Sunday, 12 March 2017

Welcome to the Ordinariate.

Mgr Andrew Burnham (in the Catholic Herald) had some very helpful comments about Philip North and the options before him, There was one sentence, though, that worries me. He suggests that an Anglican Priest seeking to join the Catholic Church has two routes, If he comes with a group of Anglicans he might join the Ordinariate, but otherwise he must use the Diocesan route.

Now certainly 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' begins by being concerned with groups approaching the Holy See; but it not is and cannot be interpreted as applying only to group submissions. If it were, then the whole Ordinariate project would have no future - yet it was not set up by Pope Benedict as just a temporary measure.  Priests die, and there must be replacements for them. Slowly the Ordinariate might produce its own ordinands. Before then, individual priests (or bishops) seeking union with the See of Peter should look first to the Ordinariate. Just as any lay person with Anglican previous can seek to join the Ordinariate, so can any Anglican minister. There will be no certainty of Catholic Ordination until he has first become a Catholic. Then if he wants to be ordained into the Catholic prieshood he should first approach the Ordinary. In some cases there might not be an obvious opening for him in the Ordinariate, and he will be advised to seek help from a Catholic diocesan bishop. But there are and must surely continue to be many opportunities and needs for new priests within the Ordinariate. Some existing groups are struggling simply because their pastor is single-handed, and has many other responsibilities besides his Ordinariate group.

Not all Anglican clergy wanting to become Catholic priests have any hope, realistically, of bring a congregations with them. There are chaplains to schools, hospitals and other institutions where such group submissions are impossible. There ae parishes where at best only a handful of lay people might agree with their Vicar on this issue. The important thing is that the Ordinariates must become ever more approachable and flexible,  always opening doors  to those outside the Catholic Church - and to some inside it, too.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An Honoured Place

What possible right does a Roman Catholic priest of the Ordinariate have to make any comment on events over the fence in the Church of England?  I think I have two pretty good reasons for writing just now; first, because I was there when the Church of England said that catholic Anglicans held and would continue to hold an honoured place within it. That was one of the reasons I felt it right back in 1995 to try to make that promise a reality, and accepted the post of Bishop of Richborough. Then we were told that the Church of England could not determine finally what was right concerning women's ordination. We were in a time of discernment, until all the Churches, Eastern and Western, came to a common mind. Today the inability or unwillingness of the Church of England to allow an Anglican with doubts about the rightness of women's ordination to become a diocesan bishop seems to be a breach of those promises, one more nail in the Anglo-Catholic coffin.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Philip North
That would be reason enough for me to express an opinion; but there is another reason I presume to write now. When Philip North trained for the ministry at St Stephen's House, I was its Principal. In his year the academic achievements of that small college were outstanding. Of a handful of candidates who entered for degrees in Oxford University's Honours School of Theology, four were awarded Firsts. One of them is Philip North. There are few Bishops, Anglican or Catholic, with a more impressive academic grounding. There are even fewer with Philip's generous pastoral heart.
As he withdraws from the post of Bishop of Sheffield, to which he was recently nominated, I simply want to express my sadness for Philip, and for the Church of England. It is no joy to any Christians when fellow Christians are hurt - when one member suffers, every member suffers. If the Church of England is diminished by the activities of a so called 'liberal' group, intent on driving out any who disagree with them, then all the Churches are wounded too. Worse still, it is a wound in the Body of Christ Himself.

Then pray for the Church of England, and for Bishop Philip. He wants a place where he can minister to the poor and the neglected for whom he has an especial care. Pray that he may find that place.  Pray for the women in ministry in the Church of England, many of whom have tried to support and encourage Philip, and have valued his pastoral care - even while others have refused his ministry. Pray too for the whole Church of God, all baptized Christians, for a spirit of penitence and reconciliation in this holy season of Lent.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Attachment to Buildings

Torbay Mission
Why is it that the American Ordinariate seems so far ahead of us in England?  Part of the reason I suggest has to do with buildings. Whereas in the States it is sometimes possible for the Ordinariate to purchase a former Episcopal church, this never happens here. Indeed there are some Anglican bishops who have said they would be more ready to let a church go to the Islam than to the Ordinariate. It is very rare indeed (I only know of the Torbay Mission) where a church building has been bought by the Ordinariate - and that was formerly a Methodist, not an Anglican, church,

It all stems, I think, from history. Until the 1530's every church in England was Catholic. After Henry VIII - and once his bastard daughter Elizabeth I was on the throne - every church was nationalised for the 'Church of England'. At different times, churches have  occasionally been handed over to other Christian bodies. French Protestants, for instance, were given the use of some churches when the Huguenots were exiled to England. In the 20th Century, some churches have been given to Orthodox communities, or they have been permitted to buy or share them.
Sikh Gurdwara: once St Luke's
Also in the 20th Century there have been instances where other religions have bought or been given church buildings - the former St Luke's in Southampton is now a Sikh Temple. The occasions when Catholics have been able to take over or use an Anglican building are very few indeed. In 19th Century Arundel there was a great legal battle when the catholic Duke of Norfolk presumed to rebuild the ruins of the Chancel of the Anglican Parish Church where his ancestors were buried for a Catholic Chapel.
Slipper Chapel
In Walsingham, the equally ruinous Slipper Chapel was rescued from its use as a barn and brought back into Catholic worship. There is the former chapel of Ely House, London home at one time of  the Bishops of Ely which had been sold and laicised long before. And that is about the sum of it.
Ely Chapel as it once was









In London, though, where Catholic congregations customarily fill their churches to bursting, the good old Church of England hangs on to its buildings even when congregations are down to a mere handful - in the hope perhaps of realising a good sum from a developer.

Italianate Wilton
I was reminded of all this on visiting Wilton. There the old church was pulled down in the 19th Century and only the chancel left standing. In its place a sumptuous Italianate church was bult by the local grandee, the Earl of Pembroke; and it was fitted out with stained glass, carved woodwork and stone from all over Europe - the aftermath of the French Revolution and other upheavals. It must have seemed perfectly reasonable to the noble Lord that these Catholic artefacts should become decorations in an Anglican building.

We are very wedded to our buildings and our history, in a way which it must be hard for others - especially Americans I think - to understand. Perhaps the time is coming when Parliament will recognise that the Church of England is no longer the religion of the country, and that it would be sensible to find other bodies to take over some of the buildings which it struggles to maintain - but don't pray for it too hard. St Paul's erstwhile Cathedral would make such a good Mosque.