The National Catholic Review

The 1230 Mass today at London's Westminster Cathedral looked like any other. But for the hint in the booklet for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, that after the homily would be a "Rite of reception and confirmation", there was nothing at all to indicate the significance of what was to happen. The celebrant, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, Alan Hopes, said nothing at the start of Mass, and it wasn't until the end of a lengthy homily on Mary as Theotokos, or God-bearer, and the controversies of the fourth-century Council of Nicea which led to this Feast, that Bishop Hopes mentioned that they would be receiving some former members of the Church of England into full communion.

They included, he said, three former bishops and their relatives, as well as three Anglican nuns.

It would have been hard, if you had just dropped into the Cathedral for Mass, to understand the significance of what was happening.There was nobody around to explain that these are the founding members of the world's first Ordinariate, the scheme created by Pope Benedict to allow for the corporate reception of Anglicans (see my previous post).

The Ordinariate will be created in the next week or so, with Rome's legislative act expected to be announced on 11 January. The jurisdiction will be headed by an Ordinary -- inevitably one of the ex-bishops received into the Church today. The ordination to the diaconate and priesthood of the three ex-bishops will take place in a couple of weeks. They will be followed at Easter, according to Ruth Gledhill of The Times -- who seemed to be the only one who knew that today's Mass was happening -- by about 20 parish groups, perhaps 40-50 clergy, and a further three former bishops. 

Among the three ex-bishops received today was John Broadhurst, 68, until last night the Bishop of Fulham with pastoral care of 55 parishes across the country opposed to the ordination of women as bishops. He remains the He is the former leader of the Anglo-Catholic group of about 1,000 clergy known as Forward in Faith.

The three nuns received today are the youngest members of the popular Anglo-Catholic shrine of Walsingham, and include its former superior. Their departure leaves only four elderly religious.

I counted nine lay people also being received today; among them are two wives of the defecting ex-bishops.

The celebrant, Bishop Hopes, himself a former Anglican, spoke of their "long and challenging journey" on the road to the Catholic Church, and this, their "decisive step on the road of your discipleship". He prayed for the "perfect unity" one day between Catholics and Anglicans. Then he spoke to those being received -- but without a microphone, so the congregation could barely hear. When the microphone was restored, he told them they were now full members of the Catholic Church, and we clapped. Then it was Mass as normal.

The beginning of a historic realignment of Western Christianity thus began with an event about as unpublic and understated as it was possible to have designed. Not even members of Forward in Faith knew about it.

It is not hard to guess why. Too much fanfare and publicity now could make the Ordinariate look triumphalist, and cause ill-feeling among both Anglicans and Catholics. Much better to begin discreetly, and let it grow away from the spotlight. But perhaps just as important are the delicate sensibilities of those left behind, many of whom are wrestling with the decision of whether to follow.

So there was no press conference, no photographers -- and barely a journalist in sight. The Ordinariate, one might say, began today with a very English whimper. 

[NB THIS STORY IS UPDATED HERE].

Comments

Mike Evans | 1/4/2011 - 10:29am
It sure seems like these 'bishops' are making the shift to Roman Catholicism for all the wrong reasons. Like Winifred, I wonder where all this will lead us. It certainly bodes ill if any of them are appointed to head up a diocese or ordinariate. I don't think Jesus had brand name competition in mind when he sent his apostles and disciples forth to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.
JIM MCCREA | 1/4/2011 - 6:46pm
Why was this action on their part "courageous?"  RCC priests and lay folk cross the Tiber the other way on a regular basis, and quite often.  Is that courageous, or just an exhibition of religious and spiritual integrity?

I find nothing from a Catholic viewpoint that makes me proud that we are welcoming with open arms and much allowance made for their Anglican viewpoint (are they RC or not?) for mostly men who are against the ordination of women and gays.  We have enough of that attitude already in this church; we don't need to make a big deal about the addition of a few more.

Maybe Abp Nichols is a bit embarrassed about the whole thing!
REV JOHN HUGHES | 1/4/2011 - 11:01am
These courageous new Catholics sacrificed security and public respect for the sake of the truth. I deeply regret that their reception was done ''in a corner.'' Surely Archbishop Vincent Nichols should have been there to welcome them.
Donald Hands | 1/2/2011 - 8:25pm
Sad that Rome has to keep its wounded, injured party stance since the separation in the 16th century due its own Roman excesses and arrogant mono-ecclesiasiticism, as if the Anglicans only have one choice, to beg forgivemess and return to the injured party's sulk. Rome needs to meet the other Churches  at least half-way and admit its cultural arrogance especially in light of its protecting prelates complicit in the hiding of civil crimes (rape of Children). The RC offending priests have already been named and have paid their price, the bishops who hid these crimes need to be outed and arraigned. The Anglican Communion has sufficient checks and balances against the monopoly of RC bishops' authority so that Anglicans do not have the same problems with this abuse crisis. The RC church could learn a lot from the Anglicans about married clergy, limits on the authority of bishops, and lay leadership since tney are the very ones who write the checks to keep the ship afloat.
Thomas Piatak | 1/2/2011 - 3:10pm
May God continue to bless these men and women as they enter into full communion with the Church founded by Christ.
Winifred Holloway | 1/1/2011 - 9:56pm
This crossing over to Rome gives me no pride, pleasure or hope.  Considering the reasons these gentlemen have (women priests, gay clergy), I would say we already have enough of this medieval attitude in the RCC.  IMHO, this is no "pure" change of heart.
Bill Mazzella | 1/1/2011 - 9:31pm
I have always been intrigued by these words of Jesus. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte ; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." When a man approached Jesus and asked him how to live the full life, Jesus told him to sell all and follow him. So there is a difference between inviting one to join an empire and inviting to a richer life. Evangelization is in pursuing the beatitudes. Not in extending an empire. 
JIM MCCREA | 1/1/2011 - 8:57pm
I suspect that the reception of the many former RCC priests and others into the Anglican Communion is handled in an equally discreet manner.  If the RCC is going to crow over crossing into the Ordinariate, the numbers game will find it on the losing side.

A simply reception is always the best way to go.