Horses and Courses

Ed Tomlison assesses current Catholic prospects

We have known for some time that the Anglo-Catholic movement will soon be divided with some leaving to form the Ordinariate as others establish the contrasting vision of the Society of Ss. Wilfred and Hilda. So how are these different options shaping up as the weeks progress?


The Ordinariate

Announced just over a year ago ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’ (aka the Ordinariate) was a response from the Vatican to Anglicans who can no longer remain within the Church of England. Since a nervous press conference revealed surprised Archbishops of both communions much has happened. Most notably the Holy Father visited these shores and Beatified Cardinal Newman whose own faith journey is key for understanding this historic offer.

The visit of Pope Benedict was followed by the resignations of key bishops from within the Catholic movement. John Broadhurst, Keith Newton, Andrew Burnham, Edwin Barnes and David Silk all announcing a desire to accept the gracious offer from Rome. They will be joined by 50 clergy and several hundred people.

These groups, predominantly based in the South of England, will embrace an intensive preparation during Lent of 2011 and be received into full communion in Holy Week. During Eastertide the one time Anglican clergymen will be granted Catholic orders and the English Ordinariate then opens for business at PentecoSt


The Society of Wilfred and Hilda

Announced at two Sacred Synods the Society of Ss. Wilfred and Hilda remains shrouded in secrecy. Whilst some lament the creation of yet another Catholic society others delight that, unlike Forward in Faith, this society will be devotional as well as political. It has been championed by a raft of emerging new ‘leaders’. These former establishment men will have a hard job convincing some that they are working for the Anglo-Catholic cause and not the institution. But only time will tell.

Whilstmanypeople havebeen happy to sign up to the Society others have been critical of its implementation. This criticism worsened when its leaders inexplicably failed to speak about it at the Forward in Faith assembly. On his blog Fr. Hunwicke declared it a ‘crude attempt to sabotage the Holy Father’s Ordinariate scheme’. Whilst Damian Thompson declared it ‘the Society of Hinge and Bracket’.


The Ordinariate

The short term for the Ordinariate is a mixed bag. One the positive side those entering will breathe a sigh of relief at leaving the synodical journey of the last few years behind. They will be overjoyed at having secured sacramental assurance within a Church that supports them and does not discriminate against traditional beliefs. But on the negative side these pioneers face huge personal upheaval. Homes and pensions will be lost and the pain of division which will inevitably occur within their own congregations will be tricky to manage.

The Society

The short term prospects for the Society are the polar opposite. Whilst members will not face any personal upheaval they face a very difficult task in securing synodical approval (the society model was turned down by the Revision Committee) and credibility. Furthermore they will feel the loss of those leaving who have spearheaded the Catholic movement since 1992. Finally one must ask what this society can achieve that other societies have not?


The Ordinariate

Pope Benedict has called the Ordinariate ‘prophetic’ and few could deny that it will change English faith forever. But precisely how it will change remains to be seen. Will it become a bridge between the communions and a helpful path for future converts? Will it retain a truly Anglican feel and establish itself as a vibrant part of the Roman Catholic Church in this land? Or will it struggle to take hold and slowly be subsumed? None can know but Pope Benedict is nobody’s fool and the small seed planted in 2011 could develop into a wonderful thing. Perhaps the ball is ultimately in the Church of England’s court and the Ordinariate will grow if the chaos continues in Canterbury?

The Society

Even those championing the Society admit that its long term future looks bleak. When promoting it at the FiF Assembly Fr. Houlding repeatedly stated that it will need Synodical approval to work. Will Synod grant this authority? Perhaps in the short term. And what will the Society do when Synod gets nasty? And intellectually how will they defend the decision to remain Anglican beyond a generation given the current direction of the Anglican Church? The Society might work for those nearing retirement or hostile to Rome but it seems highly unlikely it will do anything meaningful long term for those desiring a truly Catholic future. ND

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