Across the Tiber some will go… Carrying what with them?

with grateful thanks to Luke Coppen for pulling most of the information together

Firstly, the news itself, the quotes and the reactions:

This morning the Vatican has unveiled the mechanism by which traditionalist Anglicans can be received as a group into the Catholic Church.

The provision is much more far-reaching than previously expected. Rather than creating a personal prelaturefor the Traditional Anglican Communion, along the lines of Opus Dei, the Pope has decided to establish “personal ordinariates”, along the lines of military ordinariates, which could potentially serve all former Anglicans, both clergy and lay.

Disaffected Anglicans must now approach the Holy See, expressing their desire to take up the provision. The Holy See will then contact the local bishops’ conference to discuss whether it is possible to create the personal ordinariate.

Referring to an Apostolic Constitution to be released shortly in Rome, Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, outlined the process that will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion corporately while retaining elements of the Anglican tradition.

The CDF said:

In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church…

The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

In London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster issued a joint statement on the move.

It said:

Today’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.

Pope Benedict XVI has approved, within the Apostolic Constitution, a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.

The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution.

The Apostolic Constitution is further recognition of the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition. Without the dialogues of the past forty years, this recognition would not have been possible, nor would hopes for full visible unity have been nurtured. In this sense, this Apostolic Constitution is one consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing cooperation. The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.

With God’s grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England’s House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission. Joint days of reflection and prayer were begun in Leeds in 2006 and continued in Lambeth in 2008, and further meetings are in preparation. This close cooperation will continue as we grow together in unity and mission, in witness to the Gospel in our country, and in the Church at large.

Ruth Gledhill has a copy of a letter Dr Williams has sent to his fellow C of E bishops. He says:

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage, and we await the text of the Apostolic Constitution itself and its code of practice in the coming weeks…

It remains to be seen what use will be made of this provision, since it is now up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution; but, in the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression. It is described as simply a response to specific enquiries from certain Anglican groups and individuals wishing to find their future within the Roman Catholic Church.

Vatican-watcher John Allen says the announcement will have far-reaching implications:

In a move with potentially sweeping implications for relations between the Catholic church and some 80 million Anglicans worldwide, the Vatican has announced the creation of new ecclesiastical structures to absorb disaffected Anglicans wishing to become Catholics. The structures will allow those Anglicans to hold onto their distinctive spiritual practices, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests…

According to a Vatican “note” released this morning, married men may serve as priests in the new ordinariates, but they may not be ordained as bishops. The details will be presented in a new apostolic constitution from Pope Benedict XVI, expected to be issued shortly.
The Vatican note described the new “personal ordinariates” as similar to the structures created throughout the world to provide pastoral care for members of the military and their families. The structures are, in effect, non-territorial dioceses, provided over by a bishop and with their own priests and seminarians.

A personal ordinariate is also similar to the canonical status of “personal prelature,” currently held by only one Catholic group: Opus Dei.

The note said the ordinariates will be created in consultation with the national bishops’ conference of a given country.

Bishop John Broadhurst and Fr Geoffrey Kirk of Forward in Faith UK, an Anglican grouping opposed to women priests and bishops, say:

It has been the frequently expressed hope and fervent desire of Anglican Catholics to be enabled by some means to enter into full communion with the See of Peter whilst retaining in its integrity every aspect of their Anglican inheritance which is not at variance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.

We rejoice that the Holy Father intends now to set up structures within the Church which respond to this heartfelt longing. Forward in Faith has always been committed to seeking unity in truth and so warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England. Ut unum sint!

My reflection:

This has a number of implications, for the Roman Church, for those who wish to leave the Anglican Church and for the body of Christ. For the latter and the widest possible interpretation, this is a very good thing: those unhappy with the ordination of women, or homosexuals or anything else really, can have a get-out-of-jail card which gives them a spiritual home within the body of Christ and removes their root of disaffection. If we can see that the body of Christ is more important, agree to disagree and move together/alongside each other towards Christ and towards the proclamation of the Gospel, then unity will have been done a service. For Christian Unity is not conditional on homogenity.

I pray that those whom cradle-catholics often refer to as “plastic catholics” (which betrays a good deal of gracelessness in it) will find a free expression of their catholic (small ‘c’) faith, and that they do not find that suddenly, the grass is not quite as green as it might appear. Authority means something in the Roman Church, and despite the creation of quasi-Anglican structures, this means traditional bishops and you will do what you are told. Many will be happy to accept that, but some: especially clergy may find that difficult. We who hold an Anglican freehold have an unprecedented degree of autonomy which Roman Clergy simply do not have. Now from my reading of today’s outline documents, the opening of this gateway is at a personal level, and not a structural one. The structure of the Anglican Church remains intact, and this is not an opportunity for Churches to start behaving like the dissident TEC churches, grabbing the buildings and the silver and trying to cross the Tiber with them. It seems to me to imply that they must seek a personal oversight from Rome, an absorption into the Roman structure and this means that the parochial structure will have to be supported further by the (larger rump of) the remaining Anglican priests like me. This might mean more work.

By all means, if it means that the hugely rich devotional societies (like the CBS and SoM) want to move, take their cash with them then that is fine. If it means that Forward in Faith can have someone else to kick against then fine. If it means that Clergy can move to Rome and take their pensions entitlement with them, then again that is good. If it means that holes start appearing in the parochial structure because (names plucked at random) Paulsgrove or the whole of the Chichester Diocese march towards Rome, then this will be a very bad thing indeed for the Anglican duty of care, the cure of souls that it seeks to provide and which regardless of what the non-conformists or the Romans say, is unique: for Anglicanism is not a Congregationalist Church and is there as a beacon for the whole community, regardless of whether they want it or not.

It will probably also mean that the village of Walsingham will see some drastic changes; because not every pilgrim is destined for Rome with this announcement. I have been thinking about this for a few weeks, but it is difficult to express. As a progressive Catholic, I consider the place of Walsingham to be holy ground: the Anglican Shrine is only a part of that holiness, and if it chooses (as a structure and a building outside the parochial framework it is perfectly entitled) to Pope, then it will not and should not prevent those who wish to see women’s ministry exercised at Walsingham from finding another space within that holy village. Does this mean building a progressive Shrine? Perhaps. After all, the Anglican Shrine is built across the road from the Friary that housed the original, and the Anglican Shrine creates perfectly lovely sacred spaces out of barns and outhouses. There must be somewhere (maybe outside of the Anglican Shrine) that an altar might be set up, where women and men can concelebrate. It might not be as beautifully provided, or generously endowed (as SCP and AffCaff have only a miniscule amount of resources compared to SSC, CBS and SoM) but it will still be as much a part of England’s Nazareth as the Orthodox Churches. I believe the Shrine knows that the ‘traditionalists’ (such an inappropriate word, for I am more traditional than untraditional) are not their only customers and sponsors and that the future of the Shrine lies with progressive parishes (ugh, another inappropriate and ugly word, but we are stuck with these labels and out of convenience only will I use them). I love the Shrine with all my heart, and it is a major part of my spiritual life: I devote much of my energy to the mission and evangelism that is the Children’s and Youth Pilgrimages and promoting the work and witness of the Shrine, but if it moves onto the Left Foot, I will seek to find a space close or alongside where a progressive expression of Anglican worship might be made. I pray that this might not be necessary. I pray hopefully (but not aggressively) that the Anglican Shrine will one day permit me to concelebrate alongside both brothers and sisters in Christ but wish that process to happen organically, and not be forced upon those for whom there must be a lot of prayer and consideration in the months and (maybe) years to come.

I pray that whatever happens, our unity as sacramentally-focused Christians will be paramount and we avoid the hurt and unpleasantness associated with schism. It should not be played out as a schism, as a poaching or proselytising or a kicking-out, but as a mechanism for those with an integrity different to mine to find a proper spiritual home. It should make the deliberations of the committee and the General Synod on the Consecration of Women Bishops a little more straightforward: accommodations which were voted out  need not be reinserted and the Church of England need not be held to ransom by those who demand all kinds of accommodation with no intention of staying. This, at the end, might be a very very good thing.

I might lose a number of good friends from the Church of England in this process, which will make me sad, and I will lose a number of people who have been unnecessarily unpleasant to me since my time at college, which will make me less sad. If we maintain a unity as members of the body of Christ, then all will be well. Amen and Amen.