Snapdragon: The Tools to do the Job

This month’s The Portal publishes an article by “Snapdragon” (I wish I knew who he/she is) which fits well into our recent reflections on the Ordinariates’ need for buildings and financial support. So we are taking the liberty of reposting the article here:

The tools to do the job

Being a ‘lodger’ can be difficult. Snapdragon makes a suggestion about the Ordinariate and buildings. Towards the end of his state visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, Pope Benedict urged the bishops of England and Wales, in an address to them at Oscott College, to support his project of the Ordinariate.

At that point, it was still just words on paper, but very much in the making. As he spoke, groups of Anglicans were excitedly preparing for their reception into the Catholic Church and thanking God for Pope Benedict’s courageous ecumenical vision.

Several months later, the Ordinariate came into being and its first three priests, Fathers John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, were ordained. A few months later there followed a round of receptions and ordinations. The Ordinariate was well under way, consisting of both laity and clergy.

The following year, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Kingdom, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, made the fledgling Ordinariate top of his agenda when speaking to the bishops; quite a statement in itself, given that there were plenty of other issues for him and the bishops to be grappling with at the time. Archbishop Mennini said to the bishops, “Do please continue to be generous in support of their endeavours.”

It’s pretty safe to assume that a year after the Ordinariate’s birth, the Pope’s man in the UK was conveying a message from his boss that the Ordinariate was something of great importance and to be given the bishops’ full backing. Soon afterwards, a cheque for £150,000 arrived at Ordinariate HQ from the boss himself, on top of the £250,000 already given by the bishops.

The Ordinariate needs buildings

Be generous. Financially, the bishops were very generous (though it doesn’t take long for an institution just setting out to get through £250,000). But I’m sure that the Holy Father was not just asking for money. He was hoping for a generosity of spirit to be shown to those who would accept his invitation and be part of this unprecedented ecumenical project so close to his own heart.

church buildingMoney is just one of the tools that the Ordinariate needs to succeed in the task it was given. It also needs buildings out of which it can engage in its particular mission and in which it can lead a full and distinctive liturgical life. Isn’t that the same as needing money? Not necessarily. The Catholic Church in England and Wales has plenty of buildings, some of which in most areas of the country it could frankly do without. The Ordinariate needs buildings. It’s not, as they say, rocket science.

Some Ordinariate communities have, under various agreements, been given a church building and parish by the local diocese, including the central church in Warwick Street, London. But others, four years down the road, are still lodgers, and feeling frustrated that a limit is being set on the extent to which they are able to realise Pope Benedict’s vision.

As a member of a group that is feeling curbed, I can fully understand why another group would feel the need to break out and take the plunge in buying its own church, but surely with a bit of generosity of spirit and a measure of common sense, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Yes, we didn’t come in droves; no, we are not as big numerically as we had hoped to be. But Pope Benedict’s plan was more imaginative and visionary than simply getting as many Anglicans into the Catholic Church as possible.

Even a modest number of small and fragile Ordinariate communities living the Catholic life in a distinctively ‘best of Anglican’ way can realise the Holy Father’s ambition of a Catholic unity that celebrates diversity. If, that is, there’s a generosity of spirit to give them the tools they need to do the job.

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