Two Roads

There are two roads the church can take in the wake of the ‘personal ordinariate’ announcement yesterday. See which scenario you think more likely?

1. Option No. 1 The Catholic bishops are enthusiastic about this creative new possibility for their dioceses. Experiencing a shortage of good priests they see that the Anglicans are well educated, mature men with long pastoral experience and solid liturgical sense. They immediately appoint a personal ordinary for them and encourage as many as possible to enter into full communion. They don’t have a problem with married men being ordained, and realize it could bring variety, strength and new blood into the presbyterate. Furthermore, they are positive and creative in helping these new priests and their congregations get established financially. Their priests welcome the new men and their families into the presbyterate realizing that they are bringing a whole range of gifts, experience, knowledge and know how to the Catholic Church.

For their part, the Anglicans and Episcopalians see this as a positive move forward. They are able to solve several of their problems at once. They can be rid of the troublesome Anglo Catholics. They can therefore focus on their mission to bring justice and peace to the downtrodden. They can also see the practical benefits: they can cut their clergy numbers because salaries and future pension plans are looking impossible with declining numbers. They can also get rid of some of their surplus buildings. In fact they can choose which ones they hand over to the Anglican Use Catholics. This will ensure that not only the buildings, but all the Catholic paraphrenalia like thuribles and vestments and monstrances will find a new home and that ‘valuable Anglican heritage’ will be continued in a more appropriate way. They embrace this possibility and encourage the Anglo Catholics to go by agreeing to a compensation plan to help them with the transition. This, after all, is the fruit of years of meaningful and profitable ecumenical discussion and at last, painful though it may be, another portion of Christ’s church is unified once more.

Members and clergy of continuing Anglican Churches also jump at the chance to be in full communion with Rome. Their bishops happily lay aside their miters and croziers and go through a period in which they are simply Catholic laymen. Their little congregations or denominations are willingly subsumed into the authority of the new ‘personal ordinary’ and they emerge from the transition as Anglican Use Catholics. Their church and property will now be owned by the ‘personal ordinary’ or the local Catholic diocese, but they won’t mind because at last they are one with the Bishop of Rome which is what they always wanted. Their people will submit happily to having their irregular marriages examined and they will be taught to understand Marian dogmas, Papal infalliblity and accept transubstantiation easily and with open hearts and minds.

2. Option No. 2 The liberal Catholic bishops are horrified at the idea of an influx of conservative ‘misogynistic homophobic’ former Anglicans. They quietly put the project of a ‘personal ordinariate’ on the back burner. Another category, and probably the largest, are the Catholic bishops who simply do not have the competence, imagination or courage to do anything at all with such a radical idea. They don’t understand Protestants. The Anglican Communion is a many headed hydra they have no idea how to wrestle. The idea of married priests is daunting. They don’t have a clue how they would support them financially. The complications of a ‘church within a church’ throws them for a loop. They have so many more important things to think about, so they too put the whole thing on the back burner. There are a few Catholic bishops who see the good side and want to make the personal ordinariate work, but they are voted down by the others, and not able to go it alone, they quietly let the idea drop.

The Anglican and Episcopal hierarchy are privately incensed at Rome’s blatant sheep stealing efforts. It confirms their long held and worst suspicions about Rome. They dig in their heels. They make life as difficult as possible for their Anglo Catholic colleagues who want to leave. They refuse all compensation plans. They resist all attempts for the Anglo Catholics to have their buildings–even if the building is unwanted and the Anglo Catholics offer to buy it. In polite terms (for the Anglicans are always polite) they tell the Anglo Catholics to simply get out and become Catholics if that’s what they want. The Anglo Catholics who are still in the Church of England and Episcopal Church then realize that nothing has been accomplished. They will still have to walk out on their beautiful buildings, their historic endowments, their priviledged place in society, their pension plan and their salary. To be an ‘Anglican Use Catholic’ they will have to start up a little church in a rented store front or someone’s attic. They will have to gather a little eccentric flock of ‘Anglican Use’ folks and start from scratch. Then suddenly they will discover all sorts of reasons why ‘perhaps in the long run it will better to stay in the Church of England after all.’

The leaders of the continuing churches will look at the proposals and come to a rapid conclusion: the Protestant minded will reject Rome’s outstretched hand without a second consideration. They never wanted to be Catholics. The Anglican Church (that is to say their particular continuing church)is already Catholic ‘but Reformed’. The emphasis is on ‘Reformed’. The more Catholic minded will discover that they and their flock will have to have their irregular marriages assessed. Their leaders will have to step down. Rome will appoint a personal ordinary to whom they will need to submit. Their denomination, their property, their cathedrals, yes even their website! will have to close down or be transformed into something new. They will have to use the liturgy approved by Rome. Many of their people will rebel. They will say, “Father, if we had wanted to be Catholic we would have converted long ago.” Faced with rebellion in the ranks, the sacrifice of their position and autonomy they too will find all sorts of reasons why, “Perhaps it is best to watch and wait and see how all this develops. We don’t want to be hasty. I think after all, the status quo is better don’t you? After all, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

Which road do you think is more likely?

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  • Vernon

    Unfortunately, I think at least part of Road 2 is the one that will be trodden, much as I'd wish that it was Road 1 in its entirety.

  • Athelstane

    In some dioceses, in some places, Road 1 will be followed. In others…It's clear exactly what kind of reaction we will see from the TEC hierarchy. They have made that abundantly clear. They will fight to keep every scrap of property and litigate until the Parousia comes.But I do have hope for some Catholic bishops. The quality level has been rising of late.

  • Thom

    What can we do but pray?

  • Peter

    I pray for #1, but fear it will be number 2.

  • bbmoe

    I think for the churches in the Global North, the second scenario is far more likely across the board. But for Global South, scenario 1 seems very feasible. As a friend of mine said recently (with distaste,) "You know, the Africans don't understand the way we do things, that we work democratically. They just do what their primates say- it's almost like the Roman Catholics!"

  • Brian Walden

    I think the reality is there are not just two roads. Instead you've identified the two extremes, what actually happens will probably fall somewhere in the middle. I doubt we'll really be able to judge this decision for decades.

  • Just another mad Catholic

    I think that in time Road 1 will be the path taken, especially when sane anglicans i.e. those who actually believe come to realise that the entire man-made structure is coming down around thier heads and like Bl John Henry Newman realise that Rome is where the Truth lies. Also to second Athelstane the quality of Catholic Bishops has been rising of late. One thing i'm certain of is that B16 doesn't move until all the pieces are in place, still what would you expect from a German:)

  • Shawn Shafer

    What it does is put paid to all the chatter from the Anglo-Catholics about wanting to be in communion with Rome. Here is their opportunity, freely offered. The price, as in any serious pursuit of an authentic discipleship of Christ may be high. The alternative is for them to settle for being the 'remnant' and 'authentic witness' to the Anglican patrimony. They will continue to grumble and find reasons to not act. The most Catholic thing to do, of course, is to submit to the church's authority – be willing to give up property, orders, have marriages examined – but in the end be reconciled to Christ's church in humble submission.Though it won't win (m)any over, perhaps the whole scheme could be marketed as a penance, with guarantees on a certain amount of relief from purgation's cleansing fire. Ha!

  • Dani

    I think a cross between both

  • Robin Hugens

    I think it will be mostly the second road, but perhaps not to the extreme expressed. I think there is no way ECUSA will want to hand over any of their congregants, priests, buildings, or Anglo-Catholic trappingst to Rome. They are already on their way to extinction and don't want to hasten that process. And those chalices and monstrances are made of gold, you know! Doubtless there are Catholic bishops who bow to the zietgeist who will be very unhappy to see an influx of converts who have a very traditional worldview. However I am sure there are many bishops who will be friendly. I think that most of the converts will be Anglo-Catholic splinter groups who have already split. This itself could be a great thing. It will also be interesting to see what Forward in Faith does because I understand that they considered conversion as parishes when women's ordination was introduced in England and were told they couldn't enter as parishes.

  • Paul Goings

    What it does is put paid to all the chatter from the Anglo-Catholics about wanting to be in communion with Rome. Yes and no. If one is an Anglican clergyman, I suppose that–after the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution come into force–it will merely be necessary to make contact with the apparatus of the local ordinariate. It remains to be seen, however, what provisions, if any, will be made for individual laymen who can't come over as an organized group with its own clergyman.

  • Brad

    Just read this and think it speaks to your thesis."Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, affirmed this in a statement today, after receiving word "of the new provision in the form of an apostolic constitution issued by the Holy See for the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of groups from the Anglican tradition."The bishops' conference "stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country," he stated."

  • Fr Michael Gollop SSC

    Father, I really do hope you are being over-pessimistic here. Those who wish to become truly "Anglican" Catholics have long realised the implications of taking such a step, even within the novel parameters of something like a personal ordinariate.I can't speak for the Catholic bishops – you know them better than I – but am I being naive in thinking that Rome isn't simply going to leave them to their own devices on this one? Surely the Vatican has too much vested in this Apostolic Constitution to let it simply wither on the vine? Please let us know what you think.

  • daniel

    It would seem that road 1 would be made easier if the Vatican itself created the new diocese and appointed the first Ordinary. If it depends upon a decision by the bishops' conference, well just look at how long a translation takes. I don't know that it won't be a Vatican decision, they do seem to appoint all of the territorial ordinaries, why not this one?

  • veritas

    As an ex Anglican priest I welcome this decision by Rome.My family and I converted to the Catholoic Church years ago and in fact one of my daughters is now a Carmelite Nun.However, for all those years I have missed the beauty of Anglo Catholic liturgy – "everything done decently and in order". I grimmace at the sloppiness and casualness of too many Catholic masses. I really believe the worship of Almighty God is the highest action we can perform and that it should be done with the outmost reverance.Therefore I look forward to the Ordinariate, where there will be a very traditional and, I imagine, beautiful, liturgy available for those of us who want and need it.You are right Father about there being many possibilties with this announcement – however, since it is from Rome, I do not believe that even the trendy Catholic bishops will be able to ignore it and treat the Anglican converts with disdain.Many Anglicans will NOT take this opportunity to convert – thank goodness! Why do I say that? Because many of them are not really Catholic at heart and would simply prove to be "troublemakers" within the Catholic Church if they did come over. The Church only needs those who really want to be part of God's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, under Peter, to accept the Pope's kind offer. Let the others stay in their many breakaway, ex-Anglican ghettos.I really pray that this generous offer by Rome will result in many souls coming into God's Church and will result in great blessing to them and to the Church.

  • flyingvic

    This "generous offer" is seen by many in UK as ill-mannered and opportunistic. Ill-mannered, because of the very short notice that was given to Canterbury over the whole affair. Opportunistic, because the RC church in UK is desperately short of priests: the Irish, who have staffed the mainland parishes for years, have enormous problems of recruitment after too many sex scandals, and there aren't enough Polish imports to make up the shortfall.Let's be honest about the UK situation: all the Anglicans who really wanted to go to Rome have already gone, and taken the financial inducements on offer after the vote on the ordination of women. The ones who are left behind, flirting but staying Anglican, may now feel themselves to be driven out of the C of E by the moves to consecrate women bishops; but do you really want that many unhappy converts?

  • Taylor Marshall

    As I understand it, the Catholic bishops won't be burdened by the problem because it's a personal ordinariate.The Pope appoints an ordinary. The ordinary ordains (or if a priest, he finds a bishop who will ordain) the former Anglican clergy as priests and he will be able to erect parishes.In canon law, an ordinariate is a particular church. Therefore, there is not the need as there was before for a local bishop to become intimately involved.At least that's how I understand it – and I very well could be wrong since the actual apostolic constitution hasn't been published.

  • samurfer

    Taylor is right, I believe; the Roman Catholic local bishops are being cut out by the Vatican. The Pope will directly appoint ordinaries who will exercise ecclesiastic authority over the (theoretical) incoming Anglicans. The local bishops will get no say in what the Anglo-Catholics do, except for direct appeals to Rome. What this amounts to is a separate Anglican Rite hierarchy under the Vatican. The Roman Rite bishops can feel what they will, they will have no jurisdiction over the new entities.

  • Fr Longenecker

    Flyingvic. Catholic memories are long. We seem to remember to fellows called Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell who were somewhat ill mannered and opportunistic…

  • Athelstane

    Hello Flyingvic,I think your reading of this move is not only uncharitable, but simply inaccurate.If this is opportunistic, it will not do anything to alleviate the priest shortage in the UK. Any Anglican clerics who come over will be placed within the new ordinariates, ministering to their parishioners who also came over. They won't be used for regular Latin-Rite parishes, because they won't be under those ordinaries' authority – any more than, say, a Melkite or Maronite priest would be.I think it was hardly ill-mannered for the Pope to delay two full years to respond to the requests he had, waiting not only for Lambeth but for a full year afterward for Archbishop Williams to respond to the aggrieved traditionalists within his ranks – this despite the fact that most of the formal applications had come from Anglicans (i.e., the TAC) who had long ago split off from the communion.If this be an end run, it was as much around the Catholic bishops as the Anglican ones. The episcopate in the UK – the "Magic Circle" – is in parlous shape, and the Pope is well aware of that – as he is of the noncoincidental shortage of priests.But I expect you are right that in the UK, many of the Anglo-Catholics who wanted to 'pope' have done so. But this was not about just the UK. And it is also possible that some who have already converted may yet support or even join these new ordinariates.

  • flyingvic

    Don't you just love it when ex-Anglicans start talking about "We Catholics…"?

  • margot

    "We Catholics"….why not, if we are in fact Catholics? It does make more sense than "We Anglicans" after all.

  • GOR

    I suspect reactions on both sides will vary across the board and would liken this to the varied reception given to Summorum Pontificum by assorted hierarchies around the world.Firstly, this is a generous – and innovative – gesture by the Holy Father. He is responding to requests and a need that has been out there for some time. He has no ‘ulterior motive’ in doing this, but as a good shepherd he is trying to save souls knowing that all the means to salvation are to be found only in the Catholic Church.Secondly, the way in which this is being done – an Apostolic Constitution and Personal Ordinariates –seems designed to forestall a “Road #2” scenario. The Holy Father – as he did with Summorum Pontificum – is taking it out of the hands of the local ordinaries for the most part. He would like their wholehearted cooperation but he will not brook their opposition.He has been critical of how the Ecumenical Movement has played out over the past 40 years – a never-ending ‘dialogue’ that was leading more to an “I’m OK. You’re OK” direction rather than true conversion. So he is putting in place a concrete structure open to all who wish to avail of it.Yes there will be many issues to resolve and it will take time, but the groundwork is laid and the details will be worked out – with or without the cooperation of local hierarchies. But, preferably with their wholehearted cooperation.

  • the Egyptian

    I pray I am wrong, #2 more than likely, except for some of the younger JP2 types

  • Stefanie

    It won't be easy to separate actual church property — a local Los Angeles Episcopal-now-Anglican parish recently lost the court decision to keep their 75 year old + parish property. Bishop Bruno showed up himself to receive the keys to the property. This happened a week ago. That Anglican parish(who placed themselves under the direction of a Nigerian bishop)is now meeting in a 7th Day Adventist church (afterall, they're not using it on Sundays!). Even though I am RC, this parish acted as host to me when I used to teach inter-denominational bible studies (before I discovered the richness of our Catholic bible studies). Having seen the heartbreak of that good parish close-up — it was a 7-year battle–I still wept for joy at the October 20 news from Rome.

  • Dymphna

    I suspect that now that many people have the opportunity to put up or shut up, they will shut up and stay Anglican.

  • The Archer of the Forest

    I, likewise, am watching this with interest. From my highly placed sources on the ARCIC and other sources, the only way I see this as going to work is if Rome personally creates the ordinariate and appoints all the people involved. In fact, I just got off the phone with a acquaintance of mine who is a Catholic bishop, and he told me, "it will happen when hell freezes over if its left up to the US Conference of Bishops." We will see, but from what I am hearing, there is some serious hostility to this decision in the ranks of the Catholic church, at least in the States.

  • flyingvic

    So much depends upon your view of Christian unity. For years ARCIC has been saying, "Let us listen to each other for we may learn from each other." Now Pope Benedict is saying, "I will listen no longer to you, for Unity happens only when you admit your errors and come to join us."A different subject, granted; but a remarkably similar outlook to Bishop Spong!

  • Taylor Marshall

    flyingvic said… "A different subject, granted; but a remarkably similar outlook to Bishop Spong!"Them's fightin' words!

  • Little Black Sambo

    "They just do what their primates say- it's almost like the Roman Catholics!" – in Africa the bishop is the equivalent of the tribal chief and is definitely in charge.

  • Anneg

    "So much depends upon your view of Christian unity. For years ARCIC has been saying, "Let us listen to each other for we may learn from each other." Now Pope Benedict is saying, "I will listen no longer to you, for Unity happens only when you admit your errors and come to join us."Actually, flyingvic, it's more like, "Now, you have seen what your rebellion has reaped, so come HOME where you belong." Reminds me of the Prodigal Son. Hmmm.btw, ex-Anglicans who are now Catholics are Catholic, very much at Home in Rome after all. AnneG in NC

  • veritas

    flyingvic said: "So much depends upon your view of Christian unity. For years ARCIC has been saying, "Let us listen to each other for we may learn from each other." Now Pope Benedict is saying, "I will listen no longer to you, for Unity happens only when you admit your errors and come to join us."A different subject, granted; but a remarkably similar outlook to Bishop Spong!"By even speaking about Pope Benedict as being similar to Spong you have totally betrayed all pretense at bringing any Christain arguments into this subject.Spong is one of the most vile, anti Christians of our age. He has publically repudiated every single Christian doctrine and moral belief.By attacking those who call themselves "We Catholics.." you have shown where your true sympathies lie.Please stay in your dying Anglican Church, accept your homosexual bishops and women priests, pro divorce, pro euthanasia, pro abortion theologians and join Spong in his attack on everything that Our Blessed lord ever did or taught. But stay away from our Pope and his efforts to make entry into God's Catholic Church easier for those who have woken up to what Anglicanism really is.

  • Roland

    They will still have to walk out on their beautiful buildings, their historic endowments, their priviledged place in society, their pension plan and their salary.They will not have to walk out on their pension plans (at least in the US). Federal law requires vesting of pensions. I know formerly-Anglican Orthodox priests who count on collecting pensions from TEC's pension fund. (They are watching closely to make sure TEC does not tap the pension fund to pay its lawyers.)

  • flyingvic

    Well, I certainly sparked a response there, didn't I! But it seems to me, veritas, that your opinion of Bishop Spong clouded your vision of what I actually wrote.Bishop Spong, whom I know hardly at all, is widely quoted here as closing his ears and eyes to a number of questions that he now regards as 'settled', no longer worthy of his time to discuss.Pope Benedict, it seems to me, has done exactly the same over the ecumenical movement: he has turned his back on it – the conversation is now ended – in favour of his "You come and join US!" proposal.I made no comparison of theology or belief, merely of attitude – and then only in respect of this one matter.Beyond that, I do not think that I have 'attacked' anyone. I may have teased a little; but then there is a certain amount of teasing of Anglicans on here, too. Is a different point of view not welcome here?And please – may I ask? – resist the temptation to generalise and to stick labels all over people. It is not charitable; and you do not know me.

  • flyingvic

    Part of my teasing was certainly in the "We Catholics…" comment.At a local Council of Churches meeting here and in the midst of a discussion on a new constitution which might include an expression of sorrow for the sins and mistakes of the past, our local Orthodox priest stood up and said, rather pompously, I thought, "We have never been in error!" It was all I could do to suppress a giggle: the said Orthodox priest barely ten years previously had been an Anglican priest who left over the consecration of the Bishop of Durham…