Fr. Ashley Beck writes on the Ordinariate in The Tablet

It is coincidental that two articles should appear almost simultaneously referring to the difficulties that many  former Anglicans who crossed the Tiber some years ago had with the establishment of the Ordinariates in 2009. While Professor Richard Upsher Smith’s article makes a clear and very eloquent case for the enrichening of the Church by welcoming significant elements from Anglicanism, this article by Fr Ashley Beck stresses more the reservations (which he admittedly says “needed to be set aside”) and the need for the Ordinariate to be “integrated” into the Church, which unfortunately sounds very much like “assimilated”. It should be pointed out that, unlike Fr Beck would seem to suggest, there was indeed a significant number of Anglo-Catholics, led by former Bishop of London Dr. Graham Leonard, who had negotiated some twenty years ago for a provision very much like the Ordinariate, where Anglican patrimony including liturgy would be brought into the Catholic Church, and that at the time it had been the Catholics who had rejected this initiative. A very useful source of contemporary information is Dr. William Oddie’s book “The Roman Option” of 1997.

David Murphy

Ordinariate needs to integrate into the Church
10 April 2015 by Fr Ashley Beck

This week The Tablet reports that the Ordinariate for former Anglicans has reinstated one of its priests, Fr Donald Minchew, who had been suspended for entering a civil partnership to help an immigrant remain in the UK. Such scandals should not be the group’s chief concern – integration should be, says a senior priest who has made the transition from Anglican to Catholic

Father Ashley Beck

Father Ashley Beck

It is more than 20 years since a significant number of Anglican clergy and laypeople became Catholics at roughly the same time; it is also over four years since Pope Benedict XVI established the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I was in the former category.

I recall vividly from the mid-1990s the warmth of the welcome we received in the Catholic Church. One group who might have found it hard to be positive towards people like me who were married and destined to be priests were men who had left active ministry and got married, but we found nothing but kindness.

People affirmed our past and made use of our experience. We did not wish to bring with us Anglican liturgical traditions. Most of us said the Divine Office and used the Roman Missal. The Catholic bishops knew this and our background was reflected in our formation, which at least in the Diocese of Southwark took about two years. This was a good thing: many of us were emotionally exhausted by the time we became Catholics, and we had to get used to our new parishioners and fellow clergy. Because of incardination there is a different feel about a Catholic diocese compared to an Anglican one, and we felt we were joining a family.

We didn’t yearn for anything else. Therefore the different model introduced by the establishment by Benedict XVI of the Ordinariate in 2011 was a challenge. At the time I felt particularly annoyed by suggestions that the Church had got it wrong back in the 1990s, and that we had not been welcomed, together with claims (not borne out by evidence since) that setting this structure up would then bring more people into the Church. Moreover, I was bewildered at the distinct liturgical identity which the Ordinariate has had. People seemed wedded to formularies which most of us had avoided as Anglicans as much as we could. Clergy were also ordained much more quickly.

These reservations needed to be set aside. In my parish we prepared a small group from a local Anglican church for reception into the Ordinariate, alongside a small group on non-Catholics who had been coming to Mass, and this worked well. What I saw was that what matters for people interested in the Ordinariate, as it did for people like me earlier, is the destination rather than the starting point.

What is important is that the Ordinariate is integrated into the life of the Church, and this can be done through clergy formation. I run the academic formation of men training to be permanent deacons for most of the dioceses of southern England and Wales, and we now include in our formation community some outstanding Ordinariate students, and an Ordinariate priest is a committed member of our formation team.

This has enriched our group and the new deacons will minister both to Ordinariate communities and diocesan parishes. As the Ordinariate becomes more part of the Church, it will inevitably have to face difficult or scandalous news stories concerning its members, such as the case of Fr Minchew, just like any diocese or religious order.

Looking at both models for receiving Anglicans into the Church – and the route I followed is still possible – we can perhaps see more clearly in humility the different ways in which the unity of Christ’s Body on earth can be deepened.

(Fr Ashley Beck is Assistant Priest of Beckenham, Kent, and Dean of Studies of the Diaconate Formation Programme for eight dioceses and the ordinariate. He is also a lecturer in pastoral ministry at St Mary’s University, Twickenham)

– Hattip to EPMS

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2 Responses to Fr. Ashley Beck writes on the Ordinariate in The Tablet

  1. godfrey1099 says:

    To me, it sounds a little like the ‘workers in the vineyard’ dilemma. Certainly, it was much harder in the 1990s. Now, you do not have to swim any more (and swim alone), as there is a comfortable bridge across the Tiber (and you can walk in a group). But certainly we do not want to demolish the bridge to make it harder again, do we?

    • EPMS says:

      I do not think Fr Beck was complaining that his path was more onerous; in fact he seems to have found the longer formation time gave him a respite from the “emotional exhaustion” of the leaving the CofE. What he is having difficulty with is the emphasis on Anglican liturgical traditions which he clearly regards himself as well shot of, and the implication, “not borne out by evidence since”, that these elements of Anglican Patrimony “would bring more people into the Church” than the way things were done in the 90s. The implication is that AC has created more problems than it solved, despite the rather pro forma “God works in a mysterious way” closing.

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