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On Saturday, 17 deacons will be ordained for the ordinariate — but in Westminster Cathedral and not in their own church. The reason why is a disgrace

Archbishop Nichols is less helpful to the ordinariate than he could be. Why is that?

By on Thursday, 24 May 2012

The ordinariate's first members are ordained at Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/

The ordinariate's first members are ordained at Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/

At Westminster Cathedral this Saturday, another milestone for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will be reached, with the ordination of another 17 former Anglican priests as deacons on their way to the Catholic priesthood. The ordination Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster. “I have been informed”, says the author of the excellent A Reluctant Sinner blog, “that it has been quite some time since Westminster Cathedral will have witnessed the ordination of so many men at the one Mass.”

This is a good opportunity, therefore, to ask once more a serious question, which I asked recently in Faith magazine: the answer I gave ought to have evoked some kind of response from the powers that be (at whom it was aimed): it predictably aroused, however, a resonant silence from that quarter. The question is this: what is happening, exactly, in and to the ordinariate, whose first anniversary has now passed? I had always assumed that the ordinariate would begin in a small way, consolidate over a year or so, and then find itself growing naturally as Catholic-minded Anglicans perceived it to be a real alternative to an Anglicanism increasingly under liberal Protestant domination. Is the ordinariate showing signs of fulfilling the potential many of us had hoped to see realised?

Well, it’s too early to tell. But there’s no doubt that there are certain things needed if Anglicanorum coetibus is to take concrete and permanent form here: one of them is that the existing hierarchy should in the early stages help and cooperate with it, while at the same time rigorously respecting and fostering the new jurisdiction’s absolute independence. The question now is whether this – or the reverse – is actually what the hierarchy is doing.

As I have already written in this column, I am beginning to wonder if the warm welcome with which even formerly hostile members of our hierarchy greeted the establishment of the ordinariate was genuine. Was their conversion authentic? Or were they being devious? Is the truth that their warm words were what they knew the Pope wanted them to utter, but that their true intention, hidden this time, in contrast to their open hostility to the original “Roman Option”, was to allow the whole thing to get under way and then quietly and over time to strangle it? I think that is the real truth.

If it is not, why, unlike the new American ordinariate and the even newer Australian ordinariate (who were both assigned a church building on their erection), has the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham still not been given a principal church? In the words of Damian Thompson: “The failure to address the matter is so morale-sapping that I really can’t blame those Anglicans who are hesitating to take the plunge.… “

This is not the first time I have voiced these anxieties. The last time I did so, I attracted the following online comment. I have reason to suppose (I say no more), that the following anonymous writer has good sources:

The ordinariate haven’t got a clue with whom they’re dealing – their representatives sat round a table in the Vatican … formulating an ordinariate and expecting that His Holiness’s requests on their behalf would be fulfilled, all the time not having a clue that they were being whispered against, campaigned against by both Catholics and Anglicans who made it palpably clear that this initiative was detrimental to the “dialogue towards unity” and temporarily compromised their positions as oecumenical ambassadors – that this was a counter-productive “wacked-out” scheme by an ailing Pope who merely needed to be placated until he died – hence delaying tactics, obfuscations, procedurality, red tape and making everything as difficult and administratively untenable as possible; with patronising sympathy and hand-wringing at their lot while sneering, dismissing and chuckling to themselves that the whole thing will eventually come to naught… that the administration will crumble via crises and power politics and personality clashes and outright frustration at the situation… and ultimately the ordinariate will be re-integrated into the conference system and those not happy about it will crawl back to their friends in the C of E.

This certainly looks like a convincing answer to Damian Thompson’s question: “where is the London church that will serve as the ordinariate’s headquarters?” The answer is that it exists in the imagination and the aspirations of the Ordinary and his entourage: but that it has no existence in reality and never will without the firm intervention of the Pope. The following is the answer that Archbishop Nichols gave at a press conference, to a question about the provision of an ordinariate “cathedral”: “I think that is something probably beyond their resources at the present time, and I don’t think the ordinariate would thank us, actually, to simply give it responsibility for a church that it would have to then maintain and upkeep.

The fact is, however, that those who have crossed the Tiber to the ordinariate do regard a main church as a priority. The fact is also that those 17 new deacons (so many more than are usually ordained at Westminster Cathedral) weren’t being ordained for the Archdiocese of Westminster but for the ordinariate: they ought to have been ordained at the ordinariate’s principal church. The reason that they haven’t got one is simple: it is that Archbishop Nichols has decided that he will not make one available — not because he hasn’t got one but because he is hostile to the ordinariate . To say he won’t give them one because of the costs of maintenance is utterly ridiculous: the archbishop could easily help with that problem for a year or two out of petty cash: it would make up just a little for the extreme meanness of the financial help given by the mainstream English Church thus far. I would not be at all surprised if the very unusual recent gift by the Holy Father of £150,000 wasn’t at least partly intended by him as a rebuke to the English church for its parsimony, and also a way of reminding them of his own very strong support for this brave venture.

There is something else going on. I have a suspicion that there is a hidden ecumenical agenda here, behind the policy of keeping the ordinariate homeless. And behind that lies another intention. At the same time as the Anglican Bishop of London was making it plain that he would sooner demolish an unused Anglican building or turn it into a carpet warehouse than allow an ordinariate parish to use it, Archbishop Nichols was saying that the natural place for ordinariate Catholics to worship would be their local Catholic parish church. Well, it would certainly be the best place if you just want to absorb them within the local parish, while hijacking their clergy – at first to “help out”, and then, who knows? – rather than give them the independent ecclesial existence envisaged in Anglicanorum coetibus.

I really do hope that the nuncio Archbishop Mennini is keeping his eye on this one. For, if he isn’t, and if Rome simply assumes that Archbishop Nichols is doing everything that is necessary for the Pope’s vision to be realised, I fear that the whole enterprise may run into the sands. Everything depends on its maintaining its momentum. But it cannot do that entirely alone in the early stages. In the US and in Australia, the local hierarchy is getting behind the ordinariate. Not here. Why is that?

  • johnnewbery485

    It isn’t a fair comparison to make comments relating to the Ordinariate of OLW and those in America and Australia. Both these former colonies had congregations who actually owned their own buildings, so if they elected to join their ordinariate then the building ( apart from a few legal cases in the US) tended to go with them. That, as you know, is not the case here, and even if a parish elected 99% to join the Ordinariate, then the 1% would still have the building. You might as well blame the Bishop of London as the Archbishop of Westminster for the lack of a London ‘HQ’ for the Ordinariate.

  • EndTimes101

    “In the US and in Australia, the local hierarchy is getting behind the ordinariate. Not here. Why is that?”

    Er, because Vincent Nichols is an Anti-Apostle. Duh…

  • Pewfodder

    Does the hierarchy not know what to do with the Ordinariate, or does it find it threatening?  After visiting the Ordinariate, and a Mass at a place of pilgrimage, some reflections: 

  • teigitur

    Its quite obvious that the Hierarchies of this Island, want to go their own way, do their own thing. Pay only lip-service to the Holy Father.This is clear not just on this issue, but others like the EF of the Mass. Protestants in all but name.

  • Joseph Golightly

    Interesting to note how many vacancies there are for English and Welsh bishops. HE Cormac is 80 this year and I just wonder how long it will be before there is a new cardinal. It’s pretty obvious that Rome does not like what is happening here and in order to change that perception the hierarchy have got to wake up to the fact that members of the Ordinariate are as much Catholic as are the Poles, Brazilians, Nigerians who have disguised the fall in numbers of “native born” Catholics 

  • jeffdownie

    The sentiment about a ‘Principal Church’ is fine, but where? – That would be the more useful question not just to ask, but also to attempt to answer. The fact is that suitable London Catholic parish churches are already in heavy use with very large congregations: there is no immediately apparent option. As to the question of finances: these are difficult economic times, money is tight within and without the English Church and returns on investments low. The English Bishops and the Ordinariate have to be both responsible and realistic.

  • Alan

    If you think the bishops are “Protestants in all but name”, which Protestant doctrines do you claim they espouse?  Justification by faith alone?  The Bible alone?  Calvinist-style predestination?  If you can’t justify your claim, you shouldn’t use the word “protestant”, which is grossly overused by some traditionalist Catholics to refer to those Catholics they don’t agree with.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    The story of the American Ordinariate church, Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas, is available on line, and tells how the parish raised the money to build their own fine church. They did not, as far as I can tell from reading the story, receive any financial help from the diocese.

    Perhaps, as a convert, Dr Oddie does not know that every single Catholic parish in the country has had to raise the money to build its church and presbytery. Before 1944 they had to raise the funds to build their own schools as well. If the ordinariate has been told that it has to raise the funds for its own buildings then they are learning what it means to be part of the Catholic Church in a country where all the original Catholic churches were taken over by the state.

  • Et_Expecto

    Would anyone like to make suggestions for churches that would be suitable as principal church for the Ordinariate?

    I suspect that it would have to be in the London area, but it could be provided by the dioceses of Southwark or Brentwood where ordinariate members are particularly numerous.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    Why not leave it up to the Ordinariate to decide where it wants its main church? Then like every other Catholic parish in the country it can set about raising the money to build it.

    If the Ordinariate has not got enough support, energy, ambition and determination to raise the money to build even one church then what hope does it have?

  • teigitur

    A Protestant is someone who denies the Universial authority of The Holy Father. This can be done openly, or surreptitiously. No gross overuse I hope you ll agree.

  • Rupert BB

    No. No No!

    This obsession with a church, a building, is so Anglican.

    Those who join the Ordinariate from across the country will have to leave their buildings behind anyway, so get used to it.

    What the Ordinariate really needs and that right quickly is its own authetic expression of Anglican Patrimony in liturgical form – Lex orandi, lex credendi.

    And that is in the gift of Rome.

    Let’s see what the Customary of Our Lady, supposedly due out in June, brings.

  • teigitur

    It has no hope if it is not fully supported by the Church Authorities.
     Why build a new Church?There must be many that could be used, given the catastrophic fall-off in Mass attendance in the last 40 years.

  • JessicaHof

    I should have thought there were enough churches being made redundant to find one? As an Anglican with some sympathies with the Ordinariate, I have to say that the attitude of the Bishops would not encourage me to think I would be welcome. If they think that aids ecumenism they might try a course in clear thinking and realise it doesn’t.

  • Rupert BB

     Apologies, for authetic READ authentic!

  • Victor

    God Bless the Ordinariate: My suggestion is to consider 3 options:

    1) Rebuild the ruins of a former Catholic monastery or church somewhere in South England.

    2) Find a beautiful Catholic Church that may have financial troubles & may want to share their parish.

    3) Rent time at an Anglican Cathedral; all tax paying citizens have a right to space in them.

  • Jonathan Cariveau

    Protestantism is not principally about doctrine or dogma. Both flow from a contempt for the authority of those higher than oneself in the hierarchy of the Church, in the case of rebellious Bishops that is the Apostolic See. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that vast numbers of the world’s six-thousand or so Bishops are in open or quiet disobedience to the Holy Father, and this can be primarily seen openly, as teigitur stated, in their resistance to two documents from the Holy See: Summorum Pontificum, and Anglicanorum Coetibus. Both are being wholesale ignored by most Bishops, except for a few faithful who are opening up their Cathedrals to both forms of the Roman Rite (such as Bishop Aquila and Bishop Sample) and who are encouraging Ordinariate communities to flourish.

  • Jonathan Cariveau

    As an aside, if and when the reconciliation occurs between the Apostolic See and the Society of Saint Pius X, that decree of the Holy Father will be disobeyed just as vehemently, perhaps more so.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    I am really puzzled that you think that the ordinariate has no hope without relying on hand-outs from funds collected by others. Every Catholic mission in this country over the last two hundred years had to demonstrate that it could raise its own funds, usually entirely from the local people, if it wanted to become a parish with its own church. It was responsible for building and maintaining its school, church and presbytery (usually in that order) While the bishop might be able to provide it with a loan, he would only do so on the assumption that it would be repaid in full. A parish also had to provide entirely for the upkeep of its clergy. A mission that could not do that would not become a parish.

     What is wrong with ordinariate members if they cannot do the same? When the 17 deacons are ordained they will become clergy of the ordinariate and Mgr Keith Newton will personally undertake responsibility for their welfare for the rest of their lives. He should not do that unless he is confident that the ordinariate will be able to raise sufficient funds to make this possible.

  • Corvopolitanae

    Sometimes your apparent friends are actually your worst enemies. Every time Damian Thompson or William Oddie make comments about the Ordinariate and take pot shots at the local hierarchy they do the Ordinariate damage. 

    That is largely because they are flying kites and erecting strawmen. There are no facts presented, just opinions. And then they are frustrated because, as William Oddie himself points out, their opinions evoke “a resonant silence”. Not because those opinions have struck a nerve but because they are off the wall.Teigitur spins his own myth by opining: “Why build a new Church?There must be many that could be used, given the catastrophic fall-off in Mass attendance in the last 40 years”. Well, to echo jeffdownie: name that church. Actually identifying this mythical Principal Church is not something Thompson and Oddie ever do. Why is that? I would like to set a challenge to William Oddie: instead of blustering about the Archbishop of Westminster and all the other evil bishops for being parsimonious and withholding a Church from the Ordinariate, PLEASE NAME THE CHURCH THEY SHOULD BE GIVEN.

    But wait. There actually ARE possibilities. However, will they be acceptable to the clamourers? For we need to be aware of the great expectations that need to be fulfilled. So for starters anywhere other than London must be quickly discounted. Needs to be in London. And don’t come with your suggestions of a Church south of the river (where one happens to be waiting to be taken over by the Ordinariate) – it needs to be in the Diocese of London in order to rile the Bishop of London. Needs the status of Westminster, not its apparently poor neighbour, Southwark, you see. And it can’t be in the suburbs, or the east end, or too far from the centre. Needs to be a prestigious central location. The fact that NO SUCH MYTHICAL available church exists is actually a godsend to blogs such as this – because it can then continue to berate the Archbishop of Westminster for not managing the conjuring trick of producing a church out of a hat. He may lead the “Magic Circle” but his magic does not extend that far. Let’s beat him for that!

    It’s all so terribly, terribly silly and is doing the reputation of the Ordinariate and goodwill towards it a great deal of damage. 

  • teigitur

    I made no mention of “funds collected by others”. The Church is primarily funded by Church collections. For that to happen you need a physical space to collect in. Known as a Church. Be very hard for them to collect from scattered faithful. A focal Church is needed, just as a Cathedral in every Diocese.

  • Matt

    I like number 1. I would suggest that it be rebuilt if at all possible to the style of the original church. 

  • parepidemos

    So, by your definition, the Orthodox churches are Protestant. Utter nonsense.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    The ordinariate groups are all meeting every week in their own localities. I suggest that they should start collecting money for their new principal church at their Sunday Mass in the Anglican Patrimony. When they have raised enough for a deposit they might be able to arrange a loan for the rest. There are probably hundreds of parishes all over the country that are raising money for vitally important building projects – why should the ordinariate’s needs be more important than theirs when it comes to seeking generosity from bishops?

  • tunbridgewellsadmin

    Why this hesitancy on the part of the RC hierarchy towards
    the German pope’s ordinariate?  Anglican-hater-in-chief
    Damian Thompson gives us a clue in his blog about our country’s “most
    impressive religious leader”: God Save
    Our Queen!

  • John Tran

    The rebuilding of a ruined monastery such as St Augustine Abbey in Canterbury would have great prophetic meaning which is the return of England to its original Catholic religion. For this to occur howler, all the beauty, strength, and intellectual depth of the great English saints such as  St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Alfred the Great, St Anselm, and Edward the Confessor must be infused into todays Catholicism.

  • teigitur

    Oh God!! These people are new in our Church. They have taken a big step, ok, it was their choice, but they should be welcomed with open arms, and given all possible help.
     I get the feeling that you feel somehow threatened by them. Liturgical in nature probably. How sad.

  • teigitur

    Indeed. Technically true. Though in practice much nearer the core than traditional non-Catholics.

  • South Saxon

    Perhaps the disused chapel at Chelsea Barracks might be considered as a temporary home for the Ordinariate in London.

  • Corvopolitanae

    Actually, they HAVE been welcomed with open arms. Jobs and homes have been found for the clergy – which is decried and derided by William Oddie as absorption. The Ordinariate groups have their own Masses. Trumpet the ordination of all these new clergy ( and I do, and I shall be present at the ordination on Saturday) – another 17 clergy for less than a 1000 laity. The REAL story here is the nature of Anglo-Catholicism laid bare: it is a clerical game and most CofE laity – including those in Anglo-Catholic parishes – want to be protestants. Every single community which has joined the Ordinariate has left behind a significant rump in the CofE parish. And despite Thompson and Oddie’s protestations, that has NOTHING to do with there being no central London Principal  Church. 
    I have a great respect and love for the Ordinariate and I support it fully. But I do wish the bluster and bleating would stop

  • Corvopolitanae

    Perhaps. But it’s not in the Archbishop of Westminster’s gift and therefore does not suit the narrative Oddie wants to sustain. Heck, there are all sorts of buildings which might be considered, but it’s Vincent Nichols who has to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

  • Isaac

    Jessica you would be most welcome! Just see how much support there is for the Ordinariate in these comments.

    (The true faith should be embraced even in the absence of welcome, but that’s a different point :) )

  • Isaac

    By this definition every atheist (Richard Dawkins!) is a Protestant!

    Alan and Parepidemos are right: It is possible to make your point without stretching the meanings of words.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    That they are now part of the Catholic Church with real priests and Eucharist should be more than enough to make up for what they have left behind. They are welcome, but why should we give them a special church, and why can they not build their own?

  • Tom

     How about taking up one Sunday mass collection in England and Wales for the Ordinariate? That would show solidarity.

  • Phillipturnbull

    Oh, ladies and gentleman – this issue is not profoundly theological but sadly very shallow.
    A few years ago I asked an English Anglican Bishop what the English Catholic bishops were like. 
    “Worse than us. Class ridden, vain, snobbish and up themselves.”

  • Adam Thomson

     If you are going to define ‘Protestantism’ purely in terms of denying the universal authority of the Holy Father, then Muslims, animists and atheists are all ‘Protestant’! What term will you then use for Christians who believe that God’s full and final revelation is contained in Scripture alone, and who believe in justification by faith alone? Aren’t you going to have to come up with some novel terminology to replace a word which has been uiniversally used for several centuries? And would you be happy for someone to define ‘Catholic’ as including anybody who wasn’t a Protestant?

  • Guest

    Just a couple of things about your third suggestion.  

    Firstly, in this country we are subjects of the Monarch, not citizens.  

    Secondly, as Anglican cathedrals are not funded by the taxpayer, but by the Church Commissioners and their own fundraising activities, nobody, other than the Deans and Chapters who are the legal bodies governing their life and worship, has a ‘right’ to space in them.

  • JessicaHof

    Thank you Isaac. You are very kind. For me, at the moment, the road is not clear, but I watch with interest – and love.

  • Apostolic

    The indignant tone of the second point is a bit rich, given how these buildings were acquired by the CofE in the first place.

  • Alan

    This is just one of many beliefs which Protestants might have.  I recommend a book by Fr. Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, which shows that the 16th century reformers actually highlighted some positive aspects of the Christian faith which had become virtually lost by the Catholic Church.  They went too far in some ways, but the Church did subsequently accept those criticisms and brought back those things which had become lost.
    I would add that there are some Anglicans (probably some in the ordinariat) who accept the Papacy; the only thing they reject is the invalidity of their Anglican orders.

  • Deeveeant

    Why does any of this matter at all?
    Is the Catholic and Anglican church here to serve God, or here to have a great base of operations and fabulous Cassocks?
    Perhaps the time is long overdue for all the pomp and ceremony to end and for living in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    Every Catholic diocese, parish, religious order, and institution has to be financially self-sufficient.

    If the ordinariate is not able to launch its own fund raising efforts so that it can buy or build and maintain its own buildings and support its own clergy without special collections then not only will it not survive, but it will not deserve to survive.

    The ordinariate should expect to be heartily welcomed into the Catholic Church, which as far as I can tell is what has happened, but why on earth should they expect to be greeted with open cheque-books? Do they think that they deserve a monetary reward for becoming Catholic?

  • Guest

    The obvious church for the Ordinariate is St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place.

  • signum_magnum

    I have probably missed something here. Whilst welcoming the establishment of the Ordinariate, something very near to the heart of our Holy Father, was it not said at the time that the Ordinariate should be self-financing once established? I appreciate that  some of its priests will need financial support, and the St. Barnabas Society has been helping with this, but a Church?

    Most of the Anglican Churches of any age where built with Roman Catholic hands, with Roman Catholic money and for Roman Catholic worship. Surely there must be one of these in a suitable place, with declining Anglican congregations that they  could ‘hand back’ as a gesture to ecumenism?

  • Lazarus

    Members of the Ordinariate as just as much Roman Catholics as the rest of us. In essence, they are Catholics who, by reason of their history, are being called to a particular mission and witness by the Holy Father. I don’t know whether Dr Oddie’s previous (bad) experience of the treatment of Anglican converts by the hierarchy makes him overly suspicious or simply realistic. But whatever the truth behind this article, we all need to make sure that the Ordinariate is sufficiently resourced to carry out that mission as part of the universal, Catholic Church.

  • Sixupman

    The E&W Bishops’ Conference [and Eccleston Square in general] only like those steeped in their own proclivities.  The Ordinariate will then be treated the same as the Traditional Orders and like minded Diocesan Clergy, with some disdain. Come SSPX –  apoplexy all-round by their Lordships

  • Orilliabob

    Sad commentary on human frailty. This should be a time of reconciliation not jealousy.
    Anglicans threw a wrench into the works long ago, by ordaining women as priests.
    Perhaps Catholics can start ordaining women as permanent deacons.

  • David

    We don’t need to re-build ruins as there are plenty of conventual and parochial buildings looking for users.  And why must it be ‘in South England’?  Support for the Ordinariate is spread geographically and with modern communication networks eg roads, trains and ‘phones the situation is not a major issue.  Off the top of my head I can think of 2 places, outside London, which may be suitable – St Augustine’s, Ramsgate & St Raphael’s, Stalybridge.

  • johnnewbery485

     But please note that the bleating and bluster is not coming from the Ordinariate – but from self-appointed ‘friends’.