Accounts of the two forays into France which we made this last summer are in the October newsletter of the Friends of the Ordinariate.
They really are quite a remarkable achievement. I don’t mean this in a personal sense, but that their interest lies in the fact that they happened at all. The Ordinariate is new, young, a bit fragile and, we imagine, of limited interest even in the English-speaking world. And yet we received these invitations to spend time in French parishes, talking about the Ordinariate.
Father Scott (Anderson)
Dear Fr. Scott,
Thank you for these reflections on our Ordinariate “Tour de France” this summer.
Like you, I am very enthusiastic about the reception that the Ordinariate is receiving outside of Britain. I think it is true to say that we were both rather sceptical at first, wondering just how much interest there might be in France for the Ordinariate and its mission and that subsequently we were both very pleasantly surprised.
In Aix-les-Bains over a period of twenty-four hours I in fact told the Ordinariate story four times to different groups (at the “Halte spirituelle”, to the priests of the parish and to the two communities of sisters in Pugny-Chatenôd, where Fr. Fernand Portal lived, worked and is buried, the French priest who initiated the Malines Conversations of the 1920’s along with Lord Halifax and Cardinal Mercier).
I suspect that the French view the Anglican-Catholic unity scene much more simply than in the UK. Most of the Anglicans they will have met will be those from an ‘Anglo-Catholic’ background, who have deliberately sought out the Parish Church in the French town or resort where they are on holiday. They will be quite at ease at Mass (even if they do not speak the language) and perhaps even more demonstrative in their participation (genuflection, signs of the cross etc.). To look to the Malines Conversations in the 1920’s – did Cardinal Mercier ever realise that the Church of England he met in Lord Halifax was not the same Church he would have encountered in most of the parishes in England? And do many French Catholics today imagine that Evangelicals and Liberals and Anglo-Catholics can exist within one Christian body, even though their views over sacraments, the Eucharist, priesthood, the Bible – even the very nature of God – are diametrically opposed? Nor are they particularly aware of the painful relationship between the established Church of England and those who continued in communion with the Holy See, the ‘recusants’ and ‘papists’ of British history. Yet this is something which still affects the ecumenical movement in England, as well as the Catholic Church’s self-understanding. There remains a feeling that it is somehow ‘alien’ to British life, and by and large, the Catholic Church still ‘defers’ to the C of E in many areas of national life.
Father Scott (Père Pierre, when I am in Picardy)
Mon cher Père Pierre,
You are indeed right that there is a lack of knowledge of the Church of England, its history, theological situation and its current state.
This is also true concerning the Ordinariates. As you know, in our various activities we have even discovered that there is quite a lack of knowledge – and maybe a few preconceptions – among the European bishops, leading some of them to be rather reticent with regard to the Ordinariates. Significantly both the bishops in France whose agreement we needed to celebrate the Ordinariate Use Mass in Aix were sceptical at first, but as soon as they had heard more about the Ordinariate and had themselves seen the Order of Mass, their reaction was immediately favourable.
In the near future both you and I hope to be speaking to our local bishops and this will be yet another opportunity to spread the word.
During my visit to Grimaud and at the various services I was moved and delighted by the simple pleasure with which the French received the news of unity between the C of E and the wider Catholic Church. And a way of unity is how I presented the Ordinariate, and how they understood it. When I was an Anglican there were two approaches within Anglo-Catholicism. The first understood the C of E as fundamentally part of the Catholic Church. The role of Anglo-Catholics was to get the C of E to accept this, and to reject those liberal and protestant trends which were at odds with its true nature. The second approach (a Scandinavian model perhaps?) was about being a ‘Catholic party’ in the National Church, and thus seeking accommodation to exist alongside the Evangelical and Broad Church ‘parties’. Quite simply, the ordination of women bishops has put an end to the first approach, just as surely as it did for the Methodists when they ordained their ministers without bishops in the 18th century. The failure of the first approach has yet blossomed into the radical move for re-union which is the Ordinariate.
Will write soon
Dear Fr. Scott,
As far as the pleasure is concerned with which the people of Grimaud received your talks, I think it is fair to say that both Aix-les-Bains and Grimaud were particularly predestined to be open for our story (Aix because of Father Portal and also the former Anglican Church of St. Swithun, which served the English community in the 19th century – including on three occasions Queen Victoria herself; and Grimaud because of the many English-speaking tourists on the Côte d’Azur in the summer months as well as the fact that the parish priest is a former Anglican from Wales and priest affiliate of the Ordinariate).
To be honest, I don’t think that we can expect quite the same level of interest everywhere on the Continent.
However, I most certainly share your positive reaction and believe that we should try to encourage similar events elsewhere in future and maybe we should even think about a more pro-active approach, as you recently suggested to me, i.e. participating in the organisation of a more structured conference on the role of the Ordinariates.
Similarly moves to incorporate the Ordinariate into international spiritual gatherings, such as has already been mooted by French friends, should be supported.
Pax et bonum
A couple of weeks ago I had to call EDF, the French electricity company, about my home in Picardy. There are so many British people now living in France that there are dedicated ‘phone lines with English-speaking consultants! These British expats are, surely, of natural concern to the Ordinariate. Some will be Catholics by baptism, others Anglicans who now worship at the Catholic parish church, while others will be of no particular faith. How is pastoral care provided, and how are these people nurtured and evangelised? With the arrival of the Poles in the UK in recent years it has seemed appropriate for Polish priests to work in our parishes, and for Mass and confessions to be provided in their first language. What about the British in Europe?
The Ordinariate has a small but significant role in renewing liturgy, spirituality and congregational life in the UK: perhaps we may see some such role in France. My own impression is that so many of the changes introduced in the wake of Vatican 2 in France now look rather tired. But the older clergy are afraid of a ‘traditionalist’ reaction. Can we demonstrate that the English (Anglo-Catholic) customs of beautiful worship, a wide use of music, ancient and modern, sound preaching, a renewed priesthood – all of this is not at odds with lay dignity and responsibility, (pastoral councils are obligatory for Ordinariate parishes) fresh and welcoming liturgy – and charismatic prayer groups! These things are part of the Anglican patrimony, and therefore present in the Ordinariate.
Am I right to see great things developing from our two Ordinariate events in France this past summer? Only time will tell. But I am filled with hope.
Yours in Christ
Hello again, Father Scott,
Our plans to draw up a database of English-language services in the various dioceses of Europe (beginning with France and Germany) and encourage the provision of English-language pastoral care and liturgy where we identify a need, is already a step in the right direction.
This Friday I shall be attending the Evensong service at St. Lambert’s Church in Münster for the second time and have already made myself known to the choirmaster responsible – we will see how things develop.
Thanks for this exchange, Fr. Scott. As we agreed, I shall share it with our friends on the net. God bless.
P.S. In this context it is interesting to note the brief report on the fifth anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus and interview with Mgr Keith Newton on French Catholic television, KTO. The intro (in French) begins at 8 min 44 and the interview with former ARCHbishop (sic) Newton is at 9 min 42. (By the way both Fr. Scott and I can be seen on the pictures shown during the interview):