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The ordinariate is happening, at an unprecedented pace

The speed of the operation is possible because of the Pope’s personal knowledge of those involved

By on Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Three former Anglican bishops were received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/

Three former Anglican bishops were received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/

The English ordinariate, it seems, will be well on its way by the middle of this month. Three former Anglican bishops were received into full communion with the Catholic Church during a Mass at Westminster
Cathedral on January 1. One of the comments following the Herald online report, noting that they were received in secular clothing, opines that “For Bishops to wear ties is simply saintly and to lose all that prestige they once held is stunning to the mind of a Catholic Bishop”.

Well, indeed. But I think that their former prestige is the least important aspect of what they are giving up: they are abandoning certainty and recognition within an established institution, for uncertainty within an institution – the ordinariate – that doesn’t even exist yet. What this shows is an absolute faith in the Catholic Church of which it will be a part, especially as it is embodied by the present Holy Father.

I last saw the most senior of the three, John Broadhurst, formerly Bishop of Fulham, splendidly caparisoned in full episcopal fig (I have known him, on and off, for over 30 years, and have never seen him except in clericals: I can hardly imagine him in a secular collar and tie) at the 150th anniversary of that great Anglo-Catholic institution, Pusey House, Oxford, just after the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus. I asked him for his reaction to the document (it was pretty clear that most of those present were elated by it): his reply had to do, not with the visionary excitements of the proposed ordinariate, but with its practicability: “it’s doable”, he simply replied.

Now, it’s being done (by him and others), and at a dizzying speed. After their ordination on January 1, the three former “flying bishops” will be ordained to the Catholic diaconate on January 13, and to the priesthood two days later. This, I am pretty sure, is unprecedented: Anglican clergy have previously had to undergo a period of seminary training before they are accepted for ordination in the Catholic mainstream.

What this new development demonstrates, apart from anything else, is the degree of knowledge, gained by the former Cardinal Ratzinger after a decade and a half of discussions with these men, of their already existing understanding of and belief in Roman Catholic doctrine and practice (entirely based, since its publication, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and on other essential Catholic texts). The Pope is well aware that the Anglo-Catholic clergy who will inaugurate the world’s first ordinariate already have a degree of authentically Catholic priestly formation which some of our seminaries are today far from achieving or even attempting.

Andrew Burnham, John Broadhurst and Keith Newton will be the first former Anglican bishops to be ordained as Catholic priests under the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus. They will be ordained and
incardinated directly into the ordinariate: this means that it has to be erected before January 13. According to the Herald’s report, “Speculation suggests the decree of erection will be published on January 11”.

The next stage will be the ordination of a larger group of former Anglican clergy (it is said this Easter) who will be pastors to an uncertain number of parish groups: there are already 24 such groups in existence, but it is thought that this number will be at least doubled by the end of the year. So the ordinariate will begin in a small way (one of the former flying bishops has told me that this is deliberate policy: “we don’t want to frighten the horses”, ie the Catholic bishops) but will have huge potential for growth. This, I think (there
is some evidence for this from American Anglican Use Parishes and elsewhere) will be not only among Anglo-Catholics but among returning lapsed Catholics too. I have in earlier blogs explained what I think the attractions of such small but closely-knit parishes will be to such people.

This is a brave and exciting venture; its contribution to the revitalisation of Catholicism in this country is potentially enormous. We in the Catholic mainstream should pray for its unqualified success.

  • Anthony

    “… its contribution to the revitalization of Catholicism in this country is potentially enormous”:

    Absolutely! And let’s join our prayers in this respect with those of the Holy Father, who is leading all of the faithful on the true path of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  • Noemail2here

    If they are being incardinated directly into the Ordinariate, I assume that means there must already be an Ordinary in place to incardinate them. Or is it possible to erect an ordinariate without an Ordinary and have priests incardinated into it by the Holy See?

  • Kyriakos

    The sacrifice of the position and prestige is something really Christ like.They have also renounced their former ‘clerical’ status,salary,decent pension and residence.Added to this, for some even their family ties.Just think what would have been the sacrifice of Blessed Newman and others a century back.Well this requires real courage and faith in God.I pray that their sacrifice will bring a lot of Anglicans and lapsed Catholics back into the Church and would be a source of light to the whole Catholic Church.

  • Guest

    Of course, there are no plans to make these bishops bishops and so could ordain. For control is ever the bottom line.

  • W Oddie

    They can’t be bishops, because they are married. But the Ordinary , whoever it is, will be in control. And at some point, a bishop will emerge from the ranks of the Ordinariate’s clergy; meanwhile, ordinations will be by Bishop Alan Hopes, a former Anglican sympathetic to the Ordinariate, who will not misuse his office to attempt “control”. Cynicism is out of place here; this venture needs our faith and encouragement.

  • Noemail2here

    Though I note that the 3 ex-bishops are being ordained by Abp Nicholls

  • Guest

    ” Cynicism is out of place here; this venture needs our faith and encouragement.” I agree fully, but the faith and encouragement needs to travel in both directions. And what is the logic of allowing married former Anglican Bishops to become priest but not bishops?

  • R. Martin d.

    Thank you so much for your excellent coverage of a monumental and holy event. I cannot fathom the humiity and love of these bishops, priests, and laypeople to make this spriitual journey. The British lion at the foot of St. Peter’s successor. It is exciting to “watch” and learn Christian history in the making! You’re not going to start selling tickets and popcorn are you?

  • Puzzled of Essex

    Is it true that these and other Anglican convert clergy have entirely foregone C of E pensions? If this is the case then why is it not trumpeted out loud?

  • Kyriakos

    Probably because they are not hypocritic pharisees.

  • W Oddie

    No: they have to be paid their pension for that proportion of a normal tenure as an Anglican clergyman they have worked. I was an Anglican minister for 10 years: so I have to given a quarter of a pension. It’s not much.

  • Chris

    I would add (as an American Catholic married to an Episcopalian) that Anglican Use parishes / the expansion of the Ordinariate in the US would greatly aid couples in my situation to find common ground (i.e. Anglican liturgy) in an authentically (i.e. sacramental) Catholic parish. I pray that the Lord may give fervent increase to these brave, newly confirmed Catholics!

  • Neville DeVilliers

    “This is a brave and exciting venture; its contribution to the revitalisation of Catholicism in this country is potentially enormous. We in the Catholic mainstream should pray for its unqualified success”.

    There is a lot riding on the Ordinariate’s success. Unfortunately, there are many who want to return to the Church, would like to join the Ordinariate to the fullest extent possible, and will want to come back to the Church. They will hesitate until the current rules permit former cradle Catholics to join the Ordinariate to the fullest degree possible.

    Anglicanism is to a very large extent the bridge to the Catholic Church for both non-practicing Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and many Protestants. In ways the Latin-rite itself can never be. Until there are some fundamental revisions in the canons governing Pope Benedict’s Ordinariate, I’m not hopeful it is going to attract that many former Roman Catholics or Anglicans.