Bishop Elliott - 2/5/10

UNITED IN COMMUNION, BUT NOT ABSORBED 
Understanding the Pope’s Welcome

By Bishop Peter J. Elliott
Auxiliary Bishop, Melbourne

AT their November Meeting, 2009, the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference appointed me their Delegate for the Australian project of establishing “a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church”, to use the words of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

Bishop Peter J. ElliottBefore I explain what this involves, I should introduce myself. I was born into Anglicanism, in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. My father, Rev. Leslie Llewelyn Elliott, was for some time President of the Australian Church Union. While studying theology at Oxford, in St Stephen’s House, I followed my conscience and was reconciled to “Rome” in 1968. I then studied for the priesthood in Melbourne and was ordained in 1973. After parish appointments, work as a bishop’s secretary and doctoral study in Rome, I served for ten years in the Roman Curia, Pontifical Council for the Family.  I returned to Melbourne in 1997 to work for Archbishop Pell in preparing the religious education texts, To Know, Worship and Love. Then I served as a parish priest and Director of the John Paul II Institute before ordination to the episcopate in June 2007.

Am I grateful for my Anglican heritage? Yes, I am. Where did I first learn the Catholic Faith? At home, in the vicarage.

Therefore I rejoiced when news of the Ordinariate came from Rome. I have been hoping for something like this for years, having addressed Forward in Faith Australia on the “Roman option” in 2006. As that talk indicates, I never imagined such a generous provision would be made in response to traditional Anglican appeals to Rome.

But what does Pope Benedict’s welcome and offer involve?  You have to be clear about this before saying “yes”, “no”, even “maybe”.

The Pastor of the nations is reaching out to give you a special place within the Catholic Church. United in communion, but not absorbed – that sums up the unique and privileged status former Anglicans will enjoy in their Ordinariates.

Catholics in full communion with the Successor of St Peter, you will be gathered in distinctive communities that preserve elements of Anglican worship, spirituality and culture that are compatible with Catholic faith and morals. Each Ordinariate will be an autonomous structure, like a diocese, but something between a Personal Prelature (as in Opus Dei, purely spiritual jurisdiction), or a Military Ordinariate (for the Armed Forces). In some ways, the Ordinariate will even be similar to a Rite (the Eastern Catholic Churches). You will enjoy your own liturgical “use” as Catholics of the Roman Rite. At the same time your Ordinaries, bishops or priests, will work alongside diocesan bishops of the Roman Rite and find their place within the Episcopal Conference in each nation or region.

There is no “hidden agenda” here, no popish trap! So beware of warnings from certain traditional Anglican bloggers or pamphleteers. They distort the Pope’s offer because they cling to small fiefdoms and purist enclaves – where they do as they wish. Indeed, the Ordinariates come under the discipline of the Church and her laws, but the Code of Canon Law is also a detailed charter of our rights as clergy and laity.

The decision to be reconciled through an Ordinariate can only made through following personal conscience, that is, after prayer, study and reflection. This is a step of faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. It involves accepting all the teachings of the Church on faith and morals.

Such a personal assent of faith needs to be formed and informed. To use an Anglican expression, please “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This summarises the Faith “once given”, embodied in one Word of God that comes to us, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, through Scripture and Tradition.

There will be sacrifices, but humility and suffering are parts of a faith journey – and many of you have already suffered much for the sake of conscience.

Yet you do not come to the Ordinariates with empty hands. As I learnt forty two years ago, you will lose nothing – but you will regain an inheritance stolen from us four centuries ago. That heritage was largely recovered by the giants of the Oxford Movement. I believe they smile on us now. In these early days, let us keep praying with them, so that together we may patiently work out how Pope Benedict’s project can be achieved.

Source: The Messenger (www.themessenger.com.au)