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Colloquium on Anglican Patrimony in light of the Apostolic Constitution: A Canon Law Perspective

After class on Friday, my professor and I walked down the hill from the Angelicum to the Anglican Centre in Rome to join a group of canon lawyers from the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church engage in a presentation and a conversation on the nature of Anglican Patrimony in light of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

In the wake of the 2009 apostolic constitution making provision for the establishment of personal ordinariates, questions have been raised about the exact nature of the “Anglican Patrimony” which is named in the text of the constitution and its appended general norms. Cardinal Levada’s answer to the inquiring Anglicans was, “we are hoping you can tell us!” To begin answering that question, the Anglican Centre in Rome is coordinating a series of meetings this year on the theme Anglican Patrimony in light of Anglicanorum Coetibus.

There were 22 participants in the workshop: Three lay women, four lay men, and fifteen priests – Most of the participants were members of the standing colloquium of Anglican and Catholic canonists, who chose to have their annual meeting in conjunction with this workshop.

Questions raised and observations made included the following:

What exactly is “patrimony”? Canonically the term is used in the Latin code only in reference to the charism of religious orders and the particular customs of local churches in the formation of priests. In the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, it more clearly refers to the liturgy, theology, spirituality, and discipline of a particular church (CCEO 28, 39, 405). If the model of religious order charism is an example, it was noted by a Franciscan friar present that it took Clare 40 years to get the rule she wanted approved by Rome, a constant give and take, debate and discussion between the founder’s vision and the hierarchy’s presumptions – and we are only 16 months from the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution and six weeks from the establishment of the first actual Ordinariate. We may not know for some time what this received Anglican Patrimony will actually be.

There was some discussion that the ordinariates are apparently not limited to Anglicans and former Anglicans. [Though, in rereading the text, it does seem to be limited] Indeed, many of the traditionalist Anglicans attracted to it are former Catholics – canonically still considered Catholic by the Latin code. But does this mean that Lutherans, Baptists, et al. can join the Catholic Church as part of the Ordinariate? What/who defines an “Anglican group” that can corporately join the Ordinariate? Four of the provinces of the Anglican Communion are in fact united churches, local ecumenical unions between Anglicans, Reformed, and other denominations. Could a Presbyterian elder of one of these united churches join and become an Anglican Ordinariate priest? Many of these members of united churches are part of the Anglican Communion but do not think of themselves as Anglican.

Why was the model of the pastoral provision not simply adopted more widely? (Where personal parishes would be set up allowing for use of Anglican rites and lead by former Anglican clergy) In this case it was thought that the patrimony would not be sufficiently preserved, and Pope Benedict finds the Anglican patrimony to be worthy of preservation within the Catholics Church, not just by the Anglican Communion. (This observation lead to an entire conversation about the locus and determiners of Anglican patrimony).

What would be the approved liturgical use in the Ordinariate, and would this be up to each Ordinariate individually? Someone had heard the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which had been approved for use by the Episcopal Church in the US but rejected by Parliament for use by the Church of England, would be the model. This was unconfirmed, and others noted that most Anglo-Catholics, in England especially, are already using the Roman rite anyway and would likely continue to do so.

This lead to the speculation that there could be an Anglican Ordinariate in which no particularly Anglican Eucharistic rite was celebrated, somewhat ironic when one considers that most people probably think of Anglican patrimony in primarily liturgical terms.

Why not establish an Anglican Catholic Church sui iuris, like the Eastern Catholic Churches? The thought here was the mention in the constitution of seeing the Anglican Church as a particular expression of the Latin Church, its rites as variation of the Roman rite – as well as not wanting to do any more to appear to be bringing back uniatism as a form of ecumenism, something which has been rejected by the Catholic Church in its agreements with the Orthodox.

Since the Anglican Communion officially recognizes two sacraments, how will the other five be celebrated in an Anglican Ordinariate, since the Catholics Church accepts seven? This question was ‘corrected’ as someone else noted that the Anglicans do, in fact, recognize all seven sacraments and both churches, as agreed in ARCIC I, recognize a hierarchy of sacraments – the two dominical sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist holding a pride of place among the seven sacramental acts, for both churches, though this is expressed differently in parts of the Anglican Communion than others.

Candidacy for ordination, in the personal ordinariates, will be determined by the Governing Council – but this is neither Catholic nor Anglican, for both communions currently put this decision in the hands of the ordaining bishop, though with appropriate consultation.

Some noted that there had been popular speculation that the exception to celibacy would only be granted pro tempore, however, this would have been made clear in the text if that was the intent. Each will be appealed on a case by case basis, as celibacy remains the ideal for those who were not already ordained in the Anglican church, but it remains a real, practical possibility.  

Married bishops are a part of Anglican Patrimony, based on scripture, yet the Official Commentary on the Apostolic Constitution, written by Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Rector emeritus of the Gregorian, has “absolutely excluded” the possibility of married bishops “given the entire Catholic Latin tradition and the tradition of the Oriental Catholic Churches, including the Orthodox tradition…” The VIS communiqué on 15 January announcing the erection of the first Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales, went so far as to say, “For doctrinal reasons the Church does not, in any circumstances, allow the ordination of married men as bishops.”

Given all of that, the question was asked, how much a part of the Anglican patrimony are married bishops, and what reasons could there be to exclude them? It was noted that despite the VIS announcement, there are no doctrinal reasons for not ordaining married men to the episcopate, only disciplinary reasons. It is suspected, given the wording of Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary, that this could be out of ecumenical concern for our relations with the East – but also noted that the traditions of Latin and Eastern and Oriental churches have always differed, and the Orthodox would likely not be concerned whether we had a different discipline in the West vis a vis married bishops or not. Strangest of all, some noted, was that though the married former Anglican bishops would only be ordained to the presbyterate, especially those serving as ordinary are still allowed the use of pontificals, the symbols of episcopal office such as the pectoral cross and ring.

What will the role of priest’s wives be in the Ordinariate, if any? What role do Anglican clergy spouses have now? This varies in the Anglican Communion, depending on the cultural context, and would likely vary as well in the Ordinariates.  In some places the priests wife is treated as the ‘first lady’ of the parish, and the bishops wife even called “mama bishop” and treated as the first among these. In others, they have no role unless they are also a theologian or minister in the church, or volunteer like any other parishioner.

Final comments came from two Anglicans. The first shared that he had initially thought this “pastoral response” was anything but ecumenical, but as he reflected on it, the idea formed that the Anglican patrimony to be received by the Catholic Church in the Ordinariates was the people themselves. In this way, by receiving them, we are receiving some part of Anglicanism, and this may eventually turn out to be one more way in which the ground was prepared for the full-scale reception of each other in full communion down the road.

The other, who also stated considerable concern, shared that he was afraid that this would in fact have some rather negative ecumenical results, again by reason of the people received through the Ordinariate – the Anglicans may be all to happy to see them go, and he fears we Catholics may not be all that happy to receive them, once we get to know them!

On that note, we broke for drinks.

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