|USA, Australia & UK ordinaries: Mgr John Armitage, and Fr Tad of CDF|
Photo courtesy of Fr Ellis
There were about forty Ordinariate priests present from England and Wales, together with a number of priests' wives. A scholarly presentation on the theology of Thomas Aquinas was the first major event on Tuesday, after the Noon Mass which we concelebrated in the Shrine Basilica on arrival. Others will post on Facebook and elsewhere and you need to read these to gain a balanced view of the twenty-four hours in Walsingham. For me, the absolute highlight was the morning session on Wednesday when the three Ordinaries and Fr Tad addressed us, and even better responded to our questions and comments.
What struck the loudest chord for me was Bishop Lopes' insistence that the Ordinariate can only flourish, develop. attract new members and become a real weapon for evangelisation when it has its own buildings. We heard from priests who felt themselves hamstrung by being obliged to another diocese for their place of worship. In private conversation with fellow priests this restriction is plainly a real burden for many. Diocesan priests are afraid their congregation might be attracted to this rival concern of the Ordinariate and some of them go to extreme lengths to ensure this cannot happen. For instance, they run an Alpha course, several Anglicans join in, but they are never even told that there is a local Ordinariate - they have to go through the RCIA, though it is often not the best tool for bringing former Anglicans into full communion.
There are times when Ordinariate pastors have a celebration which would usually be according to the Ordinariate Use, with the celebrant facing East; but because it is a day (perhaps some day of Obligation) when it will be convenient for members of the parish congregation to join them, the pastor is fearful of upsetting the parish priest and so uses Novus Ordo and adopts the bartender position at the altar. Small wonder that many of the catholic laity say such things as 'I don't know whay you can't just be ordinary catholics .. there doesn't seem to be any difference'. Where the Ordinariate has its own building (as in Torquay or Portsmouth) or even where its pastor is also the parish priest, but has some control over the way the building is used, as at Pembury or London Bridge) then catholics begin to see the point of the Ordinariate, and it is able to undertake its real purpose of evangelisation.
We were also profoundly saddened by the revelations of sexual immorality in the Church, and even more by the very inadequate response so far given from Rome. Here the American Church seems to be giving a lead in ensuring that this is dealt with firmly and consistently.
The challenges of Australia have to do with the immense size of that country, and the distances between Ordinariate groups.Yet there are New Zealanders looking to see the Ordinariate working in that excessively 'liberal' region, and even small beginnings in Japan. Little wonder that, past retirement age, Mgr Entwistle is looking for the day when a younger successor will be appointed.
In the formal question and answer sessions, and in conversations with other clergy and clergy wives, we learned a great deal about the way the Ordinariate works; and why in some places it seems not to work so well. It is a very young plant; the first of us only came into communion with the See of Peter a little over seven years ago. Under God, we are deeply indebted to all those who have encouraged and supported us, above all our former Pope, Benedict; we still have great support in Rome itself, as Fr Td witnessed. Most of all though it is our three Ordinaries who have borne and are bearing the heaviest burden. They deserve our thanks - but even more our constant prayers.