The Ordinariate: child of ARCIC – a response

I’m grateful to Monsignor Andrew Burnham for the following comment on my last post, which I publish with his permission.

”   On each side of the dialogue there has been a conventional interpretation of the ARCIC process which goes something like this.  From the Catholic point of view, Anglicans have not been able to articulate a clear Anglican position on essential doctrinal points and, despite warnings, have created further difficulties by proceeding to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate.  From the Anglican point of view, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has constantly asked for fresh elucidations in a way that undermines the consensual ARCIC method.  Both viewpoints would agree probably that ARCIC I showed a brilliance and verve that has not been sustained subsequently.  That is partly because of the outstanding individuals involved at that point and partly because of the prevailing culture.  These were days of convergence – for example the movement towards the unification and integration of Europe – and contrast with so-called post-modern tendencies to divergence and disintegration.

There had been great excitement over convergence.  The World Council of Churches’ document, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Lima Peru 1982, had articulated a consensus that felt very Anglican and that document, together with ARCIC I, seemed to suggest to a divided Christianity that all the churches had to do was to accept something like the breadth and tolerance of Anglicanism.   The liturgy and witness of the Taizé Community seemed to bear this out.  This, of course, was the Anglican view.  From a Catholic perspective, all that was needed, it seemed, was for Anglicans to become a bit more consistent and unified in their thinking.  The Free Church perspective was that Anglicans and Scandinavians needed to break free of Erastianism.  For about a decade, all of this seemed conceivable and even possible.

In the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, the warning shots remembered are the Holy See’s demand for elucidations and the correspondence exchanged at the highest level on the subject of women’s ordination.  Less often remembered, but no less important in my view, was the polite roar of the Open Letter to the Anglican Episcopate published by Grove Books, Colin Buchanan’s lair, in 1988.  Leading Evangelicals expressed their misgivings about the conclusions of ARCIC I and by 1988 Evangelicalism was becoming steadily ascendant in English Anglicanism.  This fresh proof that Anglicans would not be able finally to gather round an ARCIC consensus, despite the assurances of the Lambeth Conference 1988, was probably the motive force behind the content of the much-delayed Catholic Response to ARCIC in 1991.  That response was seen at the time as ungenerous but nowadays seems to have been accurate and finely judged.

I have yet to meet any Catholic-minded Anglican who, since 1991, has regarded ARCIC as a reliable vehicle to bring about the unity of Anglicans and Catholics and, since the ordination of women priests in 1994, those minded to seek unity with the Catholic Church have pursued this either as individuals or, more recently, in response to Anglicanorum coetibus 2009.

In 1994 there were many Anglicans, longing for union with Rome, who were unable to proceed to entering the full communion of the Catholic Church.  Some were fearful about their future material circumstances.  Others were conscious of their responsibilities to family, parish, and community.   Most were reassured by the promises of the Church of England that ‘traditionalists’ would continue to have an honoured place.  The ‘flying bishop’ ecclesiola seemed worth a try, especially if it maintained and developed an ecumenical momentum.  Unsurprisingly, with the erection of the Ordinariates in 2011, there have been those who have stayed and those who have gone.  Charity requires that neither speaks ill of the other or their motives.  What is inescapable, however, is the fact that the Ordinariates have been born out of the ARCIC process and represent a fresh initiative in ecumenical dialogue and theology, even if this is yet to be recognised and realised by many Anglicans and Catholics.

The ARCIC process, set up following the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966, produced an optimism about church unity which was to last a quarter of a century.  Looking back, to quote Wordsworth ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive. But to be young was very heaven!’

Mgr Andrew Burnham   “


About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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