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