Whither Unity?

Today Fr Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has announced that sometime soon (have you noticed that everyone waits on the Vatican to do something and it never puts itself out to do anything except in its own good time) the Personal Ordinariate will be established for the few Anglicans who can’t wait to cross the Tiber, or at least dip a toe into Tiberian waters. It begins with three former Anglican Bishops who by Saturday will be Roman(ish) Priests and then it will be (depending upon who you listen to) the fracture and dissolution of the Church of England, or a trickle of already embittered Priests and a bit of their congregation who will have to uproot to the area RC church (there is one priest and four churches between Fareham and Gosport, I believe) and be treated with contempt by  “cradle catholics” until the Parousia.

I asked a colleague whom I respect utterly but who has a different perspective to mine if he was going to join the Ordinariate, he laughed and said “Oh no, if I was going to go to Rome, I’d become a proper Roman, not one of these plastic catholics“.

When one looks at the background information on the Ordinariate, and the arguments put forward by others unknown (but I have my suspicions) clearly intending to jump asap, what one sees coming up time and time again is the striving for unity: “entering into full communion” with the subtext of  “rejoining the one true church”. It shows up the ARCIC dialogues for what they truely have been: a process of sublimating all other discussions until Rome gets its own way: you can have Unity, but only if it is on Rome’s terms.

If Unity has all along therefore been about being subject to Rome, submitting to a dubious claim to Primacy (based more upon politics than the intention of Our Lord himself), then I’m personally glad that the decision of the Church of England to listen for once to the Holy Spirit and to discern that God was calling women to Ordained Ministry as Bishops, Priests and Deacons. This, the detractors claim, is the final nail in the unity coffin, because from here we can never go back… but wait… go back, what? To reunification?

That isn’t what one strives for when one prays for Unity.

We are not called to homogenity, but to recognise our diversity. Rome was not Antioch, was not Corinth and certainly was not Jerusalem, and therefore it should not be Canterbury. What joins us should be our proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, a recognition of the sacramental action of God in our world and a love of tat. I believe this returns us to the Anglopapalist arguments of the late Oxford Movement and the 1930s, and takes us no further. Rome demands today in Anglicanorum coetibus what it demanded of Newman: cross the Tiber, renounce your Anglicanism and become Roman.

It amused me no end that the initial thinking of the Ordinariate was that it would want to use “Anglican” liturgy, perhaps BCP or Common Worship, but by now they have realised that all those who intend to cross have never used those liturgies anyway and are almost wholly Roman Rite anyway. It says much about how much interest the Vatican had in them beforehand. Now, I notice that it says

“In addition to the Roman Rite, some of the liturgical rites of the Anglican tradition which have been adapted and approved by the Holy See may be used by the members of the Ordinariate.

It is expected that in due course, suitable rituals (Sacramentary, Divine Office, etc.) will be promulgated for Ordinariates across the world. However, as it will be fully a part of the Latin Catholic Church (as distinct from the Byzantine, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic Church, etc.) the Ordinariate will always be able to use the Roman Rite.”

So, Father doesn’t have to put away his Breviary when he crosses the Tiber…

In the meantime, as the few dedicated ones transfer, leaving more dates available for Pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, I wonder how quickly they will be asked to vacate their Vicarages, and who will be keeping body and soul together when their stipends cease. Have the ex-Anglican Bishops who were received into the Roman Church on 1st January 2011 moved into their own accommodation? Or because the Church of England is so inefficient, I expect a “period of grace” has been afforded them: if a Roman Priest expressed any desire for crossing the Thames then they would be out on their ear before sundown, I would predict.

I don’t want this post to come across as crowing because some people whom I love dearly (and a number whom I don’t like at all, but Christ calls me to love) will be leaving the Church that I feel still has a place for those opposed to the ordination of women and the LGBT – I think we are better and stronger because of that, and I lament their defection. I also fear for them that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the Tiber and the flexibility and autonomy that they loved in the Anglican Communion (until we have a Covenant) will not translate to the autocratic, inflexible and opaque Roman Church. My message to them is certainly not “sod off”, no one has “won” an argument, and whilst LGBT people are denied ordination there is still much listening to the Holy Spirit that our Church has to do, but if a relationship is broken, and if they feel that the Roman Church is right for them, then I wish them well and pray for them, praying that my fears for them are not realised and that they continue to flourish in God’s grace.

What I do hope is that from their exalted position in Peter’s bosom, they stop looking down upon those of us who think differently, and start to work for proper Unity, which is based upon mutual respect and a recognition that there is more than one Church focused upon the one true Christ, the son of the living God.