Well it looks like the cat is out of the bag now. Five Anglican Bishops have taken the leap and will now be fervently hoping that people follow their example.
Damien Thompson has reported effectively on the topic today in a full page spread in the comments and features section of the Telegraph. Good to see solid Catholic reporting in a national newspaper.
The final quote is especially illuminating despite its anonymity, it says what I’ve been saying all along, this is a great opportunity for Anglicans to convert, not just because of Women Bishops, but because this is the only way to become truly Catholic and retain your anglican identity. There is a link here to that article and here to his blog which has more on the same subject.
Since in a way the Ordinariate is still in the conceptual stage, I’d like to point out a few key issues to any Anglican’s out there with the fortitude to read my blog.
First of all, the most important thing to point out to angry Anglicans, is that this was a response from the Vatican, not an initiative.
Rome isn’t poaching your bishops or High Anglican parishes, they have decided to cross the Tiber of their own volition and asked the Vatican for a way to do that in a coherent and structured way so as to preserve their communities and the strengths of their liturgy.
Why have they decided to come home to Rome? because they have been forced out by the Anglican Church’s ever increasing theological distance from the traditional Christian faith.
Before “theological” pronouncements made by the Anglican Hierarchy could be ignored but this inovation of women Bishops would have imposed a modernist idea upon Anglo-Catholic parishes in a way that no other Anglican inovation was able to do so in the past.
If an Anglo-Catholic priest didn’t like one of the 39 articles, he would just ignore it, if he didn’t like the Anglican Church”s theology of consubstantiation he would preach transubstantiation instead. If he didn’t think women could be ordained priest what did it matter as long as his parish didn’t have a woman curate or priest?
How can you be a part of a denomination when you don’t believe its theology? This all seemed like fuzzy thinking to me, but then again I converted. But so long as these ideas weren’t imposed upon their parishes Anglo-Catholics were prepared to live quite happily with the contradictions within the Anglican Church.
There is no escaping the inevitability of women bishops however. After you’ve ‘ordained’ women priests quite frankly where is the career ladder? And if you have a woman Bishop, a priest in her diocese would have serious problems if he didn’t recognise her authority, or any ordinations or confirmations performed by her.
So the High Anglicans were pushed, they asked Canterbury for their theological beliefs to be respected and to be given a very similar set up they subsequently asked the Vatican for, Canterbury said no and Rome said yes. If you are looking for anyone to blame for their departure it is the General Synod and Old Rowan in particular.
My second point is that this generous offer, is exactly that, generous. How is it generous? because Rome is recognising that some Anglicans have retained, or more accurately speaking reconstructed a very authentically Catholic understanding of Christianity and they are in such a good theological position that they can be drafted into the Catholic Church wholesale.
This is a theological compliment of the highest order. Their instruction will probably be more about checking that they are indeed Catholic rather than teaching them vast amounts of Catechesis.
Thirdly, in order to help Anglo-Catholics come over together and preserve the good parts of the Anglican liturgy the Pope has done something that few Popes ever do. The Pope has thought outside the box, Damien Thompson explains it better than me, but to my knowledge nothing like this has ever been proposed by Rome before.
There is a bit of a double edge to this too, the Vatican clearly didn’t trust the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales to manage this effectively, and generally speaking with one or two notable exceptions, the bishops of England and Wales are in regards to the liturgy, the very definition of mediocrity.
High Anglicans quite understandably didn’t want to cross the Tiber only to have their liturgy frowned upon, or even be persecuted for it by Catholic Bishops, they have just left that kind of treatment behind them in the Anglican Church!
The converting Anglo-Catholics will probably show the Bishops of England and Wales a thing or two. I really look forward to that, will the Bishops of England and Wales continue to ignore good liturgy if the new converts are there to show them up? what if ordinariate mass becomes more popular than diocesan mass??? Heck there might be a wave of English Catholics attending ordinariate groups and ordinariate mass. Which, since these groups will be fully Catholic, they will be well within their rights to do so. That is the deepest darkest nightmare of liberal Catholic Bishops.
Some of the more liberal Bishops of E&W would still probably ignore good liturgy even after that, but it will be most amusing to watch.
In the past ecumenism has meant pressure exerted on Catholics to become liberal, pressure which some Bishops of England and Wales have to an extent yielded to, whether consciously or subconsciously, abandoning the sanctuary of orthodoxy in favour of Catholicism lite.
This has proved disastrous for Mass attendance and vocations in this land and what is more, it hasn’t converted anyone! Conversely it has made people think it is fine to be separated from the Roman Catholic Church since “we are all the same really”.
In a truly sublime way this scheme will do exactly what ecumenism always threatened to do but in a positive way, it will convert both sides and bring about true unity in the universal Church whilst encouraging better liturgy in the Church! its a win, win, win, win situation.
People can only convert if they know what they are converting to, and we are all called to constant conversion, that is why orthodoxy is important, and hopefully once this Ordinariate is set up it will be a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy and people will flock to it, whether they have to cross the Tiber or not!
My hope is that the ordinariate will have a fervent dedication to the Pope, they will not forget his generosity or intellectual courage quickly and thus will be at the forefront of the liturgical revival of the Church as set forth by Benedict the 16th.
They are leaving the Anglican periphery but not to join the Catholic periphery. They will be placing themselves at the center of the direction the Pope is clearly trying to steer St Peter’s barque, good solid beautiful liturgy, and good solid orthodox Catholic teaching. I can’t wait to see it unfold, we live in interesting times.