In Search of the Facts Regarding the Ordinariate

Deborah Gyapong:

As most readers know, I am a journalist by trade and I write primarily for Catholic newspapers.  I wish I had time to do the in depth, fair, balanced story the fledgling ordinariates deserve—you know, the kind of magazine piece that allows me to travel to do my interviews and attend events to capture the color, the smells, and the taste of things. I would love the time to pore over documents and weigh the credibility of every account.

But I don’t have that luxury and I don’t have the time right now to even write much of a blog post.  In the interest of getting at some of the facts of what is going on in the United States concerning the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter here is what I would like to know and maybe some readers can help with factual accounts.

How many Anglican Use parishes are joining the Ordinariate?  How many are staying out?  Why have their priests/leaders decided to move in one direction or another? Be great to hear directly from them if possible.

Has there been a consistent policy in transferring membership from an Anglican Use parish (i.e. those on the parish rolls for baptisms, confirmations etc.) into the Ordinariate?  If so, what is that policy?   Have some parishes had concerns they would be forced to split, leaving many behind if they entered the Ordinariate?

At Our Lady of Walsingham, was the priest forced into retirement?  Or did he voluntarily retire?  Are the members of this parish members of the Ordinariate?  Or does some official paperwork or something need to be done?

How concerned are priests of Anglican Use parishes that are remaining outside that they might be forced into retirement or moved elsewhere in the vast Ordinariate territory once they are incardinated into the Ordinariate?

How concerned are Anglican Use communities that someone who is a recent convert  with no understanding of the history or sacrifices made by that community will be parachuted in as their priest?

Here in Canada, back in 2010 there was concern, at least on my part, that this might happen here because Cardinal Collins mused about putting some Anglican Church of Canada priests who wished to become Catholic but had no communities coming with them in charge of our parishes because he wasn’t sure most of our priests would qualify as Catholic priests.   The thought rankled me—that someone would get a soft landing in one of our parishes simply because he had the right credentials from a possibly heretical Anglican seminary  but had not made any of the sacrifices our shepherds had made to serve us.

Fast forward to 2012 and the Canadian situation seems very hopeful lately and even more so after several visits by Msgr. Steenson to Victoria, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa over the past several months.  From what I gather, our former clergy were greatly encouraged and none of the fears that plagued us over the past couple of years have come to pass.  In fact, we have been meeting with extraordinary generosity from our local Roman Catholic bishops and from Msgr. Steenson.

Several things that might have helped us.   We went through an awful time in the lead up to our entering the Catholic Church.  Parishes split, some twice.  Those of us who remained steadfast had nowhere else to turn but to the Cross for consolation.  It changed us, made us more patient, more faithful and less quick to get riled up when the trials start up again.   It unified those who remained so we are much more closely bonded and able to pray and act in one accord.

I think there is a tremendous amount of spiritual warfare involved in this Ordinariate project.  The turbulence on every level we experience from time to time as they develop is likely a result of malicious spiritual forces playing on our all-too-human frailties.  If this were not such a powerful and good move on the Holy Father’s part to further the Kingdom of Heaven, the enemy of our souls would not be so active on every front!

I am not privy to the information that our moderator has about what has been going on in the United States and I would prefer specifics with the who,what, why, when, where.  My questions above come from parsing the various blog posts and comments.  But what I hope to do is see whether a calm investigation of the facts can produce some supportive and helpful suggestions because whatever our differences here on the Anglo-Catholic—and we do not all agree by any means! nor do we have “board meetings” or conference calls and most contributors I have never even had an email conversation with—we all hope Pope Benedict’s vision in Anglicanorum coetibus will become a flourishing reality.

So—if you have some facts or can shed some light on what specific problems have arisen and how they may be overcome, please have at it in the comments section.

If you can help, go here.



Ordinariate Creates a 16th Century Choice!

On Fr Ed Tomlinson’s Blog:

It must have been difficult for the priests and congregations of England at the time of the reformation. Clergy must have been frantic with worry. Morale would have been low. For the ecclesiastical and political landscape was changing and none could avoid the choices confronting them, not even those tucked away in tranquil backwaters. Everyone had a choice to make. Either remain faithful to the Catholic church (and face the consequences of ruffling the feathers of the increasingly autonomous establishment), or side with the establishment and accept the new reality of becoming a reformed church in this land.

Doubtless many felt trapped like rabbits in headlights. But in the end this mattered not because indecision, however attractive it may have seemed, was delusional. It ultimately counted as a choice for the establishment- and, over time, those burying heads in the sand simply got swept along with the change and found themselves members of the new protestant reality. You cannot stand still when the landscape is shifting around you.

It was a choice made harder for many in that both the establishment in England and the situation in Rome were far from perfect. England was ruled by a despotic King and Rome embroiled in terrible scandal with corruption at the highest level of power. Few would deny that the papacy was in a dire state. Luther and his ilk clearly had a point but should they be fighting for reform from within or from without?

Not that pure Protestant ideals were driving change in England. Here the bully boy King was spotting tremendous opportunity in the wider chaos of Europe. Seeking marriage despite no annulment, and lusting after the riches of the monasteries, Henry VIII decided to break with Rome to serve his selfish end. A decision with implications we deal with to this day. The Church in England became the Church of England and joined that fractured part of Christ’s body that, lacking defined doctrine and a central authority, would splinter over the following centuries into myriad different pieces. So that today we find literally tens of thousands of autonomous protestant communities, each claiming truth for itself! And now the C of E itself faces fresh schism over various theological matters.

Back to 16th Century England and all this change is bubbling to the surface and the clergy and people are faced with a choice. Stand with the Catholic faith or accept Henry’s audacious bid to replace the pope with himself as head of the church in this land?

History teaches that those who stood with Rome suffered terribly. We might consider the Bishop of Rochester at that time, Saint John Fisher. One of the few who dared defy the King’s hubris, despite a clear understanding of the scandal of the Borgia papacy. (He admits in his own correspondence to Luther, ‘if the Roman Pontiffs, laying aside pomp and haughtiness would but practice humility, you would not have a word left to utter against them’) His fidelity was to the office and not to the man who was the successor of Peter.

‘I fear’, said Fisher whilst locked in the Tower of London, ‘that we be not the men to see the end of this misery.’ How right he was as we continue to live with the pain in this 21st Century. ‘The fort is sadly betrayed,’ he further reflected, ‘by those who should have defended it.’ Fisher acknowledging that most clergy and people ducked the issue in his day thereby allowing the establishment to exert its unbiblical changes. When push came to shove most thought of themselves and their comfort, opting for pensions over truth. These the ones willing to put up with whatever befell them.

For Fisher the decision to stand for the faith of his ancestors cost him dear. He was tortured in the tower and later beheaded. Then his naked decapitated body was exhibited to the public before being dumped without ceremony or prayer within a shallow grave. In every church in the land those who had ducked the issue and imagined that it would not affect them were forced to preach sermons against his criminality. They were also ordered on that same day to scrub the Pope’s name from all their prayer books. A new era had begun and over the following centuries Catholics would find themselves barred from preferment, mocked and derided and many would die a martyr’s death. We might think of Edward Campion, Margaret Clithero and others besides.

Praise God that in 2012 nobody faces such violence anymore. But in many ways we have turned full circle. For within the Church of England are many who claim to be Catholic. And, like their reformation forefathers, they have arrived at a point of clear decision- a choice must be made because the ecclesial landscape is changing before them and standing still is no longer an option. Those before them just about survived in a middle way church, ‘catholic yet reformed’, but now that church is changing and the Catholic ecclesiology being undone…

So will they stand up for Catholicism and unity by joining the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, following in the footsteps of Fisher, Campion, Newman et al? Or else opt to accept whatever befalls them from the Synodical Church of England- with its women bishops et al?

It is a decision that cannot be dodged no matter the backwater one lives in. Either one stands for Catholicism and works for the unity the Pope is offering or one opts to belong to a body that is now universally and globally contradicting Catholic teaching. No matter how much incense one personally uses the situation is clear. The Church of England is manifestly no longer ‘Catholic and Reformed’ but now walks in a liberal, protestant direction.

I wonder how many have taken the time to make the choice facing their future and how many are simply sleepwalking into a new reality as members of an evolving postmodern church?



True Christianity is a Persecuted Christianity

As reported on The Deacon’s Bench:

That’s from Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, who serves the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in northern Iraq.  He spoke with Tim Drake of theNational Catholic Register:

What are three things you would like American Catholics to know about Catholics in Iraq?

First, that Christianity has had a presence in Iraq for 2,000 years. It’s a very old community. It has not been converted from Islam. We were there before Islam. Our schools were always the best, even from the sixth and seventh centuries. Second, we’ve been through a very difficult time. We are grateful to the many people who have held out a hand of charity and solidarity with us, the various Catholic charities. However, we would like to leave this path of charity for the path of opportunity. Yes, we are a minority, but we have the capability to stay and build a good future for Iraq. Third, I would like to see more of a commitment by the media to raise the awareness of the issues in Iraq to build schools and hospitals. We are not benefitting from the wealth that Iraq has. We need to find ways to stay and build the community. When we leave Iraq, it’s a big loss. When I visited our communities in Detroit, the second and third generations are no longer speaking the language. Our whole culture is gone.

Do you see a peaceful generation coming?

Yes, that’s what we have to work for. The next generation is not following in the footsteps of their parents because they are tired of the mess. So many voices are asking when, for what and why? These courageous questions are helpful.

What do we miss when we lump the Middle East together as a region?

There are areas of the Middle East that people can safely visit and benefit from. The roots of Christianity are there. We managed to open an international school in Erbil. We had five Americans from Washington and Dallas who are committed to helping us. I depend on them to come back to tell their story, not from a political point of view, but what it’s like to live among the community and in the heart of the community. The more you visit, the more you realize the richness and diversity of what’s there. You also learn about the dialogue between the communities and the lines that you have to respect. More positive articles and reports could help Americans and Europeans know more about the Middle East. We do not want to be on the news only because of violence and killings.

We use the term New Evangelization frequently in America. What does the term New Evangelization mean in Iraq?

For me and my community and the coming Year of Faith, we have prayed for that a lot and have had retreats and workshops to prepare and celebrate with the young people in our parishes. We see it as strengthening our relationship with Jesus who suffered and was crucified. This means reflecting on our wounds and not just bearing them, but taking these wounds with joy that we have participated in the suffering of Our Lord. We believe that true Christianity is a persecuted Christianity. That’s true all over the world. We can reflect on the past 10 years and say that the Lord is telling us something here. We have to deepen our relationship with him and announce the Catholic faith in a new vision which would welcome all those who are at the margins.

One of the bad effects of 2003 is that it’s opened the country for new evangelical groups who have come to steal from our community and churches. They come in ignorance telling us, “We are going to tell you about Jesus Christ.” I respond by saying, “Yes, I know him.” These groups succeed because they have financial ability. I told a group from Dallas, “You are weakening Christianity here. We are weak enough here in number, and you are dividing us. If you want to help Christians, first come to my place, not to places outside my diocese to try to attract others.”

Read it all.



Fr Edwin Barnes: It Does Not Yet Appear What We Shall Be…

From across the pond, Fr Barnes writes:

In another post we read of disquiet in the American part of the Ordinariate. Rather than commenting on that situation, it might help to say something about how things are in the United Kingdom — I almost said “England”, but in fact we now have Scots members of the Ordinariate, and many Welsh sympathisers.

Well, no, things are not ideal.  Some ordinations seem to be taking a very long time — three former Anglican Preists in Southwark Diocese do not yet know when they will be ordained deacons, while most of their contemporaries are already lining up for the priesthood.  In our little Group in Southern England, we have still three people waiting for their marital situations to be resolved, and the waiting seems interminable.  That is hard for all of us, for if one member suffers so do we all.

Then again, we share a Catholic Parish Church, and sometimes there have been misunderstandings when we or they have assumed something would happen and it has not.  It is difficult for that Catholic Parish to make room for another (very small) Group from the Ordinariate — especially when they were quite unprepared for this and did not know what the Ordinariate was supposed to be about.

But little by little we are learning, both those who have been Catholics for many years and we who are Johnny-come-latelies.  As we participate in parish events — little things like coffee mornings, fund-raising events, more important occasions such as shared liturgical celebrations — we gradually get to know each other and appreciate one another.  Of course things are not perfect; but then, despite the exceptionally high opinion I have of myself, even I have to admit that I am not perfect.

So just a year into this experiment, it seems as though we must relearn the old adage about the answer to prayer — it might be Yes, it might be No, it might be “Not yet”.  We are particularly poor at accepting “Not Yet””.  We want to see how the Ordinairiate will develop over the years, where we might be in ten years or a hundred.  But that is not for us to know.  St John taught us that “it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.

A brief glance at Church History will tell us that what the Holy Father is doing for us through “Anglicanorum Coetibus” he is doing at breakneck speed.  What other former Anglican clergy have been ordained in the Catholic Church within one or two years?  Where else in all history have groups of non-Catholics been received into communion together, and allowed to keep their identity?

We are part of a work in progress, discerning the fulness of Anglican Patrimony, and finding ways of preserving it and handing it on.  Of course it would be wonderful if we had a great mediaeval church, with a three-manual organ and a choir the equal of Westminster Abbey; of course it would be lovely if our Ordinary combined the wisdom of John Henry Newman with the simplicity of the Little Flower and the energy of Robert Bellarmine and the piety of the Cure D’Ars; but he is who he is, and possibly one day people might look back and say “if only our BIshop had the skills of Mgr Keith Newton — or perhaps of Mgr Jeffrey Steenson”.

The Lord seems prepared to use the materials he has at hand – the impetuosity of a Peter, the obstinacy of a Thomas.  He is even ready to use us, despite our desire to have everything perfect, and at once.  Perhaps the prayer for all of us should be, to amend Augustine, “Lord, make me perfect — but not yet”.  Not only Rome — even Canterbury was not built in a day.