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Anyone for Rome?

2011 February 10
by Gordon Reid

On my recent visit to the UK, I was struck by the entirely different attitude of the Church of England to Pope Benedict’s offer of an Anglican Ordinariate , compared with that of American Episcopalians.

There is much more interest in the C of E, because the Anglo-Catholic group there is so much larger than in the States. In the USA, the “supermarket” approach to religious denominations has  caused many Anglo-Catholics, who are annoyed because of women priests and Bishops, and gay priests and Bishops (and sometimes both), as well as modern language Liturgies, to go off and form mini-Churches of their own. They form  an “Anglican Continuum”, and if they could only agree, would be quite a sizeable Church. But alas, they are ipso facto made up of opinionated, independent-minded people, too many of whom want to be Bishops (and in one recent case Archbishops and Patriarchs!). On the whole they love the old-language Episcopal Prayer Book, and Rome holds little attraction for them.

It is a quite different scenario in the Church of England. There, the Anglo-Catholic group on the whole despise the Prayer Book, and especially the old- language Liturgy. Most of them use either the modern Roman Catholic Mass or the very similar modern-language Anglican rite. They will have nothing to do with women priests and have so far blocked the possibility of women Bishops. They keep pretty quiet on the subject of gay priests, as it is widely recognized that a large number of this constituency are gay.

The Roman Catholic/Anglican Ordinariate is much more attractive to C of E Anglo-Catholics than to their US counterparts. This is partly because most of them have always held  the view that the C of E is simply two Provinces of the Catholic Church which were separated fro Rome for political reasons. They believed that what the Church of England did corporately in the sixteenth century, it should undo now as a body. They have thus worked for corporate unity and often disapproved of individual conversions.

With the coming of women priests and the increasing liberalism of Anglicanism on moral questions, not only the present hot favourite homosexuality, but also abortion, remarriage after divorce, contraception, medical ethics, even euthanasia, the likelihood of such a corporate return of the C of E to union with Rome has become less and less likely, and therefore many are now on the brink of abandoning the struggle and converting individually.

To them, the Ordinariate may be one way to do this, though we should remember that this was first invented by Rome because of the petition of members of such bodies as the “Traditional Anglican Communion”, who were already out of communion with Canterbury. And the C of E Bishops who have become RC priests in the Ordinariate were also already in impaired communion with the majority of the C of E. They looked after those churches who refused their own Bishop’s ministry and authority because he approved of and ordained women priests.

Also, all of them are married. That is the single most important reason why some priests will enter the Ordinariate. They would have become RCs years ago, but with a wife they could not be reordained. The second most important reason is that some have come to the age when they will receive the Church of England pension and  so can convert to Rome without financial penalties.

I expect, therefore, that more members of the Church of England will join  the RC Church by way of the Ordinariate  than US Episcopalians, who have seldom felt that reunion with Rome was where they should be leading their Church. But I could be wrong. Only time will tell.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. David permalink
    February 11, 2011

    Please note that it is not true that Anglican clergy cannot become Catholic priests outside the Ordinariate if they are married.

    For some time we have had many married priests here in England who were CofE clergy. The reason why the Ordinariate might prove attractive to Cof E clergy at the moment might be that they can be fast-tracked into the the priesthood. It has nothing to do with marriage.

  2. ambly permalink
    February 11, 2011

    I think that’s correct. It’s the fast-tracking that seems attractive along with the concept that certain bits of the “patrimony” will be allowed. This and the sense of coming as a community rather than getting completely lost in the vastness of the RC communion.

    But surely Canon Reid is correct – the American Church will have more “holdouts” than the English Church.

    • Bromartin permalink
      February 11, 2011

      Since last June, we have been worshiping with Anglican Use (Latin Rite) Catholics; however, we were assigned to a local RC parish, since a group of former Anglicans here were in a neighboring diocese. The local pastor has been giving us instruction (not RCIA) and we have been on a wonderful journey together, with a solid group of nine, since September. This parish family has been very welcoming.
      As you say, the process of Ordinariate formation, in the US, has been very deliberate. It is not an easy sell to people who are comfortable and involved in their small Episcopal parishes, especially in an area where the ” Churchmanship” seems to range from “relaxed” to very liberal (in our eyes). At this point, it’s hard to get more than a few hundred people together, to an annual meeting, due to the distances involved.
      We shall see how things develope here, as we, the first wave of people to respond to “Anglicanorum Caetibus,” are received into the RCC. Certainly, because of timing and organizational concerns with so many groups approaching, there are many gray areas and jurisdictional matters to be ironed out.
      As a lifelong Anglican, baptised and confirmed at the age of eleven, I was educated with the “branch theory,” and a catholic approach. It always seemed to me that Catholic unity was an ultimate yearning, if ever and whenever possible. There comes a time when we should not be ashamed to trust and work together to the glory of God, in a greater Catholic Body of Christ. We must abide where we have a strong faith and confidence in the basic tenets of the Creeds. Our music, language, and “MO” will stay, The Canon of the Mass will only be more comprehensive.
      This is not an easy “trip.” There are certain concessions we endure, but more and more, we are led to understand the cleansing values on the road to Unity. We pray that the Lord will bless our union, reunion, and revival.

  3. Russell Fuhrman permalink
    February 11, 2011

    How many of the old high church/Anglo-Catholic movement are there left anyway to go over? It seems to me even in its hay day the American Episcopal Church’s iteration of the Oxford Movement was really quite then small, colorful and outspoken, but really quite small. In the late 1980′s an Episcopal priest active in national church affairs told then me that the Anglo- Catholic Movement was over-completely overwhelmed by political liberalism, feminism, gay rights, and such holding sway in our church. Today we have, what, a a few religious orders with a handful of aging members and some parishes like St. Clement’s who might attract one hundred or so to its’ major services, mostly, no doubt, subsidized by trusts and endowments left by the long deceased. Here in my hometown, the high church people in the local Episcopal parish split off years ago into a splinter Anglican/Anglo-Catholic group, which withered on the vine, and finally got so small they closed their church, sold off their real estate and went over to Rome. One local Episcopalian, the son of a Fond du Lace(sic) canon, went over a few years ago out of disgust! It just seems to me that this movement has always punched above its’ weight-and now there’s just not much left anymore to leave. The liberals have won and rule of what’s left of, frankly a pathetic denomination smaller than the Muslim population of the U.S. I’ve noticed that in the past couple of U.S. Congresses there are more Jewish members than Episcopalians.

  4. David O'Rourke permalink
    February 11, 2011

    I can understand why Anglo-Catholics in England would not want to go back to the Prayer Book but why the objection to the traditional 16th cent. English? For the Roman Catholics, the ICEL English has already proven to be unstisfactory and I can’t see the new translations lasting much longer than the current translations did. By it’s nature, language changes and translations become outdated. The Tudor English of the BCP was elegant to start with and now is old enough that keeping it up to date is not a consideration but none of the modern translations that I have seen has what it takes to become memorable and thus worth preserving. I gather Archbishop Hepworth of TAC is more favourably disposed to tradition.

  5. Paul Goings permalink
    February 14, 2011

    Canon Reid is right on all counts. In fact, Dr Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington and the Holy See’s American representative for issues relating to the Apostolic Constitution, recently gave an interview which was decidedly lukewarm on the possibility of an Ordinariate in this country. Unlike England, there is no common liturgy or standard of doctrine, either among the Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians or the members of the Anglican Continuum churches. Thus it becomes a much more daunting task–what formal process must potential converts undertake? which clergy will be eligible for ordination? what liturgy will be used? etc., etc. In the end I suspect that there will be an American Ordinariate, and its nucleus will be the existing body of Anglican Use parishes, and their liturgy (the ’79 BCP with the modern Roman offertory and a hybrid Roman Canon) will be used. For a traditional Anglo-Papalist this would be quite the sea change.

    That said, I wish it were otherwise, and particularly in the Philadelphia area. But to the best of my knowledge the only local sign of a proto-Ordinariate is a former Episcopalian clergyman who is permitted to read Evensong on Sunday evenings in a local Roman Catholic church.

  6. Paul Goings permalink
    February 14, 2011

    I see that Fr Len Black of Inverness has announced his intention to enter the Ordinariate at the end of June. To the best of my knowledge, this will be the first of the Guardians of the Shrine of Our Lady of Clemency to do so. If ordained he would then be the first Roman Catholic clergyman to serve as one of the Guardians.

    • Conchúr permalink
      February 22, 2011

      Another Scottish Episcopalian priest who will be entering the Ordinariate, Fr Andrew Crosbie, has stated elsewhere that Fr Black has gotten the thumbs up from the CDF so there is no question of “if” with regards to his ordination.

      On the question of an American Ordinariate, again there is no “if” about it. Cardinal Wuerl was being deliberately coy in that interview as despite it appearing in late January it was, I believe given in December, before all initial submissions for entry into the Ordinariate had been received (the date for final submission being Dec 31st). Collation of the information received was scheduled to begin in January (and indeed has) but it has been slower than anticipated simply because; according to +Wuerl’s assistant on the project Fr Scott Hurd; they are actually still receiving submissions.

      This link shows all the parishes, missions and groups so far who have publicly declared their intention to avail of Anglicanorum coetibus in the UK, Canada and the USA :,-95.625&spn=103.567351,140.625&z=1&source=embed

      There are many more that have yet to declare themselves publicly for a variety of reasons. In the worst case scenario the US Ordinariate will still be at least the same size as the largest of the current US Continuing groups, the ACC.

      • Paul Goings permalink
        February 26, 2011

        On the question of an American Ordinariate, again there is no “if” about it.

        I wonder if this is so. I am certainly familiar with the map that you link to, but I am reminded of the saying about wishes and horses. Of course at this stage anyone can declare that they are preparing to enter the to-be-erected Ordinariate, and this will get you endless plaudits on Mr Campbell’s ‘blog. However, when the liturgy and the list of who will be ordained is handed down I will be beyond amazed if a majority of the “pins” on Mr Campbell’s map stay in place. That said, I’ve been wrong about plenty of things before in my life, and this wouldn’t be the last.

        As I said before, if one is prepared to embrace what now comprises the Anglican Use, and you have a man who is capable of being ordained, then you will be able to join the fledgling American Ordinariate. And I suspect that it’s that latter issue which will cause the greatest difficulty. When the English Ordinariate was erected the C.D.F. was dealing with men who were lifelong Anglicans, whose names were followed by M.A. Oxon. and Cantab. Here in the U.S. they’ll be dealing with the formerly Orthodox Presbyterian, formerly Presbyterian, formerly Baptist, Fr William “Doc” Holiday (no, really, that’s what he calls himself), the formerly evangelical Anglican, formerly Presbyterianglican [sic], formerly high Church puritan, formerly reformed Presbyterian, formerly Presbyterian, formerly reformed Baptist, formerly Baptist, Fr Chori Seraiah, and of course Dr David Moyer, who seemingly has more ecclesiastical allegiances than I have pairs of pants, and a lawsuit in progress to go along with each of them. If I were Dr Wuerl I’d be coy too!

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