Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Ordinariate: more consequential for the RC than the CofE

So we now have The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I can't help but think that the consequences of this will not be anything like what is expected by the Vatican or their cheerleaders.

Consider that, in Roman Catholic theological terms, three lay men were ordained as priests without having to go through seminary or be committed to celibacy. What, therefore, is the theological justification for either of those presumed requirements when other candidates for the priesthood present themselves? In reality, what the decision shows is that the Catholic hierarchy do in fact give some substance to ministry conducted in the Anglican church - that is, in practice, the hierarchy do not see Anglican orders as 'null and void'. The perpetuation of that canard is a wholly political practice, without spiritual substance, as has now been proven by these ordinations. In an environment when there is a very large practical rejection of hierarchical teaching and authority by RC laity in the British Isles, most especially with regard to the insistence on clerical celibacy, I cannot but see long term consequences from this action that undermine what Benedict is trying to achieve.

Whereas the CofE can only benefit. 'Flying bishops' caused all sorts of ongong problems for the CofE and the one thing that the Ordinariate has done is remove that ecclesiastical anomaly. Forward in Faith was only ever one branch of Anglo-Catholicism and I now hope and pray that, freed from internecine strife, the remaining Anglo-Catholics can simply get on with expressing their strand of Anglican life unashamedly. There is still a great deal of theological work to be done - but that work is joyful work.

14 comments:

  1. Hello Father Norton,

    With all due respect, I would disagree with your post on several points.

    If Anglicans orders were valid, there would be no need to ordain these men at all. Since they were ordained, it implies that they were not ordained in the first place. So, by ordaining these men, the Catholic Church is still maintaining that Anglican orders are null and void. And even if they were valid, there is still the scandal that Christians are not currently all unified in one Church as Christ intends. So, even if you do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ from which all the other churches spring from at various points of history like I do, you can at least not encourage disunity.

    Second, the education and formation of Anglican Clergy and Catholic Clergy are similar enough that this is not much of a hurtle at all.

    Third, we have had byzantine and other eastern rite clergy who have not practice priestly celibacy for centuries. Just because the Church in her mercy allows these ordinariate clergy to practice their ministry as they had before but this time in union with Rome, it does not mean that the Church is weakening her stance of mandatory priestly celibacy. The Church is just making compromises on non-essential things in order to make it as simple as possible for many to convert.

    God Bless,
    Deacon Todd Carter

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  2. 'Flying bishops' caused all sorts of ongong problems for the CofE and the one thing that the Ordinariate has done is remove that ecclesiastical anomaly.

    It may remove that "anomaly" in the long term, but in a few weeks' time the Archbishop of Canterbury will be announcing the names of the new bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough, and the Bishop of Beverley remains in post. Forward in Faith is not shutting up shop, nor is the majority of its members of joining the Ordinariate - at least for the moment.

    Your prediction may be a little premature ....

    Moreover I can't say I'm aware of any great problems caused by "flying bishops" (despite the fuss some opponents have made), and many people can testify to the great benefits their exciting and innovative ministry has brought ("new ways of being bishop"??).

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  3. If memory serves, St Ambrose didn't exactly have all that much seminary training when a tumultuous assembly made him jump through a few hoops to the Milan Bishopric.

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  4. Thanks for the comments.
    Todd - my concern is that your point #1 and point #2 are in implicit contradiction. Yes, 'officially', the orders are null and void - hence the new ordinations, all perfectly correct so far - but as you say "the education and formation of Anglican Clergy and Catholic Clergy are similar enough that this is not much of a hurdle at all" - so not so 'null and void' after all... As for celibacy, I understand that it is only required for those in charge of a parish (for theological reasons which have some substance, even though I disagree with them). The trouble comes when the number of married priests starts to get close to the number of unmarried - if nothing else, the culture will change. That is what I mean.
    Sir Watkin, I may well be premature (I often am) but I see this development as a positive one. If nothing else, the Forward in Faith cohort have some very serious theological self-questionings ahead. As for the problems that have arisen from flying bishops, I see them as undermining good catholic order - on which, more another time.
    Michael - indeed! Yet he had been a member of that church in good standing for rather a long time, unlike these three.

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  5. my concern is that your point #1 and point #2 are in implicit contradiction. Yes, 'officially', the orders are null and void - hence the new ordinations, all perfectly correct so far - but as you say "the education and formation of Anglican Clergy and Catholic Clergy are similar enough that this is not much of a hurdle at all" - so not so 'null and void' after all...

    This doesn't make sense unless one sees education and formation as the crucial thing. But for traditional Catholic theology it is ordination that is crucial.

    A completely uneducated man, who has received no formation, but who has been ordained, is a priest (however undesirable such a state of affairs may be). A man who has received the full seven years of seminary training, but not ordination, is not.

    The opposite view is of course perfectly tenable (perhaps correct even), but it's a protestant one, not Catholic.

    Thus the "implicit contradiction" exists only if adopts a non-Catholic view of Holy Order. As it is, one presumes, the traditional Catholic view that the Roman Church holds there is (from her perspective) no contradiction whatsoever.

    As for the problems that have arisen from flying bishops, I see them as undermining good catholic order

    Any more than e.g. the Bishop to the Forces, or the various "peculiar jurisdictions" that exist in the Church of England?

    Again, such a view is perfectly tenable, but a traditionalist (whether Anglican or Roman Catholic) would see this as straining at a gnat to swallow a fly. From his perspective the introduction of women to the presbyterate (and potentially the episcopate) undermines good Catholic order - almost fatally so.

    Who is to say which perspective is correct? What mechanism exists for deciding the question between the two?

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  6. ---"From his perspective the introduction of women to the presbyterate (and potentially the episcopate) undermines good Catholic order - almost fatally so."---

    Where would one place those who consider that development arguably dodgy but ultimately bearable? After all, the Roman Senate survived for a few centuries Incitatus' promotion to membership thereof.

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  7. Where would one place those who consider that development arguably dodgy but ultimately bearable?

    Naturally there is a continuum of possible views.

    There are those at the other end of it who almost seem to say that good Catholic order barely existed before the present day (the implications of remarks to the effect that only now are women "full members" of the Church).

    After all, the Roman Senate survived for a few centuries Incitatus' promotion to membership thereof.

    An interesting parallel, but is the significance the other way round? Does Incitatus' promotion indicate that the Senate (a formal continuity notwithstanding) had changed fundamentally?

    Does the admission of women by Anglicans to "ordained ministry" effectively say something like this: "Yes, there's been this ambiguity all along about whether we hold a Catholic view of Holy Order. Some would say yes, some would say no. But actually, when it comes down to it, no we don't"??

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  8. As a Catholic lay person I think you're right, Sam - the introduction of married priests via conversion from Anglicanism will make it more difficult for the Church to continue to insist on celibacy as a necessary part of priesthood. Most lay catholics I know (and some clergy!) think that allowing parish priests to marry would be of great benefit to the Church. My concern with the Ordinariate is that we will end up with a steady influx of priests who are even more traditional than the existing 'right wing' of the Church. For example, a priest I know of who is a convert from the C of E has now said that girls cannot be altar servers in his church, even though girls are now commonly found as altar servers in Catholic parishes. He has also objected to the use of inclusive language in the readings (e.g., 'brothers and sisters' instead of just 'brothers'). We might end up with more priests, but at what cost?

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  9. Sir Watkin - technically you are right, ordination is 'the thing' - so there is no formal contradiction, but I would still maintain that it is 'implicit' as I said. Personally, whilst I accept that there is such a thing as 'the grace of holy orders', and even some validity to apostolic succession, I think that when it becomes mechanically abstracted from a process of formation and discernment then we have left the authentic faith behind (my view). Thing is, I think that in practice, that view is shared on the RC side... As for, eg, the Bishops to the forces, there is full mutual inter-communion involved, which there wasn't with FinF - hence the problem. I'm going to ponder the other matters you raise.

    Katharine - are you my friend Katharine?? - thanks for coming by, I think your view is quite widely shared.

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  10. Thing is, I think that in practice, that view is shared on the RC side...

    Up to a point. And indeed more than in practice. There has been genuine convergence about the question of Holy Orders between Anglicans and Rome, but not enough for Rome to revisit Apostolicae Curae. And with the ordination of women (inter alia) there is increasing divergence, so that prospect (once not so improbable) has been relegated to the Greek Kalends.

    The problem for Rome is not that the position you articulate is downright wrong, but that it is too weak on the sacramentality of Holy Order (grace of orders and apostolical succession), and that there are many Anglicans moreover who are far to the left of you, taking a wholly functional view of "ordained ministry" (the reluctance ever to use the word "priesthood" is significant).

    Even if one looks beyond sacramentality (to follow the implications of your point), things look no better from a Roman perspective. There too they see divergence, and a shift by Anglicans away from "authentic faith" and apostolicity, so emphasising this aspect of Holy Order doesn’t help either.

    Of course there are politics involved (now as in 1896), but there really is a genuine problem. Behind the langauge of "defective intention" (the crucial point in Apostolicae Curae) is the fact that Anglican orders are not recognisable to Rome (or to the Eastern churches, both Orthodox and others) as being the same thing as theirs.

    It's like an Englishman and American talking about "football". They use the same word, and one can see that there is some relationship between the two games, but they are so different that it's only by half-closing your eyes and not looking too hard that you can say they are the same. Contrast, say, the difference between Rugby Union and Rugby League. To Rome (and the East) looking at Anglican orders it's more like the former case than the latter.

    As for, eg, the Bishops to the forces, there is full mutual inter-communion involved, which there wasn't with FinF - hence the problem.

    That's not a bug, it's a feature! Full mutual intercommunion was impaired by the introduction of individuals into the presbyterate whom other Anglicans could not recognise as priests. This problem is especially acute at the level of the local church, where disunity is brought into the bishop's prebyterium (some of its members being unable to recognise others as presbyters).

    The purpose of the "flying bishops" was both to acknowledge, openly and honestly, this fact, and to produce a way of working round it. One can argue about how successful the work-around is (theologically or practically), but even if you remove it communion will still be impaired and non-recognition will still exist, because most "traditionalists" will neither leave nor change their views. The problem will be merely swept under the carpet, and there will be a substantial rump of traditionalists with uneasy consciences, living in a sort of ecclesial half-light, alienated from the church within which they nominally remain, utterly demotivated and unable to play a full part in that church's life and mission. The authorities will see this as a success, because so few will have "left" ("What was all the fuss about?"). Those who have left in their hearts, will be quite invisible to them.

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  11. Sir Watkin - I suspect I'm even more to the 'right' than is coming across in this conversation, with regard to the grace of holy orders etc. The problem is that I don't see sacraments as being entirely 'ex opere operato' (ie wholly independent of the character and formation of the priest and community which celebrates them) which is the logical conclusion of the position you are outlining (as it happens, I don't think official RC teaching entails 'ex opere operato' either). The problem from my point of view is that - not least at the time of the Reformation - the RC church was manifestly failing to preserve the apostolic faith, and I can't see a full unity coming about until there is some acknowledgement of, and repentance for, that state of affairs. Fleshing this out will take a fair bit of time - which I now have the enthusiasm for, if not the energy as I'm a bit ill at the moment!!

    On the latter point, it is precisely the 'ecclesial half-light' which I see as the problem. If you are not in communion with your bishop then you are in a different church, and I don't think it has helped anyone to have that denied (and that can be taken as an argument that the ordination of women should not have proceeded when it did, as much as an argument that opponents should in conscience have left the church then. My position is that the CofE has the authority to make the change, and has now done so...)

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  12. Deacon Todd, I'm having difficulty in understanding how "making compromises" is not "weakening her stance." If it is OK to make this compromise to make conversion as easy as possible, then what is the point in making this "non-essential" mandatory for everyone else?

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  13. It does rather sound like those banks that make introductory rates available to new customers but not to their established clientele.

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  14. Observations on this discussion, from outside. I don't think uneducated priests is an undesirable state of affairs. The idea that every priest has to have higher eduication is. But recent Anglican discussions of "lay presidency" and "diaconal presidency" show how far the Anglican Communion has moved (and is still moving) from any kind of Catholic order and ecclesiology. I've written about that on my blog at What is a priest? | Khanya so won't go into that here. I see the Ordinariate as an act of charity, providing homes for the homeless, and especially to those who, while not actually being forcibly evicted, have had the light and water shut off and all furniture removed.

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