‘last straw’ finally leading people to make a positive decision for unity, that’s a factor we have to account for. Even Msgr Keith Newton himself mentioned CofE bishopesses issue as somewhat affecting the Ordinariate short-term future in one of his interviews early this year. In real world, it is usually a mix of negative and positive reasons, though I wholeheartedly agree that people who join for purely negative reasons will soon be disappointed (unless their motivation is subsequently ‘purified’, which also happens from time to time).

        1. If Rome – alone – is the True Church, then her appeal is irrestible, Ordinariate or no Ordinariate, and regardless of what the CofE does or doesn’t do.
          Must one necessarily change denominations to be saved? Does one become a ‘better’ Christian by joining the Ordinariate or some other part of the RC Communion?
          Are not all Christians those who are “of the Lord”? I am greatly attracted to many, many things about Rome, but remain baffled at its refusal of the Sacraments to those Christians outside her fold.

          1. (i) “then her appeal is irrestible”
            No, God has given us free will, so we can always accept or reject His invitation.
            (ii) “Ordinariate or no Ordinariate”
            In the ideal world, you would be right. But in the real world, if you build a bridge rather than invite people to swim (the Tiber), there is a chance that more of them will get to the other bank.
            (iii) Must one necessarily change denominations to be saved?
            It helps in our journey if we have full sacramental help which God has prepared for us and access to true undistorted teaching “which was once delivered to the saints” by successors of apostles.
            (iv) Does one become a ‘better’ Christian by joining the Ordinariate or some other part of the RC Communion?
            No, you do not become a better person by this act itself (that can only be the effect of grace or work of the Holy Spirit in you, particularly through sacraments). But if you believe that our Lord has established visible undivided Church and that this Church is in fact His mystical body, then you certainly get closer to our Lord.
            (v) I remain baffled at its refusal of the Sacraments to those Christians outside her fold
            Sacraments are a visual sign of unity. You need to enter the Church first to receive them – as simple as that. BTW, according to Catholic teaching, sacraments by all other Christians who retained their true meaning and form are absolutely valid. Therefore, Trinitarian baptism is never repeated when non-Catholic Christians enter the Church.

          2. To answer your question I must make some assumptions, so forgive me if I assume incorrectly.
            The Catholic Church (Roman and all of its Eastern Catholic Rites) accepts seven sacraments.
            We accept any baptism in which water is used, either poured or by immersion, in which the intention of the person doing the baptism is to baptize the person receiving the sacrament, and which uses the trinitarian formula of ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost (or Spirit).
            Of the other six two Reconciliation(Confession) and Anointing with Oil (Anointing of the Sick) are generally not accepted by non-Catholics as sacraments anyway. I believe Confirmation is the same. So that leaves only Ordination, Matrimony and Eucharist. A non-catholic, who is a Christian is not barred from Sacramental Matrimony to a Catholic, provided they are unmarried, as understood by the Church. I assume that Ordination is not the sacrament you are concerned with.
            So your question really is why do Catholics deny entrance to the Eucharist to non-Catholics? Another name for Eucharist is, of course Communion. So right from the start it does not seem unusual to me that the Church should deny Communion to those who they are not in communion with.
            But there are more solid theological reasons that do not rest on word-play.
            Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That is the Eucharist contains the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a symbol. It is not a sign. It is not a recreation, or merely an acting out of Calvary. It is the real thing.
            It doesn’t get that way because the congregation believes it is so. It doesn’t happen because the individual believes it is so. It happens because the Holy Spirit causes it to happen when the ordained priest, acting In persona Christi, (in the place of Christ) says the words of consecration.
            If you that’s not what you believe about Eucharist then I would maintain it’s not unreasonable that the Catholic Church does not open Communion to you. If it’s what you believe then I would pray that you seriously consider the Ordinate, because they is where you will find the True Presence in teh Mass.

          3. The Catholic Church is the only true church of which the SRC (Sancta Romana Ecclesia) is but one Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome. There are many. There are numerous Eastern Churches who acknowledge the Pope as Head of the Church on earth and now the Ordinariate follows suite. Not one of these Churches is greater or lesser than the others .
            notwithstanding the fact that the SRC is by far numerically and geographically the largest and its Patriarch of the West is (or used to be yet de facto still is) the Pope. If you are in communion with Benedict XVI regardless of your rite, then you are a member of the Catholic (Universal) Church.
            Being a ‘better Christian’ does not depend upon being a member of the Catholic Church but only upon the realisation that to be a Christian one needs to be a member of the Catholic Church.
            The Catholic Church only refuses the Sacraments to those who deny what the Catholic Church teaches and/or don’t believe in the efficacy of those Sacraments as the taught by the Catholic Church.

      1. This is correct. I believe it was purchased in a very sorry state by Portsmouth City Council, and subsequently given to St Agatha’s Trust to manage and restore it as far as practical, and to make it available for concerts and as a heritage centre, as well as to enable it to be used as a place of Christian worship. The chair of the Trust is Fr Maunder, and I believe that most of the Trustees are active parishioners of St Agatha’s.

  3. Thank you, Fr Ed, for your clear and robust reposte, as always.
    May I add one fuirther criticism often raised against us? It’s that the Ordinariate has nothing to do with the expression of Christian unity, but Rome just sweeping up dissident Anglo-Catholics into its fold with insistence of absolution (re-)confirmation and (re-)ordination. So it’s no different from the call to ‘Come home, all is forgiven’, submission and absorption, not unity on equal terms. My counterargument will be, if that were the case, why didn’t the Vatican just extend the Pastoral Provision (in US where former Anglicans were able to retain their church, liturgy and tradition but under the jurisdiction of local RC diocese) to England, Wales and other parts of the world? Why did they create ordinariate as a distinct part of the Western Church directly answerable to the Holy See? As Pope Benedict himself said, he wants to see the Ordinariate as a prophetic gesture contrubuting to greater unity among Anglicans and Catholics. No other non-Catholic groups have been given anything remotely resembling it, and it shows Rome’s desire to see the distinct Anglican patrimony to continue and to enrich the whole of the Catholic Church. As for the issue of confirmation and ordination, we understand in the context of sacramental assurance and certainty – that those who want to be Catholics and exercise Catholic priesthood must have no doubt whatever about their sacramental position, ratified by the whole Church. While some of us would have preferred conditional ordination, and the Vatican does make provisions for those who request it, it will involve perhaps years of investigation and verifications that will not serve our needs or the group we represent.

    1. “No other non-Catholic groups have been given anything remotely resembling it”
      Interestingly, Father Masaki, in the US the Ordinariate, despite being much more BCP-oriented than in the UK, seems to be a very attractive ‘offer’ also for those of non-Anglican background. Just last week, the first clergyman from the main Lutheran denomination (ELCA) was ordained a transitional deacon for the Chair of St Peter Ordinariate.

      1. Yes indeed. I know there has been an interest for the ordinariate among the Lutherans in the US. I wonder if some Scandinavian Lutherans may be attracted to the idea.

        1. The last remnants of high church Lutherans in Sweden have looked at the “option” but Rome seem to be vary. There are just no “catholic” parishes or congregations in CofS any more and most of the high church clergy are compromised sacramentaly or have changed to an AffCath position.

        1. Dr. Belen Gonzalez y Perez ordained deacon for the Chair of St Peter Ordinariate on Nov. 10 after having been removed from the list of ordained ministers of ELCA on June 25, 2012.

    2. “No other non-Catholic groups have been given anything remotely resembling it”…apart from all those sui juris Eastern Catholic Churches full of people whose ancestors used to be Orthodox.

      1. I should have said ‘in the Western Church.’ Mind, the Eastern Catholic Church is a ritual church, which the Ordinariate is not, though a particular church characterised by the Anglican patrimony.

      2. A big difference, Jake, is that those Eastern Catholics are spread out several different rites, each distinct from the Latin rite.

        Anglican Use has no such distinction; it is recognized as part of the Roman or Latin rite since it is indeed rooted in it rather than being seen as its own rite. To protect the Anglican traditions and liturgies acceptable to Rome from being absorbed into nearby Roman dioceses and effectively eliminated by that absorption, the Ordinariate exists in its own form but included as part of the Roman Rite..

  4. The Ordinariate was always likely to be a marathon and not a sprint. The fact that membership has not reached 5m in 18 months is not of itself cause for concern. That’s not to say being small but perfectly formed means there no challenges, just it’s not one of the main ones.
    Becoming part of the Roman Catholic Church simply felt like a homecoming. So obvious I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. For some reason I don’t miss the debates about women bishops and gay marriage. There are much better things to get excited about.

  5. As a lifelong Catholic, I’d love to have a ‘RC-approved’ evensong to go to, for I truly love Anglican psalm settings.

  6. Fantastic! Just found you thanks to Father Tim Finigan. Some very well written posts on here! As an Essex Catholic, I have the great fortune and blessing of knowing several of your Ordinariate brothers. May God continue to bless your work Father!

  7. Why not join the Ordinariate?
    1. The lack of patrimony regarding married priests.
    Surely the Ordinariate will suffer a lack of ordinariations as this crucial part of Anglican Patrimony is denied.

    2. The lack of provision.
    Most Anglo Catholic parishes had an early morning Low Mass, a mid morning parish Mass and an evening devotion (e.g. Benediction).
    This is replaced for the Ordinariate groups with a simple Mass bunged between the parish Masses which have a more convenient timing.
    Who wants to go to Sunday Mass at 6pm?

    3. The lack of buildings.
    As Mgr John Broadhurst wrote in the Portal, he misses the Anglican churches.
    RC churches are usually plain, modern and have no history.

    1. Those that “have no history” cannot be blamed for having been deprived of their ancient Catholic patrimony. Even then, authenticity and validity are far more important than appearances, however grand.

    2. Re 1. That is simply untrue, as AC clearly provides for accepting married candidates for ordination on a case by case basis also from among people who have never been Anglican clergy.
      Re 2. You are absolutely right about these early difficulties of this incredible venture built from the scratch; hence my astonishment with the fact the UK Ordinariate will have seen nearly 50% annual growth by the end of this year.

    3. 1 & 3: Perhaps for those people like you who think that buildings and convenience are more important than Faith…
      2: Anglicanorum Coetibus provide guidelines for the continuous ministry of married men in the ordinariates.
      What will you do when a Bishopess will wave the code of practice and come to you parish to preside at Holy Communion?

      + PAX et BONUM

      1. The last thing a bishopess will do with a code of practice is to wave it. She will leave it locked away out of sight.

    4. These may be some of the reasons why some people do not join the Ordinariate. What is of more interest is why people do join the Ordinariate. In most cases it is a realisation that the true Church of Jesus Christ subsists in the universal Catholic Church.

  8. “Perhaps the favourite put down of the detractors and first voiced by the Archbishop of York. I refer to the suggestion that those wanting to become Catholic would be better “doing it properly”. ”

    Speaking as a cradle Catholic I find it extraordinary that Anglicans could attack Ordinariate members (defined by the Anglican gifts they bring to the Church) as not ‘doing it properly’, and that ‘doing it properly’ means being full Catholics.
    So to be clear: Anglicans say Ordinariate members are compromised by their ‘Anglicanness’, whereas the Catholic Church values Ordinariate members PRECISELY because of their ‘Anglicanness’! What a topsy turvy world we live in!

  9. Sorry, typed too fast. Ordinariate members are of course ‘full’ Catholics. What I meant to say is: “…’doing it properly’ means ordinary Catholics shorn of any Anglican gifts.”

  10. I was received into the Roman Catholic church from the Anglican church. I can’t see why anyone but those in the anglo-catholic wing of the Anglican church would join the Ordinariate rather than their local Catholic parish. If, as Ed has said elsewhere, the anglo-catholic part of Anglican church is dying off, I can’t see much potential for growth in the Ordinariate.

    1. I disagree. In fact its the English Anglo-Catholics, who were reared on the Roman Rite, who find themselves more challenged in presenting the patrimony we are asked to offer. Meanwhile the Prayerbook Catholics and former Evangelicals, reared on the BCP, will feel very at home with the new rite when it arrives. Ultimately though there is something for everyone and I do not think we will fade away as some predict and others hope. There is too much of the touch of the Holy Spirit and spiritual battle in all that has happened thus far for that to be likely…

      1. By the way Fr, would it be possible to record the first BDW Mass at St Anselm’s? All those on youtube are from American groups (most of them said by Fr. Phillips) and it would be interesting to see how the English are doing it… Will it be more Dearmer or Fortescue?

        + PAX et BONUM

      2. Thank you, Father. I stand corrected, and know much less of the A-C movement than you do. I shall look forward to seeing the new rite when it arrives; does it include the Prayer of Humble Access, which I most miss from the BCP?

      3. “Prayerbook Catholics and former Evangelicals, reared on the BCP”
        It is a pity, though perhaps inevitable, that the English Ordinariate so soon became the property of Roman-rite ex-Anglicans who had not greatly valued their own “patrimony” – but perhaps they are beginning to now.

    2. I do see scope for the Ordinariate to grow in the next few years. There are issues building up in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion generally that will lead to further disillusionment.

      However, I do fear for the many very small groups within the Ordinariate. They will need help from the wider Catholic Church if they are to become viable entities. If you have one in your area, give it your support.

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