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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Anglican Personal Ordinariates

The Holy See has announced a forthcoming Apostolic Constitution which will establish
Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.
The Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specifies that the Apostolic Constitution "provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy" but that Bishops will have to be unmarried men, in accord with the historic tradition of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, the possibility is left open for the Ordinary to be a priest rather than a Bishop.

The "Background Information" given with the note mentions Henry VIII, the growth of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the work of ecumenism. It also says:
In the years since the Council, some Anglicans have abandoned the tradition of conferring Holy Orders only on men by calling women to the priesthood and the episcopacy. More recently, some segments of the Anglican Communion have departed from the common biblical teaching on human sexuality—already clearly stated in the ARCIC document "Life in Christ"—by the ordination of openly homosexual clergy and the blessing of homosexual partnerships. At the same time, as the Anglican Communion faces these new and difficult challenges, the Catholic Church remains fully committed to continuing ecumenical engagement with the Anglican Communion, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
The joint statement from Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Williams focuses particularly on the ecumenical question. This rather cuts both ways. If the new arrangement is "consistent with" (CDF) and "one consequence of" (Nichols/Williams) the ecumenical dialogue of the past forty years, then this is something of a "Summorum Pontificum moment" in that the post-conciliar ecumenical dialogue is seen something that can lead to a canonical structure under the authority of the Holy See. This is consistent with the understanding of Vatican II according to a hermeneutic of continuity but one could be forgiven at some times during the past forty years for thinking that ecumenical dialogue was not actually intended to lead in this direction.

The new structure will, of course, open up the possibility in England of "Anglican Use" Churches in communion with the Holy See, providing a further option for Catholics wishing to fulfil their Sunday obligation.

I am pleased at the news and offer my warmest congratulations to all those Anglicans who have been longing for such an arrangement. I wonder whether the development of the "Anglican Use" ordinariates will help in the recovery of at least some elements of our distinctive English Sarum use that were lost at the Reformation alongside those that were preserved in the Church of England.
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