Monday, 17 January 2011

The Anglican Ordinariate (deleted blog restored after editing)

And deliver us from women. Amen.
Except maybe these three ...

And of course these three.

Last Sunday, three former Anglican bishops were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church by Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Writing in last week's Tablet, Allen Brent explains that men like himself, former Anglican priests who have been received into the Catholic Church and are now awaiting ordination in the ordinariate, are concerned not primarily about the ordination of women nor about gay issues but about the principle of unity enshrined in the concept of 'koinonia'. In other words, it is the breaching of unity brought about by the ordination of women and the consecration of gay unions that has created this mass deflection, and not 'misogynist and homophobic prejudices'. That may be true, and indeed I can remember when feminist author Sara Maitland became a Roman Catholic in the early 1990s, she offered a similar argument - and she is most certainly not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. However, the onus is on the ordinariate, and most particularly on its priests, to allay any such suspicions in their practice and preaching.

But I must admit I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness about this ordinariate and what it means for both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Not ony does it feel like a monumental rebuff to Catholic women campaigning for greater visibility and influence in the Church, but there is one issue in particular which has hardly been mentioned in the news coverage, but which seems to me to be one of the most important human aspects of this story. That is the situation of those Roman Catholic priests for whom compulsory celibacy is an almost impossible demand, and a monumental daily sacrifice that they are asked to make in order to be priests. What does this mean for those men, some of whom have served the Church faithfully for all their adult lives?

We hear so much about abusive and failed priests, and we should not underestimate the hugely destructive impact these men have had on the lives of their victims and on the reputation of the church. But we also need to bear in mind that the majority of Roman Catholic priests are ordinary men living what are, by modern standards, extraordinary lives of commitment and dedication, sometimes working in situations of considerable risk and hardship to minister to society's most unwanted and excluded members.

There are many Roman Catholic priests who have a vocation to the celibate life, and who insist that they are given the grace for what would otherwise be an impossible demand in the interests of their priesthood. I believe that celibacy is an indispensable gift to the Roman Catholic Church, not just for priests but for all who witness to an alternative way of channelling one's erotic energies in these sex-obsessed times, in lives of radical commitment to contemplation and prayer, and of active dedication to the poor and the outcast. But there are many, many priests who feel torn between their desire for marriage and family life and their vocation to the priesthood, and who do not experience the gift of celibacy in that way. What about those men, and why is it that the Catholic Church is willing to ordain former Anglican priests who are married, while still refusing to allIow its own priests to marry? I believe this constitutes a form of betrayal amounting to pastoral negligence, although in the present times it might be well nigh impossible for priests to come out and speak openly about the intensification of loneliness and conflict that this must produce.

For some Roman Catholic priests, the celebrations accompanying yet another influx of married men to the priesthood, this time with even fewer restraints and conditions than before, must be salt in a painful wound, particularly when they have to work on a daily basis with some of these priests. In these days of dwindling vocations and diminishing congregations, presbyteries can be lonely places. To go home to such a place every evening knowing that one's fellow priest is going home to his wife and children, must for some of our priests be almost unbearable. There is something inhuman about these double standards that now prevail in the Catholic priesthood.

There is no doubt that the decision to leave the Anglican communion has entailed a considerable sacrifice in terms of income, housing and long-term security for priests and bishops who are making the move. But I suspect that, for some of their Catholic priestly brethren, these sacrifices must pale into insignificance compared to that most basic sacrifice of all - the demand that they choose between priesthood and marriage. That is one choice that these new priests have never been asked to make. 


  1. Fine word koinonia but when it excludes from a community the gifts and vocation of people based on gender and sexual preferences, I just have to wonder at their disingenuity. I just pray that generations to come will look back at these posturings and laugh at how clumsy and primitive the churches were in coming to terms with the true nature of God's all encompassing love.
    Where there is no vision the people perish. PS Glad you got the link to the deacons news too.
    More ridiculous dogma.

  2. All Catholics are bound to assent to the doctrines taught by all the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, recover some of the spirit of northern European Catholicism and the products of organic development in the various dioceses and religious orders.

  3. Some good points but sad about your bitterness though.
    Coats, hats, misogyny? you can do better.

  4. I'm not bitter but I am sad that, as the Church bends over backwards to be hospitable to some, it feels less and less hospitable for so many others.

  5. There's no salt in my wound, so don't try to rub it in yourself

  6. Thank you, again, for saying so eloquently what many of us feel. The poem says it all

  7. The sadness, being an unresolved matter of what Christ is asking of you in the Church, is expressing itself in a way another understands as bitterness. It is up to each one of us to communicate clearly, but especially those who teach. Public silence on private feelings would do much to facilitate a restoration of tranquility in the life of the Church and peace to suffering souls.

  8. When you are in the majority (Fr Ray Blake) it is extremely difficult to have any understanding of the minority position, as your comment shows, and any comment coming from that minority is likely to be seen as bitter or coming from a victim mentality. As a lay woman who wanted to be a priest since I was a little girl and who is now an Interfaith Minister, I am not only sad (an excellent well reasoned post Tina) but furious at the crass outdated attitudes in the people who run the Catholic Church, and the breathtaking hypocrisy of saying "priests can't marry" and then welcoming married Anglican priests into the fold - ANYTHING rather than have women priests. I take heart in the fact that Jesus was a feminist. May his compassion reach those supposedly in charge of his legacy. Mine doesn't.

  9. Hi Tina, I find this all rather fascinating. As a celibate seminarian myself my feeling is to say to these new ordinariate priests "good for you" and "God Bless and help you". Also it's great that there are some more Catholic priests about as there are more "Labourers in the vinyard". The more interesting and puzzling theological issue for me is about the Sacraments. The issue of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharistic species. Up until now these communities will have been consecrating hosts but with invalid "null and void" orders. Hence from a Catholic point of view - no real presence of Christ - rather symbolic, a sign - a "sacramental". Now, saying the same prayers as they used to, these newly ordained priests have valid orders and hence Catholic would acknowledge the physical real presence. So I wonder if the experience of ordinariate members will change as the presence of Christ is there as it wasn't before. Will we see Eucharistic miracles.

  10. Discretion is required, of course, in deciding when private feelings have a role to play in public discussions. But when a very large number of people in a community share similar feelings of distress, anxiety or alienation (and in this situation many do), is there not some merit in being honest? Otherwise, a powerful minority maintains its power by the self-imposed silence of an unhappy majority. In such a situation, it is not tranquillity but control that gives the illusion of peace. (Perhaps Jesus should never have wept in public nor overturned the tables of the moneylenders nor spoken out against the hypocrisy of religious leaders. He should just have kept his feelings to himself in order to preserve the religious status quo and keep the peace).

  11. [I should add that the above comment is a response to B flat - Tina.]

  12. Beautifully written Tina. You are saying what so many people feel. One prays and wants to wish them well at the same time it is leaving many people feeling very uncomfortable indeed - for all the reasons you mention. There is going to have to be some massive bridge-building for this to work. In the meantime 90 per cent of the population out there in the real work does not go to church, I'm not sure this makes Christianity look any more comprehensible or attractive.

  13. Let's get this straight.

    Three ex-Anglican Bishops have come over to the One True Faith and have been ordained Priests, in this country, a country in which men and women were martyred in brutal ways for staying loyal to that One True Faith centuries ago, and you're upset and 'saddened' because of your obsession with gender-related equality issues and because you feel so much sympathy for Priests who, by their own free choice, dedicated themselves to celibacy because they must be gagging for it?

    Lady! Get over yourself! Priests have to live their lives, their own vocations. You really want to help them? Pray for them! The whole Church, in Heaven and on Earth is rejoicing that these brave men have not only become Catholic but have been ordained (at a time when, I don't know if you noticed, but there are not actually that many Priests being ordained) and you're upset, saddened, critical, carping, disgruntled and throwing your toys out of the pram because your 'vision' of the Church isn't the same as that of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Supreme Pontiff and Vicar on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI!

    'Bourgeois Priesthood!' Oh my! Lady, you are priceless!

  14. One has to remember that the former Anglican priests exist within a different "patrimony" from that of their celibate brothers. So I suggest having more patrimonies, and even some matrimonies.

  15. Re: Ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood - is it not well to consider the wider issue of possible schism with the Eastern church, if such ordinations were allowed? Not to mention the Eastern world.

  16. It is important that the Church facilitates and guides the vocations of all who are called by God. Womens vocations in the Catholic Church are in many cases not given guidence and support. It is very unlikely that there will be women ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church given the way that the teaching against the possibility of women priests has been promulgated. The vocations of devoted discipleship, of religious life, of living espoused to the Lord, are not promoted enough within the diocessan structure for women. There are a lot of people whose time and talents are wasted when they could be expressed in meaningful contribution to the life of the Church.
    It's not all about the priesthood, it's about the whole Christian community living authentically and in all expressing the Gospel and hence radically renewing and changing the world. Giving people knowledge of their dignity in service of others.

  17. Geraldine: I'm sorry ma'am but you state you wanted to be a Priest - if that's the case then I'm afraid you haven't even begun to understand the nature of the Priesthood.

    Tina: I'm sorry too; but I approach this with a bias against you over your well-known writings advocating compromise and conspiracy with the culture of death; but nevertheless I attempted an excusing objectivity; but still found you utterly disingenuous.
    I won't repeat what Laurence says above yet I have similar sentiments ; but I feel compelled to ask you what you mean when you speak of priestly consecration in relation to Our Lady?

    And sorry ma'am but where do you get off saying that these Anglicans returned to the One True Faith because of an aversion to the ordination of women?
    When by entering into communion they have to concede and affirm that not only is women's ordination invalid - but their own Anglican orders are invalid!!!

    I hate to break the news to you ma'am ; but the Church has no remit or mandate to ordain women - not only will it never happen - it can't happen!
    And frankly you should be the one grateful for your sex that women do not have to endure this sacrificial service - it's not a reward but a burden, it's not a crown but a cross....

    If you truly think anything different - then all your purported sympathy for the Priest vanishes amidst your being utterly oblivious to what it really is!

    Now I'm sorry again, but when you appeal for the plight of celibate priests , ostensibly kicked in the teeth by this process of dishing out 'get out of celibacy free' cards to ex-Anglicans; and express revulsion at the gauche indecorous insensitivity of their spouses expressing public affection - their not only having their cake but eating it while fellow clerics on lifelong bread and water look on ? And what of those outside with their noses pressed at the cathedral windows? Forced to leave their ministerial priesthood because of the love of a significant other and an urge to engage in the horizontee...?
    How a sword must pierce their
    How much sharper than a serpent's tooth must Pope Benedict's actions seem to those once loyal servants who were dispossessed, aside-thrust, chucked down by the sheer might of a despotic [uncaring, uncharitable anachronistic Patriarchal] Church's

    Ever heard of the Martyr fallacy ma'am ?
    The appeal to emotion in support for the underdog - that their case must be valid because they're either the oppressed minority or on the losing side?

    It's usually used by those who don't really have any sympathy for the poor underdog's plight - but they make a good ideological pawn to use against the enemy for utterly ulterior motives.

    I have to applaud your audacity ; but your attempt at a "want women priests - want amalgam of celibate/non-celibate priesthood - want oecumenism"
    becomes thwarted with:
    real oecumenism - but one you don't like
    an amalgam of celibate and non-celibate priests - but one totally contrary to your envisioned paradigm
    ...and no women priests at the end - in fact an almost vindication of those who opposed it outside the Church...

    so you attack the oecumenism as anti-oecumenical and the entry of non-celibates as a grossly insensitive and thoughtless affront to celibate priests and those who gae up their ministry because of its celibacy....

    All because you want one thing!
    So nice try - a good attempt at a finesse = mice sleight of hand !
    ...but pull the other one!

    Next time - why not try throwing in a story about an orphan and his puppy with an injured leg? Tug the heart-strings some more!
    The Julie Burchill-type assault on the clerical wives won't work - you haven't got the killer instinct for it...but better luck next time x

  18. This is in response to B flat.
    On Martin Luther King Jr day this quote is particularly appropriate
    "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

  19. How is it possible for other people not to see the injustice you declare so forcefully and so well?

    Where are the other RC female theologians to support you? Let them speak out.

    Many nuns believe womens ordination will come but are prepared to wait "quietly and patiently". Not good enough.

    Its fortunate She didn't say "How can this be? I'm not ready"!

    How can we support you? We'll jump in front of Prince William's wedding coach horse or superglue a hand to St Peter's foot in Rome if necessary!

  20. It is a very long time since I engaged in any form of public debate on this issue and so, having read this debate 'from a distance' so to speak, I am stunned at the venomous level of comment on the part of Laurence England and 'On the Side of the Angels' - This last seems to me a particularly inappropriate pen name.

    Now I remember why I chose to withdraw somewhat from church life - Not because of the 'Big' theological issues but rather because of the mean-spirited, ungenerous level of so much of the discourse.

    The words may be marginally more educated but the sentiments are on a par with those of the male who threatened(during a Mass) that he would 'kick my effing head in since I was a bitch'. Says it all really.

  21. entering into communion they have to concede and affirm that ... their own Anglican orders are invalid
    They don't have to, and they didn't (and wouldn't).

  22. You know, this is all fascinating. So many opinions on what "the silent majority" think. For those of us who don't live in "towers not of ivory, but builded/ by hands that reach heaven from hell",

    "What does this mean for those men, some of whom have served the Church faithfully for all their adult lives?"
    I don't know. What I do know is that those priests I've seen comment from (up to and including some of our bishops) are quite happy with this.

    I'd also remind you of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Ms Beattie.

    "why is it that the Catholic Church is willing to ordain former Anglican priests who are married, while still refusing to allIow its own priests to marry?"
    How about the unending tradition of the Church that once a priest (forever, like Melchizedek), one cannot marry? This is a stricture which we share with the Orthodox. The real question is, why have the Anglicans broken that tradition?

    "Welcome to the bourgeois priesthood."
    How frightful! You seem to be saying that priests think about nothing but sex. Could you be much more condescendingly Freudian?

    "For some Roman Catholic priests"
    Who? How many? Where? "Some Roman Catholic priests" sounds like it needs a second clause saying "... who I just made up".

    "There is something inhuman about these double standards that now prevail in the Catholic priesthood."
    And yet, somehow the priesthood survived the early 1990s. One would almost think divine providence were at work.

  23. It may appear that I was being venomous, when in fact, I was just drawing out the poison.

  24. Tina - thank you for having the courage to speak out continually on matters which are so important, in spite of the rudeness with which some people respond.

    With regard to the 3 Anglican bishops converting. It seems astounding to me that they have moved so quickly from believing that the bread and wine are symbolic to believing that they become Christ's body and blood (14 days I think you said). And an amazing coincidence that this leap of faith was prompted by Anglicans deciding to ordain women Bishops. Unless of course they don't really believe it........

    To 'on the side of the angels' as a bit of feedback for you I find your use of 'ma'am' patronising. I will assume that you had no intent to insult me but you need to be aware of your use of language in this regard. With regard to your comment that the ordination of women will never happen, of course it will happen or the Church as an institution will not be able to survive.

    To Laurence England - yes we have noticed that the numbers of priests is declining and we also see that the Church will do anything to keep its male priests and keep women out: ordain Anglicans with wives and families; move paedophile priests around.......Jesus included women in his inner circle although his male apostles didn't like it. It's not that Tina has to get into line with Christ and the Pope - it's more that the Pope needs to get into line with Jesus.

    To The Mystified - you are absolutely right! Maybe women think there is a conflict between being spiritual and being militant. Look at the lengths that brave women like Emmeline Pankhurst had to go to to get the vote for women. Women can either rise up, or we can wait for the Institution to crumble and die - it's going to happen one way or another.

  25. Tina,

    When they (and others expressing an interest) have expressed to the contrary why in your words is " the onus is on the Ordinariate, and most particularly on its priests, to allay any such suspicions in their practice and preaching."

    I think their ministry has more urgent concerns than addressing your preconceptions particularly when they have already been explicitly rebuffed. Also how would they go about doing this to your satisfaction?

  26. Ah Anonymous! I'm sure you think Tina is a paragon of reasonable empathic sensitivity; and is fully justified to point out the 'bitter irony' and 'double standards' involved; and if a little mockery of the thoughtlessness of the clerical wives is necessary to emphasise a point? Well she has just cause doesn't she?
    Yes I'm sure you think Tina's in the right.
    I don't.
    I think she doesn't like what happened one bit - and is appealing to the 'heroism of the celibates/plight of the 'expelled' ex-celibates' as a none-too-sincere or honest means to justify a very different set of ends....

    If Tina has a right to judge the motives of those within the ordinariate?
    Well surely we're entitled to defer to Tina's previous opinions on the issue, comparing and contrasting them and deliberating what exactly are her motives ?
    Sorry if that offends or seems venomous - but are we not supposed to be rejoicing [as they are in Heaven] at the return to the Church of those who were lost?
    Not sneering about the size of a lady's hat or finding a way to attack the Church for other reasons etc, like the antics of the illustrious Peter Stanford and the crux of the post above.

  27. In my earlier comment I referred to Jesus turning over the moneylenders' tables. This should of course be the money changers' tables - a subtle but important difference. Thanks to a friend for pointing this out to me.

  28. Geraldine, I think the Holy Father, having written quite eruditely on the subject of Jesus of Nazareth, has more insight into the Person of Jesus Christ than either you, or I. I hate to break this to you, love, but Jesus wasn't a feminist. He was and still is the Son of God, Redeemer of the World. Jesus is God, Geraldine. I expect that God is about as interested in feminism as you are in Canon Law.

  29. If Catholicism believes that recruiting a handful of renegade Anglicans who share its institutional misogyny will buttress its position it is mistaken.

  30. Greetings from Florida, USA.
    I found this an interesting article and more balanced, overall, than is sometimes met with on even catholic websites. I don't like the headline, though: I find it a little unkind (and, though I doubt the author intended it, oddly marxist): I mean, if I were an anglican curate who has been struggling, for years, on whether to make this significant decision to come over I might very well feel unwelcome on reading this! In my experience, unlike the author's it seems, few priests find celibacy particularly difficult in practice. Far more difficult, in monasteries, is living with their brethren in peace, year in year out, let alone in brotherly love; and, in dioceses, living without much support or encouragement, from bishops and mostly uninvolved laity. I would also like to have seen in the article some awareness of the not insignificant inferiority some of our former anglican clergy feel in our Church. For a start, they know that their orders are not regarded as valid - I once heard a Catholic describe Anglican clergy as 'charming, but lacking substance' due to this alleged theological invalidity. Second, ignorance is sometimes such that, in my former parish, the parish priest felt obliged to make an official announcement, in a newsletter and during a homily, to the effect that his assistant was still a 'normal' priest in spite of being married with two young children.

  31. Tina,
    forget the new theolgy. I know we all want to hang on to past glories, but your atavar really needs a makeover. When was that pic taken-1992? Cecil B.

  32. Cecil - Christmas Day 2010 actually. And I think you mean avatar.

  33. I learned today what an "avatar" was. I thought it was a representative of a deity but on asking I find it is a photo on a blog.

    Having been blessed with the return of a post that has stimulated an important debate, I would ask that if "Anon Cecil" can find no other reason to blog than to comment on physical appearance, would he please remember that WE do not want to "forget the new theology" but continue to explore.

    Don't waste Tina's time. We are so lucky she communicates in this way when, in reality, she is too big to Blog (though she would never say that).

    Tina, please consider closing the Comments on this page soon or edit them until after the broadcast because, even if you can deal with this sort of defence mechanism from those who have nothing else to offer, some of us feel protective and challenged to retaliate which is such a waste of time.

    We are going to record the Sunday programme through the TV channel 704 from 7am. We suggest Cecil does also, then he may have something worthwhile to offer.

  34. it seems astounding to me that they have moved so quickly from believing that the bread and wine are symbolic to believing that they become Christ's body and blood
    It would be astounding, certainly - a mysterious change in itself. But they are only continuing to believe what they always have believed: the real presence in the Eucharist. There is altogether too strong a desire on the part of some people to open windows into men's souls and police what they fine there.

  35. The fact that the National "Catholic" Reporter is on your blog list, says it all.

  36. Thank you for your comments, which are more balanced than many that have popped up on my FB and blog list. In particular, I have been astounded by the number of people who think that Anglicans don't believe in the Real Presence, also by the arrogance of those who claim that, as cradle Catholics and married men, they have more right to be ordained than the Anglicans. Excuse me, but, if they are cradle Catholics, they knew, when they married, that they were excluding themselves from ordinations - unlike the Anglicans.
    However, the aspect that I can't find in a quick reading of your post and the comments is that the principal point about the Ordinariate is surely that these clergy, and their (300 has been bandied about?) people is that , in the Ordinariate, they are being offered pastoral care, which they were promised by the Anglican General Synod fifteen years ago, which promise has now been broken.

  37. Correction to earlier comment

    In: "Excuse me, but, if they are cradle Catholics, they knew, when they married, that they were excluding themselves from ordinations - unlike the Anglicans."

    Ordination should, of course, be singular

  38. Anglican brothers and sisters.

    Know that for everyone who converts to Catholicism for the reasons given, two leave for those same reasons.

    Addition to earlier Comment:

    "Excuse me, but, if they are cradle Catholics, they knew, when they married that if any childen were born FEMALE AND/OR GAY etc. they would be excluding themselves from ordination."

    Lets work together for change within our traditions.

  39. Not a valid comparison with the case of an adult making an informed decision to forego a state (celibacy). I entirely agree with the argument that we should work for change - but that's a different case altogether

  40. Sorry Anon for my lack of clarity but "an informed decision" is not open to some.

    I was trying to point out that the chance of RC ordination depends on the lottery of X and Y chromosomes or the amount of testosterone circulating in the womb. We all start "female". The chromosomes can be overuled by the foetal enviroment. Hard to believe God meant significance in body shape or sexual orientation to those he now calls.

    Physicality is invalidated by the words "ALL ARE ONE IN CHRIST.

    I'm glad we can work together for change. Thank you.

  41. Tina, can you add Ageism to your list of causes (Cecil Comment).
    I've seen you referred to as "the fragrant and articulate Tina Beattie", a word I first heard used for the clever,elegant Mary Archer.
    You are not there yet but the cloak of invisibility descends on the older person. and it needs to be challenged.

  42. Grass Roots Catholic28 January 2011 at 18:33

    It has been suggested here and elsewhere that the Ordinariate is not a matter of concern for RC priests.

    How many times can the situation outlined below be multiplied?

    Week of Prayer for Christian Unity United Service
    Sunday 23 Jan. 2011.

    Location: Local Conservative Evangelical Anglican Church (No Real Presence; Against the ordination of women)

    Present: Roman Catholics; Quakers; Middle of the Road Church of England (no local Anglo-Catholic church); Methodists; United Reformed. (Ordained and Lay)

    Preacher: A female ordained Methodist minister, amazed and delighted to have been invited.

    Gist of Subject: Trying to tune discordant pianos to the same tuning fork.

    Next to me: Roman Catholic priest who spoke to me of the Ordinariate. His words:
    "It did not happen to me but I feel for those priest friends who fell in love, married and would have so loved to continue".

    The service was beautiful. We became one before the God who kneels before us. John 13: 1-16.


Comments and contributions are welcome so long as they respect the rules of courtesy and respect, which is not to inhibit robust disagreement.