Monday 9 November 2009

Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus'

Today the text we have been waiting for has been published by the Holy See.

In one particular paragraph some of the difficulties raised by priests before its publication have been allayed; but not all.

III. Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.

This makes it clear that the Roman Rite will be available to those within the Ordinariate; and so will allay the fears of those clergy for whom Anglican rites have little appeal. But the same paragraph begs another question which I hope will not go away. It speaks of the need to maintain "spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion". For me, one of the greatest gifts of our Communion is the fact that our priests may marry. My wife is not a problem to be negotiated; she is a gift to me and to the Church, and my vocation to the married state is no less important to me than my vocation to the priesthood.

'Anglicanorum Coetibus' goes a little way to admitting that our priests may continue in the married state: in VI para1 it says "In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement In June are to be observed." That is to say, married Anglican Clergy may be ordained in the Catholic Church in certain circumstances.

This does not, though, affect the general rule of celibacy: VI para 2 "The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See."

We should recognise first that it is a very great concession by the Holy See that ANY married former Anglican clergy may be ordained, and we should be very grateful indeed for this. The question for me is how far the 'derogation ... on a case by case basis' will actually be applied. It could be the thin end of a wedge permitting a gradual acclimatisation of the Catholic Church to a married priesthood - which, of course, it already has in some of its Eastern Rite variants. Or it might mean that this is something which will die out within a generation.

I believe the Holy See is serious about wanting to bring the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of our Communion into the fullness of the Catholic Church. We should not suppose that all of what we want to bring with us will be appropriate or valued or acceptable immediately. Certainly, though, there is a need for prayer for mutual understanding; between those Anglicans who will want to accept this generous offer at once, and those who will hesitate; between those who will join the Roman Catholic church, and those who will feel obliged to stay attached to the see of Canterbury; and above all, perhaps, between those who will seek to become part of the Ordinariate and those already in the Roman Catholic Communion who might find us a bitter pill to swallow.


  1. Perhaps I am missing the obvious and being thick but from what I have read I am unsure whether we will bewcome full RCs, able to receive Communion in any RC church anywhere or whether we will be confined to receving the Sacraments in a sort of "sub church" within the RC church.

  2. Malcolm:
    Any Anglican Catholic (in communion with Rome) will be able to receive Eucharist in any RC Church at any time.
    Any "Roman" will be able to receive Eucharist in any Anglican Catholic Church (in communion with Rome) at any time. That's precisely what "full communion" means.
    Marriage, sacred orders and matrimony... well that may be different. Anglicanism won't be a different "rite", but may work just like that.
    That's what I understood... but I'm not a canonist!

  3. Indeed we shall become 'full RCs' - and priests will be able to minister (at the Diocesan's discretion) in other Catholic churches, just as Diocesan priests will, with the Ordinary's permission, be able to minister in churches within the Ordinariate.

  4. You won't be full Roman Catholics, but full Anglican Catholics in communion with Rome. Sort of like Byzantine Catholics in communion with Rome, but not so much an independent rite. At least not yet.