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Tuesday, October 20, 2009


With the new note on Anglican admission into the Catholic Church, a couple of thoughts come to mind.

The "personal ordinariate," a new version of the personal prelature, admits two laudable goals, one stated, one left unstated.

The stated goal is that it permits the Anglicans entering the Church to retain the customs of prayer and spirituality that they have maintained since their break with Rome under Henry VIII. By itself, this is to be expected. Similar kinds of situations have been worked out over the course of the last two millennia with every group that has ever broken off. Even the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar rites, having distinct histories of fission and fusion, have also their distinct rites.

The second point is touched on rather tangentially by the canonist Ed Peters when he says the Church is moving away from geographic territories and towards social groupings.

This "social grouping" will create problems down the road, of course, but it isn't noticeably different from what's happened in the United States for the last 50 years.

In medieval Europe, the king may have his private chapel, but Sunday Mass was in the cathedral, and everyone attended, from prince to pauper. That kind of Mass hasn't been seen in the United States in a long time. Today, the rich have their parish church, the poor have theirs, and never do the twain meet. Indeed, when the poor dare to enter a rich man's church, their faux pas is made clear. In much the same way, the poor look askance at anyone daft enough to drive their Beemer to the run-down urban church in the heart of the 'hood.

But, given the who the TAC are and what they represent, the second message is much more interesting.

The TAC love the traditional liturgy. They love chant, the priest leading the people towards the heaven of the altar, the communion rail. They hate guitars, clown noses and insipid liturgy.

The bishops of England have long tried to keep the TAC out of the Church, for fear that a half-million serious Catholics might upset the balance of power. The Holy Father just did an end-run around them.

But it isn't just around them. Think of all the bishops in the developed countries, bishops in the United States for instance, who don't like Summorum Pontificum, who put various illegitimate impediments in place, bishops who just don't understand that the current Novus Ordo liturgy is a thing made for children, not adults.

With the new structure, a structure that could easily be used by not only the SSPX, but many, many other groups, the Holy Father has the ability to do an end-run around recalcitrant bishops throughout the world.

From the descriptions so far, the new Anglican format seems to be essentially a quasi "religious order" that's organized not by vows or living together in stable community (e.g., cloister), but rather by traditional spiritual practice.

Could the Ecclesia Dei groups around the world ultimately be set up in a similar fashion?
If bishops continue to be recalcitrant towards the Holy Father's wishes, there's no reason they couldn't be.

This bodes exceedingly well for Extraordinary Catholics, that is, the Catholics who follow the Extraordinary Form. Indeed, it bodes well for ALL faithful Catholics.

For myopic bishops?
Not so much...

UPDATE: I've had some questions concerning John Allen's report that the Vatican note compares the "personal ordinariate" to military dioceses in structure and lack of geographic containment.

While this comparison is certainly true of the governing structure, it should be remembered that this structure is quite different from the military diocese in terms of its purpose.

The military diocese exists to minister to a highly mobile population. The spirituality of that population can be very much in conformance with that of the rest of the population it exists within, but the governing structure is set up to handle the mobility problem that military service presents.

The population of a personal ordinariate, on the other hand, might be geographically quite stable, its population very unlikely to move at all. It exists in order to protect a specific approach to spirituality common to a widely dispersed group of people, it protects that spirituality from "outside" interference or suppression.

Thus, the personal ordinariate is, indeed, expressly designed to keep its members out from under the thumb of the ordained men who would otherwise oversee those members. In this regard, the personal ordinariate is actually quite a lot closer to the status of a religious order, if only because (a) religious orders exist to protect and promote specific spiritualities and (b) the local bishop has extremely limited ability (read "none") to interfere with the spiritual life of the order.

There is, of course, one exception to the similarity between religious orders and personal ordinariates. A bishop can invite in or kick out any religious order in his diocese. A diocese does not have a religious order within its boundaries unless the bishop invites it in. It can only operate within the boundaries of the diocese until the bishop kicks it out.

That same bishop has absolutely no such control over the members of a personal ordinariate.

John Allen may (or may not) realize this, but for political reasons he may be choosing to remain publicly silent about this aspect of the personal ordinariate. Certainly the bishops recognize what Pope Benedict has done, but they also have good reasons for not drawing public attention to this aspect of the new structure. And, of course, the Vatican is diplomatically silent about this aspect as well, choosing to emphasize the form of the governing structure, while delicately describing the purpose without reference to the local bishop.

I am certain more than one of them will be very interested in seeing what other kinds of personal ordinariates get set up. This just doesn't bode well for local bishops who continue to defy the Pope.


Patrick said...

I'm not entirely convinced of the end run scenario in this case. Many of the Anglican churches in my metro have become very big fans of the Catholic rosary and are completely ignoring the Anglican Prayer Beads that have become so common lately. Even the local media had quotes about how many Anglicans from outside the region were alarmed at their conservative nature. I think the Vatican as well as the Anglicans realized that instead of a full Anglican internal schism, the conservative Anglicans can find a way back to where their beliefs are a little more appreciated may be best for both religions. The liberal North American Anglicans don't want them and the Vatican is happy for a few more priests in their ranks.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I don't disagree with your analysis. I'm just pointing out that this particular course of action has more than one consequence.

I'm sure the Pope and his bishops, whether those for or against him, are very fully aware of the various implications this structure presents.

Patrick said...

I think the Lutherans are moving in the same direction. The Lutheran conservatives and liberals are nearly at the same breaking point in the United States and I really hope the Vatican steps up to the possible opportunities for peaceful transition there as well.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

That's insightful analysis, Steve. Looking at the meaning of those Papal initiatives in the great scheme of things really helps one to realize how Herculean a Pope's mission really is.
Since you mentioned the possible use of this new structure also by the SSPX, I'm not really sure either that they would have any sincere interest on it, or that it would be a good idea, given the fact that kookiness in general and anti-semitism and disobedience in particular, are rampant in their midst.
Not to mention that, as a Latin American, when I hear about these welcome changes I can't help feeling some sadness along with the happiness, thinking that it would be great if the Pope and the Vatican could also think through ways for the changes to be enforced here. In my country, for example, Summorum Pontificum has been thus far just a blip on the radar.

Also, Steve, are the 400/500,000 figure right? This post from Catholic Light mentions that TAC has just 5,200 members in the US, and even less in England.
Of course this is a blessing if it works out, no matter the number.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

According to the Catholic News Agency and the TAC's own website, the TAC has 41 member countries and over 400,000 members.

Their presence in the UK and US is not huge, but the fact of the headlines is what disturbs the bishops. Even if there are not a lot of members in the UK or US, this is precedent that other Anglicans and non-Anglicans can use to upset episcopal apple carts.

The points about the SSPX being essentially crazy are, however, well-taken. While Fr. Z has been promoting the idea that the SSPX might come in through this door, I'm sure their flakiness is one of the reasons the Holy Father has held off opening that particular door to them.

If it's any consolation, it's not like the bishops in the US are allowing SP to be more than a blip either. They are, almost to a man, trying to sweep it under the rug in the hopes that it will die a swift death.

That's why Papa is building this for the Anglicans. It's a warning.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

If it's any consolation, it's not like the bishops in the US are allowing SP to be more than a blip either.

That's a very kind of you, trying to cheer me up, but I'm afraid it's not much consolation.:) The basic difference is that, in the US, you have a great number of well instructed and still influential faithful, Catholic Answers, EWTN, orthodox and also influential apologists and bloggers, large and non-kooky traditional groups that counterbalance, at least to some extent, the liberal presence in Catholicism, and so on and so forth.
We have no such a luxury here. This is the kind of difficulty that is supposed to "spice up" one's life, I guess...;)

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, maybe you are meant to start the apostolate.

That's how Karl Keating got started. He was a lawyer who got upset at all the anti-Catholic tracts being left on car windshields during Mass. So he printed up a pamphlet refuting the anti-Catholic pamphlets and put all HIS on the car windshields during Mass.

A few days later, someone called to order several hundred more. He said he was temporarily out of stock, but more were on the way. Then he called up a printer, printed up some more and sold them. He suddenly realized he had found a niche.

So, where would the niche be for you here? If you want to talk about getting material, I'd be happy to give you some. Let me know:

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Thanks again, Steve. I know the story about CA's origins (if Hollyweird weren't so fanatic, a wonderful inspirational movie could be made about it...).
To be frank, I've already entertained some ideas you suggest, not about an "apostolate" per se, but something different. Anyway, I don't feel (at least for now :)), really able to compare myself to the likes of Karl Keating:). And also, given the situation here, I doubt even Karl Keating himself alone could make a difference - one thing is fighting anti-Catholicism, another is figuring out what to do when the prevailing local form of Catholicism gets corrupted.
Perhaps in the near future I may have the opportunity of taking advantage of your offer - and I already had your e-mail, since I've already corresponded with you, as you may remember.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I remembered shortly after I posted the comment. Sigh. Old age is a terrible thing...

But you wouldn't be alone. As soon as you stand publicly, others will join you. Even bishops and priest might eventually see the light.

Don't think you're alone.
You aren't.
It's just that everyone is afraid to speak. Once the first voice goes up, others will appear.

And remember, even Karl Keating wasn't Karl Keating at the beginning. He only got to where we see him after he spent a while on the ground in San Diego, building up his knowledge.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

OK, Steve.

For the record, I've never thought of myself as being "alone" as a candidate to faithful Catholic, neither here nor anywhere else; actually I abhore such presumptions.
What I tried to argue was that, no matter of the amount of popular support that could be possible, it would take no less than a considerable number of Karl Keatings to make some impact here.

Patrick said...

Another interesting theory was reported this morning on the BBC Radio news. They believe that if the Catholic Church now allows married Anglican priests in as priests, that they are allowing a way for Catholic men torn between priesthood or marriage to now have a loophole to do both. The BBC believed it possibly was a way to appease a growing call for married priests without changing current policies.

Dymphna said...

Your social grouping comment made me smile. My husband and I once went to a very well to do parish and boy were the parishioners unhappy to see us. The church was beautiful but unless we have no other choice,we won't go back there again.