One man’s reflections on the Ordinariate after the first five years – Part 2: The Ordinariate(s), an ecclesial movement – the status quo

In Part 1 of this essay I identified maintaining, celebrating and sharing the Anglican patrimony within the framework of the New Evangelisation as the principal elements of the mission of the Personal Ordinariate(s), as defined by the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

It is worthwhile to look again at the current structure of the Ordinariates, in particular the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom, to recognise how and whether this mission is being achieved and as a basis for some reflections on possible perspectives for the future.

In early 2014 Fr. Scott Anderson and I attempted on this blog and elsewhere to classify the various types of Ordinariate communities and subsequently we looked at the different forms of Ordinariate adherence, which goes beyond the full membership provided for by the Apostolic Constitution. At the time we identified five different types of Ordinariate group (the unofficial figures given are for 2013):

  • Type 1: The “Once-a-month” Group, meeting for liturgy, maybe plus catechesis and fellowship, mostly very small and often from a wide catchment area (12 groups)
  • Type 2: The “Once-a-week” Group, meeting mostly with a non-resident priest for liturgy, maybe plus catechesis and fellowship (4 groups)
  • Type 3: The “Church-sharing” Group, a fully-functioning community with its own clergy and activities, but sharing facilities with a diocesan parish (21 groups, but not all groups have separate liturgies or are active seven days a week)
  • Type 4: The “Ordinariate-led territorial parish”, where the Ordinariate or an Ordinariate priest has the pastoral care of a diocesan parish or mass centre (8 parishes)
  • Type 5: The “Ordinariate personal parish (or quasi-parish)”, where the Ordinariate is completely independent of the diocesan structure and facilities, although close cooperation with local parishes is recommended (5/6 groups – in the USA and Canada 13 out of ca. 44 groups had their own church and personal parish in 2013)

We have recently observed a tendency for Type 3 groups to be incorporated into a Type 4 constellation with the Ordinariate group pastor being appointed parish priest of a diocesan parish where the Ordinariate group is then hosted. This will often take the form of what Fr. Scott called “church-planting”, aimed at reviving, renewing and building up an otherwise stagnant if not decayinng diocesan parish.

It is clear that the church-sharing group and the personal parish are best suited to fulfil the objectives of maintaining and celebrating the Anglican patrimony. As far as sharing is concerned, the church-sharing group and the Ordinariate-led diocesan parish have this concept built into their stucture. Attention obviously needs to be paid to maximising the sharing potential for a personal parish, as the risk of “ghettoisation” should not be underestimated. And maintaining and celebrating the Anglican patrimony is likely to be more difficult in an Ordinariate-led territorial parish (and to a lesser extent in the church-sharing group), as the majority of churchgoers will be diocesan Catholics. It would be wrong for the Ordinariate to “usurp” the parish, pretending that it is an Ordinariate personal parish. So suitable ways need to be found for Ordinariate group identity to be expressed and nurtured.

With regard to the “once-a” groups, where a group identity as worshipping community is illusory, clearly some rethinking would be advantageous. We have all read the Portal articles about visits to the small groups often with many older members who come together over long distances for occasional Sunday worship. The frustration or resignation recognisable in the comments of group members and pastors and the despair we are likely to feel when reading them are the result of a premise that every Ordinariate group should really be functioning like a personal parish (even if in miniature) and that growth is the primary measure of success. This premise is not only unfortunate but in my opinion questionable.

That is one of the reasons why I believe that it is worthwhile and in fact timely to look more carefully at the question of Ordinariate adherence. The full membership provided for in Anglicanorum coetibus is clearly directed at fully-functioning groups of Anglicans with their locally resident pastors, as the name of the Apostolic Constitution (“groups of Anglicans”) implies. This is clearly the case for members of a personal parish, also perhaps for the church-sharing group. The practicalities of keeping two sets of registers, dividing collections on an equitable basis, deciding whether to enrol newly baptised or received Catholics into the Ordinariate or the diocesan parish, the question of eligibility to hold offices in the parish or to vote make full Ordinariate membership within the territorial parish situation decidedly problematic.

The only type of adherence to the Ordinariates foreseen in the Apostolic Constitution is full ecclesial membership of the Personal Ordinariate, involving (not always overtly expressed) exmatriculation from the Diocese. An Ordinariate member may live and worship in a diocesan parish but is excluded from voting in parish elections and holding office in the parish. An Ordinariate member who enters a religious order outside the Ordinariate ceases to be a member of the Ordinariate.

The past five years have shown us that this formal full membership is not sufficient to identify the various ways of adhering to the Ordinariate movement or idea. In practice the following forms of adherence have developed, mainly unilaterally in one or other of the Ordinariates:

  • “Friends of the Ordinariate”, a group of supporters of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham including cradle Catholics and former Anglicans who are unable or unwilling to enter the Ordinariate formally but who wish to support the Ordinariate, mainly financially
  • The “Ordinariate Supporters’ Network” in Australia, referred to as “the wider Ordinariate family, including those who choose to worship in non-Ordinariate parishes or who cannot attend an Ordinariate parish but still wish be associated with the Ordinariate of Our Lady of The Southern Cross” (see the Ordinariate website)
  • The “Sodality of Our Lady of the Southern Cross”, an Ordinariate-oriented group within a diocesan parish (currently there is only one, in suburban Melbourne) which meets for regular devotions including the Ordinariate divine office and is particularly intended for former Anglicans but is open to all in the parish (not to be confused with the Canadian “Sodalities”, which are fully- fledged Ordinariate groups)
  • The “Ordinariate Support Group for Expats in Europe” of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, originally intended to be a home-from-home for members of all three Ordinariates living in the diaspora of Europe outside the UK but whose remit has been extended to include all Ordinariate supporters in Europe (expat or not), whether former Anglicans or other Protestants or cradle Catholics and which currently has adherents in nine European countries from Ireland via Portugal to Russia (perhaps the time has come to remove the words “for Expats” from the name of the group)
  • “Affiliate priests” of the Friends of the Ordinariate – these are Catholic diocesan priests, whether former Anglicans or not, who support the Ordinariate
  • “Associate members”, a concept developed in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter to incorporate cradle Catholics worshipping in Ordinariate parishes more fully into Ordinariate life – this was particularly important when former Pastoral Provision parishes entered the Ordinariate, as in these parishes all parishioners had the same status, whether former Anglicans or not

The Anglican Use Society, now Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, while not being an official church body, also offers “Associate Membership” to Anglicans who wish to identify with the Anglican Use movement (Pastoral Provision and Ordinariate) and has played a significant role in supporting many during their discernment process.

These attempts at providing ways of supporting the Ordinariate(s) or the Anglican Use idea show that in practice the Ordinariates are now far more than ecclesial circumscriptions but rather constitute a new movement within the Church, albeit in its infancy. If we recognise this fact it means that our strategy should make official and formal (and preferably movement-wide) provision for the various forms of adherence and develop methods of pastoring or integrating these groups and individuals that make up the movement.

As a contribution to the strategy discussions which are already taking place in each Ordinariate, I shall offer some of my ideas regarding future perspectives in Part 3 of this essay.

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