UK Ordinariate… Quo?

Over at the Catholic Herald there is an piece by Damian Thompson about the status quaestionis of the Anglican Ordinariate in England established in the happier times of Benedict XVI.

What interests me in a special way is found toward the end of his essay.  There are parallels in the wider Roman Church in the cases of parishes which readjust, return to the basics, and revitalize their liturgical worship with tradition: the bleeding stops, pews and collection baskets get fuller, the average age of Mass goers drops, etc.

Here’s Damian about a friend of mine Fr Tomlinson of the Ordinariate.


Ordinariate priest in England is determined enough, he can find a way of taking charge of a parish and offering a Divine Worship Sunday Mass.

When Fr Ed Tomlinson, former Vicar of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells, joined the Ordinariate he was sent to St Anselm’s, Pembury, Kent – an unlovely community hall with a chapel where the congregation sat on plastic chairs and knelt on linoleum.

Fr Ed – a rugby-obsessed married father of three with un-PC views on the evil of Islamism and the wimpishness of liberal bishops – decided this wasn’t good enough for God.

Five years on, on a tiny budget, he has acquired two altars, altar candles, pews, a lectern, a pulpit, Stations of the Cross, altar rails, vestments, chalices, icons, a reredos, an organ, a confessional and stalls. (Our pictures show stages in the transformation, which is not complete.)

As for the Divine Worship Mass, his cradle Catholic parishioners mostly love it. “It’s a fabulous liturgy and I’m passionate about it,” he says. Weekly attendance has risen to 130 while the average age of parishioners has dropped sharply thanks to an influx of children.

Now imagine that, in five years’ time, Fr Tomlinson’s success has been replicated in a handful of English parishes. The Oratorians have surprised everyone by exporting their worship – once considered impossibly exotic – to failing churches that mysteriously stop failing once they arrive. Each punches above its weight.

What is to stop Ordinariate priests from doing likewise? Only two things. Spanners thrown into the works by unfriendly bishops, and their own lack of confidence.

My unexpectedly upbeat conclusion, after taking a fresh look at an initiative I thought was dying, is that an Ordinariate Mark II can spring to life once its leaders see that these problems feed off each other.

Anti-Ordinariate bishops herd members of the ecclesial structure into remote “Mass centres” where they don’t want to be and won’t survive. It’s time our new fellow Catholics turned round and reminded their Lordships that they have no jurisdiction over them – and that, if the Church in England and Wales continues its deplorably mean policy of hanging on to every last parish building, then they will buy their own churches.

But first we have to sort out the money, say the permanently anxious old guard of the Ordinariate.

No. First, you need risk-taking local leaders with a mission that attracts donors.


Do I hear an “Amen!”?

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  1. Kerry says:

    Father Z, what is the name of Father Fatty McButterpants’ Bishop? Perhaps, Bishop S. Panner Inthewerks.

  2. James in Perth says:


    There is unfortunately a lack of faith in some priests about whether their work will bear fruit. Although pastors should be prudent, nevertheless please believe! Believe that God will reward those laborers He sends out to reap the harvest! We need more holiness in our churches and in our lives.

    Father Z, a great article. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. anilwang says:


    For the record, there is another option. Toronto has been relatively friendly to the Ordinariate, but the parish it was assigned to a parish that forced it to have a mass at 2pm (and it was drifting later with the passage of time). And while it is not too far from down town, it was a bit inconvenient to get to by public transit, so parish life wasn’t the greatest.

    However, it’s now been welcomed by a local oratory at 12:30am. The oratory is near public transit and has the Traditional Latin Mass, but it’s parish life was not the greatest. Now that both parishes have been combined, there is hope that parish life will increase since both communities care about reverence in worship and are both solidly orthodox and the combined numbers of both communities will increase.

    You can find more details here:

    So a struggling Ordinariate can seek alliances with TLM community if the local bishop gives them a hard time or it is struggling for other reasons, and if the TLM community faces similar challenges, there’s always the Eastern Catholics which (as far as I know) are not under the wing of the local bishop and tend to value reverence and orthodoxy.

  4. Traductora says:

    Interesting. The thing that they offered, however, before the more orthodox Mass was orthodox doctrine, and I’m thinking this is where it lies. The worship then flows out of this presence.

    I wonder sometimes why the few Old Rite masses that exist around here don’t attract more people. One reason is that they are very isolated because some of the lay people who take charge of them are horrible – very defensive, hostile, ignorant or at least under-educated, and bad musicians on top of that, and they actually intimidate the few clergy who are willing to risk their necks.

    We did have one success story, with a priest who was absolutely stamped into the ground by the former bishop and virtually all of the clergy and was finally assigned to a remote and not very prosperous parish…which he has turned into a raving success by his orthodoxy, altar server programs (for boys, although girls are not rejected but are just held to the same standards as the boys, which of course they don’t like) , better music even with the same director – and ad orientem celebration of the NO with the ordinary mostly in Latin.

    He’d love to do the Old Rite regularly, and he can do it and occasionally has the opportunity, but he has restored an entire parish to orthodoxy through his teaching and it’s growing like mad. I think he’s heaping coals of fire on their heads (“they” being the people who hated and opposed him so much).

    I think there’s a lot of room for allegiances and alliances. The Eastern Rite, btw, was also changed after VII, but much less than the Roman Rite, and in any case, for most Americans in Ohio or the few other places it existed, it was pretty dismal anyway because it consisted of a cantor (fondly known as Old Leatherlungs) bellowing out a completely distorted version of the responses and in fact all the rest of the liturgy, a lot of which was meant to be sung by the choir or congregation. There are some priests attempting to revive it, but it’s almost as hard a row to hoe as the Latin Rite.

  5. MGL says:

    We recently transferred from the Novus Ordo parish in which we were baptized to our local Ordinariate parish, due to the wildly superior lex orandi of the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship. Gone are all the pointless, distracting “participation moments” of the Novus Ordo (bringing up the gifts, versus populum celebration, the sign of peace), gone is the anthropocentrism, gone is the cheesy, something-for-every-taste musical selection. In its place, plainchant and a laser-like focus on God, the true object of our worship.

    It was a very hard decision, since we love the priest who formed us in the faith, and he’s thoroughly orthodox and reverent in his celebration. But we gradually became aware of the jarring discontinuity between the Mass he was celebrating and the Mass our Music Minister was celebrating; that is, between the Holy Sacrifice and a Baby Boomer musical medley. And in the end, it just became too much to bear.

  6. glennbcnu says:

    MGL: Are you a former Anglican? If not, I suppose you mean that you have started attending an Ordinariate parish rather then “transferred”, as only former Anglicans can become members of Ordinariate parishes.

  7. Matt Robare says:

    All priests should like Rugby, if not play it when they’re young. I think Pope Francis said it was a qualification for naming Cardinal Pell to clean up the finances. It’s also clearly useful for dealing with bishops who don’t do things in a seaman-like maner.

  8. MGL says:

    No, I’m not a former Anglican. However, “regular” Catholics can become members of Ordinariate parishes, at least in North America. We can’t become members of the Ordinariate proper–that is, we remain subject to the bishop of the local diocese–but we can take part in parish life in every other way. Our Ordinariate parish has readers, servers, and choir members who are non-Anglican defectors from the Novus Ordo.

  9. Dave N. says:

    According to the Ordinariate website, “regular” Catholics can’t become members of Ordinariate parishes, although they can enter into a relationship of affiliation:

    “Any Catholic may attend Ordinariate liturgies and functions, just as members of the Ordinariate can attend liturgies and functions at any Catholic parish. While lifelong Catholics are welcome to attend Masses in an Ordinariate parish, they would be members of a regular diocese….Lifelong Catholics who worship with an Ordinariate community are welcome to become formal ‘affiliates’ of the Ordinariate, and should consult with their local Ordinariate pastor about how to do so.”

    Maybe that’s a distinction without a difference.

  10. William Tighe says:

    There is no such thing as “the Eastern Rite;” there are some 21 sui juris eastern churches in communion with Rome, about half of which follow the Byzantine Rite. Some of these rites, or ritual churches, were highly mongrelized in the name of “reform” after Vatican II, notably the Maronites and the Chandeans, but not the Byzantines.

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Damian Thompson is being, as usual, pessimistic to a point of near-falsehood.

    He writes : sure enough, here we are in 2016 and this revolutionary structure has just 1,000 lay members in this country, scattered in tiny communities.

    except that :

    The membership was 1,500 in 2012, 2,500 in 2013, 3,500 in 2014 …

    Nobody is claiming that the Ordinariate has been a “a runaway success“, so I’m not sure why he mentions that, but his presentation seeks to suggest that it’s stagnating completely, which is not true, as can be seen in this more balanced article :

    Numbers at Mass continue to rise steadily: most of those attending are not ordinariate members but just local Catholics, some of whom have returned to the Church after a longish gap: they like the formality of the Mass, the good music, the singable hymns, the sermons with good teaching on Catholic faith and morals. The ordinary Roman Rite is used on Sundays, in English with some Latin chant. There is a regular Evensong and Mass in the ordinariate form once a week, with a professional choir of young singers, and a gathering afterwards.

    But is the ordinariate in London attracting many Anglicans, keen to come into full communion with the Catholic Church? Alas, not in any large numbers: tribal feelings and loyalties hold firm. I have spoken to so many worried Anglican friends who say things like: “The old C. of E. is simply disappearing”; “I don’t really approve of women bishops, but what can you do?”; “I feel alienated from my church and don’t really go much now.” But they don’t want to become Catholics, even if they warmly agree with the Church’s moral stance and want to know more about some of the issues (Mary, Eucharistic devotions, confession) on which they have questions. Their attitude is “Yes…but…oh, I don’t know…I’m Anglican. I can’t explain it. But…our family: we’ve just never been Catholic…” and the voice fades into a vague awkwardness. It is precisely these people that Pope Benedict hoped to help with the establishment of the ordinariate: Anglican patrimony, Anglican hymns, traditions, liturgy, Harvest Thanksgiving, Sunday School, flower arrangements…but is it working? Some clergy and laity who initially said they would join have kept postponing the decision; attachment to familiar buildings and to a sense of being part of an established way of things is strong.

    However, ordinariate parishes are thriving. They attract all sorts of people: lapsed or semi-lapsed Catholics who through this have reconnected to the Church, people who love the music and the liturgical style, people who find the Mass times or church location convenient, former Anglicans who became Catholic some years ago and now feel particularly at home, young families who like the welcome and the sense of community.

    This also from Damian is very misleading :

    The third obstacle for the Ordinariate was the worst: the aforementioned wily obstructiveness of the Bishops of England and Wales. A single statistic speaks volumes. Pope Benedict urged them to be generous. How many disused or near-empty churches did the bishops give the Ordinariate? None.

    In **fact** this request was made by Pope Benedict to the Anglican Bishops, and they are the ones who have given zero churches.

    The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have not been as generous as one would wish, but several such churches have still been provided for the Ordinariate groups.

    What is Damian’s principle source ?

    I’d say it’s this two-year-old article from the same website, that Thompson appears to have copiously cribbed from :

    And it belies the “no churches” claim by him : Two London churches, one in the diocese of Southwark and one in the diocese of Westminster, have been given to the Ordinariate, with good results. At the Church of the Precious Blood (Southwark) parish life is thriving with renewed vigor in the care of Ordinariate priest Father Christopher Pearson and his assistant, Father Scott Anderson (see “In London, the Ordinariate Begins to Bear Fruit”, October 30, 2013). There is fine music, a growing Sunday School, and a good community spirit. There have been some splendid processions through the South London streets, a joyful dedication of a new shrine to Blessed John Henry Newman (patron of the Ordinariate), and more. And in Westminster diocese, the historic Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street—a center of London Catholic life in recusant times—is now the Ordinariate’s headquarters, its rectory the home of the ordinary, Msgr. Keith Newton.

    And that’s just London — the Ordinariate is spread throughout the UK.

  12. JabbaPapa says:

    glennbcnu :

    only former Anglicans can become members of Ordinariate parishes.

    No, Pope Francis removed that limitation some time ago. And it’s never been absolutely true anyway, as there’s never been any restriction against attending Mass at the Ordinariates.

  13. Sixupman says:

    Pre-war [II] the Anglo-Catholics used a vernacular Tridentine Missal, the re-adoption of that Missal would cause a stir amongst the diocesan mafiosa. To have a perfectly Celebrated Tridentine Mass, albeit in the vernacular, would highlight the banality of your average parish NOM, even their current Missal, I would imagine so does.

    My UK diocese is hell bent upon a major closure of parishes – due to dearth of clergy. The answer to be adopted is laity managed parishes, the emergence of the Permanent Diaconate [currently none] and clergy as glorified ‘supply’ priests. Not a mention of Traditional Orders, still less the Ordinariate. There is mention of Ecumenism and the diocese share a monstrosity of a new-built church with Methodism.

    See also CNA: Anian Christoph Wimmer for the future?

  14. Athelstan says:


    One reason is that they are very isolated because some of the lay people who take charge of them are horrible – very defensive, hostile, ignorant or at least under-educated, and bad musicians on top of that, and they actually intimidate the few clergy who are willing to risk their necks.

    The enemies of the traditional liturgy did their work well. They not only banished the old rite, but damaged so many of its supporters through the violence of their campaign.

    So let’s not give in to the darker impulses generated by the injustices of what was done to the Mass, or to us. The Roman Rite is a great pearl, and we must be good custodians and transmitters of it.

  15. idelsan says:

    I know it’s not the point of the article, but when I was a seminarian I use to help the priest that attended the parish of Pembury. I can not believe the change!

  16. AnthonyJ says:

    Dave N,

    I believe MGL is saying the same thing as you are. He joined the Ordinariate parish, but is still subject to the local Roman Catholic ordinary. I am in a similar situation. I am Roman Catholic, but am registered in a Ukrainian Catholic parish although I haven’t officially requested a transfer of Ritual Church. Therefore I am still subject to my Roman Catholic ordinary and must follow fasting regulations, Holy Days of Obligation, and other laws of the Roman Catholic Church until I make the transfer official.

  17. Trisagion says:

    It is simply not true to say that Warwick Street and Precious Blood have “been given” to the Ordinariate. The former remains the property of the Archdiocese of Westminster, the latter of the Archdiocese of Southwark. Both are ordinary (ie non-Ordinariate) parishes served by Ordinariate priests. There is only one church property owned by the Ordinariate: it’s a former Methodist Chapel in Torquay and the local Ordinariate congregation paid for it themselves. The Portsmouth and Isle of Wight Ordinariate Group have exclusive use of a church (St Agatha) which they lease from its local authority freehold owners.

  18. robtbrown says:

    The celebrant this morning is member of the Ordinariate. He spoke with a friend, a priest in the UK ordinariate, who substantially agreed with the Damian Thompson article.

    One big difference between the US and the UK is that the religious orders here historically had a strong presence in dioceses. In the UK the diocesan priesthood was much stronger, which means the bishops can afford to be not interested in non diocesan priests. In some US dioceses the number of diocesan priests and religious have been almost equal.

    There also was not a collapse of the Church in the UK compared to what happened here–they didn’t have much of a priest shortage compared to the US.

  19. jhayes says:

    Fr. Hunwicke gives his comments on Thompson’s article


  20. James in Perth says:

    @Matt Robare Cardinal Pell played as a ruckman in Australian Rules Football. Wikipedia says that he even signed to play with Richmond Football Club but decided that he had a different calling.

  21. PTK_70 says:

    So here’s a fanciful idea based on this comment and the article quoted: transform every last Roman Catholic diocese in an anglophone country into an Anglican Use diocese. In one fell swoop all the hand-wringing over the proper celebration of the Roman Rite would be done away with…..

  22. glennbcnu says:

    JabbaPappa wrote: “No, Pope Francis removed that limitation some time ago. And it’s never been absolutely true anyway, as there’s never been any restriction against attending Mass at the Ordinariates.”

    The limitations were not fully lifted. What was granted was that a baptised (but not confirmed) Roman Catholic child with ties to anglicanism could become a registered member of an Ordinariate parish and be confirmed within that Ordinariate parish. I realise that there are no restrictions on any Roman Catholic from attending an Ordinariate Mass, participating in the life of the parish, and being involved in many aspects of a parish. What is not permitted is for Roman Catholics to become registered members of an Ordinariate parish. They must retain their registration at their local Latin parish under the authority of the local Latin bishop.

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