Fr. James Bradley replies to Professor Bullivant

The beauty of Ordinariate liturgy can help Anglicans embrace Catholicism

Liturgy and ecumenism go hand in hand, as Vatican II’s documents demonstrate

by Fr James Bradley
Catholic Herald blog, Wednesday, 16 Nov 2016

Mgr Keith Newton at a Solemn Evensong in 2012 to celebrate the Ordinariate's first anniversary (mazur/

Mgr Keith Newton at a Solemn Evensong in 2012 to celebrate the Ordinariate’s first anniversary (mazur/

Professor Stephen Bullivant’s excellent article on Ordinariate worship and the “the real spirit of Vatican II” has been well-received by those of us involved with the Ordinariate. It is gratifying to read of his enthusiasm for an experience of the Roman rite that is at once numinous and faithful to the Western liturgical tradition, and at the same time open to authentic participation on the part of the faithful.

It’s also encouraging that Prof Bullivant has found in Divine Worship, the liturgical form proper to the Ordinariates, a manifestation of the sort of liturgical renewal articulated by Vatican II. In their codification of Anglican liturgical texts and ritual practices, the Anglicanæ traditiones commission was inevitably guided by the council’s principles for liturgical reform.

But I would take Prof Bullivant’s argument a stage further. Divine Worship follows Vatican II in more ways than one. It not only embodies the council’s liturgical principles, but also its teachings on ecumenism and church structures.

Firstly, then, the ecumenical vision of the council. As I have argued elsewhere, the chief purpose of Divine Worship is the maintenance of the Anglican patrimony in the Catholic Church. The Divine Worship missal, in its own words, “gives expression to and preserves for Catholic worship the worthy Anglican liturgical patrimony, understood as that which has nourished the Catholic faith throughout the history of the Anglican tradition and prompted aspirations towards ecclesial unity”.

This is, to my mind, an embodiment not of liturgical but ecumenical principles. And a close reading of the conciliar documents shows that these two ideas are often held in tandem. For example, the decree on ecumenism has numerous references to the sacred liturgy. Of ecclesial communities separated from the full communion of the Catholic Church it states: “The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation” (UR 3).

And, again: “their form of worship sometimes displays notable features of the liturgy which they shared with us of old” (UR 23). Still more: “this Sacred Council solemnly repeats the declaration of previous Councils and Roman Pontiffs, that for the restoration or the maintenance of unity and communion it is necessary ‘to impose no burden beyond what is essential’” (UR 18).

Surely the provision of distinctive liturgical rites in the form of Divine Worship is, in the wider context of the personal Ordinariates, a beautiful embodiment of this principle for those Anglicans who, as Ad gentes would have it, might otherwise be “kept away from embracing the Catholic Faith because they cannot adapt themselves to the peculiar form which the Church has taken in [their region]” (AG 21).

Secondly, the new structural flexibility proposed by Vatican II. The council sought to provide new structural means for the care of the faithful in particular circumstances. Indeed the decree on the life and ministry of priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, suggests that the better distribution of priests might be served by “special personal dioceses or prelatures” (PO 10). And whilst this might be more closely applied to personal prelatures and structures like the Mission de France, it is not entirely unrelated to personal Ordinariates.

During the drafting of Unitatis redintegratio Archbishop Šeper, who as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would later oversee the Pastoral Provision for Anglicans in the 1980s, spoke of maintaining the structural integrity of the Oriental Churches should communion be achieved: “Provided they accept the primacy, they should be allowed to keep the structure which they have now … There should be no Latinization, especially in liturgical matters.” It is not hard to see how this principle was carried through first to the Pastoral Provision and, now, the Ordinariates.

And so if this distinctive liturgical life is essential to the purpose of the personal Ordinariates, it is also related to its structure; one makes sense of the other. Neither our distinctive liturgy nor churches set aside for our life are intended to be rare, but the norm.

Archbishop Augustine Di Noia has said: “The manner in which an ecclesial community worships uniquely expresses its inner life.” We might add: the manner in which an ecclesial community is structured expresses the authenticity of its mission and worship.

So I would join Prof Bullivant in encouraging all Catholics to discover the rich Anglican liturgical patrimony now happily at home in the communities of the Ordinariate. At the same time I would say to them: encourage the Ordinariates to bring about a clearer articulation of this vision: one that sees the Church’s liturgy and structures oriented toward the same end. In this way not only will the liturgical life of the Church be enriched, but her unity will be more fully articulated: a prophetic sign of the fulfilment of Kingdom of God.

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4 Responses to Fr. James Bradley replies to Professor Bullivant

  1. EPMS says:

    “Neither our distinctive liturgy nor churches set aside for our life are intended to be rare, but the norm.” It is unfortunate that the latter does seem to be rare in the OOLW, but changing this will no doubt be an expensive and difficult proposition. A distinctive liturgy is also rare in the OOLW, and this not because of external circumstances, but by choice. While I understand the history, it seems a difficult decision to front for. The decision not to create a modern language DW liturgy compounds the problem, in my estimation. Perhaps amphibian entities like Precious Blood, Borough will be the best method of carrying on the project, under current conditions.

    • I think it is fair to say, EPMS, that the use of Divine Worship: The Missal is not nearly so rare in the UK as it was only a year ago. Most groups have at least one Divine Worship Mass a month, many every week and quite a few use only the Divine Worship Missal. When the Ordinariate meets nationally or regionally, it is now Divine Worship which is celebrated. But there are perhaps some sensible revisions which may need to come in time. (The long Thanksgiving prayer, for example, could perhaps do with shortening, at least for weekday Masses)- And I have always been in favour of a modern language version of the Divine Worship Mass, incorporating the distinctve elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony into a revised Ordinary Form.

      • EPMS says:

        Yes, I recall your cogent posts on the subject of a modern language rite. The idea that DW is now cast in stone is troubling to me, given the circumstances of its creation. But without something distinctive in the liturgical line I think that the OOLW makes its case unnecessarily difficult.

  2. EPMS says:

    Looking, in my plodding way, through the 50+ listings on the OOLW website I can see that about half mention the Ordinariate rite. Clearly there has been encouragement to include it in the schedule, even if only on a weekday. And of course some groups are exclusively DW. As usual I come away marvelling at how effectively some groups use the internet to present complete, up-to-date information in a way attractive to seeker and current member alike, while others are content with the “phone for details” template message created when the OOLW website was created. One group had a link to their individual website, where I was greeted with “Happy New Year 2013!” What is the message here?

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