Category Archives: South East Kent Ordinariate

Saving the English Church?


Way back in August 2016, Damian Thompson wrote a typically vigorous article for the Catholic Herald, commenting on the state of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.   He asserted that ‘Britain’s Ordinariate is in peril’ and ‘here’s how to save it’.   His solution was that Ordinariate communities should refuse to be herded into remote ‘Mass Centres’, where they do not want to be and cannot survive.   Rather, Thompson said, ‘It’s time our new fellow Catholics turned round and reminded [the bishops] that they have no jurisdiction over them – and that, if the Church in England and Wales continues its deplorably mean policy of hanging on to every last parish building, then they will buy their own churches.’   In essence, Damian Thompson’s thesis was (still is?) that the Ordinariate will only flourish in England, when her people have buildings from which to evangelise and develop a distinctive message of unity in diversity.

Now in January 2018, in a deeply interesting article also for the Catholic Herald, Stephen Bullivant publishes the results of some research into the ratio between Catholic laity and Catholic priests in England and Wales.   He demonstrates that, while in 1970 for every 10,000 Sunday Mass-goers there were 40 priests to serve them, by 2014, the same number had 46 priests.   Clearly, there are fewer priests than there once where but, alas, there are even fewer Mass-going Catholics.   Bullivant proposes that the problem is not so much too few priests but too many church buildings.   His solution is simple; ‘lift a surplus-to-requirements church out of the normal parish system and give it to a niche group that can do something distinctive with it’.   Essentially the same solution as Damian Thompson’s, and based on research data.

Stephen Bullivant takes his argument on with specific reference to the Ordinariate.

That said, if I were a bishop, cautiously willing to give the idea a go, what I’d really be praying for is a group with dozens of young and energetic clergy, thoroughly immersed in British culture, and with years (if not decades) of pastoral experience . . .   Which brings us to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Given the kinds of statistics I’ve outlined – that is, too many churches for the numbers of priests and worshippers we actually have – it’s no wonder that many bishops have readily borrowed Ordinariate priests for their dioceses.   Anglicanorum Coetibus was, in this sense, a unexpected windfall of additional clergy.   There are, I believe, currently 60 Ordinariate priests on loan to the English and Welsh dioceses, with most of these assigned to parishes.

I recognise, of course, the benefits and expediency of such arrangements . . .   Nevertheless, I don’t think the current model of plugging gaps in ordinary diocesan provision is, in the long run, a sensible one for either party.

From my outsider’s view – I’m neither a member, nor eligible to become one – the Ordinariate offers the Church in England and Wales (Scotland too!) a significant pastoral opportunity: the possibility of a permanent structure, fully part of the wider Catholic community, but with its own distinctive liturgy, spirituality, musical traditions, parish culture and atmosphere.    Rather than being simply a one-off fix to bring a wave of former Anglicans into full communion with Rome, it is genuinely sustainable.   It is continuing to attract former Anglicans and others (not excluding other Catholics) on its own terms, while at the same time being a community in which children are brought up, who in turn bring up their own children in it.

Christ’s Church has plenty of room in it for such a body, as is again amply proven by the Eastern Catholic churches.   Such a thing will not, of course, appeal to everyone (including not all former Anglicans). But then why should it?   This vision, of course, fits perfectly with the “Preston Option” I’ve been describing, with the Ordinariate offering a niche way of “being Church” that complements, rather than competes with, the default normal parish offering.

From where I’m kneeling, we seem to have a God-given cure to many a diocesan bishop’s headache.   So why are our dioceses not queuing up for the Ordinariate to take otherwise under-threat churches off their hands, and on extremely advantageous terms?   This is a genuine question, for I am genuinely puzzled.

Why join the Ordinariate? Part 4


A fourth and final reason for not joining the Ordinariate that our correspondent offers comes in two parts, connected with the clergy.   On the one hand, ‘Anglo-Catholicism has its own martyrology, a source of huge pride.   Men such as Fr Mackonochie, Fr Arthur Tooth and Fr Pelham Dale fought heroically for their vision of the catholicity of the Church of England’.    On the other, ‘any priest going to Rome has to sign up to Apostolicae Curae, admitting the invalidity of their previous ministry’.

It is of course undeniably true that these Anglican men fought heroically for that vision of catholic Anglicanism.    It is also undeniably true that the Church of England has decisively and irrevocably repudiated that self same vision.   The real question is rather whether men like these would not in truth have been good shepherds and led their flocks into unity with the See of Peter in the Ordinariate.

It is not true to suggest that any Anglican minister ‘going to Rome’ is required to deny the value of their previous ministry.   On the contrary, it seems to be the invariable custom  –  certainly at ordinations for the Ordinariate  –  for a specific and generous prayer of thanksgiving to be offered for that prevous Anglican ministry which has led the ordinand to seek that fullness of communion that subsists in the Catholic Church.


Why join the Ordinariate? Part 3

Slipper Chapel

A third reason for not joining the Ordinariate that our correspondent offers is that, ‘CofE clergy are allowed a certain latitude to run their parishes as they see fit. Many of the more Anglo-Papalist parishes use the Roman Rite, entirely unadapted. A few others still use the English Missal ** . . .  This is all almost certainly against [Anglican] canon law, but the bishops generally look the other way.   [T]he Catholic Church in England and Wales, from the outsider’s perspective, seems rather more controlling of its priests and parishes’.

Our correspondent might be surprised to learn that there seems to be a similar degree of latitude in the Catholic Church in this country!   Liturgical practice, within the Roman Rite, is surprisingly diverse.

However, it is perhaps slightly perverse to cite rigid adherence to the Roman Rite and even the English Missal as a reason for remaining in the CofE, in defiance of its law and of bishops with whom one claims to be in impaired communion at best.

One of the great joys of being part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is precisely the liturgical provision given to us by the Holy See.   The Ordinariate’s Missal, Divine Worship – the Missal, is fully in accordance with the Roman Rite and derived from the BCP tradition of which the English Missal is a part.   Why would one illicitly use resources of the Latin Rite as a sign of contradiction, when one can use that same strand of tradition as a defining sign of unity and communion?

In a recent post for the Catholic Herald, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith commented on the beauty of the Ordinariate’s Missal, saying that it is ‘a gift to the whole Church’.

**   It is of course a great irony that the only liturgical-ecclesial space in which the English Missal tradition finds completely legal expression today is the Ortdinariate itself,  in the Ordinariate Missal Divine Worship – the Missal which is clarly an organic and Catholic development of the English Missal and Prayer Book tradition.

Why join the Ordinariate? Part 2


A second reason for not joining the Ordinariate that our correspondent offers is that, ‘it is an open secret that the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales has never been keen on the Ordinariate, which has become something of a disfavoured ghetto.’   And therefore, ‘even if [an Anglican] priest or parish has a dubious relationship with the C of E hierarchy, crossing the Tiber is unlikely to improve matters’.

Alas, there may be a grain of truth in the suggestion that some of the bishops of the Catholic Church in England and Wales seem not to be overly keen on the Ordinariate; although to say that the Ordinariate has become a disfavoured ghetto is not true.

Nevertheless, it must surely be better have an uncomfortable relationship with bishops with whom one is undoubtedly in full communion than to have an uncomfortable relationship with bishops with whom one insists one has impaired communion at best.

We are all made uncomfortable by the new and unexpected, even Catholic bishops.   Current and passing discomfort is as nothing, given the prize of full and visible communion – the very thing for which Jesus Christ himself prayed.


The Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham

This year, 2017, is a Golden Year for the Ordinariate in the UK because our Feast of Title fell on a Sunday.   It was marked with special joy for the Deal mission because Patricia was confirmed as a member of the Ordinariate, having been baptised as a Catholic but then not having completed the rites of initiation until now  –  a blessing (pray God) for her and certainly a blessing for us.

The Confiteor

The Entrance Procession, followed by censing the Altar at the Introit

The Introit

Patricia leads us in the Creed and is anointed with the Oil of Chrism, supported by her sponsor.

P Meredith 5

P Meredith 1

After Mass, Our Lady approves and then we all enjoy a glass of something cool and refreshing  –  an essential part of Anglican Patrimony!

P Meredith 3

P Meredith 4

The Ordinariate visits Ramsgate

OOLW at R'gate

On a perfect day in June 2017, folk from the Ordinariate Missions in Deal, Folkestone, Maidstone, Pembury and Sevenoaks  –  together with friends from London and North of the River  –  travelled to Ramsgate and to the National Shrine of St Augustine.   Solemn Mass was celebrated according to the Ordinariate Use, in the beautifully restored Shrine Church  –  the masterpiece of AW Pugin.   The photo shows pilgrims, concelebrating clergy and Fr Holden the Shrine Rector (2nd from right).   After Mass, a Big Picnic Lunch was taken over the road in the former Abbey grounds, now the Divine Retreat Centre.   The day ended with an Address from Fr Holden about St Augustine, the New Evangelisation and the Ordinariate, followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.   A good day was had by all;  friendships made and renewed, the Faith proclaimed and re-affirmed.

The Ordinariate – a gift to be shared.

 The Holy Father stated, when he published Anglicanorum coetibus, that as ‘the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, [he] could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization’.

This was in response to groups of Anglicans ‘repeatedly and insistently’ petitioning ‘to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately’.