Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pope offers a canonical structure for Anglicans

It was announced today that a canonical structure will be made available for Anglicans wishing to enter full communion with Rome while retaining aspects of their spiritual and liturgical traditions. The announcement draws a parallel with military ordinariates, in which a group of people - members of the armed forces of a particular country - who are scattered in different places are placed under their own bishop. Another obvious parallel would be the way that Eastern Rite Catholics are looked after by their own bishops even when they live in the West. The new structure is called a 'Personal Ordinariate'. Ordinaries will normally come from among the converts themselves, who if married could not be bishops, but could still have the jurisdiction envisaged here.

This is huge news, and you can read about it all over the blogosphere; all the official documents are on Rorate Caeli.

Traditionalists should welcome this for several reasons.

First, it emphasises the imperative felt by the Holy Father to make pastoral provision for people who are seeking union with him but find obstacles in things which are non-essential to the Faith. Where by making the kind of concessions envisaged here hundreds of thousands of good-hearted people can enter the Church, these concessions should be made: that is the message of the Holy Father, very much in accordance with his remarks about avoiding schisms in the first place which he made in the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio.

Traditionalists have already been the beneficiaries of this attitude of the Pope's, which is truly pastoral. And we have reason to hope that further benefits will derive from it in the future.

Second, it emphasises the true pluralism of the Church: a pluralism of liturgy and spirituality. While so often characterised as a 'free for all', the Church since the Council in some ways has seen a remarkable diminution of this pluralism, which had been in decline since the Counter Reformation. But this is the kind of pluralism of which it was said in the Middle Ages 'Diversa, non adversa': diversity without adversity.

The Traditional Mass or usus antiquior is an example of this pluralism also.

Third, the kind of structure the Holy Father envisages is innovative, though as indicated not entirely without precedent. It represents the culmination of a lot of hard work and hard thinking by the Pope and his advisors. The way it has been presented, as an initiative of the Pope in response to the desires and needs of others which he has clearly understood deeply, is also indicative of the personal political capital he is prepared to spend on this. In fact it is staggering.

I am not sure whether to be less staggered or more in that he did something very similar with the Motu Proprio. This pontificate appears to moving up a gear!

The structure is exactly the kind of thing which for years has been discussed and rumoured about in relation to the SSPX and traditionalists in general. This will serve both as an indication of seriousness and a possible working model for reconciliation as the discussions with the SSPX draw on.

I have never been so optimistic about the propects for the reconciliation with the SSPX. Right now, however, I am happy for the Anglo-Catholics who will benefit from the Holy Father's extraordinary generosity and courage. I pray that they will be able to respond to it with the same characteristics.
Viva Papa!


  1. The Traditional Mass or usus antiquior is an example of this pluralism also.

    Is it though? Are Catholics attached to the traditional rites of the church, just another corner in the church to be tolerated? Or are we fighting for what we know to be right and beneficial for the church? Surely the whole point of Una Voce and other like organisations, was to preserve the old Roman liturgy and campaign for it to be normative of the church again?

  2. The Traditional form of the Roman Rite is not just a corner to be tolerated - it is, historically and theologically too important for that. But that's an argument we will have over the coming years. The first thing we have to establish is toleration.

    I don't like the term 'missa normativa'. Normative for whom? When we talk about pluralism we mean a recognition that the Greek Catholics have their own rites, many religious orders have their own, many parts of Europe have their own. The attack on the TLM has often been framed in terms of needing to preserve a liturgical uniformity which in reality has never been a feature of the Church, and would be a very bad thing if it became one, since it implies the loss of huge number of rich traditions.