Church unity and the Anglican Ordinariate

Church unity and the Anglican Ordinariate

Archbishop Gerhard Müller

The following are extracts from an address given by Archbishop Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to members of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, one of three ordinariates so far established to welcome former Anglicans into full communion with the Catholic Church. The address was given at a symposium in Houston, Texas, in February to mark the first anniversary of the establishment of the American Personal Ordinariate.

We are all called to discipleship and grafted onto the ecclesial Body of Christ through Baptism. Our unity with one another as members of the one Body does not destroy our distinctiveness. Clergy and lay, religious and secular, married and single, male and female, we all share an equal dignity and are formed into one Church through the profession of "one Lord, one faith and one Baptism." Our distinctiveness and interdependence is a blessing for the Church and a source of its vitality.

The unity of the one and the many is a key insight of Anglicanorum coetibus. The unity of the Church is an image of the eternal unity of God, and according to that heavenly pattern, unity is not achieved by an elimination of distinctiveness. The unity of faith, therefore, permits a diversity of expression of that one faith. This is what is meant in the Apostolic Constitution when it says that groups of Anglicans can enter into communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.

The establishment of Personal Ordinariates responds to two needs: the need to maintain Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions within the Catholic Church, and the need to integrate those groups and individuals coming from Anglicanism fully into the life of the Catholic Church. The way in which the Apostolic Constitution concretely addresses these two needs corresponds to the dual principle of corporate reunion.

First, communities coming into communion are to be fully Catholic, both in faith and in the manner in which they participate in the life of the larger Catholic Church in their local dioceses. Secondly, their preservation of distinctive Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony is to be a hallmark of their parochial life, which is itself a contribution to the vitality of the Catholic Church.

Let us first consider how the structure of the Personal Ordinariate safeguards and guarantees the distinctiveness of Anglican patrimony. This is demonstrated perhaps most clearly in Article Three of Anglicanorum coetibus which grants the faculty to celebrate the Eucharist and the other sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition.

But this is not the only example of the canonical structure allowing space for the incorporation of Anglican patrimony in the Catholic Church. The Ordinary may determine specific programs of formation for seminarians of the Ordinariate living in a diocesan seminary, or may establish a house of formation for them, thus ensuring that seminarians are exposed to and formed by elements of their tradition.

Similarly, the fact that the Ordinary may establish personal parishes, ensures that the distinctive identity of these groups can be maintained at the local level, even while participating fully in the life of the local Catholic diocese.

Fraternal unity

While the priests are incardinated directly into the Ordinariate, they are obliged to cultivate bonds of fraternal unity with the presbyterate of the dioceses in whose territory they exercise their ministry. They are to encourage joint initiatives and pastoral and charitable activities, which may be regulated by agreements between the Ordinary and the Diocesan Bishop.

Many doctrinal questions were considered during the long discussion which has borne fruit in Anglicanorum coetibus and undoubtedly such questions will continue to arise. In any case, as specific issues emerge, each Ordinariate will be subject not just to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but also to the other Congregations of the Roman Curia according to their specific responsibilities.

The Apostolic Constitution mentions that the Ordinary must make a visit to Rome ad limina Apostolorum every five years where he must consult with the various offices of the Roman Curia. This ensures open lines of communication and collaboration between the Ordinariate and the Congregations which assist the Holy Father in the task of governance in the Church.

It is perhaps easier to think of ecclesial communion in the abstract, as a concept to which I give my assent but one which has little concrete impact on my life. For those recently entering the Catholic Church, particularly when the lack of papal primacy and the Magisterium are experienced as an ecclesial deficit motivating the desire for full communion, it is natural to focus on unity at the macro level: communion with the Holy Father and the See of Peter.

However the development of a culture of communion in the Ordinariates implies also that equal attention be given to communion with the bishops of the Church, communion with the local diocese and parishes, communion with the Catholic faithful, and bonds of charity and friendship with those still separated from the Church.

We are here celebrating the first anniversary of the establishment of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter. The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales is entering its third year of existence while the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia is just beginning. In many respects, these first years are key moments in the foundation of the Ordinariates, engaging the important questions of faith formation, structures, buildings and finances.

But in these early days, Ordinariate communities will bear scrutiny from many quarters and because the unity of the Church is the ostensible reason for their establishment, effective communion will be a principle measure against which Ordinariate communities will be judged.

By scrutiny I do not just mean media interest. That is often passing and only interested in a few attention-grabbing headlines rather than the slow, often hidden process of developing the life of faith. But the interest and attention from other groups is more enduring. Anglicans will be interested in what kind of reception you receive and how well you are able to make a home in the Catholic Church that is more than just assimilation. Catholics will want to know that you are here to stay, strengthening our ecclesial cohesion rather than setting yourselves apart as another divisive grouping within the Church.

It is safe to say that all eyes are now on you and your parish communities! For you who represent the leadership in the Ordinariate, it is your delicate but all-important task both to preserve the integrity of your parish communities and, at the same time, help your people integrate into the larger Catholic community. Your decision to "put out into the deep" in favour of the unity of Christ's Church must be developed and extended in the promotion of a culture of communion of which you are the architects.

Building this culture of communion begins with advancing a narrative to explain to Catholics and non-Catholics alike the abiding value of unity, the integrity of the faith, and loyalty to the Holy Father and to the Church's Magisterium. In other words, you must propose ever anew the raison d'être of the Ordinariate or, in the words of St Peter himself, "Always be prepared to give to anyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

Oxford Movement

Sadly, many people see the world through the polarised lens of division and political factions, and so numerous articles have appeared about Anglicanorum coetibus which described the [former] Holy Father [Benedict XVI] as an ecumenical poacher and characterise those who seek communion as disgruntled reactionaries.

It falls to us as architects of communion to provide the correct interpretation of the Ordinariate as the fruit of a trajectory towards unity which began over 150 years ago in the Oxford Movement through great figures like Blessed John Henry Newman. The right narrative about the great adventure of fidelity and about the Ordinariate as an eloquent expression of ecumenism is too important to leave to others to write for us.

I am well aware that many of you have experienced conflict and division in the years leading up to your decision to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. Indeed, many of the clergy dossiers which we have read in Rome contain moving accounts of defending orthodox faith and practice in the midst of painful, even scandalous situations of fracture.

We must be reflective about these experiences, discerning carefully that they do not overly influence our attitudes toward ecclesiastical authority or Church life. A culture of communion will not take hold if our default position is defensive or contentious. Unity is easily undermined by a culture of suspicion.

Again, the Church is watching what we are building here in the Personal Ordinariates. The openness of the wider Catholic community to the rich Anglican patrimony which you bring will be encouraged when they experience in your communities the joyful and peaceful embrace of our common faith. Constructing a culture of communion will require wisdom, humility, and a firmness of intention to avoid divisiveness.

In a world marked by division and discord, a culture of communion can be an especially eloquent witness to the truth of our faith and in fidelity to our Lord's prayer "that they might be one." I can think of no better patrimony to share with the Church, and no better structure within the Church to promote such a rich patrimony than the Ordinariates.

By way of conclusion, I want to return to the affirmation that, for many of you, the movement into full communion has been an exercise of great courage. Again and again, it has meant leaving behind what is familiar and comfortable in order to put out into unknown and deep waters. And yet you have undertaken that journey, supported by your orthodox Christian faith and guided by the vision of unity - the very unity for which our Lord fervently prayed on the night before he died.

I cannot promise you that your arrival in the "safe harbour" of Catholic communion means that the time for displaying great courage is behind you. Actually, it takes a great deal of courage to be Catholic and so I say to you: be courageous!

Be courageous in posing a serious countercultural response to the spirit of relativism and godless secularism. The modern age challenges the foundations of the Christian faith by denying the very existence of objective truth. But the ultimate sterility of relativism is exposed by the witness of men and women joyfully living their faith - a witness which is even more eloquent by you who have made the journey toward Catholic communion as a positive affirmation of the truth of biblical Christianity.

You see, truth is not just an idea. Its foundation is the self-revelation of a loving God made incarnate in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our courage in this regard leads to the discovery that conforming our lives to the One who is Truth is by no means an affront to our freedom, but is the only sure path to true happiness and liberation.

Pioneers

Be courageous in maintaining the vibrancy and orthodoxy of your faith in the Catholic Church. From time to time, you will encounter cynics or those whose faith has grown lukewarm which might tempt you to think that you have simply exchanged one dysfunctional ecclesial home for another. Your loyalty to the Holy Father and your commitment to seeking the truth have brought you this far and will sustain you, and also serve as a powerful encouragement to those "born" into the Catholic Church to rediscover her beauty and the consistency of her teaching.

Be courageous pioneers of communion, placing the diversity of your gifts at the service of the universal Church. The distinctiveness of your traditions and manner of prayer and worship are no obstacle to true unity in the Church. But courage in maintaining these traditions also recognises that, for them to be a true enrichment to Catholic life, you will need to win the trust and confidence of the local Catholic community.

A robust engagement with the pastoral and charitable initiatives of your Catholic and Anglican neighbours will not only redound to the glory of God and actually strengthen your Ordinariate parish, but provide an example of diversity grounded in the unity of faith which furthers the New Evangelisation.

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