• Subscribe to Crisis

  • A New Bridge across the Tiber

    by Rev. Dwight Longenecker

    The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has now been established in England. By Easter this year, three bishops, sixty priests, and nearly one thousand lay people had left the Church of England to be received into the Catholic Church. Archbishop Donald Wuerl is working with interested parties to establish the ordinariate in the United States, and progress is being made in Canada and Australia for ordinariates to be erected there later this year.

    What will be the future of this new ordinariate? It could be that it will simply bring into full communion with the Catholic Church a small number of conservative Anglo-Catholics. They were an eccentric church within a church in the Anglican Communion, and some predict that they will continue to be an eccentric church within the Catholic Church. Around the world, there will be small groups of traditionalist Anglicans who will differ from all the other tiny Anglican schismatic churches, in that they will actually be in full communion with Rome. They will keep to themselves and be viewed by mainstream Catholics as an eccentric rump of dissident Anglicans who like incense and lace, old-fashioned language and splendid old hymns, who somehow managed to worm their way into the Catholic Church. They will be regarded with bemusement and some bewilderment. Anglicans will shake their heads and wish them well and wonder why they didn’t become “proper Catholics” if they wanted to swim the Tiber. Eventually, the theory goes, they will die out. Their descendants will be absorbed into the mainstream of the Catholic Church, and the whole thing will be a footnote in the history of ecumenism.

    A second possibility is that the Anglican Church herself will eventually disintegrate or morph into something unrecognizably Anglican, and the ordinariate will be all that is left of historic Anglicanism. In this scenario, an increasing number of Anglicans worldwide will see that, if they want to be historic Christians within the Anglican tradition, the only place to do that will be within the ordinariate, and they will flee the sinking ship of Anglicanism to join it.

    This is almost certainly not going to happen, for several reasons: First of all, the Evangelical Anglicans are Protestants. After they have made the polite ecumenical noises, they do not really understand or appreciate the Catholic Faith. Secondly, many Anglo-Catholics also do not really want to be Catholic: They want to be Anglican. They honestly do not see the importance of being in full visible communion with the Catholic Church. They have serious misgivings about some of the Catholic dogmas, and they continue to believe that they are “Catholic within the Anglican Church.” Thirdly, the liberal wing of the Anglican church certainly has no wish to be in full communion with Rome. They dislike Roman authority, dogma, and moral teachings and are increasingly anti-Catholic.

     

    However, there is a third way. The ordinariate could develop in a very different and exciting direction. The way to understand this more dynamic possibility is to see the ordinariate as a new bridge across the Tiber for a whole range of Protestant Christians. Already, conservative, liturgically minded Lutherans are asking why there isn’t a Lutheran ordinariate, while some of them point to the formal intercommunion that already exists between Lutherans and Anglicans and argue that the Anglican ordinariate should naturally be open to Lutherans as well.

    And if Lutherans may come across the ordinariate bridge, why not Methodists? After all, Methodism was founded as a schism from Anglicanism. Could not conservative, liturgically minded Methodists also find their way “home to Rome” through the Anglican ordinariate?

    For this to happen, the Anglican ordinariate will have to be flexible, and the members will have to see their mission not simply as one of conservation of a venerable patrimony but one of evangelization and outreach. The signs that this is the spirit of the ordinariate are already very positive. First of all, those who have joined the ordinariate have truly left everything to become Catholics. The Anglican bishops, priests, and people have turned their back on their parsonages, palaces, parish churches, and pension plans. They have set out with a true missionary spirit, and the sort of men and women who are willing to take such a step of faith will bring that same enthusiasm to the task of helping the ordinariate be the structure for ecumenical evangelization that it should be.

    The way things might develop is best explained with a few examples of how Anglican Use Catholicism has already grown. The Church of the Atonement in San Antonio, Texas, was founded in the early 1980s by a group of disenchanted Episcopalians who felt called to the Catholic Faith. They discovered Rev. Christopher Phillips, a bright young Episcopal priest who was a convert from Methodism who also felt called to the Catholic Faith. They invited him to be their pastor, so he and his young family moved to Texas and they got started: Just a few families with a pastor, meeting in a borrowed room at the local Catholic parish on a Sunday afternoon. As part of the pastoral provision, which allowed former married Anglican priests to be ordained, personal Anglican Use parishes were established within existing Latin rite dioceses. Now, some 30 years later, the Church of the Atonement is a thriving parish with a beautiful church, school, and thousands in attendance.

    In Springfield, Kansas, Shane Schaetzel, a former Evangelical who was an Episcopalian and eventually came into full communion with the Catholic Faith, has started a prayer group with fellow Catholics, a few Anglicans, and Evangelicals who are interested in Catholicism. The group meets for prayer and uses the Vatican-approved, Anglican-style Book of Divine Worship. They hope to found a new Anglican Use parish. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, Rev. Eric Bergman led members of his Episcopal congregation into full communion with the Catholic Church and, with the encouragement of the diocese and local clergy, has established a small but thriving Anglican Use congregation. In Houston, the parish of Our Lady of Walsingham has grown from similar small beginnings to a beautiful parish and thriving congregation of Catholics worshipping within the Anglican tradition.

     

    What do these small pioneering efforts indicate? They show not only what can be done, but also the spirit in which it will be accomplished. The way to a very exciting future for the Anglican ordinariate is for the new Anglican-style Catholics to set out with missionary fervor. They might begin with American Evangelicals. Those who observe American Evangelicalism only through the mainstream media might assume that all Evangelicals are devotees of big, Baptist mega-churches, or are followers of fire-breathing fundamentalist televangelists. They do not understand the breadth and complexity of American Evangelicalism, and therefore do not realize that there are many Evangelicals who are not extremists.

    There are many well-educated and thoughtful Christians who are very interested in the historic Faith. Many are disenchanted with mainstream Evangelicalism and are searching for a church rooted in history. They long for a church that is liturgical, that has a deep spirituality. When they leave their Evangelical churches and search for something more, their first stop is usually the Episcopal or Lutheran churches. They soon find that these churches are chest-deep in the whole liberal and radical agenda, so they sadly depart.

    If these Evangelical pilgrims summon the courage to overcome their deeply ingrained anti-Catholic prejudice and go to their local Catholic parish, they find that it is either as liberal and trendy as the Episcopalians, or that there are cultural and devotional obstacles that they find difficult to overcome. Even if they come to agree with Catholic doctrine and are received into the Church, they are still aware of the large cultural gap between the Protestantism they were brought up on and the Catholic Church they have joined.

    What they are looking for is a church that holds to the fullness of Catholic doctrine and practice but has some of the practical strengths of Evangelical congregations. If these sincerely searching Evangelical Christians could find a church that was fully Catholic and yet offered a liturgy and structure that felt traditionally Anglican, they would immediately feel at home.

    If they found a home in parishes of the Anglican ordinariate, what would these converts bring to the whole Catholic Church? We only have to look at the contributions made to modern American Catholicism by those Evangelicals who have already made the journey: Steve Ray, Marcus Grodi, Scott Hahn, Tom Howard, Mark Shea, Carl Olson, and Francis Beckwith are just a few well-known names, but there are many more. The converts from Evangelicalism bring to the Catholic Church a sincere love of Christ, a profound faith, deep knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, a heart ready to learn, and a love for the fullness of the Faith and a desire to bring more of their Protestant brothers and sisters into the full embrace of Mother Church.

    For the Anglican ordinariate to open up in this way, those involved will have to have an old-fashioned missionary spirit. They will need to walk away from Anglican buildings and property. They will need to study how to plant and grow churches. They will need to make the financial sacrifices necessary for church growth. The Evangelicals are the Christians who know just how to do this. And if they succeed, the Anglican ordinariate could become a new bridge across the Tiber and the way for many Protestants to find their way into full communion with the Church.

     

    Image: North London Ordinariate Parish

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

    Subscribe to Crisis

    (It's Free)

    Go to Crisis homepage

    • FamilyMan

      Such an amazing opportunity for the Church as you describe it here. As an adult convert from nothingness, it was probably a shorter swim. Fascinating to catch glimpses into the possibilities that you have shared.

      • Jim

        Hi, Familyman!

        You are quite correct! I am also a convert from nothingness, coming into the Church in 2006, at the age of 43. It has been an amazing journey.

        CATHOLIC’S: LEARN YOUR FAITH!!!!

    • Diane Peske

      As one who was born into Rome…then wandered post-12 yr.-Catholic education- into secular college….35 years in Anglicanism before returning to Rome 2+ years ago….I ALWAYS read these stories of God’s Spirit moving in others towards Rome with interest, hope and joy.

      The very idea of a Lutheran Ordinariate? Now-Catholic (Hubby is the son of a Lutheran pastor by the way )…I can only imagine God having the last laugh on dear ole Martin on that one…

      Seriously…what an amazing moment to use our holy imaginations to see the fulfillment of Jesus prayer: “That we all may be one”…in ways like the Catholic Church bringing our Protestant brethren hungry to return to their roots, back into our fold!

    • http://www.atonementonline.com Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

      One small correction — it’s not “Church of the Atonement,” but it’s “Our Lady of the Atonement.” I don’t want to push our Lady aside, since she’s a major advocate for all of this!

    • Cord Hamrick

      Indeed!

      Here’s a thought:

      It is now the year 2200. A Church historian is lecturing:

      “Why, yes. The American liturgy, or American Rite as some call it, does have some things distinguishing it stylistically from the Eastern rites and even from the Latin rite of European Christendom. The American Rite is more similar to the ancient Church in England, but with some nuances all its own, especially in worship music. But you’d be surprised at the circuitous route by which it got that way!

      “You see, in the early 21st century Pope Benedict XVI established the personal ordinariate which started the Church in England, which was then a tiny fraction of the Christians there, towards its current majority position, eclipsing those in schism.

      “But this sent ripples throughout the entire Anglosphere and it was quickly found that the Anglican Use norms were better enculturated for English-speakers than either of the then-approved worship patterns (an older one called the Tridentine Latin Mass and a more recent and poorly-governed form which was, at the time, called the Novus Ordo). Christians from other schismatic groups began streaming in, leading to a bit of a clash with two groups of Catholic bishops, some of whom were deeply loyal to TLM, and others of whom were deeply loyal to NO, and had tended to be at each others’ throats until then. When suddenly the Anglican Use leaped in popularity and the so-called “Evangelical Catholics” began asking for new Anglican Use parishes to be set up in areas where there was already an existing Catholic parish, the previously warring bishops factions tended to unite to oppose them. All very understandable! …but the resulting acrimony sadly delayed unification by about a hundred years.

      “By then, the last of what were then called the Congregational Free Churches (formerly a loosely-affiliated set of schismatic groups called Evangelicals and Non-Denominationals) were beginning to have actively homosexual pastors, and nearly every such church (to the dismay of their more orthodox members) already held wedding ceremonies for any number of persons of any gender whatsoever, under any imaginable terms.

      “Those congregational Christians who held to orthodox Christian sexual morality were already being hounded out of their churches because of this and into smaller house-churches where they could teach their children as they wished. (They were the backbone of the late 21st-century homeschooling movement). And these same congregational Christians tended to overlap heavily with the neo-orthodox movements in which, starting in the late 20th century, Protestants had begun exploring ancient liturgical and devotional practices to find their relevance, and with the “new outlook on Paul” which had fractured the last of the Calvinists with re-interpretations of “grace” and “works” and “law.”

      “So in 2112 when the now homeless Evangelical Traditionalists held their unexpectedly gigantic ‘Ancient Faith Symposium’ (two hundred thousand physical attendees and about ten times that attending in cyberspace) and their leaders started referring to their former churches as ‘Temples of Syrinx’ (a classical allusion in which they accused their former denominations’ teachings of being as meaningless as wind whistling in the reeds), the separated brethren were ready for a change and came rushing towards the Tiber. The Vatican received them with open arms, approving the creation of a specifically Anglo-American liturgical practice intended to ‘reform the reform of the reform’ and unite the Anglican Use, Novus Ordo, and TLM under a set of rubrics which were broad enough to allow something similar to any of the above, while well-regulated enough to prevent really obnoxious abuses of the liturgy.

      “Apparently this was rather a lot to ask for and the new rubrics were delayed and delayed and delayed again, until Release One finally saw daylight in 2120, with plans for further “Releases” to make adjustments in 2140 and 2160. It was rather prescient of them, in fact: For the phasing-in of the new rubrics brought about both new kinds of abuses and new confusion to the faithful, only made better by the observation that it wasn’t a “marketed” as a high-handed wholesale redesign as the Novus Ordo had sometimes been, and being spread out over forty years, it was less jarring and afforded opportunity for less mischief.

      “But over that time there were ever more Anglican Use overtones in the liturgy, sometimes anticipating the next upcoming (but not yet released) form of the liturgy in ways that had to be gently but firmly corrected until the time was right. And this increasing enculturation towards an Anglo-American liturgy consistently produced ever-increasing streams of conversions of disaffected Congregationalists and neo-orthodox Calvinists.

      “In the ancient Church they found — and this continues to our present day, in 2200 — something both old and new, finally enculturated to the Anglosphere, but keeping the authority which Christ instituted in the Church and which granted them the moral and doctrinal certainty and unanimity they’d long sought, but not been able to firmly achieve, through their earlier devotion to sola scriptura.”

      • W. A. Whitestone

        One will not escape homosexual priests in the church of Rome. Three truces, the first in 1968, the second in 2005 and the third with the publication of the John Jay Study guarantee the presence of unrepentant persons with same-sex attraction who will be sexually active and promote their lifestyle by word and deed.

        The British Anglicans leaving the Church of England were willing to tolerate openly practising ‘gays’ in the clergy for decades, where same-sex partners have been granted spousal benefits, but have left now because of the issue of women bishops. Straining at gnats, but swallowing camels.

        • W. A. Whitestone

          My information on these ‘truces’ comes from William A. Donogue, George Weigel and the late Richard John Neuhaus.

    • Therese

      I would guess that there are MANY Catholics longing for that “eccentric rump of dissident Anglicans who like incense and lace, old-fashioned language and splendid old hymns, who somehow managed to worm their way into the Catholic Church. ” If a parish were to be opened in the Northeastern Illinois area my husband and I (cradle, pre-Vatican II Catholics) would be grateful.

      • Michelle

        Therese,

        I don’t know how far Northeast you are in Illinois, but Please look into St. John Cantius parish in Chicago. We drive down from Northbrook for the Sunday Mass. It is absolutely wonderful and maybe just what you are looking for!!

    • http://www.anglolutherancatholic.org + Irl Gladfelter

      Thank you for writing about the “third way.” My own Jurisdiction is indeed praying that something like what you mention will develop in the Ordinariates. There is a historic opportunity for the visible, corporate reunion of not only Anglican, but also Lutheran and perhaps those of other traditions with the Catholic Church as Roman Catholics like everyone else, making Christ’s prayer that all his followers be one a lived reality once more.

      (Incidentally, there is a historical precedent for your first scenario with the Anglican Benedictine Monks of Caldy Island, south of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales. After a time of negotiations, they entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1913. They were gradually absorbed into the English Province of the Subiaco Congregation of the Catholic Benedictine Confederation. That was a great thing, because with that, complete unity of those Benedictines with the Catholic Church was achieved! (The monastery on Caldy Island was vacant for a time, and now belongs to the Cistercians.)

      Getting back to your “Third Way,” your vision is fantastic! As a Lutheran, whose Church is also very actively seeking visible corporate unity with the Catholic Church (in its case unconditionally) it is dismaying that so much of the discussion I have personally heard and seen in print about an Ordinariate seems to be predominately about issues such as music, worship, and “patrimony” (the content of which is not precisely defined;) instead of about theology, the imperative to re-unite Christ’s Church, and about finding new ways to convince Anglicans and those of other Communions to unconditionally embrace the entire package of the Roman Catholic faith – recanting of and abandoning entirely the insights of the Reformation whenever and wherever they conflict with the Catholic Magisterium even if just barely.

      As the Anglican Church in America priest, Fr. Chori Jonathan Serai wrote in an article in “The Anglo Catholic” on January 31, 2011: “Unity is not a “good” thing-unity is a great thing. Unity is not a “nice” thing-unity is a necessary thing. Come into the Catholic Church for the right reason. Seek unity because it is what Christ commanded (not ‘suggested’). Seek communion with Rome, but not because the “Roman Christians” are cool, or conservative, or Catholic. Seek communion with Rome, but not because it is looks good to be unified. Seek communion with Rome because it is right.” This should not only be limited to Anglicans.

      Thank you, Fr. Longenecker for presenting this wonderful vision and opportunity for the Ordinariates. May God grant that the opportunity for this not be lost; and as you wrote: “. . . the Anglican ) Ordinariate could become a new bridge across the Tiber and the way for many Protestants to find their way into full communion with the Church.”

      + Irl Gladfelter

      • Giovanni A. Cattaneo

        With all due respect Music, Worship and Patrimony IS theology. If anything it is the most important theology because it is the theology of the laymen.

        Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

    • Howard

      “If these sincerely searching Evangelical Christians could find a church that was fully Catholic and yet offered a liturgy and structure that felt traditionally Anglican, they would immediately feel at home.”

      I don’t think so. You’re projecting your own experience onto others. I’m a converted Evangelical, too, but from more of a Baptist / Fundamentalist background. Converting to the Catholic Church was a big change, but I was comforted by knowing that this Church was founded in 33 A.D.; there would be much less comfort in converting to a corner of the Church designed to look and sound like 16th-century heretics.

      As for the Methodists, have you looked at the United Methodist Church lately — what they actually teach and do? Just exactly HOW do you think this is a more promising source of converts than the Episcopalians? Or were you referring to groups like the Free Methodists, who broke off from the United Methodists, who broke off from the Anglicans, who broke off from the Catholic Church?

    • workingclass artist

      I think the 3rd way is the most exciting way this will develop.The Pope continues his program of correction & purging of the overly liberal influence in the church since Vat II…And this is a very good thing for the RCC.

      As more and more protestants seek a return to theological principle not swayed by moral relativism and begin to understand how tradition in Catholic Faith is based on theology from our earliest days and a continued understanding through our great tradition of Catholic Apologetics there will be a welcome invigoration…This Faith….our Catholic Faith is what satisfies the hunger of the soul on earth awaiting reunion in Heaven….and our shield against the daily assault if we choose to use it.

      * Faith without works is dead *

      Beginning to heal the breach of past schisms is the miracle long sought and a joy to witness. I am heartened by every new Catholic who joins us…

    • Woody Jones

      Dear Father,

      I, too am praying and looking forward to the “third way” mentioned, maybe with a tweak, being what actually happens. The prospective reception of the Anglo-Lutheran, with bishop Gladfelder, is a start, and I agree that there are many possibilities. The tweak harks back to Therese’s comment: the Ordinariates can be a means of evangelizing Catholics and giving them the truly reverent, God-focussed liturgy they desire (or will come to desire). This is not to say that they will be the only such means, but a means, for those called to it by the Good Lord. Cf Canon 1248 of the 1983 Code. Keep up all your good work.

    • MPA

      I was raised a charismatic Episcopalian, and I converted to Catholicism. It was the best decision I ever made, but many masses are a penance for me, for the usual reasons. If I could attend an Anglican Use or even Ordinariate parish, I would be overjoyed. It would be like coming home.

      And certainly Cranmer was a heretic, but if his prayer book is adapted to the Catholic Eucharist, doesn’t that give us the drop on him?

    • Pete

      I would love to see one in the Dayton, Ohio area. They destroyed my church with Vatican II.

    • http://MSN pete salveinini

      Yes, the third way may even have been prophesied: Bl. Maria Taigi said back in the early 1800s that England , Russia , and China would all be miraculously converteded. This trickle definitly has the promise of becoming a stream and then a river. There are other prophecies that England having returned to the Universal Church (Catholic) will be instrumental in the reconciliation of other Protestant group; “under one Elizabeth England left the Church; but under another Elizabeth England will return to the Church. TheQueen’s recent trip to Ireland is quite significant for the future. Still another prophecy says that the Irish will be helpful in the reconversion of the English people to the Church. Cf Catholic Prophecy. This grace presently seen beginning has REAL promise for the future of Christianity.

    • Craig

      Sorry to repeat, but this captures my heart (as a protestant); would that there be somewhere to participate as a follower. Please pray.

      “There are many well-educated and thoughtful Christians who are very interested in the historic Faith. Many are disenchanted with mainstream Evangelicalism and are searching for a church rooted in history. They long for a church that is liturgical, that has a deep spirituality. When they leave their Evangelical churches and search for something more, their first stop is usually the Episcopal or Lutheran churches. They soon find that these churches are chest-deep in the whole liberal and radical agenda, so they sadly depart.

      If these Evangelical pilgrims summon the courage to overcome their deeply ingrained anti-Catholic prejudice and go to their local Catholic parish, they find that it is either as liberal and trendy as the Episcopalians, or that there are cultural and devotional obstacles that they find difficult to overcome. Even if they come to agree with Catholic doctrine and are received into the Church, they are still aware of the large cultural gap between the Protestantism they were brought up on and the Catholic Church they have joined.

      What they are looking for is a church that holds to the fullness of Catholic doctrine and practice but has some of the practical strengths of Evangelical congregations. If these sincerely searching Evangelical Christians could find a church that was fully Catholic and yet offered a liturgy and structure that felt traditionally Anglican, they would immediately feel at home.”

    • Myles Keogh

      What a great article Father. Thanks for writing it. As a cradle Catholic I really welcome the Anglican Ordinariate and all those who have entered into full communion with Christ’s church. God Bless them all!

    • St Reformed

      I wish to address another potential aspect of Anglican clergy crossing the Tiber en masse. The mechanism is now in place for married Anglican clergy to be ordained into the Catholic priesthood. These priests will not be shepherding an “Anglicized ghetto” but in time shall mix with and influence the whole Church in ways we have yet to anticipate. I am willing to predict that the Church’s presumptions about the efficacy of married secular priests may in time be extensively reexamined. A little leaven goes a long way in fermenting the whole batch!