Posted in Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, spirituality

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – but which one?

It would appear that the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham is to continue to offer a home to those now joined or in process of joining the Ordinariate – while, presumably, also continuing to bar Anglican priests who are women from celebrating the eucharist there.

Perhaps here we begin to see what ‘Anglican patrimony’ means – not in the trivial sense that people use one building rather than another, but in the deep spiritual roots of Anglo-Catholicism. Of course priests and congregation of the Ordinariate will be completely welcome at the Roman Catholic Shrine: but there’s something about the particularly Anglican variant on high Catholic liturgy which is expressed par excellence in the Gothic brick of the just-about-Anglican Shrine.  It holds that delicate line of enjoying to the full all that the Western Catholic tradition has to offer, without being obliged to confirm to Roman liturgical norms. It has been a hugely fruitful place for generations of Anglo-Catholics, though it does face a river the other banks of which are much wider, and often appear much greener.

If the Ordinariate is a welcoming place for those who were torn between that Anglo-Catholic spirituality, and a sense of lack at being separated from Rome, then I can have no quarrel with it at all. But it does raise some interesting questions. Is the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham at some level a body which finds its inspiration and spirituality in the Anglican Shrine? If it is, then it may symbolise exactly the opportunity and the challenge the Ordinariate face in relating to (rest of) the Roman Catholic Church in England & Wales – symbolised if you like by its modern chapel.

I’m sure there are many entering the Ordinariate who will be equally at home in this more contemporary Catholic style, though as Tina Beattie said on the radio today, ‘I think they’ll find that the Roman Catholic Church is a lot less aesthetic in its worship than High Anglicanism.’

But there’s another and more difficult question for those who remain within the Church of England. It’s only natural for those still in charge of the Shrine to make it available to their friends who have now gone into the Ordinariate. But if that happens, they will be in the ironic position of welcoming one group with whom they are not in communion, while continuing to refuse hospitality to members of their own church. I do think this is slightly odd – and potentially spiritually dangerous. The Anglican Shrine has lived by being a border post between the Church of England and the wider Western Catholic tradition. If what I envisage comes to pass, it will perhaps have begun to shut itself off on one side – to face more and more exclusively towards Rome. In that case it might end up becoming, not a lively place where boundaries meet, but a by-way for those who remember how it once was: a rendezvous for otherwise parted friends.

I find Walsingham a very moving place, but I have decided not to go there with my parish as long as I have an ordained woman as a colleague; I don’t want to subject anyone else to the naked hostility one of my curates experienced (not from the clergy of the Shrine, I hasten to add, but from other visitors). I would love Our Lady of Walsingham to be a sign that Catholics of all sorts – Roman Catholics of the Ordinariate or of the dioceses, Anglicans both in favour of and opposed to women’s ordained ministry – could find a unity in prayer if nothing else. Sadly not as yet.

Posted in Affirming Catholicism, Church of England, Roman Catholic Church

Hail and farewell

The Ordinariate is under way. To no-one’s great surprise, Fr. Keith Newton has been appointed Ordinary, and he and the other newly-minted (Roman) Catholic priests begin the process of inducting others to follow in their wake. Having just read Andrew Burnham’s interview in The Catholic Herald, I should think it must be quite a relief for them no longer to feel that they are held in tension between the Church of which they were part, and the Church which commanded their true loyalty. But what of those who remain?

As is often the way, it’s easier to speak the truth plainly when it no longer has personal impact: Fr. Newton is quoted by the BBC as saying: ‘”You can’t have a Church that believes in women bishops and doesn’t believe in women bishops.” Which is of course the point that Affirming Catholicism and others have been trying to make these many years. I do want those who disagree with the ordination of women to stay within the Church of England, if that’s how the Spirit is leading them. Others will feel called – and who am I to tell them they’re wrong? – to join the Ordinariate. But the Church which they are remaining within is either (as at present) one that does not ordain women as bishops, or (as I hope it will be) one that does. It can’t be both simultaneously.

The challenge for all Catholics, always, in whatever church they are, is to (in John Newman’s words)

…  hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church as His creation,
And her teachings are His own.

If the Church of England is part of the Catholic Church with authority to order its own life, then Catholic members of it are called to accept its teaching as the teaching of the Church, even if they disagree. If it isn’t – then I suppose there might be a prophetic ministry of trying to call the Church of England back to its true vocation as a part of the Western (i.e. Roman Catholic) Church. But that vocation cannot within integrity camouflage itself merely as opposition to women bishops; it’s about a wholesale change of direction, not a decision on one particular issue.