Monsignor Barnes visits Hemel Hempstead

Just a few days after we posted Fr. Scott Anderson’s article on the Hemel Hempstead Ordinariate group, Mgr Edwin Barnes has continued the story on his own blog:


A fragment of farmland within a half mile of  Hemel's estates

A fragment of farmland within a half mile of Hemel’s estates

Hemel Hempstead was once a small market town set in rural Hertfordshire. Then the planners came along, London spilled over, and the result is the New Town. The Catholic Church has a considerable presence despite a shortage of priests, and the Ordinariate shares the Parish Church of St Mark, a Church within a Catholic secondary school. The Group has had a tough time, since for the past two years it has been without its own pastor. They have even bought a house for their priest – yet still they await an appointment. There has been a succession of priests helping out. Today, and on one or two Sundays each month, Fr Anthony Homer commutes in from Central London to celebrate their 8.45am Mass.

After Mass

After Mass

It was a great pleasure for me to be able to concelebrate with Fr Anthony, and then with my wife to meet members of the Group – many of them old friends from our time in St Albans, when we often went over to St Francis’, Hammerfield, the former Anglican home of many in the Group. As in Bournemouth, refreshments after Mass provide part of the clue to how such a Group holds together. They know one another very well, and are supportive of everyone.

A classroom in not an ideal meeting-place; but better than nowhere

A classroom in not an ideal meeting-place; but better than nowhere

Brian Cox is Chair of the Group’s Council, and despite a cataract operation earlier in the week was present to introduce the Novena which our Ordinary is asking us all to support. Mgr Keith visited Hammerfield a week ago; but had no further news about a permanent Ordinariate priest for them. There are former Anglican priests on the way to Ordination within the Catholic Church; but there seems to be some resistance to ordaining individual priests for the Ordinariate – instead they are expected to go down the ‘ordinary’ (that is to say Diocesan) route.

Unless there is a relaxation in this insistence, the Ordinariate is doomed to die out within a generation and Pope Benedict’s vision will have been frustrated.. Surely the Ordinariate must be able to produce and ordain its own men? The argument appears to be that Anglicanorum Coetibus was designed for Groups of Anglicans. So it was. But individuals can join, and that needs to include Anglican clergy who may, or may not, be accompanied by other lay people. There are Groups without priests. There are Anglican clergy seeking a ministry within the Catholic Church. Where is the problem?

Pray for the Hemel Ordinariate

Pray for the Hemel Ordinariate

My comment:

I quite agree with Monsignor Barnes regarding ordaining individual priests and have written on this subject before.

Surely each former Anglican priest is received into the Catholic Church as a layman and becomes a member of the Ordinariate by choice. This is one of the normal routes specifically foreseen by the Apostolic Constitution and the Complementary Norms. What sense does it make for a member of the Ordinariate to be forced to become a priest in a diocese to which he does not belong? He can naturally request to be ordained in the circumscription of which he is a member. This is also the usual way of proceeding in the Catholic Church. Does the bishop of Diocese X refuse a prospective candidate for the priesthood because a neighbouring diocese is finding it difficult to find candidates? And does the Bishops’ Conference expect that he should?

As Mgr Barnes stated, the need is great in the Ordinariate. Many of the Ordinariate’s priests are approaching or beyond retirement age. They will not remain in this life forever, meaning that that need will become more and more pressing year by year.

I cannot really understand the Bishops’ Conferences. Many Ordinariate priests are working in the dioceses, manning posts which would otherwise be vacant (as priests in charge of parishes, diocesan officials, chaplains, etc.) – and the bishops are profiting greatly from that, but that does not seem to be enough for them. They now want to refuse to allow the Ordinariate to ordain its own members as priests.

Just out of interest, the Apostolic Constitution also provides for individual former Anglicans who joined the Catholic Church previously to elect to join the Ordinariate. Laypeople do not even need their bishop’s consent. And incardination of former Anglican and now Catholic priests is also specifically foreseen. I wonder how many diocesan bishops would be willing to consent to such requests for excardination from their dioceses?

David Murphy

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5 Responses to Monsignor Barnes visits Hemel Hempstead

  1. EPMS says:

    If the USCCB adopted the same policy, most of those recently ordained for the OCSP would have been referred to the Pastoral Provision office instead. The difference seems to be that ordinations under the Pastoral Provision have always been rare—indeed there is a formal limit of two active PP priests per diocese—whereas the UK Church seems to have become dependant on a steady inflow of former Anglican priests to maintain its regular ministries. I agree that the future of the OOLW is in peril without a fresh supply of ordinands, but this is probably of little concern to the diocesan bishops. Technically they would seem to be accurate about AC, which I think envisions whole or substantial portions of parishes led by their former clergy, subsequently generating vocations from within those Ordinariate groups. Otherwise it becomes a boutique operation making disproportionate demands on a limited supply of manpower.

    • The first mention of this reticence on the part of the bishops did in fact come from the States – ordination candidates without groups should only be ordained through the Pastoral Provision.

      And as for the “group” question, the Pastoral Provision itself was intended for groups, and look what they have made out of it. The direct quotation from Cardinal Seper’s letter of July 22, 1980 establishing the Pastoral Provision is “… a statute or ‘pastoral provision’ which provides for a ‘common identity’ for the group”.

  2. EPMS says:

    Fr Phillips makes some interesting comments on this subject at the end of this post:

    • And Fr. Jack Barker explains some of the misunderstandings regarding the Pastoral Provision at the beginning of his article on the “Early History of the Anglican Use” , where he writes: “A great deal of attention was given to the idea that some married Episcopal priests could become Roman Catholic priests and retain their wives and the married life. The possible effects of this decree are of far greater historical consequence than merely the issue of married priests.”

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