Tuesday 13 July 2010

Through Spanish Eyes

Interview by Bruno Moreno Member of the Editorial Committee of InfoCatólica

Yesterday I was set some questions to answer, and the piece was put into Spanish for the readership of InfoCatólica. I thought there might be one or two visitors to this blog who could find it useful - and others who would want to disagree with what are very personal responses. It is in any case useful to see what questions our foreign friends want to ask. The piece has had some good come-back in Spain - so this is the way the Q & A went:

How would you define an Anglo-Catholic?
The Church of England contains many varieties of Christians. Those who are nearer to the Catholic understanding of Scripture, Tradition and the Church, and who express this in their language (speaking, for instance, of the Altar, rather than the Holy Table) and their practice (celebrating the Eucharist regularly and frequently, in many churches not simply every week, but every day) would be called ‘Anglo-Catholic’.

You have been an Anglican bishop for the past fifteen years. What has been your role as a ‘flying bishop’?
In 1992 the central Council of our Church, the General Synod, decided that women might be ordained to the priesthood. In doing so it also said that those who did not accept this innovation must have provision made for them to enable them to continue as faithful Anglicans. For this purpose each Archbishop (there are two in England) consecrated one or two bishops, themselves opposed to women’s ordination, to minister to individuals and congregations who voted to ask for such extra provision. They were suffragans of the Archbishops, and so known as Provincial Episcopal Visitors (PEV’s) or, colloquially, ‘flying bishops’. My remit, for six years from 1995-2001, was to travel the length and breadth of the Eastern half of the Canterbury Province. I was consecrated to the See of Richborough – a title taken from the site where St Augustine set foot in England on his mission from Pope Gregory. On my retirement I became simply a super-numerary and honorary bishop in the diocese where I live, Winchester. My successor as Bishop of Richborough is Bishop Keith Newton.

Did the creation by Pope Benedict XVI of new Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church come as a surprise for you?
The Holy Father’s initiative, directed at Groups of Anglicans, came as a great and very welcome surprise.

Many people ask “why now?” If Anglo-Catholics wish to seek communion with the See of Rome, why have they waited until now? Is it just a matter of women bishops or something deeper?
Many of us have believed that the Church of England was moving, for the past century at least, in an ever more catholic direction. With the international conversations between the Anglican Communion and Rome (the ARCIC Conversations) we believed and hoped there would be corporate reunion for us in our lifetime. Since the ordination of women to the priesthood, and now the likelihood of their consecration as bishops, that has faded as an impossible dream.

What are the main elements of the Anglican Patrimony you would like the Ordinariates to preserve?
Our fathers in the faith spoke of “reserve” in matters of faith. That is, a sort of quiet and simple spirit in the best of Anglican use. It has seemed to me a religious voice, a tone, in keeping with our national character. The language of our Prayer Book which introduced the vernacular into our worship five centuries ago seems to catch something of this plain, undemonstrative but deeply felt religious sensibility. But in truth, I think we cannot discover our Patrimony until we see it in a completely Catholic context.

Do you expect the Anglican Ordinariates to attract many people in England and Wales? Will whole parishes take the plunge?
It is difficult at present to see how it will be possible for entire parishes to join the Ordinariate, simply because the Church of England is very territorial, and will not readily part with, for instance, its buildings. For all that, there are several priests I know who are preparing their congregations, and who will take the first opportunity of belonging whether they can retain their parish churches or not.

Do you believe some Anglican Bishops will enter the Ordinariates? Are you personally planning to avail yourself of this opportunity?
Certainly I know of several Bishops who are exploring the possibility, as I am myself. I can see no other future for catholics in the Church of England than this.

Would you be willing to seek ordination in the Roman Catholic Church? Would you consider ordination or whatever your role is in the Ordinariate a denial of your pastoral work in the Anglican Communion or rather a culmination of that work?
Because the Holy Father’s appeal is to Groups of Anglicans, I believe my personal future is unimportant compared with what is offered to us all. If it is decided that my ministry can continue, and that I may be ordained a Priest in the Catholic Church, then I should be delighted – but I should join the Ordinariate unconditionally, and let others decide whether there might still be something for me to undertake. I am sure that the simple fact of joining the Ordinariate will be the crown and completion of my ministry up to this point.

What are the main difficulties you envisage in this adventure, both for yourself and for most Anglo-Catholics? Will the need to accept the faith of the Roman Catholic Church as proclaimed by the Catechism be an obstacle for many Anglo-Catholics?
I think for some Anglicans there are stumbling blocks within the Catechism. We have been separated from the Catholic mainstream for five hundred years, and there have been developments in doctrine with which we are unfamiliar. As a frequent visitor to Fatima, I have no difficulty with the Marian dogmas. There was a time when I found it hard to accept the Immaculate Conception (for I did not properly understand it) and Papal Infallibility. Others may still find these to be difficulties for them – I do not. And I hope and believe the Church will be very understanding and patient in explaining these matters. Far more important for me is the readiness of the Holy Father to accept and ordain men who have been married Anglican clergy. My wife has been a great help and adornment to my ministry, and I am glad there is the possibility that, should I be ordained a Catholic priest, this would continue.

Some members of the Ordinariates will come from the Anglican Communion, while others will come from different groups, such as the Traditional Anglican Communion, or even from Anglican Use parishes? Do you think that diversity will be a problem?
I believe that Anglicans in North America and elsewhere have been in such difficult situations that for them actual schism from the Anglican Communion has been necessary. I know several such priests and parishes, and have no doubt that we shall learn from one another and come to value one another. One of my greatest friends is a Priest of the Anglican Use in Texas, and I think he and I have more in common than I do with most of those in England who call themselves members of our church.

Do the Anglican Ordinariates have a future in the Catholic Church? How do you envisage them in, say, one hundred years?
I believe the Catholic Church is very patient; and I am sure she will want to learn from this experiment. I hope, personally, that the experience of a married priesthood might at some future date enable the Church to recognise that it is possible to have a double vocation, to the priesthood and to holy matrimony. I am greatly impressed by the way the Holy Father has introduced Anglicanorum Coetibus, making it clear that this is not a short-term solution to present-day problems, but a generous open offer for many years, perhaps centuries, to come. So who knows, it may be that eventually the Church of England will indeed return to her roots and become part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which she has always claimed to be.

How will the leaving (maybe we might say expelling) of Anglo-Catholics affect the Anglican Communion? Would it mean the end of its claim to be a branch of the Catholic Church? Do you expect the Anglican Communion to change much in the following years or decades?
It seems to me we are witnessing the break-up of the Anglican Communion – which was always a rather anomalous fruit of Empire. Gradually individual national churches will, I think, either join the Catholic Church, or dwindle into some amorphous protestant body, incapable of making any real witness to society.

What will the Roman Catholic Church gain by the ‘coming home’ of the Anglo-Catholics?
I hope we shall all gain enormously from this home-coming; it will be a reunion of friends, to replace the Parting of Friends of which Newman spoke.

How is Card. Newman regarded by Anglo-Catholics? Will you attend his beatification in September? Would you like to see him as one of the patron saints of the Ordinariates?
I believe John Henry Cardinal Newman has had a hand in what is happening in England today. Many of us are very glad to have him as a fellow-countryman. If I were permitted to be at his beatification I can think of no greater honour; and whether or not he is named as a patron of the Ordinariates, I am sure we should all be seeking his prayers at this wonderful time.
[Spanish translation at www.infocatolica.com )


  1. Dear Bishop Edwin- I am sure you will forgive an Ebbsfleet priest reminding you that it was at Ebbsfleet that Augustine landed from Rome. Richborough was the site of an even earlier Roman landing, that of Claudius' legions in AD43!

  2. Technically, yes, he was allowed onto the Ebbsfleet mudbank on the Isle of Thanet while heading for Richborough, the centre of civilisation, and held there until sense prevailed. In due course, as you will know, Queen Bertha persuaded her pagan husband to permit the crossing to Richborough (first place named in Bede's Ecclesiastical History) so that the Mission could begin. I could, of course, have spent time dotting every i but I doubt if the Spanish would have been too enthralled.

  3. We were very happy to publish Bp. Barnes' interview in InfoCatólica. Many readers have told me that they found the interview both moving and extremely interesting.