Monday, 25 January 2010

The Laity and the Ordinariate

Le Dorat is a wonderful and strange church, just a few miles north of Bellac. The pictures in this post are from there.

There have been some misgivings expressed concerning the place of the Laity in the Ordinariates. I raised this very particularly with Fr Allan Hawkins (see my last blog) and he reassures me in these terms:

"A Pastoral Council exists in every diocese. Its lay president, in the Diocese of Fort Worth, is currently a laymen from my Parish.

However, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, and it does not pretend to be so! The bishops alone, of course, determine matter of faith and morality.

Every parish is required by the 1982 Code of Canon Law (in which, by the way, the rights and duties of the laity are set out with precision and clarity) to have a parochial pastoral council and a parish finance council. These bodies are composed of laity, who care for the temporal and corporate life of the parish and advise the pastor on such things. Some parishes conduct elections, others have ways of reaching discernment as to the identity of these who should serve.
Laity are widely present and influential in a variety of diocesan commissions and departments. And dioceses do, from time to time, call together multi-session synods for particular purposes;and laity are fully involved. "

In view of the aberrations which have sprung from the General Synod of the Church of England, and comparable bodies in other Anglican churches, it comes as a great relief to be assured that the Catholic Church is not a democracy. Majorities in favour of women priests mean nothing when those voting have little understanding or knowledge of the history of the Church, nor of Holy Scripture.

Fr Hawkins is also most reassuring concerning the pastoral way in which he has been treated by Rome. I believe that perhaps in England there will be few of us at the beginning who ask for an Ordinariate; but once it is established and fears allayed, there will be many more asking to join it as time goes on.


  1. Wonderful words, Bishop. I believe we've met. I'm the new Associate Minister at Christchurch Priory.

    I've also met Fr Hawkins back when I served in Dallas. St Mary the Virgin near The Ballpark in Arlington (home of the Texas Rangers) is a fascinating story of orthodoxy and generosity (actually on the part of both TEC and RCC at the time, viz Bishop Clarence Pope). SMtVA do a wonderful sung Mass and have Pro Life notices out front. His Salve Parish Magazine was always a welcome present in the post each month.

    Back at our patronal festival last June you said Anglicanism is officially and essentially Catholic because of our canonical commitment to the Creeds, especially the Quicunque Vult, despite the fact we don't - can't? - enforce anything, as various heresy trials have shown. For instance, Bishop Stanton of Dallas (who ordained me) was unsuccessful at bringing Bishop Walter Righter to trial. Your words were timely reminders that despite our lack or resolve - and mechanisms to back the unity we so haltingly proclaim - we're still officially orthodox and catholic, or at least on paper.

    I just pray the new Incumbent has the same outlook - integrity we're meant to call it in our own 'pluriformity' (with nods to a former TEC PB) - as you, the current Vicar and my other esteemed colleague.

    Glad I found your blog (via and I look forward to reading more of your posts. You're doing exactly what the Holy Father recently asked us to do:

  2. However, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, and it does not pretend to be so! The bishops alone, of course, determine matter of faith and morality.

    And the bishops' power to do so is limited by precedent: defined doctrine, which is irrevocable and irreformable, the ordinary magisterium and simply immemorial custom (Pio Nono on adding St Joseph to the Roman Canon: 'I can't! I'm only the Pope!').

    Tradition is the democracy of the dead.

    - G.K. Chesterton

    Unlike Protestant episcopal churches in which any kind of change, from the nature (communing Methodists) and matter (women) of the apostolic ministry, to morals (contraception, divorce and remarriage, homosexual sex) to apostasy from Christianity (turning unitarian, making explicit the widespread unbelief among Anglicans since the 'Enlightenment'), is only a General Synod/Convention vote away.

    In short the Protestants claim a power the Pope never dared.

  3. You are right about constant changes being made with no consideration of the Tradition nor of Scripture. It was not always like this is the Church of England. At the Reformation we always sought precedents before permitting such changes as Clerical Marriage or prayer in the vernacular. For that reason Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher could claim that "The Church of England has no doctrine of her own, but that of the universal church". This is whyshe was not ranked with the Protestant churches - even by Rome. It is with Synodical Government that our Church has moved away so dramatically from that Catholicism of which she still claims to be part - ever less convincingly.