UK Catholic Questions the need for the Ordinariate

The Tablet Blog

Ordinariate? You can’t be half-Catholic

Posted by Julia von Bertele, guest contributor, 19 August 2011, 9:00

Below is a letter sent to Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the Ordinariate which has welcomed former Anglicans into the Catholic Church. Lay Catholic Julia von Bertele sent him this letter on the recommendation of her bishop in April and again in July but has yet to receive a reply.

I am writing with concern at the new Ordinariate that has suddenly started in England. My first concern is that although our bishops work closely and with a generous spirit of understanding with the Anglicans here, their advice was not asked for. Nor does there seem to have been any discussion with, or inclusion of, our bishops regarding the reason why an ordinariate has been set up and how this will work out in practice.

The Church of England has always had high- and low-church factions. They have their own priests and it is quite easy for them to find a church with a priest to suit their way of thinking. Our Catholic Church has one indisputable doctrine, under the guidance of the Holy Father, and we all abide by this faith.

It does not make sense to admit groups of people into the Catholic Church for a negative reason such as discontentment with their own faith (over issues such as women priests).

I could understand a period of semi-inclusion while instruction was given and then decisions could be made as to whether they wished to join the Catholic Church. By immediately ordaining their priests (and bishops in the future), you are without doubt starting a split in the Church.

It is extraordinary that they will worship in our churches, their priests will say Mass, but they will not necessarily integrate and regularly worship at the same Mass with us. This just can’t be right; they are definitely forming a separate group who will have their own way of practising our faith. Our English Martyrs died so that Catholics here should always be of one faith and believe in the one Catholic doctrine.

When a new idea is started we need to know the purpose of the idea, and what the conclusion would be. What is your purpose? And how do you envisage the conclusion? Soon there will be a new generation of “alternative” Catholics, searching for alternative priests, who will without doubt believe and practise the faith in slightly different ways to us.

This sort of Anglican High Church discontentment has happened in the past in England, with the Oxford Movement. We have just beatified Cardinal Newman – can we not learn from his example? After a period of disenchantment with the Anglican Church, he decided the only true way was to submit totally to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

I feel as a very ordinary member of the Church that we have had no explanation of this new ordinariate and its purpose. It is hard enough these days in England to pass on the faith and doctrine of the Church to the next generation. You cannot surely become a half-Catholic: our faith has to be accepted or rejected, otherwise you will have all sorts of different groups with preferences of belief, resulting in the same difficulties that the Anglican Church is having.

I look forward to your reply with interest. – Julia von Bertele


The appearance of this letter, from Julia von Beretele, a Roman Catholic lay-person, to the Roman Catholic Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, on the U.K. ‘Tablet’ blog-site, is symptomatic of the difficulties some ordinary Roman Catholics in the U.K. have with the sudden emergence the quasi-Roman Catholic Ordinariates on the local scene. They, rightly in my opinion, question the need to cater for dissident Anglicans (mostly unhappy with the ordination of women in the Church of England) in their own version of a Roman Catholicism which is different from the norm.

This unease, felt by many ‘in the pew’ Roman Catholics, is equally felt by many Anglicans; who are puzzled about this obvious accommodation by the Roman Catholic Church of a group of Anglicans whose differences with their own Church have caused them to defect to this new ‘patrimony’ offered by the Pope specifically in order to provide a refuge for them escape from the prospect of having to submit to the ministry of women clergy and bishops – should the legislation allowing for such an arrangement in the Church of England.

It is obvious that the rank and file membership of the Roman Catholic Church was not consulted on this radical departure from the usual demands made upon new adherents to the R.C. Magisterium – which the Ordinariate members will be considered to now be privy to – and both Roman Catholics and Anglicans may be left wondering what exactly is the real purpose of establishing the Ordinariate in England and Wales – if not merely to recruit Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church by the back door?

(It might be pertinent to note that, so far, the Ordinariate membership is very small, consisting, in the U.K., of only a small proportion of Anglicans – clergy and laity – who have expressed their opposition to the Ordination of Women. This does not, however, mean that more will not seek to enter the Ordinariate if, and when, the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate is finally approved by the General Synod of the Church of England in due time.)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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5 Responses to UK Catholic Questions the need for the Ordinariate

  1. Joseph Rukeijakare says:

    As for me i dont support this arrangement. If these people want to come to the church, they should come with no strings attached. Soon there may be disputes in meetings.
    If you come to the catholic church you must come wholly not half way. Jesus before going to heaven told peter three times about being one until Peter was annoyed,Jesus meant it we must be one if we want to go ti heaven as there is trinity and that is what he actually meant. These people have to come fully in themcatholic church accepting all doctrines of the church. Remember what Jesus told Peter whatever you losen on earth will be losen in heaven. The church is infallible and Jesus is the bride of the church which he founded at the day of Pentecost.
    All churches must come to the catholic church because that is what Jesus meant by establishing one . One shepherd and one flock not two.

    • kiwianglo says:

      I’m sorry, Joseph, but Peter’s infallibility was as delusive as that of the Pope. Peter denied the Lord 3 times – not a good basis for infallibility. Yes, he was forgiven, but Jesus pronounced that His Rock is the Church – the whole Church not just that of Peter, but also of the rest of the Apostles – among whom was Saul-become-Paul.

      If it had been up to Peter, the Church would have remained Jewish – without Gentile membership. It took Paul to persuade Peter that the Gospel was for ALL peoples.

  2. I don’t think that this letter – and the depth of ignorance (surprising
    in this digital age of ready access to information) about the
    Ordinariate that it evidences – demonstrates a meaningful wave of
    reaction amongst Catholic pew-goers towards the ordinariate. For some
    the prospect of any influx of new Catholics who uphold doctrines they
    deprecate is possibly seen as a threat, for the great majority it is a
    matter of no concern and for others, such as myself, it is the answer to
    years of prayer.

    • kiwianglo says:


      From your chosen nomenclature, it would seem that you, yourself, might be a rigorist in vesture at the Mass – perhaps, even, a member of the ordinariate?
      In that case, your prayers have surely been answered; although I doubt whether many R.C. clergy still wear the maniple. “I wish you good luck in the name
      of the Lord”. May you continue to wear the maniple as the badge of your faith in a servant-priesthood.

      • Thank you for your good wishes, which are sincerely appreciated. I sometimes regret choosing this moniker, even though it continues to amuse me, as it does rather give the impression that I am a priest… As it happens, I am just an ordinary lay Catholic (“cradle” if you like that term), differing only from the rest of the rank and file in my Traditional sympathies and, principally, in that I have spent a lot of my adult life mixing with Anglo-Catholics, coming to know and love them and the tradition they represent. So any prayers for the Ordinariate I have been uttering over the past five years or so have been made on the Roman bank of the Tiber.

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