Saturday 17 July 2010

The Pope and the Ordinariate

It is perhaps foolhardy of me to question a statment made by a Catholic Bishop on "Anglicanorum Coetibus", but I am not sure that Bishop Farrell has given an exactly correct version in an interview published by Zenit (the Catholic News Agency).

He say, inter alia, 'A particular problem of discernment arises when it is a question of groups. Not all groups have the same "ecclesial consistency." In the end, it is up to the episcopal conference of a country or region to study well what can and what must be done. ' Now that is not how I read 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'. I commented on the original ZENIT article, but have had no response, so I raise the matter again here in the hope that others can put me right.
Here is what is said in the original document: "Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church are erected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith within the confines of the territorial boundaries of a particular Conference of Bishops in consultation with that same Conference."
Now that contrasts with Bishop Farrell's "it is up to the episcopal conference... to study well what can and what must be done". This reads rather as though the final decision rests with the local Conference of Bishops. But in fact it is the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith, CDF, which is the deciding body. Of course local conferences of bishops will be consulted and will advise, but the whole point of the Ordinariate (unless I am badly mistaken) is that its future does not lie with the national bishops' conference.
Possibly I am misreading or misinterpreting what Bishop Farrell says, but since he holds such an important role as Secretary of the Vatican's Unity Council, I do hope this can be clarified.
His concern for Unity and his experience of the ARCIC process of course must weigh heavily on Bishop Farrell, and it must be a great sadness to him that the recent York Synod seems to have undone all that has been achieved over the past decades. He concludes his interview saying
"We will continue the ecumenical dialogue with a realism that accepts things as they are and is aware that the road ahead is long and arduous. Knowing, however, that dialogue is a task imposed by Christ himself and sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, soul of the Church of Christ."
I believe and pray that the Orinariates may have a role in that continuing conversation, and in leading many more Anglicans into the fulness of Catholic Faith and Worship.
[The photograph of the Holy Father above is one I took at the Fatima Pilgrimage in May]

Thursday 15 July 2010

Fulham Profile

Wild excitement yesterday: the Beeb rang me! Then a slight deflation; they wanted me to talk about Bishop John of Fulham. Eventually sense prevailed and I realised they wanted something about a man of the moment, not an old has-been like me. So this afternoon I used my geriatric bus-pass to go into Southampton. There at Radio Solent HQ they clamped headphones on me, and sat me in a cubicle waiting for lights to go on.

The Programme is called "Profile". It tries to do something to give, as they explained, a more rounded picture of people in the news than the media usually manage. So I had to do my best to demolish the image set up by WATCH and their allies of some monstrous wife-beating misogynist. Not difficult, really; who could imagine Bishop John getting away with beating Judy! And as for misogyny, the truth is that there are many women clerics in the dioceses where he works who look to HIM for support against the rabid women-hating-but-pretend-supporters among the hierarchies who have done more to harm women's ministry than anything perpetrated by Forward in Faith.
It is a fourteen minute programme; they recorded me for fifteen, and mine is only one contribution among many, so whatever I was able to say will be seriously filleted. For all that, I hope they manage to do some justice to a man who has borne the heat and burden for so long.

Even now people are carping about the statement he has issued on behalf of Forward in Faith. Of course he does not, and connot, say "we must all be come members of the Ordinariate tomorrow". He believes he must still screw what little concessions he can from Synod, not for himself but for those unable or, at present, unwilling to enter the Ordinariate. It will be no easy task, but John Broadhurst has never flinched at difficult tasks.

The programme goes out on BBC Radio 4 at 7pm on Saturday (unless, I suppose, the golf, or some minr coup, intervenes) and is repeated on Sunday at 5.40pm.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Too late, too late.

For more years than I care to remember, between the 1970s and 1995, I was a member of General Synod, and of the Catholic Group in Synod. It always has had a difficult task, but in recent years that has become almost impossible. Women clergy and their supporters have swamped Synod, and on the rare occasions I have visited since leaving it I have been saddened by the bitter and divisive tone of that body. Once we valued those of other opinions, and could share a joke with them. Now, it seems, there is only rancour.

So it is brave, if also foolhardy, of today's Catholic Group in Synod to continue trying to participate. In particular it was unwise of them to continue taking part in the debate once it was clear that only a Code of Practice will be available for anyone staying in the C of E after women are consecrated. We have said "A Code of Practice Will Not Do". We have explained why this is so. We have too much evidence already of 'codes of practice' being ignored; and even the 'code' has not yet been formulated, let alone agreed to. A pig in a poke is a safer bet than a code of practice with no legal backing.

The Group has my sympathy. For all that, the "statement" they have issued is so feeble, and so clearly evidence that they think we are in "business as usual", that I feel I must respond to it.

"The Catholic Group in General Synod is encouraged by the remarks of the Archbishop of Canterbury that there is still ‘unfinished business’ and that ‘the Church is only part of the way through the process’ of determining the way forward for women bishops legislation".

Well of course we are all always encouraged by remarks of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Encouraging remarks is what he is so good at. But he made plenty of remarks during the recent Synod, and they were all ignored. There will not be any change in the "way forward for women bishops' legislation". That way is already determined. The liberals have not given an inch, and they are not going to.

"The Group was, however, disappointed that there was a lack of support for financial hardship where clergy feel by conscience that they need to resign from the Church of England."

Disappointed! I was scandalised. There will have to be a fight over this. The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament in 1993 could see that what was then proposed amounted to constructive dismissal, and they insisted that financial provision should be made for those who in conscience had to leave the ministry of the Church of England. That should be even more necessary now, since many of us were hoodwinked into staying with promises of lasting provision. If the Ecclesiastical Committee does not come to our rescue (and it should, for priests are being deprived of their Livings, which parliament recognises as property) then the Law may; and the Law must be proved if necessary with some test cases, backed financially by anglican catholics and our catholic societies.

The onus now is on the Church of England to provide for its clergy to remain within the Church for which we have always fought as loyal Anglicans.

Dream on my dear friends in the Catholic Group. No provision is going to be made, except what individual bishops, male or female, might feel they can offer fromtheir goodness of heart. And what bishops give they can also take away. We asked for provision for our children and grand-children. The provision from Synod will not even see us out, let alone future generations.

"We remain committed to both the process and our Church, and would wish to play a major part in helping the Church in its ongoing journey in a spirit of unity that is Christ’s way".

But the process is already played out, and our Church is no longer recognisable as the Church of England we have known and loved. Friends, stop playing games. The game is over. The fat lady has sung. It is too late.

Goodbye, Goodbye, I'm leaving you...

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 )

Viva Espana!

Vanity ensures that I check the statcounter on my blog from time to time. It enables you to see just where people are situated who check your blog. Not many from Spain or Spanish speaking countries - but that might all change! By some means, I've been contacted for my opinions on Anglicanorum Coetibus by the Catholic Information service; so an interview with me appears in Spanish at .

Now I realise this is small beer compared with Bishop John Fulham's domination of the airwaves of the BBC,or Fr David Houlding's monopoly of catholic comments from the Synod, but, come on, it is in Spanish!

[A late addendum: Bishop Andrew Ebbsfleet has produced a typically thoughtful and helpful pastorl letter Post-Synod: you can find it at ]

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.