Murphy, 10/1/13

The question of Anglican Patrimony
by David Murphy of Ordinariate Expats

Last month we introduced the project to share examples of the Anglican Patrimony that is being maintained
and promoted in the Ordinariate. Today we consider the ecumenical significance of Pope Benedict’s decision
to encourage us to preserve our distinctiveness.

In the 1990s, after the decision to ordain women to the C of E priesthood, over 500 Anglican priests left the Church of England with groups of laity and were received into the Catholic Church and subsequently ordained Catholic priests. At the time the feasibility of setting up Anglican Use parishes in the UK similar to the admittedly very small number of Pastoral Provision communities in the United States was discussed but not approved. So all of these Anglican priests and people were absorbed into Catholic parishes and gradually lost their former Anglican identity. Today, if you are not in the know, you would not be able to tell the difference between these and other Catholics. The Catholic Church itself has not been changed by their reception.

Full communion with the See of Peter
After the turn of the millennium it became clear that developments in the Anglican Church were such that it
was likely that once again there was going to be a large number of Anglicans and Continuing Anglicans who
would seek full communion with the See of Peter.

Elements of the Anglican Patrimony
This time two concepts dominated the petitions made and the discussions which took place in the ensuing years: corporate reunion and the retention of elements of the Anglican Patrimony. It soon became clear that Rome could not and would not recognise the petitioners as a “sister church” distinct from Canterbury and just enter into communion with it, much like the model of the Eastern Catholic churches.

the Ordinariates
But Rome did the next best thing and established the Ordinariates, canonical entities like dioceses within the Roman Rite, where former Anglicans could remain together with their pastors and their own Ordinary and perhaps more importantly, where the Anglican Patrimony could be brought into the Catholic Church as a gift and an enrichment. 

Catholic Church changed overnight
Through this enormously generous and prophetic decision the Roman Catholic Church changed overnight. For the first time in its history the Church opened itself to a church of the Reformation and welcomed elements of liturgical, musical, pastoral and spiritual patrimony, some of which originate from Protestants who even suffered execution at the hands of the Catholic Church.

Missionary and evangelising

It should thus be clear to everyone that the Ordinariates are not merely “decompression chambers” facilitating
the move from the Anglican Church to the Catholic Church and they are certainly not seen as dispensable once
those newly received have become accustomed to being Catholic. That would be completely to misunderstand Pope Benedict’s ecclesiological and ecumenical vision. The Ordinariates are by their nature missionary and evangelising, with the primary task of building a visible bridge between Anglicanism and the Catholic Church. Ordinariate members have not ceased being Anglo-Catholics. On the contrary, they are Anglo-Catholics reunited with Rome.

Unity in diversity
The establishment of the Personal Ordinariates thus demonstrates clearly the new approach to Church Unity since Vatican II. Those seeking reunion with Rome must no longer abandon their faith history in favour of uniformity. Instead the vision is one of unity in diversity, where each tradition treasures its distinctiveness as an integral part and an enrichment of the whole Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is the task Pope Benedict XVI has given us.