Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Ordinariate

Is there a traditional position on the Ordinariates? Probably not. Well, at least, not a unified position. There's been some rather sensible blogging (see here) on the question and the speed has picked up since the Catholic bishops who will act initially, as ordinaries, have become known. This has balanced some rather hysterical commentary from the liberal end of the scale. If you were to characterise the response from the 'conservative' end of the scale it was probably be generally welcoming but with caution.

Initially it seems to be as much of our business as, say, the reconciliation of various other dissident groups over the centuries. These co-exist within the Catholic Church maintaining their own rites and traditions. In many places, during the darkest times, they have become a 'safe' haven for Latin rite Catholics, clergy and laity alike. But there is an essential difference. These earlier reconciliations have almost always involved groups where the sacraments have generally been considered valid. The current ordinariate addresses the needs where this is not certain. This is an essential difference.

There is however another common ground between many of those wishing to enter the Catholic Church through the ordinariates and traditional Catholics. At a superficial level the liturgical practice of most groups wishing to 'come in' is certainly closer to tradition. Many were 'brought up' with what was basically a translation of the 1570 Missale Romanum. Catholic seminarians, in at least one place during the 1970s studying historical liturgy, were directed to a local Anglo-Catholic congregation to see what a 'Tridentine' Mass looked like. Indeed I have to admit the first High Requiem Mass I ever saw was in an Anglican Parish. It was completely in Latin; black vestments, Faure Requiem and a catafalque. As they said at the time 'the full fig'. Externally the daily celebration of many Anglican clergy was direct from the traditional Catholic rites. It was particularly helpful when the local Catholic bishop and his Anglican counterpart had the same Christian name. After the Philadelphia Eleven (1976) the greatest concern for many 'Anglo-Catholics' considering reconciliation with Rome was that they would have to give up traditional style worship and beliefs. But this, as I have said, is really superficial.

At a deeper level the personal piety of many 'heading across the Tiber' is much closer to tradition than it would be to the community obsessed ecclesiology of much modern Catholicism. They are much more 'at home' saying the rosary, going on pilgrimages, making sure their children are properly educated in the faith, being scrupulous in the manner of receiving Holy Communion, and dealing with the reality of sin and the temptations of the Devil through Auricular Confession rather than through any communal penitential service. They have a 'liturgical' formation, and internal participation, that surpasses anything Dom Gueranger would have dreamt of.  I suspect, for many, the greatest thing holding them back, is that they fear losing this.

A final caveat. It does worry me that they have taken such a long time about it getting around to it  but, looking around, it really doesn't surprise me. Orate Fratres!


  1. It is not my understanding that the Catholic bishops appointed to facilitate the formation of Ordinariates are to be the initial ordinaries. I understand that the first ordinaries will priests or bishops who were formerly Anglican and who came into communion with Rome either before, or as a part of, the ordinariate process.


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