The Rev. Canon Charles H. Nalls, SSM
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
-Proverbs 3:5, 6
The waiting and speculation are over at last. The Roman Catholic Church has promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus aimed at “groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church.” Over the last few weeks, I have written several essays incorporating the work of the great Anglo-Catholic Bishop Charles Grafton to discuss the thorny doctrinal issues likely to arise in the awaited Apostolic Constitution.
As expected, claims that this document would be only an inter-communion arrangement in which Anglo-Catholics will share communion with the have proven false. Indeed, Anglicans “swimming the Tiber ” will be a part of the Latin Church and will have to assent to the dogma, doctrine and discipline of that body. In fact, they will have to undergo the Sacrament of Initiation in which they will give public assent to such. As well, clergy will be reduced to the status of “candidates for ordination” subject to absolute ordination, if they pass muster.
Rather than interpret the text, we should let the document stand for itself. I urge a thorough reading of the Constitution and the Norms that follow to obtain a full understanding. By way of summary, I have set forth some “bullets” which reach to the fundamental issues, questions that may prove intractable for many.
This single Church of Christ , which we profess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic “subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside her visible confines. Since these are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ , they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”
Comment: The very definition of Church in the document includes the principle of Papal Supremacy.
· I. §§1-3 One or more Personal Ordinariates comparable to a diocese are to be within the confines of the territorial boundaries of a particular Conference of Bishops in consultation with that same Conference on an as needed basis.
Comment: There is a serious question as to how “need is to be established”. If there are insufficient numbers of former Anglicans, there will be an issue as to whether an Ordinariate will even be established.
· §5 The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.
Comment: This is the statement of dogma to which all will have to give their full assent. It is not a cafeteria menu permitting a “pick and choose” approach.
· II. The Personal Ordinariate is governed according to the norms of universal law and the present Apostolic Constitution and is subject to the , and the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia in accordance with their competencies. It is also governed by the Complementary Norms as well as any other specific Norms given for each Ordinariate.
Comment: Among other things, the Code of Canon Law of 1983 will apply, and governance will be in accordance with it and the structure of the Roman Catholic Church.
· III. Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.
Comment: This must be read in the inverse. While there will be Anglican liturgy to be approved by Rome , this is not to the exclusion of the Roman Rite. Thus, clergy may expect that they will be directed to perform Roman Rite liturgy as needed within the geographical diocese in which they are located.
· While Ordinary appointed by the Roman Pontiff will exercise power that ordinary, vicarious and personal: this power is to be exercised jointly with that of the local Diocesan Bishop, in those cases provided for in the Complementary Norms.
Comment: The local diocesan bishop will not, therefore, be wholly precluded from interfering in the operation of the Ordinariate. The potential for mischief is obvious.
· VI. §1 Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfill the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church.
Comment: This is fleshed out in the norms (see below), but those who have irregularities, were formerly ordained Roman Catholic Priests, have marriage issues and/or do not meet the age and educational standards of the Canons, are not getting in the “clergy club”. As well, if you are over retirement age, you shouldn’t hold out much hope of ordination.
· §2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.
Comment: Apparently, only celibate candidates for “new” priests will be admitted to Holy Orders. Married men may be admitted on roughly the same basis as those under the current Pastoral Provision. Thus, the document ultimately envisions a return to the celibate priesthood as normative, which is consonant with the recent comments of Cardinal Levada. So, farewell to a married priesthood over time.
· VIII. §1. The Ordinary, according to the norm of law, after having heard the opinion of the Diocesan Bishop of the place, may erect, with the consent of the Holy See, personal parishes for the faithful who belong to the Ordinariate.
Comment: Former Anglicans will not necessarily receive their own parish buildings. Offering services at existing Roman Catholic facilities would satisfy the requirements. Once again, those who anticipated a big, gothic stage on which to say Mass will be sadly disappointed.
· Article 3The Ordinary, in the exercise of this office, must maintain close ties of communion with the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Ordinariate is present in order to coordinate its pastoral activity with the pastoral program of the Diocese.
Comment: To reiterate, there will be a direct influence of the local bishop upon the Ordinariate.
· Article 5 §1. The lay faithful originally of the Anglican tradition who wish to belong to the Ordinariate, after having made their Profession of Faith and received theSacraments of Initiation, with due regard for Canon 845, are to be entered in the apposite register of the Ordinariate. Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate.
Comment: This clearly states that Anglicans will have to receive the Sacrament of Initiation and make profession—that’s absorption plainly stated.
· §1. In order to admit candidates to Holy Orders the Ordinary must obtain the consent of the Governing Council. In consideration of Anglican ecclesial tradition and practice, the Ordinary may present to the Holy Father a request for the admission of married men to the presbyterate in the Ordinariate, after a process of discernment based on objective criteria and the needs of the Ordinariate. These objective criteria are determined by the Ordinary in consultation with the local Episcopal Conference and must be approved by the Holy See.
Comment: Again, admission of married men to the presbyterate is not a foregone conclusion. It will be case-by-case, presumably on the criteria available in the United States or something similar.
· §2. Those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans, may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate. Anglican clergy who are in irregular marriage situations may not be accepted for Holy Orders in the Ordinariate. (emphasis added)
Comment: As noted above, if you have been a Roman Catholic priest or you have multiple living spouses, forget about it. You are not going to be a priest or deacon. This single clause poses a great barrier for those in many continuing churches as well as not a few in the Anglican Communion Churches.
· §1. The Ordinary must ensure that adequate remuneration be provided to the clergy incardinated in the Ordinariate, and must provide for their needs in the event of sickness, disability, and old age. §3. When necessary, priests, with the permission of the Ordinary, may engage in a secular profession compatible with the exercise of priestly ministry (cf. CIC, can. 286).
Comment: Non-stipendiary priests and working priests should not count on a “living”.
· §1. The clerics incardinated in the Ordinariate should be available to assist the Diocese in which they have a domicile or quasi-domicile, where it is deemed suitable for the pastoral care of the faithful. In such cases they are subject to the Diocesan Bishop in respect to that which pertains to the pastoral charge or office they receive.
Comment: Clergy will not be used solely in an “Anglican” setting. Given the priest shortages, clergy can pretty well expect to be used as the diocesan bishop in their geographic locale deems necessary.
· Former Anglican Bishops-Article 11 §§1-4. A married former Anglican Bishop is eligible to be appointed Ordinary. In such a case he is to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Church and then exercises pastoral and sacramental ministry within the Ordinariate with full jurisdictional authority. A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate may be called upon to assist the Ordinary in the administration of the Ordinariate. A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate may be invited to participate in the meetings of the Bishops’ Conference of the respective territory, with the equivalent status of a retired bishop. A former Anglican Bishop who belongs to the Ordinariate and who has not been ordained as a bishop in the Catholic Church, may request permission from the Holy See to use the insignia of the episcopal office.
Comment: Here is the sop to former Anglican bishops: they are able to keep their vestments and a modicum of dignity. This presupposes that these former bishops will pass the test to be admitted as clergy: i.e., can they pass the marriage test and do they meet the educational standards?