Writes Fr Ed Tomlinson – mostly for those Clergy where there are Ordinariates available:
My last post provoked a question in the comment thread asking if there would be more Anglican clergy joining the Ordinariate in the future? The questioner assuming that, if one was truly Catholic in belief and unhappy with the direction of the Church of England, they would surely have already joined.
But I think the migration is far from over because life is not as black and white as internet debate. People’s beliefs change and future applicants might include those whose heads are presently in the sand (regarding the implications of current synodical thinking and the Ordinariate reality) but who might yet wake up and move. People whose personal threshold has not been crossed but which may be crossed with future innovation. Those whose journey is still in formation but heading in a Catholic direction, who are yet to arrive at a ‘Newman moment’. And those who have had that epiphany but not yet found a way to put desire into action.
I am myself aware of priests with interest in joining but who do not yet feel able to do so. They tell me life is grim in the Anglo-Catholic world at present. The Catholic societies have fallen silent and leaders who once spoke with passion and clarity about desire for unity now offer no clear vision. Furthermore the Society of Wilfred and Hilda (set up to care for those who did not join the Ordinariate) has offered little beyond an ecclesiastical sandwich club for disgruntled and marginalised people. There is no plan on the table that those I speak to ascertain.
It is clear to them that, whilst high church congregationalism can and will survive, a cohesive case for Catholic life within the Church of England is over. People can put up with hospice care for a dying 19th Century vision, a vision rendered dormant by synodical vote, or else look to the Ordinariate for a robust and Catholic future in the 21st Century.
The question becomes this. How do we encourage those who want to be Catholic but who fear the journey? Remember we have no desire to poach happy Anglicans being only concerned for those who do not seem to belong there. How do we help those feeling trapped who only stay due to obstacles, real or imagined, which they see as barriers to change? It helps to briefly name the obstacles. The following comes from those I know:
1) Family pressure in a variety of forms. There are some married whose wives do not want to leave a comfortable vicarage, a job for life or the certainty of a pension. Others have children at crucial stages in education and are waiting. Others are worried about the reaction of wider family and friends who hold vehemently anti-Roman views.
2) Financial worry. Some fear a move into the Ordinariate means losing a pension or else they worry they cannot support themselves. This is especially true of those who know that they cannot bring a large group. It is not unusual for Anglo-Catholic priests to be serve parishes where the people are less Catholic in outlook than themselves. I would reassure them that nobody who has joined the Catholic church thus far has been left in difficulty but maybe this is not enough and we need to secure buildings and growth to convince them?
3. Fear of change. Some know they would be happier with us but cannot face the prospect of transition. And let us be frank here- it is a tough process with every single person who has left facing a barrage of hostility, often from those they considered friends. I myself received vile letters and emails and was even locked out of my own church before I had left! Conflict isn’t pleasant and the Ordinariate has ruffled feathers. It leads to challenge for those who join. So how can we smooth the journey? Because it does settle down in time.
4) Building junkies. There are those wed to buildings and/or empires. It isn’t easy walking from a project you have given so much to. The wrench of having to leave is causing many to delay, not least those approaching retirement.
5) Compromised reality. There are those with complications in their personal lives. They want to join but are not currently in a position to do so. Clearly decisions need to be made. We might also consider pessimists who fear applications would be turned down or those with scandals in the past. There are no guarantees when you leave but I suggest the Catholic church is compassionate.
We unveil myriad reasons why people might dawdle when it comes to joining the Ordinariate – even though they support the vision! They need love and assistance and we have to help as best as possible. And perhaps it is also time to gently challenge them….
Because it disturbs me when people say they will join the Ordinariate- when they retire!
Read the whole post here.
In conclusion, critically, he asks:
… And we can add to this number countless clergy and laity who, in 2007, signed a petition sent to the holy see seeking provision and help. Where are they now? Some bluffs must have been called but how can we encourage those who do want to join the Ordinariate but cannot bring themselves to do so? It is a serious question not least because our Lord warns about the danger of hanging back once we know we should move forward. (He famously lambasts those called to follow but who prefer to bury dead or who look back when ploughing fields). Quite simply dilly-dallying is not a Gospel option. Is it then time for some action?
If you know in your heart that you belong in the Catholic church then realise that we are praying for you and here to help. The leap is demanding and there are many challenges once you arrive on Rome’s shore. But we need and we want you. We keep the seats warm- why not get in touch and let us help you?