Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The American Ordinariate's teething pains

The US Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter is not even 15 days old and yet it appears that some problems have began to manifest themselves. This involves how the Anglican Use parishes established through Blessed Pope John Paul II's 1980 Pastoral Provision will transition from being under their local diocesan to the Ordinariate. The presence of these Anglican Use parishes and groups makes the US Ordinariate much different from the English one. In England, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham did not bring whole parishes from the Church of England but "groups of Anglicans" or in Latin Anglicanorum coetibus! Thus the Ordinary, the Rt Rev Monsignor Keith Newton need not worry about translating parishes from one ecclesial jurisdiction to another and getting the approval of the bishops. All the Ordinariate groups start from all at the same starting line. They don't have their own buildings save for one or two groups and most will have to share existing Roman Catholic church buildings with Roman parishes until they are financially capable of having their own. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams was gracious and generous enough to offer church sharing arrangements with the departing Anglicans but the Anglican and English Roman Catholic hierarchies did not find this acceptable. Perhaps it is for the better. The English Ordinariate will be served well by becoming self financing as early as possible.

Money is the biggest problem of the English Ordinariate. There is a need to find stipends for the priests a majority of them married and with families. Many of the priests are supported by English dioceses since they do extra work for them. Some priests were received having long retired from the Church of England and they lost their pensions and the Ordinariate just like any Catholic diocese will have to provide for them. The English Ordinariate does not have its own cathedral since the Msgr Newton and the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols believe the Ordinariate does not have the means to maintain one at present.

In contrast the American Ordinariate has a cathedral from day one. This is the Church of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston TX, which is one of the more successful Anglican Use parishes in the US with a growing congregation. The other successful Anglican Use parish is the Our Lady of  the Atonement Church which has a growing congregation too and is financially viable that it runs its own parochial school. Some of the Anglican Use parishes (around 5 or 6) own their church buildings, some are Anglican Use groups which may have their own priests and some comprising of laypeople and ministered by a Roman Rite priest. One Anglican Use group is a former Episcopal religious order, the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Maryland. One Anglican Use group is a Cathedral Parish of the Traditional Anglican Communion which is in the process of joining the Ordinariate. Some groups are using existing Catholic parish buildings or are renting or are in the process of building their own.

Whatever the stage of development of these groups or parishes are in, they attract a significant number of cradle Roman Catholics,  with not a few lapsed Catholics who are attracted to Anglican spirituality. And this has become a sticky problem when the groups or parishes transition to the Ordinariate. Anglicanorum coetibus makes it clear that the Apostolic Constitution is meant for those who were or are Anglican and they have to make their desire in writing if they wish to become part of the Ordinariate.

Existing Anglican Use parishes have to apply as a corporate body to join the Ordinariate and the oldest and if not the most successful, the Atonement parish has applied but permission has not been received. This has generated a lot of exchanges in the Anglican Use yahoo group which I believe is an example of impatience on the part of Anglican Use people. People have speculated that there is a difficulty since a majority of the parish are cradle Roman Catholic! This lead its curate the Rev Fr Christopher Phillips to respond with

"Yes, we certainly have a large number of people from non-Anglican backgrounds
who attend OLA; however, when the total number of families is considered, that
number is far from overwhelming. A fact which seems to be forgotten is that our
parish has been in existence for more than a generation. A very large number of
our young families are people who actually grew up in the parish. Are they
"cradle Catholics"? Yes, but they are "cradle Anglican Use Catholics." Also,
there many families in which one of the spouses was Episcopalian, and a
spiritual home has been able to be found in which the former Episcopalian is
very happy, along with the whole family. We have a steady stream of people being
prepared to be received into full communion -- in fact, our inquirers' classes
are offered throughout the year, with a new series beginning as soon as the
previous one is finished, and these classes always have an excellent enrollment.
Many who complete the classes are incoming Anglicans; others are from other
protestant denominations, but who have found a home in the Catholic Church
through our parish. Over these past few weeks I have received four new families
into the Catholic Church, and I have several others who are nearly ready.

Yes, there are Catholics in the parish who have no Anglican or protestant
background in either spouse, and who are here only because they were searching
for a more formal and dignified celebration of the Mass -- and they are all
welcome. I am happy to have them in our parish family. But they are not the
overwhelming majority, by any means."

The Atonement parish I believe is a preview of the future Roman Catholic Church with the Anglican Communion restored in and with her. This future is being created in our own seeing! Of course the Ordinariate will attract cradle Catholics. Will the Ordinariate refuse them complete association? I hope not for that will be a pastoral disaster! Also there will be non Catholics and even non believers who will ask to be baptized in the Ordinariate and so their children will be cradle Anglican Roman Catholics.

The pastoral situation on the ground is that there are a number of cradle Roman Catholics who have an Anglican parent or even grandparents and they received the Catholic faith through their prayer life and witness. Are they not cradle Anglicans too?

This is so true in the Philippines on both the Episcopal Church and Roman Catholic Church sides. There are Episcopalians who worship in Roman Catholic parishes and there are Catholics who worship in Episcopal parishes. None of them would wish to formally convert and this is a pastoral issue that has to be approached with good sense, charity and sensitivity. The Episcopal National Cathedral of St Mary and St John reports that many Roman Catholics support the cathedral's ministry especially to the poor. Many Episcopalians support Catholic ministries to the poor and especially on environmental issues.

And exactly here we find the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines. We will be linked in some ways with the American Ordinariate for historical reasons but we will be within our Roman Catholic dioceses.

As the Catholic Bishop of Cubao, the Most Rev Honesto Ongtioco told the Anglican Use Society of the Philippines "We cannot stop the Holy Spirit in these matters!"

The American Ordinary, Fr Jeffrey Steenson has huge task ahead of him. Also we have to pray also for the Rt Rev Msgr Keith Newton of the English Ordinariate. The two ordinaries are the few men in the vineyard whose crop is ready for the harvest.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for the ordinaries and us. Amen.

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