Problems with the Anglican Ordinariate in England?

Preamble: Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

Pope Benedict gets to determine the parameters and dynamics of ecumenism, not his critics. According to his approach and vision, he has been making headway. Some will say that he is working on a foundation laid by his predecessors. That’s how these things work, after all. It’s called continuity and organic development.

Here is something from Damian Thompson. My emphases and comments.

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

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.  [During the last plenary of the USCCB I watched as bishops discussed how they could use the former-Anglicans of the developing US Ordinariate.]

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.

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  1. arotron theou says:

    Not wanting to make excuses for anyone not following Pope Benedict’s instructions, still it seems to me that this overlap of a personal diocese with a territorial diocese is a new situation in the Church, and therefore much susceptible to confusion and delay. I don’t think anyone is very clear yet on the proper relationship between the ordinary of the Ordinariate and the diocesan ordinary, and between the diocesan ordinary and the priests of the Ordinariate. There are ambiguous lines of authority, something the Church in general works hard to avoid. The closest parallel, I think, would be ordered priests in territorial dioceses, a great many of whom do have assignments in the pastorates of the territorial diocese.

  2. Martin_B says:

    Lately there have been some articles about the financial problems of the ordinariate.

    This is something which is no surprise, if you look at the rather small congregations (each one of them, mot all together).

    Therefor I can imagine, that the “employment” of ordinariate priests by the english dioceses might even be helping them to get along.

  3. rfox2 says:

    I can understand the hesitation. The Ordinariate has the potential to create administrative complications for the Church in England (note, that is different from an “English Church”). And, the Ordinariate is somewhat artificial, in that ultimately these people are either Catholic or they aren’t. If they are Catholic, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome and his subsidiaries. Liturgy and jurisdiction are separate matters for the Church, and the “Anglican rite” could certainly be present in existing jurisdictions and diocesan structures without the need for physically separate churches. In England, then, there would be the EF, the OF and the AF.

  4. Cathy says:

    I think this is horrible at the very level of trust, intent and promises kept. If the Anglican communities simply wanted incorporation into the diocese, it seems to me that they would come into the Roman Catholic diocese on their own and without the gracious provisions put forth by the Holy Father. The reinterpretations of the Anglican Ordinariate to suit and to please the existing diocese does set a precedent that will not only be historically observed by the potential second wave of Anglican Ordinariates, but by other Christian communities, (ie. SSPX), to whom an Ordinariate might be made available in the future.

  5. jarthurcrank says:

    Obviously, there will have to be a principal church for the Ordinariate at some point. But, unless there are some extremely wealthy patrons, like Ambrose Phillips de Lisle, it will take time to accomplish this. (There are people raising funds in England, so it’s not like nothing is happening on that front either.) Moreover, I see nothing inherently sinister about using convert clergy where they are needed if the numbers of lay persons in the Ordinariate are small. Thus, I’m not sure that Damian Thompson’s firebell warnings are warranted at this stage…indeed, he might scaring some potential converts unnecessarily.

  6. It’s not a new situation at all. Military archdioceses throughout the world (with “churches” at military bases, and chaplain priests who are in a bishop’s territory but not under his command in the slightest) have managed perfectly well to maintain proper lines of hierarchy.

    Archbishop Schnurr isn’t marching into Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and demanding that Chaplain Fr. Lt. Bob Flyboy come and say Masses at St. Luke’s, Mary Help, Wright State University Chapel, and St. Helen’s just because he’s close. If the pastors at various nearby parishes talk real nice to him, and don’t interrupt Fr. Flyboy’s duties to the military archbishop and the Air Force, they might get Fr. Flyboy to come sub for them. But only out of the goodness of his heart. If Fr. Flyboy wants to sit back and plead his duties to all his Air Force flock, he’s got a perfect right to do it.

    And obviously, Fr. Flyboy does keep busy, because I’ve lived next to the Air Force base all my life and barely ever seen an Air Force priest subbing for any diocesan priest in my area. I’m sure everybody is on good terms and he gets invited to parties, but Fr. Flyboy has plenty to do and only 24 hours to do it in.

    And the same thing would be true of an Ordinariate priest. He’s got his own flock, his own duties, and his own entirely different boss. Them as ain’t in the chain of command, should be respectfully told that their requests will be considered when those other duties allow. If they talk to them real nice.

  7. Jacob says:

    If you’ve followed as I have the saga of the Cardinal Vaughn School in England, this kind of attitude from Nichols is perfectly in keeping with his actions elsewhere. If Rome comes calling in time to set things straight, no doubt Nichols give in and then will make a show of how he had been trying to help things all along.

  8. KAS says:

    If the Bishops will not obey the directives from Rome about this ordinariate then the Laity must step up, speak out, and insist that what is so CLEAR is honored. Truly, what is so confusing about the Ordinariate? It seems quite plainly written down. The only problems are in the minds of Bishops who forget their limits and seek to USE people rather than respect them as persons!

    Obviously the tendency of our cultures to USE people as if they had not desires of their own to be respected has infected the Bishops who, as men of this culture, are not immune to the effects of the culture. They need our prayers, but also for the Laity to refuse to cooperate with anything that is not right.

    Anglicans who become Catholic are not pawns to be USED as the Bishops please– it is wrong and cannot be justified.

  9. irishgirl says:

    Why are the Bishops of England and Wales giving the Holy Father such a hard time regarding the Anglican Ordinariate? Looks as if they only gave him ‘lip service’ during his visit last year.
    And if that’s the case, then it’s a shame.

  10. CharlesG says:

    This seems a rather tendentious description of the situation, and I believe there is no proof of an intention of “smothering” the Ordinariate. Naturally, while the Ordinariate is in its infancy, Ordinariate priests can also help out with regular diocesan duties as agreed between Ordinariate and the local Latin diocese. This helps out the Latin dioceses with potential priest shortages and also helps the Ordinariate cover its costs. The Ordinariate was always going to start small and would take a while to build the financial and spiritual strength to have their own churches and work out with Rome the liturgical issues. Assuming all that will come with time, the Ordinariate will according to the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus become a machine that runs of itself and answers to the Holy See and not the local Latin bishops. Thus, even if the bishops wanted to smother the Ordinariate, which I doubt is their intention, they wouldn’t be able to do so for so long as the Ordinariate was not financially or otherwise dependent on the Latin dioceses. And I’m sure at some point the Ordinariate will get an appropriate mother church regardless of Archbishop Nichols’ view on the matter.

  11. arotron theou says:

    @ Suburbanbanshee – Yes, you are quite right to point to the military archdioceses. I was not thinking about them in this context, mostly because their churches or chapels are clearly separated from those of the territorial diocese by the fact of being on a military base of some kind. But this is a good example of the kind of clarity that is needed. But is this “impenetrable” model the right one for this context? I hesitate to assume it is.

  12. Phil_NL says:

    If they need a church, but cannot afford it, then let them share one with a parish that has a building too expensive for its size. Surely there are plenty of those in London, and for a couple of years a schedule where both the ordinate and the regular parish use the same real-estate could be worked out.

    Seeing that the English bishops so lukewarm support, I think it would be a good idea if the Holy Father picked up the phone himself and had a conversation with +Nichols. Apparently the message isn’t getting across right now.

  13. Blaise says:

    why should we believe a word of this? It reads as pure speculation and gossip apart from a quotation from Abp Nichols which is interpreted according to a particular slant. The author has a particular bias that regularly seems to be based on mere assertion.

  14. So, some Bishops are working to subvert and or ignore the Holy Father’sdirectives? Can someone please tell me how this modus operandi is different than the response to… Quattor abhinc anos? Ecclesia Dei Adflicta?? Summorum Pontificum???

    Yes, it’s impossible for us to know whether this report is true or not, but it certainly sounds believable. The pattern is hard to miss.

  15. Daniel says:

    I’d think the situation is most similar to an Eastern Rite Church, even though it is part of the regular Latin Rite. You might have various Eastern Churches in a Latin Diocese that rather than being under the jurisdiction of the local bishop are under the Eastern Ordinary.

    For the time being in this early stage, it seems there may be some difficulty in matching up priests with congregations which are self-supporting. I’d expect you might have a priest that becomes incardinated in the Ordinariate that may not yet have a congregation. While you might ask him to move, if there is a prospect of eventually having a community in the area I’d think you would want him to stay put and help out the diocese until a congregation is formed. Similarly if you have a few isolated laypersons wanting to enter the ordinariate they might do so while for the time being “absorbed” into a regular parish until an ordinariate community can be formed.

  16. Joe in Canada says:

    I don’t know how widespread this opinion is, but here it is. It is Australia, not England, but the TAC is a major player i0n some parts of the world.

  17. totustuusmaria says:

    There’s often a problem when those outside of a particular society have say over the goings on within that society. Those outside don’t have an adequate knowledge of the internal constitution of the society. The situation requires a lot of sympathy.

    I suspect that the bishops are not intentionally trying to crush the Ordinariate. They, rather, see the new priests as assets that they can make use of. They might not have reached the point yet of realizing that the constitution of this new society of Anglican Ordinariate Catholics is still fragile. The Bishops might need more sympathy to help them realize that the Ordinariate Catholics need to figure out their identity before they can be utilized for the good of Latin Church outside of the Ordinariate.

    My two cents, at least. I will pray.

  18. Dave N. says:

    I think there are significant social dimensions at work here that are being overlooked. I know a couple in England that converted to the Catholic Church about 15 years ago and have been suffering the “slings and arrows” of this decision ever since–believe it or not, there are still parts of England where being Catholic is not very popular. This couple (rightly or wrongly) views the Ordinariate as a way for people to escape the ever-more-liberal CofE but not become “real Catholics” like they did, and thus incur the associated social stigma–kind of like having your cake and eating it too. They also strongly object to people in irregular marriages entering the Catholic Church “under the radar” since they had to go through a pretty strenuous annulment process. (I’m not saying that this is actually happening, but this is, at a minimum, the perception of what is happening or can happen.)

    So, people in the ordinariate don’t wish to simply be absorbed somehow by the Catholic Ordinary and they feel that they were promised their own separate but equal status going in and they want it to stay that way. If they did, as Cathy observes above, they simply would have become Roman Rite Catholics. The analogy in the mind of those supporting the ordinariate is more like that of an Eastern Rite church with a parish, say, within the territory of the Archdiocese of New York. It seems that the analogy in the mind of Abp. Nichols et al. is more like that of a parish within their diocese that regularly has the EF instead of NO Mass.

    My own view is that this is going to take a couple of GENERATIONS to sort itself out–and that the Vatican has the long view in mind.

  19. Ignatius says:

    Mr. Thompson’s remarks seem to be, as usual, exaggerations. Fr. Edwins Barnes, from the Ordinariate, paints a different picture here:

  20. Supertradmum says:

    This is true and sad. But, there has been a sub-culture of disobedience in the Catholic Church in England for years. It is almost as if the Vatican is being snubbed on purpose in favor of private interpretation of directives. It comes from a disdain of protocol, a hatred and fear of the traditional movement, and a hatred and fear of UltraMontanism. This is a purposeful and a dangerous position, bound to discourage Anglo-Catholics from wanting to join in the future. I am very worried about this for the third generation of those wanting to come in…

  21. My parish is run by an Ordinariate priest. When he joined the Ordinariate he gave up his salary and all future opportunity to pay into C of E Pension fund. He had to leave the vicarage. They are sacrifices he made.

    Our priest runs our parish, says Novus Ordo Mass, does everything a parish priest does and is better than most. In addition he has an Ordinariate group. On Sunday evening and Wednesdays he travels to them to say Mass in the local diocesan church.

    It is working well. The priest is transforming what was a dead parish into a lively one, everything is high standard. An Ordinariate group does not have enough members to raise the money to house the priest. He has the use of our presbytery, and our parish pays him the usual allowance in return for his services. Ours is a very small parish so we do not mind sharing a priest.

    Some members here seem to think the Ordinariate only have Tridentine Mass. Most have Mass in English. They have always had confessions and benediction and rosary.

    It is not true that Church of England people in irregular relationships come into the Catholic Church by the back door. They are treated just like cradle catholics and when they were Anglo Catholics they believed in the teachings of our catechism, they acknowledged the papacy, they disagreed about the orders of their priests being valid.

  22. BobP says:

    >Anglicans who become Catholic are not pawns to be USED as the Bishops please– it is wrong and cannot be justified.<

    I'm sure members of the SSPX are taking notes.

  23. bernadettem says:

    From what Fr. Barnes has said, and he shoud know, that the Bishops are not taking over, but working with the priests in the Ordinariate. The Anglican Patrimony is not lost and they are waiting for an approved Anglican Use liturgy, which could take some time.

    It seems as though Satan is working his best to destroy what God has ordained. As far as TAC goes, if one were to look back and see what was being told to those members about the AC they would see that it was misrepresented. There has always been strange going on’s within TAC in Australia and we know that Rome is well aware of every word that TAC’s leadership makes and those following the leader. When some of the comments are not in line with the Catholic faith, the CDF and the Holy Father must be cautious that those requesting to enter the Church, fully are in line with all doctrines of the Catholic Church.

    There are many who are trying to destroy the Ordinariate and from what I have read, they are Anglicans whether in the CoE or many of the continuing Anglican groups who have formed over the years.

    This is a new venture and of course it will take time to sort out all the issues that the Ordinariate is facing in the beginning. I don’t disagree that there are Bishops throughout the Church that don’t really understand what the Ordinariate is and some who are against anything that smacks of tradition, however, it appears that this is Pope Benedict’s labor of love and he is the final authority.

    Let us pray for the Ordinariates, as of January 1, 2011 the US Ordinariate will be erected, that the Holy Spirit will protect them from those who wish them ill will.

  24. AnnieW says:

    I converted from a Presbyterian family out here in 1994. I am part of a future Anglican use parish here in Southern California. Everyone who enters the Church must be completely Catholic and have all marriages approved. No one is getting in without the proper paperwork from the tribunal. The convert couple in England is mistaken . A former Anglican who is now a Norbertine is coming to asses the progress of the group in a few weeks. Our Anglican priest is being mentored by some really great and orthodox priests.

    As a convert I have to say I do not care if these good people come in and it is easier. I am so glad as our Lord is that people are coming into the fullness of the Faith. If the Holy Father is making it easier than great! My conversion had some tough moments but others had it worse and others have had it better. The situation in the Anglican communion has been very tough on these folks and because of that made them look closely at the claims of St Peter. We should be welcoming as the father of the prodical son and not like his brother!

  25. Pingback: Damian Thompson on the English Ordinariate | English Catholic

  26. Jason Brown says:

    “overlap of a personal diocese with a territorial diocese is a new situation in the Church”

    I don’t see what is so new about it. This is the situation of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine Rite?) churches. Here in Winnipeg we have two archdioceses (Winnipeg = English, St. Boniface = French) and a Ukrainian Archeparchy. Ukrainian Catholic churches can be found throughout the territory of the other archdioceses, often just down the street from Roman Catholic churches. It has been this way for decades without obvious problems.

  27. MikeM says:

    I think that avoiding burdening the ordinariate with a “main church” is reasonable. They’re not exactly flush with cash, and taking on too much financial burden could wind up causing them real problems.

    And I’m not exactly sure what Thompson means by when he says that they’re being incorporated into the diocese. If they have priests with extra time, it seems perfectly natural that they would be invited/encouraged to do some work for the local diocese.

  28. Supertradmum says:


    It is not a question of extra time, as there is no such thing in most dioceses. I know priests in England who cover seven parishes, and many in the Midwest of America who cover rural parishes at great distances from each other. The mandate from Rome is clear that the Ordinariate is to be treated differently, each parish with priest, as a unit. This is not happening in England, for several reasons, but mostly because the bishops are not and did not listen to Rome. It is discouraging for those Anglo-Catholics who are considering coming in through the Ordinariate. I am sure, positively, that the SSPX is watching this and this may even be a test from Rome to see how bishops obey such clear guidelines regarding groups coming in as a whole. It is a very real and disturbing development, which was a concern a year ago and now has become a reality. The Ordinariate portal, again, in England, is here:

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