There’s an interesting article this week in That Magazine We Don’t Mention. No, it’s not Bobbie Mickens’ bizarre view that local bishops can issue translations of the Missale Romanum under their own steam, assuming they can tear themselves away from Cowboy Masses and now World Cup Masses. No, it’s not Christa Pongratz throwing a strop over the appointment of the new Bishop of Eisenstadt. I’m not even referring to some spectacular lionising of Kevin Dowling, who seems like he’s positively trying to secure an invitation to the Palazzo Sant’Uffizio.
What has caught my eye is a little piece on the Anglican Ordinariate, which would really leap off the page if given the properly irreverent treatment.
First, some background. To properly appreciate this, you need to know that the Magic Circle don’t like the Ordinariate. They don’t like the Ordinariate in the first instance because they were comfortable with the old ecumenical process via ARCIC, which is a nice excuse for Catholic and Anglican hierarchs to have pleasant cups of tea with no actual end in sight. On the other hand, with the retirement of Walter Kasper as Christian Unity czar, there is nobody left in the upper echelons of the Roman Curia who thinks corporate reunion with Canterbury is a viable proposition. The most important ecumenical process now is with the Eastern Orthodox; there are very interesting things going on in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod; and, of course, there are the Anglo-Catholics.
Secondarily, the Magic Circle don’t like the Ordinariate because the CDF is running it, and their collective nose is out of joint because Grand Inquisitor Levada announced the initiative before they had a chance to sabotage it. (And, not coincidentally, shortly after Cardinal Cormac’s retirement.) The CDF is taking the lead officially because it’s an international initiative – the request for an ordinariate came initially from the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion, whose main strength is in North America – and unofficially to stop Eccleston Square playing silly buggers with a project close to B16’s heart. So there is, to put this very politely, a question mark over the BCEW’s commitment to the project.
Now then. As you may know, there was recently this meeting of 55 Anglo-Catholic clergy to discuss the Ordinariate. And the Catholic hierarchy was represented at this meeting by Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham. At the time, I remarked with tongue in cheek that this was proof of how positive Eccleston Square was about the Ordinariate, because surely the opportunity of spending more time with +Malcy would be the clincher for those wavering Anglo-Catholics. And lo, my predictive powers were not too bad.
The gist of the thing is that some wiseacre asked whether, under the Ordinariate, married men could be ordained. Malcy’s short answer was no. Well, he said, married Anglican priests could be ordained as Catholic, and this might be stretched to married ordinands. But married laymen becoming Ordinariate priests, absolutely not. No way, Pedro. Married priests in the Ordinariate would be a stopgap measure and would naturally die out.
At this point, Anglo-Catholic Bishop Keith Newton of Richborough made a most unhelpful intervention. Check this out:
This was, however, challenged by Bishop Newton, who after the meeting questioned whether Bishop McMahon had the authority to pronounce on the issue. The Bishop of Richborough said: “I want to hear what the CDF has to say; they are in charge of the ordinariate, not Bishop McMahon.”
Ouch! And it only got worse, as +Keith was inconsiderate enough to actually quote what Anglicanorum coetibus had to say on the matter:
§ 2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.
That seems fairly straightforward to me. Celibacy will be the norm for entrants to the priesthood, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis contingent on the approval of the Holy See. So married laymen may be admitted as candidates if the Ordinary can make a strong enough case for the individual concerned; what we’re not sure about is just how liberally the CDF would interpret that in the future. So, Keith was right and Malcolm was wrong. QED.
I do like, though, this bit at the end:
Bishop McMahon replied that while [Newton’s] reading was “correct”, he stood by his earlier answer.
At which point you slap your forehead. This is the sort of thing that could lead poorly informed observers to draw the erroneous conclusion that the Bishops’ Conference is not very keen on the Ordinariate. Malcolm had better start pulling his socks.