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A new idea of the Ordinariate is emerging

It should no longer be seen as a halfway house for disaffected Anglo-Catholics ‘defecting’ from the Church of England

By on Saturday, 2 October 2010

The plans for the Ordinariate for ex-Anglicans are gathering pace. One of the last things Pope Benedict XVI said before leaving Britain, and one of the most important, was to emphasise that the Ordinariate is the next step towards Church unity. It was not the step that we were led to expect during the years of negotiation with Anglicans about corporate unity. But it is prophetic – and the prophet in question is our present Holy Father, who believes that Anglicans who already accept the Magisterium of the Church should be given freedom to worship and evangelise in communion with Rome as a matter of urgency.

A new image of the Ordinariate is emerging. When Anglicanorum coetibus was first published, the media and some religious commentators depicted it as a halfway house for “disaffected” Anglo-Catholics who were “defecting” from the Church of England and other Anglican churches around the world. That language is increasingly redundant. The leaders of the Ordinariate project have passed through their stage of disaffection. As the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet and one of the architects of the scheme, made clear at an Anglo-Catholic synod held immediately after the Pope’s visit, we will soon see the formation of “small congregations, energetically committed to mission and evangelism and serving the neighbourhood in which they are set”. Similar plans are being drawn up in other countries with a strong Anglican presence: last week, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington was chosen to oversee the formation of Ordinariate parishes in America.

It is time to set aside, for the time being, the much-debated question of how many Anglicans will take advantage of the Apostolic Constitution. Let us focus instead on the core words of Bishop Burnham’s message: his flock is “energetically committed to mission and [local] evangelisation”. Future members of the Ordinariate are offering to help revitalise the Christian mission of the Catholic Church in England and several other countries. It is a wonderful prospect, made possible by their faithful witness to the Gospel over many years and the vision of the Holy Father. Ignore the cynics and hand-wringers who see only difficulties in this historic development: we live in exciting times.

  • Karmenu of Malta

    Ideas pass through various stages because the Holy Spirit guides the Church precisely through those steps towards a satisfactory final solution. This is the same Holy Spirit who will surely guide the Church out of the present crisis into a new era of intense spirituality and worldwide recognition. The ways of the Lord are as high above our own as the heavens are higher than the earth.

  • Louise Harwood

    I hope people will now spend some time in joyous prayer as we rejoice that the Holy Father has extended an ecumenical hand to those who are commited to sharing the life of faith with others.

  • Poor_Parson

    You will see the formation of small congregations, certainly – very small, and comprised largely of High Church former clergymen who are experts on liturgical accoutrements.

  • Linus

    We are all one in Christ! Let us all unite and pray together for the universal harmony!
    There is a saying in Sanskrit “God is one,we call Him by different names!”
    There are over 2000 denominations of Christianity exist!
    Let us unite and try to become one!

  • Ben Worley

    In 1928 Pope Pius XI said of the ecumenical movement in Mortalism Animos ‘it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, not is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity,… quite alien to the one Church of Christ. Shall we suffer, what would indeed be iniquitous, the truth, and truth divinely revealed, to be made a subject for compromise…’. It is tremendous to see how Christian Unity is progressing, but is this new Anglican Ordinatiate encouraging of ecumenism or merely to see ‘the return or heretics and schismatics to the Church of Rome’?

  • Wolf Paul

    I am sure that from the pope's perspective, “ecumenism” is not the goal, but “unity” is. But of course, from his perspective also, unity is only possible where Christians currently outside the Roman communion recognize and accept the Magisterium and the supremacy of the pope — in which case they are not heretics and schismatics.

    But of course for many serious Christians, even those concerned with the catholicity and unity of the Church, things are not as clear, they do not accept (for good reason) the Magisterium, and they will see this differently.

  • Ben Worley

    The ultimate goal of ecumenism is Christian Unity, a reconciliation of all division, that all may believe (Jn 17:21).