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Why, What and How?
Wednesday 20 April 2011 Articles

There have been many questions asked about the Ordinariate. Here I have attempted to answer some of them:

The Anglican Church was unique among the post-reformation churches. It was reformed but also wanted to hold on to the catholic orders of bishops, priests and deacons. Those twin traditions of catholic and reformed have shaped its history. This legacy made possible the Oxford Movement, the great catholic revival in the Church of England, and arguably its greatest fruit, Blessed John Henry Newman. Among many Anglo-catholics the long felt desire for unity was given new impetus after Vatican II.

Vatican II was also a watershed for the Catholic Church and made possible a greater dialogue with baptised Christians out of communion with the See of Peter. In 1966 the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, made an historic visit to the Vatican at the gracious invitation of Pope Paul VI. The fruits of that meeting led to a Common Declaration which included a pledge to ‘a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed’.

In response ARCIC (Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission) was formed. Over forty years the commission looked at Eucharistic doctrine, ministry and ordination and authority in the Church, Salvation and the Church, Morals, Communion and the Church, clarifications on Eucharist and ministry, and a study on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Anglicanism has claimed that scripture, tradition and reason have been its sources of authority. However, the ongoing internal dialogue within the federation of the Anglican Communion, attempting to grapple with defining itself, has floundered because of the lack of an adjudicating magisterium. This lack of authority allowed the rise of liberal thought as a third tradition: a liberal tradition within which some have questioned the virgin birth, incarnation, resurrection, even the existence of God.

Without a magisterium, governance of the three, often competing, traditions within Anglicanism has been solved with the introduction of greater democratic voting within general synods. The General Synod of the Church of England has all but voted to reject its catholic roots, undermining the 40 years of work by ARCIC and made talk of unity almost impossible. Western Anglicanism seems inevitably to be moving in a liberal evangelical direction.

Out of this maelstrom Anglo-catholics saw the dream of unity slip away and their very existence threatened. Naturally some looked toward Rome and asked Pope Benedict for a lifeline. The Ordinariate was the Pope’s generous response. It allows Anglican parish groups, with their priests, to come into full communion with the See of Peter. The Ordinariate establishes a new Roman Catholic diocese but one that is not fixed to a certain geographical area. Monsignor Keith Newton has been appointed as its Ordinary and each parish group belongs to the Ordinariate diocese and not the local diocese.

Why a new diocese? The Vatican graciously spoke of this development being one of shared gifts. Not only are these groups to receive the greater gifts of full sacramental communion, magisterium and collegiality but that the Anglicans had some small gifts to offer in return. These Anglo-catholic communities are not leaving valued things behind but being enabled to discover its fullest expression within the Ordinariate and full communion.

Pope Benedict has also stated that he hoped that the Ordinariate will be a “prophetic sign”, a signal to other Anglicans that all they have fought to express faithfully over the years, all that was of God, can find its fulfilment here in communion with the See of Peter as Roman Catholics. The existence of the Ordinariate should help provide a bridge that enables a larger number of Anglicans to take that life giving step to full communion.

It is the generosity of Bishop Kieran, Fr Raglan, and many helping and welcoming from the parish and in particular St Agnes that has made possible the existence of the Eastbourne Ordinariate group. There will be mass held at St. Agnes for the group after my ordination. Any Roman Catholic will be able to attend mass and receive but will properly belong to the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

What about married priests? Married priests are not new to the Catholic Church. However, Anglicanorum Coetibus makes it clear that vocations arising from within the Ordinariate diocese will be expected to follow the same discipline of celibacy as all Roman Catholic dioceses.

What about the speed at which things have happened? As the Ordinariate is for groups, the timetable is quick to enable these to maintain their identity and fulfil their mission imperative. The group has had and will continue to have catechesis. Also a parish cannot properly be the messianic people of God without a priest and Ordinary. As for the priests themselves, training at Seminary will continue for two years after ordination.

Finances are another concern. Yet again we owe a debt of gratitude to the diocese for providing housing for our family. The small parish groups are not, to begin with, going to be able to cover the living costs of the priest and his family. I will work along side my fellow Catholic priests, therefore there will be mass stipends for some weekdays and for some Sunday masses but that may not be enough. Priests of the Ordinariate have been given dispensation to supplement their income by taking on part-time paid employment.

I realise I haven’t answered all the questions as there are many that cannot yet be answered but it is a beginning. Please continue to pray that the leading of the Spirit enables this small movement to play its part in bringing glory to God.

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