Personal Ordinariate – the Background

Daily Telegraph religion journalist Damien Thompson is sometimes a bit gossipy for my liking, but in this article he does an inside analysis on some of the other major things happening in and behind this week’s stunning announcement of Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans.

For ten years I was an Anglican priest, and for ten years I was a Catholic layman in England. I worked for the St Barnabas Society–a charity that quietly assists convert clergy as they convert to the Catholic Church. At the same time I was on a long road to ordination myself. I therefore got to meet and discuss issues with the major players, and I can confirm virtually everything Damien asserts about the background politics in the case.

Although the Archbishop of Canterbury is dismayed that the Personal Ordinariate project was popped on him as a surprise move at a ‘very late stage’ it can’t have come as much of a surprise. This thing has been cooking for years. We can trace the development of it back to the early 90′s when the Church of England was debating the ordination of women. When the CofE General Synod voted to ordain women in 1992 high level Anglicans were already in discussions with Rome. The retired Bishop of London–Graham Leonard was not only in talks with Cardinal Basil Hume, but also with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the CDF. I believe Ratzinger was sympathetic to the Anglo Catholics even then, and I know that a personal friendship developed between Cardinal Ratzinger and (now) Mgr. Leonard.

At the same time the Catholic convert journalist William Oddie wrote a book called The Roman Option in which he argued for an Anglo Catholic ‘church’ in communion with Rome which looks very like what we now have as the Personal Ordinariate. Oddie also criticized the Catholic bishops in England for inhibiting such an option because it was ‘unworkable’ and ‘damaging to ecumenical relations with the Anglicans’. Oddie was subsequently marginalized and treated as a pariah by the English Catholic establishment.

What has happened in the intervening seventeen years? First of all the Anglican Church has continued its slide into secular relativism. I can remember discussing women’s ordination with my Parochial Church Council (local parish governing body) in 1990. I said, “Mark my words. You are debating women’s ordination now. In ten years’ time you will be debating homosexual marriage.” They were angry and incredulous. As the Anglican Church was dominated by the feminist/homosexualist lobby the ‘historic Christians’ (my term for those who hold to the historic faith once delivered to the saints) became more and more marginalized. Increasingly they saw their true home to be either Rome (for the Anglo Catholics) or sectarianism (for the Anglo Evangelicals)

In the meantime Joseph Ratzinger ascends the throne of Peter. Realizing that it was the professional ecumenists along with the liberal Catholic bishops in England who stood in the way, he shifts the process to the CDF and away from Walter Kasper’s ecumenical dicastery. He waits for the retirement of the good, but ineffectual Cormac Murphy O’Connor–who was for many years a leading light in the establishment ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) talks and, one of the old style ecumenists. With Levada–his appointment at the CDF and Nichols in Westminster the time was right to move. While Nichols was originally a protege of Cardinal Hume and an inside member of what Damien Thompson calls the ‘Magic Circle’ of liberal English bishops, Nichols (who cynics say knows how to trim his sail according to the wind) seems to have become more conservative–supporting new ecclesial movements in his time at Birmingham and ordaining (among others) the married former Anglican priest and theologian John Saward.

There are several other things that remain mysterious about the timing of the move. First of all it is strange that an Apostolic Constitution should be announced at such short notice, and without the thing being ready for publication. We can only guess that the move was made when it was because Walter Kasper was out of town and it saved face for everyone. Why was the Archbishop of Canterbury not consulted? Why was it surprise move for the Anglicans too? Well, why bother to consult when you already know the answer? Pope Benedict has been working with these people for decades. He knew they would only stall, ask for ‘further clarification’, dig in their heels and throw up endless obstacles. The Pope understands that there has been enough talk, enough diplomacy, enough listening and dialogue, and sometimes you have to act.

Benedict will be seen as a kind of Ronald Reagan of the Vatican. When Reagan got to the White House he discovered that the established way of dealing with the Soviets was detente, talk, talk, talk and more talk. He decided that victory was in his grasp and proposed a firm confrontation. “Mr Gorbachev, pull down that wall!” His professional statesmen and diplomats were shocked at his ‘foolishness.’ But it worked. Communism was already fragile all it needed was a puff of air to knock it down completely.

Pope Benedict’s move this week will have similar impact in the world of Christian dialogue. With Personal Ordinariates not only have the professional ecumenists been shown the way forward, but the duplicitous liberal Catholic bishops who would have stalled, moved it into ‘discussion groups’ and presented ‘further obstacles’ have also been very effectively gone around. No longer will a gifted, willing and able convert priest have to wait years to be ordained and in the meantime be pushed from pillar to post by Catholic bishops who are driven by a liberal agenda that is actually illiberal.

Finally, the English and Americans should stop being so parochial and offended. Pope Benedict did not make this move to offend the Church of England or to poach people from the Episcopal Church. He was responding to pleas from people who have already left or are planning to leave the Anglican Church. Furthermore, he is aware of the tremendous growth of both the Catholic and Anglican Churches in the developing world. I believe he has his eye on the faithful Catholics and Anglicans in Africa and Asia, and that he hopes this move will enable them to join together in a young, new and energetic alliance for the twenty first century.

  • Amy Giglio

    Wonderful commentary as always, Father. FYI: Mr. Reagan asked Gorbachev to tear down that wall.

  • Gail F

    It is great to have your informed posts to read, thank you very much.BTW, on one of your previous posts… You missed the opportunity for a great headline: Bishop Spong Vows to Shut Up! THAT was quite an article, sort of like "the debate about Global Warming is now over." You can't make something so by saying so, but that does seem to be a strategy that is currently in vogue.

  • Brian Walden

    A quote from Damien Thompson's article: Professor Diarmaid McCulloch, a leading Church historian who also plays the organ at St Barnabas, Oxford, describes the Pope's offer as "a storm in a teacup, a gesture based on a fundamental misconception of how religion works in England".Ha, I thought only Vicar Blytherington talked like that.

  • Chris Burgwald

    Fr. Longnecker, what are your thoughts on the implications of this for the African Anglicans? From what I understand, they tend to be evangelical Anglicans, so fewer of them will be swimming the Tiber, even with the PO, correct?

  • Fr Longenecker

    The theological and liturgical complexion of Anglicanism in Africa depends on which type of Anglican missionary went there. There were two missionary societies that were most active: USPG (United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) was Anglo Catholic. CMS (Church Missionary Society) was Evangelical. The divided up the colonies among themselves. Therefore some African countries boast an active Anglo Catholic Church. Others an active Anglo Evangelical Church.Nigeria, for example, is Anglo Evangelical. Zimbabwe and Kenya and South Africa and others are Anglo Catholic.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Brian, perhaps Professor McCulloch will provide me with inspiration for a new alter ego…the English Middle Class academic snob.

  • Little Black Sambo

    I don't think South Africa is particularly catholic now – it has gone very "episcopalian". Ghana, now, that is a different story; the Anglican Church there is growing at an enormous rate and is fertile soil, one might think, for these latest proposals.Another place to watch might be Papua New Guinea. I believe the Anglicans in the adjoining Torres Strait islands are now in the TAC.

  • Tertium Quid

    What a joy! For those of us who experience the pain of the English Reformation often, this is the best news of the decade.

  • margaret

    English Middle Class academic snob…Oh do, Father! I met one at St Mary Mag's in Oxford, many years ago. "What college are you at, my dear?" he said. I said I wasn't at any college. "So whatever do you do?" he asked. "I'm a nurse in a psychogeriatric unit," I replied. He turned on his heel and walked away without another word!

  • Éstiel

    I'm sorry. I can't help it. I'm selfish by nature. As an orthodox (lower-case "o") Roman Catholic, I grieve along with others like me over the banality of progressive liturgies and such. Now! Now–just think! The tradition-loving Magisterium-loving Anglicans join our ranks. Do all those Catholics who are like me realize what this will mean for us? For US? We will have more priests now who dress, talk, act like real priests. We will have liturgy that allows us to feel that we are in the Presence. We will have the Catechism reigning in our churches. We may even–glory be to God–have churches that look like real churches.I'm sorry. I said it already–I'm viewing this whole thing from such a selfish point of view and I know it.

  • Drew

    Dear Father,Now it really feels like we are living in the End Times. Mother Mary has planned this moment for centuries. When in England some years ago, I remarked at the devotion to Our Lady. Pictures, statues, churches honored the Mother of God. When the children exited Westminster Cathedral with a brass rubbing of Madonna and Child, I was simultaneously shocked and pleased. Though I found it perplexing at the time, I detected an allegiance with Rome that was ever so quiet. She will repair the church with her Mother's Love. Orthodoxy need not huddle and shake with fear. We have a champion in God's Mother.God love these faithful Anglicans!Mrs. Drew Black

  • Catholic Mom of 10

    I remember you at the Path to Rome & at the Bham Orat & down south somewhere with MJ. I visited Mons Leonard fairly recently..he has lost his beautiful voice..just sounds..awful..but still so dignified!

  • ABE

    I am surprised that NOBODY in the media seems to know that the creation of personal ordinariates for Anglicans is NOT something entirely new and revolutionary. It is an expansion and restructuring of something created over 20 years ago by Pope John Paul II. He issued a "pastoral provision" that allowed groups of disaffected Anglicans to form parishes in the Roman Catholic Church. Their married priests became priests in communion with Rome and their Divine Liturgy is an adaptation of the rituals of the traditional Anglican Book of Common Pray. They are called "Roman Catholics of the Anglican Use". There are only a handful of parishes, scattered across the United States, with most in the Southwest U.S., mostly in the state of Texas. There is an old legend that says that Pope Gregory the Great was walking about in Rome one day and saw some fair-haired, blue-eyed foreigners. He asked who they were. His compagnon replied, "Angli" (Angles). The pope, taken by their striking appearance replied, "Non Angli sed angeli" (Not Angles but angels). Later he sent Saint Augustin of Canterbury to evangelize England.

  • Tertium Quid

    Pope Benedict wants the Church to worship God in spirit and truth, and he is appalled at how the lowest common denominator of worship tends to crowd out liturgies and music that bring us closer to God. The independence of American bishops is also frustrating to the Roman curia. It is easier to herd cats.But what if The Book of Common Prayer, that English magnum opus which has informed the thoughts, prayers, theology, political economy, moral philosophy, and worship on the North American continent since Jamestown, Virginia was settled in 1607, what if it became, with some revisions, a Catholic prayer book for the English-speaking world? Pope Benedict is too smart to try to force it upon English-speaking Catholics by ecclesiastical fiat, but what if American Catholics had some internal competition from not just one, but two traditional and beautiful liturgies?It appears that Pope Benedict understands his duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, including American Catholics. To build the Church in America requires the cooperation, as well as the competition, of disparate elements:(1) traditionalists who love the Latin Mass and can bring this ancient strength to a nation that scorns tradition;(2) those "calcified" Catholics in older ethnic neighborhoods who have parochial schools, beautiful parishes, and low birthrates;(3) the charismatics, especially those among the Spanish-speaking Catholics, who have energy and zeal;(4) Asian and African immigrants from Vietnam, Korea, and Zaire whose Catholic identity includes recent memories of martyrdom;(5) what I call "JPII Catholics", those younger people who found their faith and live it by the example of a great and very visible witness to hope.But what if Pope Benedict could forge another major force for Catholicism in the English-speaking world, what if he could harness the very English language in its beauty and strength to bring the world to Christ's truth and teachings?Thus, this week's dramatic initiative to integrate Anglicans into the Catholic Church takes on greater significance. If The Book of Common Prayer, scorned and neglected by Episcopal church leadership, but beloved by Anglican traditionalists and part of the cultural bedrock of every English-speaking nation, becomes a primary book of Catholic worship, then Pope Benedict would have regained much of the ground lost since 1534.

  • Neill

    Sorry to disappoint you but few Anglo-Catholics in England use the BCP. Most parishes follow Roman usage albeit with much better music and ceremony.

  • ABE

    Note to Neil: Your comment is a bit too broad. Many Anglo-Catholics in both the U.S. and the U.K. use the "People's Anglican Missal", which was originally published by the Society of SS. Peter and Paul (London). It contains the liturgy from the BCP together with other devotions. The current edition also contains, in addition to the BCP Canon, the Gregorian Canon and the Canon of 1549. There may be some that use the post-Vatican II missel. For monastic communities, the breviary is often The Monastic Diurnal according to the Rule of Saint Benedict with additional rubrics and devotions for its recitation in accordance with the BCP. This breviary was first published in 1932 by the Oxford University Press.

  • David Lindsay

    These clergy, of whom I know many well, are not bringing anyone with them: their parishes are largely in areas with long, or even not so long, folk memories of the tensions caused by Irish immigration.I have known people become Methodists because the local Anglo-Catholic church closed and they didn't want to go to the next pit village, where the Anglican church was no Lower.Their buildings are often no older than ours, being in places that only sprang up in the nineteenth century.The provision for the Personal Ordinary to be an ex-Anglican makes this a one-generation arrangement by definition.And what, exactly, are the distinguishing marks that they will be permitted to retain? What? And why?

  • Augustine

    Fr. L,Who was that Anglican bishop who requested from the CDF some special consideration after the last Lambeth conference? Isn't this Apostolic Constitution an answer to his plea?TIA

  • ABE

    David said: "The provision for the Personal Ordinary to be an ex-Anglican makes this a one-generation arrangement by definition."The provision is that an "Anglican Use priest or unmarried bishop" be the ordinary. Furthermore, the Apostolic Constitution is reported to contain provision for the preparation of men to be admitted to Holy Orders in the Anglican Use ordinariates. If postulents come forward from the Anglican Use parishes and complete their studies for Holy Orders, they will be ordained and those who remain celibate will be able to be consecrated bishops. This is not a one-generation, transitional situation. Furthermore, since the Anglican Use parishes will be in full communion with Rome, it is probable that some Latin Use Roman Catholics will beome members of Anglican Use parishes.

  • David Lindsay

    "Anglican Use parishes"With whom as the parishioners? This influx of clergy would be welcomed, of course. But it would be almost entirely that: an influx of clergy.They would far more usefully be assigned to existing parishes, not least since they have been using the Modern Roman Rite for as long as anyone else has, only rather better than many other people do.In fact, it is quite comical to imagine them being told to stop doing so and adopt some variation on the Book of Common Prayer instead.

  • ABE

    David Lindsay wrote: "But it would be almost entirely that: an influx of clergy."Is suspect that you are not aware of what's currently happening in the U.S.and Canada. It is indeed whole parishes (and in several cases, whole dioceses) of the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada that have broken away from the existing national churches. In the U.S., these parishes are in court battles over who keeps the church buildings and property. Because of the different laws in various states, the judgments are contradictory. In the meantime, there are "orphaned" groups representing in some cases up to 90% of an entire parish who, with their priest, are looking for a way to continue. Many of them are NOT eager to join essentially low-church or evangelical Anglicans who have already affiliated with the Southern Cone Province in South America or with some African Provinces. They want an environment that is more suitable for Anglo-Catholics. As far as their liturgies are concerned, they generally are based on the traditional BCP with adaptations to rectify certain shortcomings. In North America, Anglo-Catholics generally do NOT use the modern, post-Vatican II rites and are in fact critical of many aspects of them. After all, since early in the 20th century, the American and Canadian BCPs have been more "Catholic" than even the "deposited 1928 BCP in the U.K." In the U.S. and Canada, the governments have no say whatsoever about religion. As for British Anglo-Catholics who already follow the Roman rite, perhaps it would be easier and more comfortable for them to "go over to Rome" as Latin rite Catholics and leave most of their Anglican Use tradtions behind (except, pray God, the Anglican musical heritage).

  • Ma

    ABE–Actually, the Complementary Norms specifically refuse membership in the Ordinariate, to Latin Rite Catholics: Article 5, Section 1. "Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate."

  • Midget01

    We are thrilled to call all of them brothers and sisters in Christ. After all doesn’t Catholic mean Universal. Welcome aboard. Peace/Shalom