Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Why has the Ordinariate bought a church when we already have plenty of Catholic Churches here?




This is a question that has been addressed in various ways to the Torbay Mission, after they began fundraising to buy a former Methodist chapel in Torbay. I would like to respond to this question and offer my own thoughts as an aid to understanding.

Just recently, I was at a study weekend and met there an American lady who asked how the Ordinariate was doing in this country. I explained that quite a number of Catholics had expressed their concern that we were buying property. She said that she thought that was strange. In her home town within one square mile are four catholic churches: an Eastern-rite Catholic church, a church run by Franciscans, a Church known as the Irish Church, and another known as the Italian Church. She said everyone understands we are in full communion with each other yet have different cultural expressions of our Catholicism, and even have a separate rite (as in the case of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church). In a way this is what the Ordinariate Church in Torbay will be; a different cultural expression of Catholicism, that will compliment not conflict with the existing provision.

Eastern Rite Catholic Bishops

I suggest that the Ordinariate needs to run churches in order to be able to fulfil its mandate and calling. This has already happened in the Archdiocese of Westminster and the Archdiocese of Southwark where parish churches have been handed over to the pastoral care of the Ordinariate. So the Ordinariate provides clergy and serves the local Catholics in their own distinctive manner. This has added to the diversity of what the Catholic Church offers the faithful.

The Ordinariate was established as a way of responding to the teaching of Vatican II in its documents on the Church and Ecumenism (Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio respectively). It is also a logical development of the work of dialogue (especially ARCIC). Amongst other things, in Lumen Gentium the Vatican II fathers addressed the issue of the status of bodies of Christians outside the full communion of the Catholic Church. The Council affirmed the three bonds of communion in the Church, namely the shared faith (guaranteed by the magisterium), the shared sacraments, and, the participation in the hierarchy of the Church (not least being in full Communion with the Successor of Peter). Separated Christian churches are Christian bodies that only partially share in those things. The Vatican II fathers recognised that separated Christians did have good things of grace and holiness in their lives as Christians. They also endorsed a form of ecumenism which would help our Christian brothers and sisters to grow in understanding Catholic truth, the fullness of which could only be found in the Catholic Church.

Building on the teaching of Vatican II, the official dialogue with Anglicans began with ARCIC. Over the years ARCIC met to discuss various matters of faith to try to find common ground and to understand more clearly our differences.



Significantly in their Common Declaration of 2 October 1989, Pope St John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie, added a further dimension when they stated in a common declaration:

Against the background of human disunity the arduous journey to Christian unity must be pursued with determination and vigour, whatever obstacles are perceived to block the path. We here solemnly recommit ourselves and those we represent to the restoration of visible unity and full ecclesial communion in the confidence that to seek anything less would be to betray our Lord's intention for the unity of his people. …The ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also about the sharing of gifts.
Ever since the reformation, individual Anglicans had sought to be restored to “visible unity and full ecclesial communion”. Perhaps in England one of the most well-known was Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman? But for some time groups of Anglicans have been petitioning the Holy Father for corporate reunion; to be united not as individuals but as a body. Not obviously the whole of the Church of England, but groups of Anglican clergy (including bishops) and their people. This is something the American Catholic Bishops responded favourably to in the 1990s with their Anglican use parishes (it has to be said that the English Bishops resisted this idea preferring that Anglicans be received individually). However Anglicans continued to petition the Holy Father for corporate reunion rather than individual reconciliation. As one former Anglican Bishop (now a monsignor) put it, “We asked for something Catholic (i.e. corporate reunion) and we had been only offered a Protestant answer (individual reunion)!” Eventually the Holy Father could no longer ignore the requests and he (Pope Benedict XVI) tasked the CDF with finding a way of responding positively. So after much secret discussions (with a number of Anglican bishops) the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, was published that enabled a new type of unit (known as a particular church) within the church where Anglican clergy and their people could come into the full communion of the Catholic Church, and yet retain their identity as groups.

Pope Benedict with Her Majesty during his Apostolic visit to England & Scotland

This retaining of their identity within the Ordinariate would enable members to respond to what Pope St John Paul II and Archbishop Runcie had expressed in their common declaration: “The ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also about the sharing of gifts.” The sharing of gifts now became a realistic possibility with the creation of the Ordinariates. It was now possible for Anglicans to become Catholic and to hold on to traditions that were compatible with Catholic magisterial teaching. These could include liturgical patrimony, pastoral practices, attitudes to mission, spiritual tradition etc. Not only could they find a home in the Catholic Church but from there they could be shared with their other Catholic brothers and sisters. This would be something to enrich the Catholic Church.

So you might begin to see how the Ordinariates are a fulfilment of the teaching of Vatican II without denying the errors of Protestantism declared in the Council of Trent. In the creation of the Ordinariates, mother Church has enabled groups of separated brethren to find a familiar home within the Catholic Church. She has called the Ordinariates to become a home from home for Anglicans who seek full communion. Of course she does this without compromising the three bonds of communion (faith, sacraments and communion with the Pope). Mother Church also gives more to Anglicans becoming Catholic, than they are able to bring with themselves, for she gives them the fullness of the grace available, the illumination of magisterial teaching and the communion of a truly universal Church. However the Ordinariates have a vision and a mission, and it is this that really requires them to be able to have distinctive church communities.

So when in Torbay the Methodists decided to sell off one of their chapels an opportunity arose. The market value was extremely reasonable and with the chapel came great facilities. The Torbay Ordinariate Mission saw in this opportunity a chance to be able to live out Anglicanorum Coetibus, the teaching of Vatican II on the church and ecumenism, and the various teachings and declarations by popes and Archbishops of Canterbury.

I would suggest therefore that local Catholics need not feel threatened or upset that Anglicans, who have become Catholic in the Ordinariate, have sought to fulfil their calling through the conversion of a Methodist Chapel into a Catholic Church of the Ordinariate.

This new Church will not be in competition with the Catholic Diocese but complimenting it through offering distinctive liturgy, a different approach to living as a Christian community and being a place where Anglicans can find a home from home. And in no way should anyone think that the Ordinariate is suggesting that all Catholics should be doing it this way, but simply there is room enough for a different and distinctive expression of Catholicism that is faithful to the magisterium of the Church, makes available the sacramental life of grace for all Catholics, and which is undoubtedly in full communion with the Holy Father.

As the Papal Nuncio reminded us at the Ordinariate’s Chrism Mass (2015), communion is a significant part of what the Ordinariate is about, and communion is the first stage of mission. We must grow in unity which is a gift of Christ and His prayer of Maundy Thursday. As Christ said at Easter, “As the Father sent me, so I send you”. Mission begins in the relationship between Christ and His Father, the communion of the Trinity. In the Trinity there is diversity of Persons within the complete unity of being, so also in the Church, there is legitimate diversity of expression within the unity of the Church, a unity of faith, sacraments and hierarchy.

Please then pray for the Ordinariate and support us in whatever way you can. We, clergy and people of the Ordinariate, have faith in this new way of doing ecumenism and the vision of Pope Benedict, and seek to fulfil it alongside our brothers and sisters in the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales. We delight to assist the dioceses of England and Wales in whatever way we can be helpful, but we also have a particular calling within the New Evangelisation, as part of the conversion of England under the name of Our Lady of Walsingham and under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Jesu mercy; Mary pray.

Fr Ian Hellyer
Pastor of the Buckfast Ordinariate Mission