October 23, 2010
by Abigail Frymann
At the end of his visit to Britain last month, the Pope reminded the Catholic bishops of England and Wales to be “generous” in implementing Anglicanorum Coetibus, which he called “a prophetic gesture” that “helps us to set our sights on … the restoration of full ecclesial communion”.
Just how many will now join this exodus is hard to assess, but the prelates most likely to accept the Pope’s offer were always going to be the Church of England’s “flying bishops”, who were installed to minister to those who could not accept the 1992 decision to ordain female priests: Bishops Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, Keith Newton of Richborough – who are both on “study leave” – plus John Broadhurst of Fulham, and Martyn Jarrett of Beverley. Burnham, Newton and Broadhurst have said they will join the ordinariate at some point, and last Friday Bishop Broadhurst reaffirmed that decision. Never one to do things quietly, he described his employer and spiritual home of 44 years in an interview with The Daily Telegraph as “vicious”, “vindictive” and “fascist” over its refusal to accommodate more effectively opponents of women’s ordination. Bishop Burnham and Bishop Newton’s predecessor, Edwin Barnes, last month told The Tablet they would also join the ordinariate, which is to be set up in January.
Meanwhile the first parish announced its desire to join the structure. The Parochial Church Council of St Peter’s, Folkestone, a small traditionalist parish of 40 or so worshippers, voted to instruct their churchwardens to contact the diocese and start negotiations for moving to the ordinariate. A church member said they felt “fobbed off” over the Church of England’s promise of pastoral oversight because their bishop, Trevor Willmott of Dover, was one of those at General Synod who were “really not very helpful to any measures to ameliorate things as seen from the Anglo-Catholic side of things”.
In the next few weeks, the pace of these apparently isolated decisions may quicken. A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said each Anglican priest who, with a group of faithful, is considering joining the ordinariate has been asked to speak to his Anglican bishop about his interest by the end of October.
“At that time, the bishops’ conference will begin to know the likely number of groups that wish to avail themselves of … Anglicanorum Coetibus,” said the spokesman.
The initiative presents awkward issues for congregations, either those that are divided on whether to join the ordinariate, or those whose priest wishes to join while they do not. “I can see that it might split parishes,” said Bishop Malcolm McMahon, a member of the commission set up by the Catholic bishops to oversee the establishment of an ordinariate.
An estimated half of St Peter’s, Folkestone, want to join the ordinariate and, if they do, the question will arise of what happens to the pastoral oversight of the rest, and of the local community. If a priest’s parish doesn’t want to join, “he would have to attach himself to another group or come [into the Catholic Church] by the normal route – but if he does that, he can’t join the ordinariate later,” explained Bishop McMahon, who draws a parallel between the incoming Anglicans and the Polish communities which shared church buildings with English catholic parishes and used very similar liturgy.
Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary in Westminster and a former Anglican, is to head the ordinariate in its early days before relinquishing control to an ordinariate member selected from a governing council of six priests, three of whom are thought to be Anglican bishops who will be reordained as Catholic priests next spring.
Bishop McMahon said fears of a major rift within the Church of England were overplayed because the numbers of Anglicans wanting to join the ordinariate were relatively low. Where a parish applied to the ordinariate, he said there was genuine pastoral concern from both the local Anglican and Catholic bishops to find the best way forward.
It is still a learning process for all concerned. What has become clearer in the last year is that Anglicans won’t be able to take their buildings with them – under ancient common law an Anglican church building is seen as “a legal entity, having a perpetual existence, which is distinct from the individuals who are incumbent from time to time”, according a statement by the Church of England...
Read Ms. Frymann's feature article in full at The Tablet.
Hat tip to Fr. Anthony Chadwick