Yesterday I explained why the Ordinariate, the freshest expression of unity within the Catholic Church, has endured criticism as well as friendship. I examined the predominant reasons why this vision, which the Pope labelled ‘prophetic’, can be challenging and/or uncomfortable.
To demonstrate the progress being made by the Ordinariate what now follows is an examination of the criticisms stemming from those wanting to pour cold water over the initiative. I will then show how, in every instance, the accusations are proving hollow. For the vision is strong and, I believe, the Holy Spirit is present in it.
1) The Ordinariate will never take off This was the first accusation and came days after the Vatican announced the initiative. It was followed by assurances that even if it did happen then it would take years to form. Instead everything came together within an incredibly short timescale. What became obvious was that this was seen as a pressing need in the eyes of Pope Benedict.
2) The Vatican is losing interest Once it became clear that the ordinariate would take off detractors began to claim the Vatican had lost interest having imagined that take up would be larger than it was. The aim was to sow doubt in the minds of those drawn to it. But far from losing interest the Holy Father repeatedly called for generosity in supporting the venture from the wider Catholic church. He also ensured that he visited England to beatify our co-patron John Henry Newman and ensured we were the last thing he spoke of before returning to Rome. He has gifted us financial assistance from his own resources and several key members of the CDF have visited to encourage and support us. Why at a recent meeting of Catholic clergy in Reading Archbishop Di Noia positively embraced me on discovering I was Ordinariate and assured me of how excited many people in the Vatican are!
3) The Ordinariate as second class option Perhaps the favourite put down of the detractors and first voiced by the Archbishop of York. I refer to the suggestion that those wanting to become Catholic would be better “doing it properly”. The idea being that the Ordinariate is a poor alternative to ‘real’ membership of RCC. But of course the truth is that we who joined saw clergy ordained into the Latin Rite by Catholic bishops of England and Wales. We then took up posts serving not only the Ordinariate but diocesan parishes and chaplaincies. The obvious point being that the ordinariate door places you in the same place as the Diocesan route. That is what unity is about. One is either Catholic or not and we Ordinariate members are.
4) The Ordinariate will never attract members I was one of the first to publicly endorse the Ordinariate option. I was then barraged with accusations that I would not join. I received hate mail and even had a blog erected against me by someone called Poppytupper which ridiculed my physique and character. Then letters were sent to Catholic bishops which made complaints against me and suggested I was not suitable for ordination. These all failed. The next accusation then was to suggest that growth would never happen. But I am delighted to report that this too is being shown to be untrue. The ordinariate now numbers 81 priests, 1 deacon, 3 seminarians, 3 nuns and 1350 lay members. It has recorded growth of over 15% in the last 12 months and I am currently in dialogue with some who are hoping to join us in the third wave. Slow, steady and manageable growth – exactly what is needed.
5) The Ordinariate has no Anglican patrimony Only yesterday the ever negative Canon Godsall tried to rubbish the Ordinariate by claiming that our Anglican patrimony is non existent. But again this is going to be proved wrong as the new Ordinariate Customary and Rite make clear. Those joining are at liberty to use all the liturgical practice of the Roman Catholic Church but will also be enriched by a new Mass stemming from the English Missal, we have our hymnody, Evensong and so much more besides. This will ensure that we find the balance between remaining part of the church we have joined whilst keeping our own history and traditions alive. It means we can cater not only to those versed in the Roman Rite from within the C of E but also those from a Prayerbook background and tradition.
These are just five of the ways people have tried to undermine us since our inception. Isn’t it wonderful that we have been so blessed as to overcome these and answer the critics on each occasion? The truth is that there has been a struggle at times and a spiritual battle has raged. My own sense is that the devil really doesn’t want this to happen!
However slowly but surely we are finding our feet and, through God’s grace, the tiny seed planted by Pope Benedict is starting to grow. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to overcome the remaining hurdles and ensure the vision is enabled to perform whatever purpose God has in store for it. These are exciting times and it is a privilege to be part of something that could play a part in the faith of this land in the future. Being Anglo-Catholic was, so often, about looking backwards to the 19th Century movement of Newman and the like. Whereas the ordinariate is about looking forwards very much to something which God is now doing in our day. We walk where Newman once led….
Oh and a final answer to the person who sent me a rude message yesterday wondering when I find the time to blog and hinting it must mean I do no work in the parish….the answer stems from another part of my Anglican patrimony. A baby in the family means I rise at 5am and have plenty of time to type before the day starts!