Monday 12 July 2010

But what about us?

Those of us who are consciously and happily heading towards the Ordinariate were just relieved at Synod's vote on Saturday. But what about those catholic-minded Anglicans who have hoped to stay on? Some may persuade themselves that a 'Code of Practice' in enough ... these will live to rue the day! For many, it will be possible to come round to the idea of being received into the Catholic Church, and I believe their joy will increase as time goes on. For others, there appear to be great problems in acceptingthe Holy Father's offer.

I say "appear" to be, first because Rome is both more subtle and more generous than some have suspected. Let's be honest, there are priests functioning in the C of E who are in dubious marital relationships. Certainly this might rule them out from ordination to the catholic priesthood. Some though, in the Anglican Use part of the Catholic Church in the USA, have had their cases examined by Rome, and have received a declaration of nullity. The Church of England has always dodged the isse of nullity. Bishop Eric Kemp of Chichester tried to persuade Synod that it needed such a process, but Synod preferred to bumble along without it. We on this side of the Tiber (I speak for myself) are pretty ignorant of the way nullity works in the Catholic Church - but I am sure there are some Anglican clergy who should be making enquiries about this for themselves.

Not all those who are hesitant, though, are holding back for such reasons. Many more are concerned about their wives and families. How will it be possible to support them in the Ordinariate? Can there be a replacement for the Vicarage, the Stipend, and the Pension which we enjoy as Anglicans? Again, I believe these are questions which Rome will want to help us to answer. One Catholic bishop has told me that he has empty presbyteries which he would like filled with former Anglican priests. He has also said there are churches in his diocese which are waiting to be re-opened.

Now this does not answer those whose congregations are wedded to their Anglican Parish Church; but as Synod reneges ever more on its former promises ("an honoured place", "a legitimate Anglican opinion", "equal treatment for ordination selection", "no bar to preferment") so some bishops may well feel that in conscience they cannot be dog-in-the-manger about buildings. Indeed, some dioceses might sigh with relief at losing a few churches.

As for stipends, I think this too is soluble. At present, our congregations pay through 'quota' or 'diocesan share' not only for their clergy and their pensions, but also for a phalanx of diocesan advisors. The money which once came centrally from the Church Commissioners has mostly been siphoned off to pay for See Houses (aka Bishops' Palaces) and the staff of Cathedrals. I believe our laity are immensely generous - as are many retired clergy - and will give generously for the support of our priests. Here, too, the Church of England might well be constrained, if not by conscience then by Parliament, to make financial provision for those being exiled from the church of their birth and baptism.

Now the Ordinariate is not a bolt-hole, and it did not come simply as an answer for those who cannot face the notion of women as bishops. Those of us who join it are becoming Catholics, and will hold and believe and teach all that the Catholic Church asserts in her Catechism. Yet I think there are many who are just now trembling on the brink who will, before long, realise that this is an answer to their prayers.

For some, the Synod is York has sounded the end to the catholic experiment in the Church of England. For others, it is the culmination of that experiment, the 'happy issue out of all our afflictions'. What Keble began with the Assize Sermon in 1833 is finding fulfilment in our generation. May more and more of us, laity and clergy, find our home in the fulness of the Catholic Faith for which we have long yearned.


  1. Keble's Assize Sermon ('National Apostasy') surely?

  2. Of course; and I've now corrected it. Thanks. +E

  3. If only the others had the strength of your conviction, +Edwin!

    The time for faffing about is over. The strength of their faith is being tested. Will they be found wanting?