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Interview: Fr Dwight Longenecker On the Personal Ordinariates for Former Anglicans
By Catholic Online
January 18th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
What interests me is the possibility that in the future these new 'Anglican Catholic' churches might attract significant numbers of non-Anglican Protestants. I know from my experience of Evangelical Christianity that there are many traditional Evangelicals who long for a liturgical, historical and traditional church. They may well find an 'Anglican Catholic' congregation to be an easy way into full communion with the Catholic Church.
GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - The global readership of Catholic Online is very familiar with Fr Dwight Longenecker. He is one of our favorite guest contributors.
We have extensively covered the Ordinariates established through an Apostolic Constitution for Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining much of their patrimony. We caught up with Fr Dwight and asked him a few questions conncerning the Ordinariates. His responses are insightful and inspiring:
Q: Last year in England the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was erected. A few weeks ago here in the USA the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter was established. Can you explain what this is all about?
A: An "Ordinariate" is a special structure within the Catholic Church which allows jurisdiction for a group of Catholics who are outside the normal geographical boundaries of the Diocesan system. For example there is a "Military Ordinariate" for all those who live and work within the military, but who move from place to place. These personal ordinariates are being established for groups of Christians from the Anglican tradition to come into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining their some of their own customs and traditions. These are being called "Anglican Ordinariates."
Q: Pope Benedict XVI made the move to establish the Anglican Ordinariates. What prompted that action?
A: The answer is in the opening sentence of Anglicanorum Coetibus -- the Apostolic Constitution which established the ordinariate: "In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately."
Since the early 1990s when the Church of England decided to ordain women as priests Anglicans have asked the Vatican for some sort of provision whereby they could come into full communion while still retaining some autonomy and their own Anglican traditions. As the Anglican communion moved towards women bishops, homosexual marriage, acceptance of re-marriage after divorce and other un traditional moral and doctrinal positions, the calls became more frequent, numerous and insistent. The Holy Father is simply responding to these pleas.
Q: The apostolic constitution announcing the new provisions speaks of establishing "personal ordinariates." What kind of canonical structures are they?
A: The Holy See is granting Anglican converts their own mini-hierarchy which answers directly to Rome. The man in charge will be called the "Ordinary" He will be a former Anglican priest or bishop. If he is celibate he may be a bishop, but if married he will not be consecrated as bishop. This is so that a married man may be asked to fill the role of ordinary. Nevertheless, (apart from conducting ordinations) the ordinary will have the virtual status of a bishop within the ordinariate. He will be able to erect parishes, appoint clergy and serve as pastor of the Anglicans in his area.
Think of the arrangement of some of the Eastern Rite churches. They have a bishop or archbishop who oversees a large area. They have their own rite and their own traditions, but they are in full communion with the Holy See. For canonical reasons, the Anglican Ordinariate is not quite the same, but it is similar.
Q: What would be the relationship between these ordinariates and the dioceses with whose territories they overlap?
A: The Anglican Ordinariate will overlap geographically with existing Catholic dioceses. The Anglican ordinary will oversee priests who are incardinated to the ordinariate. The Ordinary and his priests are called on to co operate fully with the Catholic diocesan bishops and their fellow Latin Rite priests for the good of the whole church.
Q: How does this arrangement differ from the canonical structure of the Eastern Catholic Churches?
A: The Eastern Rite Churches have more autonomy. Also, they have bishops who are not married. The Anglican ordinary may be a married man. This means he is not a bishop. Most importantly, the Eastern Rite churches have their own liturgical rite which has its own historical integrity. The Anglicans will use an 'Anglican style' liturgy which has been theologically corrected and approved by Rome. Historically the Anglican liturgy has been derived from the Latin Rite. Therefore it is rightly called an 'Anglican Use' liturgy of the Roman Rite.
Q: What is the Pastoral Provision and how does this interact with the Anglican Ordinariate?
A: The Pastoral Provision is a process established by the Vatican in the 1980s to allow married former Episcopal priests to be re-trained and dispensed from the vow of celibacy to be ordained as Catholic priests. A similar procedure was then adopted by bishops in England and other countries where the Anglican Church had been planted.
The Pastoral Provision office will still exist for those Protestant ministers, including Episcopalians, who wish to enter into full communion, but do not wish to belong to the Ordinariate. Those entering the ordinariate will be dealt with by the Ordinary.
A: They profess to hold to a Catholic understanding of the historic Christian faith. They have refrained from simply becoming Catholics in the usual way because they desire to retain the riches of their Anglican patrimony. In other words they want to remain Anglo Catholics, but within the Catholic church instead of the Anglican Church.
A: No one knows for sure. The Traditional Anglican Communion is one of the groups that has petitioned Rome. They are made up of a confederation of traditional Anglican Churches that have broken from the mainstream Anglican Communion. They have a global presence and claim membership of 400,000 souls. If they all accepted the pope's offer, and there were other groups from the Anglican Communion and other smaller churches in the Anglican tradition, then the numbers could reach 500,000. However, some of the members of the Traditional Anglican Communion have got cold feet and have decided against joining.
So far in England there are five bishops, about sixty priests and several hundred laypeople. In the USA there will be many more. The Australian ordinariate will be established later in the year, and numbers there are uncertain.
What interests me more than numbers is the possibility that in the future these new 'Anglican Catholic' churches might attract significant numbers of non-Anglican Protestants. I know from my experience of Evangelical Christianity that there are many traditional Evangelicals who long for a liturgical, historical and traditional church. They would have problems coming into the Catholic mainstream for various reasons, but they may well find an 'Anglican Catholic' congregation to be an easy way into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Q: Individual Anglicans have always been free to join the Catholic Church at any time, and many have in fact done so in recent years. Why are these special arrangements necessary?
A: The special arrangements allow Anglicans to maintain and promote their special 'Anglican patrimony.' They can have their own identity and not simply be absorbed into the modern Catholic Church. This patrimony is precious, historical and beautiful. It includes the splendid languages of the Book of Common Prayer, Anglican hymns, their sacred choral tradition, their spirituality and their particularly English ethos. The Holy See considers this worth keeping, and believes it will enrich the modern Catholic Church.
A: Married men who are presently Anglican clergy may be presented for ordination once they have been received into the church and been properly selected and trained. This is already what happens under the Pastoral Provision. People should be clear that the norm for men applying for ordination within the Anglican Ordinariate will be the discipline of celibacy. However, there is provision for the Anglican Ordinary to ask for married men who are not already Anglican priests to be ordained. This will be considered on a case by case basis according to 'objective criteria' approved by the Holy See. This 'objective criteria' has not yet been published.
A: I don't think so. The married Anglican clergy will operate pretty much within the Anglican ordinariate and although they may help out in Latin Rite parishes, they will be fringe members of the wider Catholic community. Also, given time, the celibacy rule for the new generation of Anglican ordinariate priests will kick in and married priests will be the exception, not the rule.
A: Anyone with a link to Anglicanism may join the Ordinariate. This includes Anglicans who convert, but it also includes those who have already converted to the Catholic faith and wish to nurture and enjoy their Anglican heritage. Other members of the Ordinariate will be those converted through the evangelistic enterprise of the Ordinariate parishes. I doubt whether anyone will stop a Latin Rite Catholic from attending worship at an Ordinariate parish, but they are prohibited from joining formally.
A: It will change the old fashioned style of ecumenical discussions radically. I think ecumenical discussions with the Anglicans will continue, but they will increasingly be between two parties that are on divergent paths. This has really altered the course of the old style ecumenism in a major way. One could almost say that Pope Benedict has totally re written the play book.
A: I don't think so. Instead I believe we will see that the new Anglican Ordinariate will provide a bridge for other Protestant Christians. Once it is established, liturgically and traditionally minded Lutherans and Methodists may very well find that they easiest way in to full communion is through the Anglican Ordinariate. Also, if some of the Ordinariate parishes are 'broad church' in their worship styles (in other words, not too high church) many Evangelicals who are heading toward a liturgical and traditional church may find their way 'home to Rome'.
Fr Dwight Longenecker is a former Anglican priest who has been ordained under the Pastoral Provision. He is is parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Greenville, South Carolina. Read his blog and connect to his website at www.dwightlongenecker.com
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