Will Australian Anglicans Enter the Catholic Church?
Discussions recently took place concerning Australian Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.
By Andrew Rabel, reporting from Coomera, Australia
Bishop Elliott of Melbourne
On the final day of a three day festival on the Australian Gold Coast from February 1-3, 2011, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne (photo left) said that he hoped an ordinariate would be established this year in Australia but emphasized that the decision is up to the Holy See. He is recognized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Delegate of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for the ordinariate project.
Elliott, who as an Anglican theological student at Oxford University converted to Catholicism in 1968, was selected by the Episcopal Conference of Australia to oversee the process of receiving groups of Anglicans, into the Catholic Church. (Another participant and speaker was Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore NSW, also a convert from Anglicanism).
Meeting at St Stephen’s College in Coomera, delegates from around the country considered the implication
s of what an ordinariate in Australia might involve, including their hopes and uncertainties. The conference was co-hosted by Archbishop John Hepworth (photo right) of the Traditional Anglican Communion (which conducts the school where its impressive facilities was held) and Bishop Elliott.
For a number of years traditional Anglicans have been requested the Holy See to consider whether they may be able to enter the Catholic Church, while retaining their liturgical forms, and disciplines. This plan came to fruition with the promulgation in November 2009 of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus by Pope Benedict XVI allowing for the establishment of individual ordinariates (a national diocese which is not territorial but functional as in the case of the military) if such requests are received by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the Vatican.
The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was the first of these erected on January 15, for the United Kingdom headed by Rev Keith Newton, one of three former Anglican bishops recently ordained Catholic priests in Westminster cathedral. Bishop Elliott says, “We are watching what is happening the UK, but we are not bound to follow exactly what England does in all details because the situation in Australia is more complex.”
The overwhelming consensus of the conference was that unity can be achieved, while preserving the distinctive Anglican heritage, and as has been said by one other commentator, the only place where Anglican traditions will be properly nourished in the 21st century, will be in the Catholic Church.
Ecumenism has been encouraged officially since the Second Vatican Council, and Australia has been a place of some of its interesting projects, as outlined by a paper given by Mr Rolo Enright in talking about the establishment of John Paul College in Brisbane, in the 1980s, the first ecumenical school at the secondary level in the country, which largely took its encouragement from the late pope’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis.
Bishop Elliott in talking about the implementation of the apostolic constitution talked about the role of the 19th century Oxford Movement, and how this influenced the ecclesiology of Vatican II. He said, “Without Vatican II none of what we have now would have been possible.”
Elliott said that Anglicanorum Coetibus was a high level papal document, an apostolic constitution setting up a new structure within the Church. This is why it has a different style to the recent motu proprio, (something issued with the Pope’s personal authority), allowing greater use of the old Latin Mass.
He said the establishment of an ordinariate here would underscore the importance of Catholics regarding Vatican II’s mission of the Church, with its emphasis on communion, as opposed to congregationalism, a feature of a number of Protestant denominations.
Bishop Elliott emphasized that the Ordinary would be assisted by a Governing Council, analogous to the college of consulters in a diocese. He said, “There will be a Finance Council as well and when fully set up, it will contain parishes in the middle of large metropolitan centres. The finance council will play an integral role in keeping things on track.”
Each ordinariate will have a Pastoral Council involving the laity at a national level. One of the noticeable developments in ordinary parish life since the Second Vatican Council has been the creation of pastoral councils consisting of laity, but this is not an ordinary requirement of the Roman Rite. Bishop Elliott pointed out, “This is a requirement indicated in the apostolic constitution, and will be essential in each parish. Lay participation will be at a high level in the Ordinariate.”
Anglicanorum Coetibus is accompanied by complementary norms from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Bishop Elliott said that these norms broaden out details in the constitution. He said that the norms might lead to maintaining “elements of Anglican pastoral practice (i.e. church wardens etc); there will be scope to maintain this in this new structure.”
One of the encouraging elements of the conference was the participation of religious from an Anglican background who wish to be part of the Ordinariate. The importance of continuity was stressed, such as the recent example in Baltimore of Anglican nuns of the community of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor, who are continuing their order, in the Catholic Church.
Several sisters from Brisbane of the Servants of the Sacred Cross attended the festival. They are a community where there are both Anglican and Roman Catholic members. Two of the sisters spoke of their spiritual journey, and of their sadness because of their separation from the Catholic Church, and praying that this rupture will be healed. They said they felt humbled to be entering. (Another sister came from rural Victoria, who wants to start a new community in the Ordinariate when it is established)
In addition to all lay ministries being continued, it was stressed that preferred communion postures and modes of reception would be likely to be continued too. Most Anglo-Catholics kneel for communion, and receive it under both species, and this is likely to be the norm in the Ordinariate.
Bishop Elliott also got down to the practicalities, saying that membership in the Ordinariate by interested persons will be sought by a formal application in writing. Archbishop Hepworth and the secretary of the College of Bishops Ms Cheryl Woodman were busy collecting dossiers of a number of their priests, which will be submitted with the objective of receiving holy orders in the Ordinariate.
Elliott said that evidence of baptism will be required. Entrance into the ordinariate will be by way of sacramental reconciliation (confession), a profession of faith and Confirmation with Chrism. Sharing in the one Eucharist will complete these sacramental steps of coming into full communion with the Church.
The Apostolic Constitution stipulates that when it comes to matters of belief, The Catechism of the Catholic Church is to be the basis of what members of the Ordinariate must hold, and it was available in paperback form during the conference, for people to purchase. Bishop Elliott said that the newer compendium of the Catechism (in question and answer format) would be very useful here too, and Archbishop Hepworth noted with some joy, that when the Traditional Anglican Communion sent its application for unity, it indicated it submitted to both the Catechism and its compendium.
All new clergy of the Ordinariate will be required to be ordained a priest, by a Catholic bishop. This is one of a number of debated areas, regarding the requirements of former Anglican clergy that will be asked to serve in the new structures. These issues were dealt with at the conference too, but as Bishop Elliott pointed out in answer to a question, difficult cases will be judged by the Holy See.
Archbishop Hepworth said, “The Apostolic Constitution deliberately avoids the use of the word Roman, repeating a Vatican II ecclesiology of communion which resonates with Anglicans.” But as Bishop Jarrett indicates, “All people received into the Ordinariate, will become Catholic. The Book of Common Prayer was based on the old Sarum rite of the Catholic Church, which will also find its expression in the liturgy of the Ordinariate.”
Unmarried Anglican clergy received into holy orders, in the Ordinariate, will have to observe the rules of clerical celibacy. Married Anglican clergy who enter the ordinariate may apply for ordination as Catholic priests, depending on a dispensation from celibacy which can be granted by the Holy See in specific cases.
Fr John Fleming, Anglican convert to Catholicism in Australia whose conversion made all the headlines in 1987 said that Bishop Elliott’s perceptions of the riches contained in the Apostolic Constitution reflected not only the letter, but the spirit of the document.
John McCarthy QC, a Catholic barrister in Sydney who is assisting the upcoming Ordinariate with legal issues said, “The apostolic constitution contains an interesting nomenclature, unlike other Vatican documents, and one can tell that it was written in English first.”
Bishop Elliott cautioned however that, “We can’t let the Ordinariate be a Jurassic Park. We must keep the doors open.”
Fr Christopher Seton, Anglican parish priest of All Saints the Melbourne suburb of Kooyong agreed and said, “This is not an Anglican preservation society. Unless we are evangelistic, and only like a museum where people enjoy old treasures, we will eventually die out. The beauty of the Ordinariate is that it allows us to be united without being absorbed.”
Fr Steve Hill (the youngest priest of the TAC, curate in the Brisbane parish of Patmos House) said it was necessary for people entering the Ordinariate to be doing so with a sense of humility, “We don’t have a right to be a priest,” and said people should not be bogged down in questions of ordination to the Catholic priesthood.
Bishop Tolowa Nona of the Church of the Torres Strait (TAC) thanked the generosity of the Holy Father by his promulgation of the constitution, and hoped this will facilitate communion between all people of the world. He said that God had been with them before the arrival of the first Anglican missionaries in the late 1800s, and the establishment of the Ordinariate was the latest chapter in their long history of divine interaction.
Ms Cheryl Woodman, secretary of the College of Bishops of the TAC spoke of the terrible pain and the crisis of conscience many individuals had faced because of their decision to be part of a separate movement from mainstream Anglicanism and that this new step of an Ordinariate, would also involve difficulties as well. She said, “But this must be attempted and in my own personal case, after attending the Catholic Mass, I felt being pulled in a particular direction.” She is off next week to Japan, who because of their small Christian population, it would assist them if they were connected to the Australian Ordinariate.
Bishop Jarrett however said in regard to people who have any fears, “The Apostolic Constitution allows for the possibility for groups of Anglicans to come into Catholic communion corporately. But it does not mean that any individual must. Each person can take their own time, in regard to their decision for being a part of it.”
In addition to a number of meals shared by all the participants enabling them to get to know each other better, there were several celebrations of liturgy in both Anglican and Catholic forms. The sense of growing unity propelled everyone on.
Ordinariates will be eventually established in a number of other countries such as the United States, Canada, and a number of African and South American countries, which will involve individual challenges at different stages of the process. But the three day festival on the Australian Gold Coast may assist other countries in appreciating what will be involved.
Archbishop John Hepworth and his clergy celebrating Anglican rite Mass in the chapel of St Stephen’s College, to open the conference on February 1
Bishop Tolona Nowa of the Church of the Torres Strait with some of his clergy, enjoying a nice meal at one of the conference dinners at St Stephen’s College, Coomera
FESTIVAL CELEBRATES THE AUSTRALIAN ORDINARIATE
An Australian Ordinariate Festival was held at St Stephen’s College, Coomera, Queensland, between February 1 – 3.
Anglicans from all States came together with Catholics to understand more about Pope Benedict’s offer of a Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans seeking full communion with the Church. Participants included clergy, laity and religious women from the official Anglican Church of Australia (ACA) and the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (Traditional Anglican Communion: TAC). Bishop Tolowa Nona of the Church of the Torres Strait (TAC) was accompanied by priests and laity.
Archbishop John Hepworth, Primate of the TAC, hosted the festival at the campus St Stephen’s College, Coomera, of which he is the chairman. He celebrated a solemn Anglican Eucharist in the college chapel to open the festival. On February 2, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore celebrated the Catholic liturgy for the Presentation of the Lord, with the customary blessing of candles.
The Episcopal Delegate for the Ordinariate, Bishop Peter Elliott, said that he sensed strong feelings of anticipation and enthusiasm among participants. Archbishop Hepworth said that many people are looking forward to the establishment of an Australian Ordinariate.
“Difficult questions were raised frankly.” said Bishop Elliott, “But I was moved when people gave testimonies of their journeys towards the Ordinariate. We all came to understand the urgent pastoral need for this unique community in full communion with the Successor of St Peter.”
After the festival, a national implementation committee representing all groups met for the first time to tackle practical issues. Local Ordinariate working groups are also being established in the States.
On February 26 another Ordinariate Festival will be held in Perth, at Holy Family church Como, hosted by Bishop Harry Entwistle (TAC). Other festivals are envisaged for Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to inform people as plans for an Australian Ordinariate take shape.