One man’s reflections on the Ordinariate after the first five years – Part 3: The Ordinariate(s) as an ecclesial movement – some possible perspectives

The analysis I have made in the first two parts of this essay concerning the mission and organisational structure of the Ordinariate movement naturally poses the question of suitable stategies for the future and solutions to the problems which have arisen.

In all humility I should like to use this third part to make some suggestions as a contribution to the current strategy debate. Being a diaspora Ordinaries my comments do not necessarily come from first-hand experience at the front line, so to speak. I believe, however, that through my communications activities I have a better overview that most people of the situation of the Ordinariates worldwide and of a large number of individual Ordinariate communities. Any suggestions I make are the result of a long process of analysis and exchange with Ordinariate clergy, lay members and friends.

My first concern is the clarification of Ordinariate adherence. Basically we have identified four ways of participating in the Ordinariate(s). They are

  1. full Ordinariate membership, as defined in Anglicanorum coetibus
  2. associate membership
  3. affiliation and
  4. support without a membership commitment

In my view this adherence structure is well suited to cover the wide variety of forms of involvement with the Ordinariates and should be formalised.

  1. Full membership is most suitable for members of Ordinariate personal parishes and church-sharing groups. These communities should have a clear ecclesial constitution as parishes or quasi-parishes of the Ordinariate and should carry the name of a patron Saint, as is the standard practice in North America. Parishioners in Ordinariate-led diocesan parishes as well as diaspora Ordinarians (members of “once-a” groups and lone individuals), whilst naturally being able to be full members of the Ordinariate, might be encouraged to opt for membership of the diocese while they worship and participate in a diocesan parish.
  2. Associate membership should be available for all those who officially belong to jurisdictions outside the Ordinariate (dioceses or religious orders) but who would like to be very closely involved in Ordinariate activities, incurring most of the rights of full Ordinariate members. These may include, for example, parishioners in Ordinariate communities who are not eligible for full membership, members of religious orders who come from the Ordinariate and wish to maintain a close relationship, those persons mentioned in point 1 whose reason for not being a full member is the fact that their main sphere of parish involvement is in the diocesan context.
  3. All those who, whether eligible or not for full membership, would like to understand their Ordinariate involvement much as that in an ecclesial movement, e.g. Focolari, Sant’ Egidio, Comunione e Liberazione, even Opus Dei or Secular Third Orders and Benedictine Oblates. I shall call these persons “Affiliates” for the sake of this essay. A great deal of thought would need to go into organising this movement, with local “cells” (maybe called sodalities or fellowships) and means of communication with and involvement of more outlying Affiliates. Many of the current supporters (e.g. in Europe) and priests affiliate may wish to join the movement as Affiliates. There would seem to be no reason why interested non-Catholics might not also be attached to these local cells of the movement.
  4. All other people who might be interested in supporting the Ordinariate, especially financially, without otherwise involving themselves in Ordinariate activities, could be known as “Supporters” or “Friends” of the Ordinariate.

(Perhaps for the sake of simplicity one might consider eliminating the category of Affiliates, giving them all Associate member status, but I suspect that there are many who would hesitate in making this kind of commitment.)

As a consequence of this restructuring of Ordinariate adherence there would seem to me to be basically be two different kinds of Ordinariate group:

  1. the Ordinariate parish or quasi-parish and
  2. the Cell of the Ordinariate movement

and each of these groups might consist of a combination of full members, associate members and affiliates. The difference between the two would be that the Ordinariate parish would be the principal place of worship and engagement of the members concerned, whereas in all other kinds of cells of the movement the persons concerned would be primarily diocesan parishioners and the Ordinariate cell would be an association or group within the parish or embracing members from several parishes,

The current once-a groups, the Sodality of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, the Support group in Europe, maybe the Supporters’ Network and even the Ordinariate group within an Ordinariate-led diocesan parish might profitably all function as cells of the movement, some of them being “virtual” cells grouping individuals and mini-groups living in the diaspora.

The ethos of such a cell and the expectations made of them would be very different from those of the Ordinariate worship and apostolate community. If and when critical mass is achieved and assuming that the members wish a deeper level of involvement with the Ordinariate, the cells might develop into an Ordinariate quasi-parish and eventually a parish.

The task of both the parish and the other cells would be to maintain, celebrate, share the Anglican patrimony and engage in the New Evangelisation.

The “missions” to the Church as a whole are an important part of this task of sharing. Much as a Benedictine or Franciscan (with or without his community) can be appointed as a parish priest of a diocesan parish, where he is expected to share with the diocese his particular charisma and spirituality, an Ordinariate priest can be appointed to administer a diocesan parish, accompanied or not by a cell of Ordinarians, who while remaining part of the Ordinariate movement would also attempt to integrate themselves completely into the parish. They might as a cell take over a specific apostolate in the parish, perhaps forming the backbone of a choir or schola or having a particular emphasis in their outreach work. The priest who is not accompanied by a cell from the start, might attempt to form a cell in his parish, in the same way that a Franciscan parish priest would encourage the formation of a Third Order group (or “Secular Franciscans”, as they are now more commonly called). Similarly an Ordinariate priest’s mission to the Church at large may be to work in chaplaincy, or spiritual direction, retreat-giving, etc.

What, you might ask, is the difference between an Anglican priest being incardinated into a diocese and serving in a parish, bringing with him an Anglican way of doing things, as was the norm in the past, and an Ordinariate priest being put in charge of a diocesan parish? To my mind, the difference is fundamental. The ex-Anglican diocesan priest will be expected over time to assimilate himself to the practices of the Catholic Church, to become less obviously Anglican, while the Ordinariate priest, like a religious priest, will be appointed precisely because of his particular charisma, will be expected to maintain and celebrate his spirituality and share it with the parish community.

This is why it is very important that the Ordinariate be allowed to ordain priests even if they do not come into the Church accompanied by a group. The bishops will not tell a religious superior that he is not to ordain a particular man, and so should it be with the Ordinariates.

In conclusion I would state that I believe that as a movement rather than merely a jurisdiction the Ordinariates can flourish, also among cradle Catholics and even Anglicans. There is a dynamism which is suggested by the word “movement”, that picks up and underlines Pope Francis’ call to the Ordinariates: Avanti, go forward.

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