Former Anglican clergy who have been absorbed into the new Roman Catholic Ordinariate in the U.K. have begun their ‘formation’ course, preparing them to be ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood. Their formation programme will take 12 weeks, with lectures on 1 day a week, and is funded by the ordinariate. It will cover a wide range of topics including sacramental theology, priesthood, liturgy, Catholic interpretation of the Bible, canon law and the catechism. Their formation is to continue after ordination for two more years.
But some have expressed unease over the speed with which the former clergy are to be ordained. It is understood that the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales had originally wanted clergy for the ordinariate to undergo at least one year of training but was overruled by Rome.
Fr Stephen Wang, dean of studies at Allen Hall, said all the seminarians would meet every Tuesday for study, prayer and discussion, with some coming from as far afield as Cornwall, and Inverness in Scotland. They are also being asked to spend two days a week in private study.
Meanwhile, three former bishops of the Church of England who became the first priests of the ordinariate, Frs Keith Newton, John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham, have been elevated to the rank of monsignor.
This seeming haste of the Vatican to secure the ordination of ex-Anglican clergy who have fled the Church of England for the new R.C. Ordinariate is obviously being questioned by the hierarchy of the local Roman Catholic church. The speed with which these former Anglicans are being prepared for their future ministry begs the question of why, in the past, has the Vatican denied the validity of Anglican Orders? With so little ‘formation’ needed to transfer their ministry into the Roman Catholic priesthood, there surely can be little reason to suspect the validity of their former priestly Orders as Anglicans.
However, the real point of the exercise, one supposes, is to point up the R.C. view of ‘apostolic validity’. They probably take the view that ‘formation’ is one thing, while the actual validity of ‘who lays hands on whom’ is quite another. This does call into question Rome’s claim to exclusivity as bearers of the mandate to ordain people into the ministry of Christ’s Church.
With the Pope now calling for ecumenical talks during his forthcoming Apostolic Visit to Germany (his former homeland) one wonders how he will square that with the Vatican’s claim to uphold the Supremacy of the Roman Pontiff. Will he try to initiate a German Ordinariate?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch