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Anglo-Catholic parishes are often very close-knit: the Ordinariate will preserve that

They have prayed together under hostile pressure; now they can stay together

By on Friday, 12 November 2010

What is the Anglican “patrimony” that will be “united not absorbed” (in Pope Paul’s words) into the Church when the first Ordinariate parishes are established? Pope Paul had envisaged union with the whole Anglican Church. But it had become increasingly clear that, as Fr Aidan Nichols put it in his book The Panther and the Hind, “since Anglicanism is so very much three churches [Catholic, Evangelical and latitudinarian] within one that no satisfactory ecumenical relations can ultimately be carried out with it… what is to be done? An Anglican church united with Rome but not absorbed … is perfectly feasible, but it can only be constructed on the basis of a selection…” In the end, that turned out to be a selection by Rome of the church within a church which came to call itself the Forward in Faith movement.
So now we have, or will soon have, the Ordinariate. It will bring with it, I suggested yesterday, the Anglican pastoral tradition which its members have shared with all other Anglicans. But it will bring with it also a particular tradition unique to Anglican Catholic parishes: the close-knit character of such parishes, the sense that the people must be united with and behind their priest, since what these parishes represent is an essentially anti-establishment view of the Church which is constantly under threat from the centre.
Once appointed, an Anglo-Catholic parish priest (he would tend not to describe himself as a “vicar”) would often stay in his parish for many decades so as to establish ever more firmly its Catholic ethos, an ethos which could in theory be swept away (such cases have been known) by a new vicar with more Protestant inclinations. This ever-present danger led to the establishment of such bodies as the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith which, as it explains on its website, “exercises the right of presentation to over eighty Livings throughout the country”.
Such “Livings” may be bought and sold, and the SMF bought them up with the very clear purpose described by its title: once a parish had been Catholicised, the process was to be rendered irreversible. But if Anglican bishops do not necessarily have the right to appoint Livings, they often have influence, though where they do, they are often sensitive to the wishes of the parish and to traditions already established. But the patron of a Living may well fall in with a bishop’s wishes to effect a radical change, as the patrons of the famous Anglo-Catholic parish of St Mary Magdalen in Oxford (an influential centre of the opposition to women priests) did when its parish priest, the famous Canon Charles Smith, “crossed the Tiber”: they made a point of replacing him with a priest known to be in favour of women’s ordination.
The close-knit character of Anglo-Catholic parishes may thus seem to be somewhat defensive; it has to be said in reply to such an argument that a communal perception that the faith has to be defended against those perceived as hostile to it has been one of Christianity’s great sources of strength through the ages. And in my experience, there was always the much stronger perception that the real centre of community was the common sharing of the Eucharist, that in St Paul’s words, “though we are many, we are one bread, one body”. It was what we were always very insistent on calling “the Mass” that held us together.
There was one more factor: in contrast to the sometimes huge size of Catholic congregations and parish churches in England, in which the parish priest cannot possibly know all his people, Anglican parishes (because of the much greater number of churches and their generally smaller size) are more intimate: priest and people can much more easily form a close community of faith, from which individuals are reluctant to be plucked.
In the early 1990s, I asked Fr Christopher Colven, whose Anglican parish, and then ex-Anglican Catholic, parish of St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, I have referred to several times, whether he agreed with other formerly Anglican and now Catholic priests that in some ways many Anglican communities were closer to the Conciliar pastoral ideal than some very large urban Catholic parishes. He agreed: “I think there’s a particular tradition of pastoral care. I suppose that it’s based on a smaller community where the group is small enough for the pastors to know their people intimately.”
This sense of pastoral intimacy is a very powerful spiritual force where it exists, and the Ordinariate will be built on it. It will be attractive to many cradle Catholics (Fr Colven’s Catholic parish attracted a number of lapsed Catholics back to the Faith). But it will not, I think be a divisive force; on the contrary. In many ways, it will be the most valuable part of the “worthy” Anglican patrimony which Pope Paul was so hopeful to unite with the Catholic Church without absorbing it: an absorption which would have amounted to its destruction.
No such destruction will now take place. Because of Anglicanorum coetibus, the pastoral gift of a deeply pastoral Pope, the reconciliation of (in the end, I believe) some thousands of souls with the Catholic Church will take place in such a way that nothing that God has given them will be taken away.

  • The Welsh Jacobite

    'Such “Livings” may be bought and sold'

    This is no longer the case. And you don't mean “living”, you mean “advowson” (right of presentation to a living).

    'he would tend not to describe himself as a “vicar”'

    Not least because he might well be a rector. As you know well, only about half of the Anglican clergy are vicars: the rest are rectors, (assistant) curates, chaplains, deans, canons, prebendaries, etc.

  • David Lindsay

    At least in its early years, the Ordinariate may well ordain about as many men as all the English and Welsh dioceses put together. But those priests will be ministering to almost no one, the whole thing will be not much more than a clerical society, and the recruitment of the five Bishops of Nowhere pretty much sums up the entire project. Only David Silk has ever been a diocesan bishop, and the much greater homogeneity of Australian dioceses is such that he has been only marginally less a bishop to the Anglo-Papalist ghetto than the other four. Only John Broadhurst has ever been a bishop in any sense within the normal English diocesan structure, and even then only under a highly exceptional provision.

    But if there are going to be that many Ordinariate priests knocking about, however small their flocks (and therefore however much time they might have on their hands), then we need to be very, very, very much on our guard. Most people's “problem with Anglo-Catholicism” is the homosexuality and worse, and that should not be underestimated. But there are also the widespread universalism, the kenoticism (with its underlying surrender to Biblical criticism), the brevity of clerical formation, the neglect of Scholasticism, the political extremes of Left and Right, the pathological nostlagia, the contrived eccentricity, and the use of church life as a means of opting out of the wider community.

    It is difficult to avoid the sense that the unwillingness to join “normal” Catholic dioceses and parishes is precisely the unwillingness to give up these features, including the universalist and kenotic heresies, of which the latter, at least, touches on Our Lord's permanently normative and determinative question, “Who do you say that I am?” Of course, our own traditionalist subculture is also not without its right-wing extremism, its pathological nostalgia, its contrived eccentricity, its use of church life as a means of opting out of the wider community, and its homosexuality and worse.

    Substitute hippy cod-Marxism (Anglo-Catholic Marxists are the real thing) for the first of those, and the Sixties and Seventies for the Fifties or before in the second case, and every parish has people just like that. The Ordinariate will be full of familiar enough Catholics with doctrinal, political, sexual and other deviations of various kinds. But most of them will be ordained, and they will be a very high proportion of those who are. Be warned.

    That, moreover, is before we come to that fairly unlikely phenomenon, people who were born and raised in the Ordinariate. What makes anyone think that they would be any more orthodox than other cradle Catholics of the same generation? The Liturgy? Leaving aside what that will or will not be, I ask in all sincerity, and not as a rhetorical question, whether the Eastern Rite Catholics concentrated in certain cities of Western Europe, the Americas and Australia are any more orthodox than their Latin Rite neighbours, workmates and contemporaries? For that matter, is there any such difference between Latins and Melkites in the Holy Land, and Latins and Syro-Malabar or Syro-Malankara Catholics in India, for example? I really do only ask.

  • Fr michael

    One correction – Anglican livings cannot now be bought or sold. This ceased over 50 years ago.

  • Jeremy Hummerstone

    Advowsons cannot be sold, but they can still be transferred – given, or left in a Will – so the author's point still stands.
    What a sour effusion from David Lindsay! Does he not wish this new venture to succeed? It seems not.

  • James Crawford

    The establishent of an ordinariate, if indeed it happens, will not be in the interests of the Church. Those Anglican clergy who have finally decided that the Anglican church is in error and in consequence genuinely wish to be received into the Church would do so anyway without an ordinariate. They would help to mitigate the, in some places catastrophic, shortage of priests to serve existing and sometimes numerically strong parishes. They would also bring an innate sense of reverence and dignity to the performance of the liturgy which is sadly lacking in so many existing Catholic parishes. Saint Mary's Church, Chelsea, for example, already has an ex Anglican as its parish priest and any Anglo Catholic who has no problem with the west facing position would feel very much at home at their Sunday morning Solemn Mass. The ordinariate will keep itself to itself and not benefit the wider Church. An opportunity to help out with some of the Church's problems will have been lost.

  • W Oddie

    Sorry, you just don't get the point. If you read my articles, you might, but you haven't, you just skimmed over them; I have answered all thjs already.

  • W Oddie

    OK; but Livings already bought remain secure. Bishops, however, have increasing influence over appointments, and this is a threat to existing Anglican Catholic Parishes. Time for them to leave, and to go where they will be welcome.

  • W Oddie

    David Lindsay says that “those priests will be ministering to almost no one”. If I were a betting man, I would wager that they will be ministering in the end, not only to many more than they are now, but to a growing number beyond that. I will not answer this (in Jeremy Hummerstone's description “sour”) effusion in detail except to say that I think it based on an entire ignorance of what is involved here. Perhaps the Pope and the CDF understand the matter better than he does? They have almost certainly been studying it for longer, and more intensively, than he has (just how long, and how intensively, I happen to know).

  • W Oddie

    I used to be a rector myself, so I do know. But more Anglican Parish priests are, in fact, vicars”

  • David Armitage

    Hurray for the ordinariates if they manage to keep their liturgy, instead of the Rite inspired from a foreign culture.I detest their opposition to female ordination, but I believe the Holy Spirit is up to the job of sorting them out. If anyone is still interested in the damage conservative hierarchies can do, try googling Abp

    Leonard, Belgian primate. The man is utterly bonkers.

  • johnny sprite

    The ordinariate does not amount to much. In fact it creates more mess and confusion. Don't hold your breath.Only a few parishes in England and Australia will join. To appease a few parishes the Pope did this. Its a bit hasty. There is no substitute to the ecumenical Anglican Roman Catholic Commission to iron out all the problems from the roots up. Thats the only forum to iron out all the liturgical problems. We cannot just impose a structure like an Ordinariate and expect defections and unity between the denominations. It does not work that way.

  • Michael Ryan

    Hello Jeremy. I see you have retired from your parish in Devon. Good luck in your retirement. You may remember me writing to you several years ago when i came across your parish newsletter when searching on Joanna Jepson.

  • Tomcarty

    As David Lindsay points out,.there is more than a hint of self-satisfied eccentricity and playacting in anglo-catholicism.which they will have to learn to tone down if they are to be taken seriously. It is a major change to move from something as archetypically English as the Church of … England (even if they were a persecuted minority within it) into the naturally international context of the Catholic Church.

  • Zita

    How lovely; the US Catholic bishops close parishes left and right because they are too small, but Anglicans of the Ordinariate get to have their cozy flock, no women or gays or other things mucking up the “communion”–I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind in preaching the reign of God.

  • David Whittaker

    Anglo-Catholic or Roman Catholic? From the photograph I think it’s pretty hard to decide…. especially in a church where the adoration of the Holy Sacrament through Benediction has been the order of the day. 
    I grew up here and found a closeness to God that surpasses all denominations and boundaries. I always (& still do refer to my priest as Father, which I see him as – i.e. my Father in Christ, Christ who died for me on the cross and rose to life again for my sins.) 
    The Pope is indeed a Holy Man and I welcome his offer to those disaffected Anglo-Catholics that feel unable to stay in the C of E for whatever reasons. However, there are some Anglo-Catholics that wish to remain with the C of E and who in fact accept the ordination of women and liberalisation of the church.. Through prayer and supplication I believe that these men and women have heard the word of God and have acted upon it as they truly feel is right.
    In a world that mostly turns its back on Our Saviour isn’t it time we put aside our devisions and worked together more fully in the spirit of the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
    History we can’t change – the future we can!

  • DCgorillafighter

    I think the Queen needs to get off her ass and declare war on these Papists. How bout an Ordinate where papists can become proper Christians!