“The Mission of the Ordinariate”

muller-webA special symposium around the theme “the Mission of the Ordinariate” was held on Feb 2, 2013 at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Texas, to mark the one-year anniversary of the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  The Ordinariate was honored by the presence and participation of Archbishop Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican; Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston; Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; the Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange; and Monsignor Steven Lopes of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Secretary to the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission.

Links to (and short excerpts from) the texts of Archbishop Müller’s and Msgr Lopes’ papers (.pdf), as well as a response from Msgr Jeffrey Steenson (Ordinary), are below.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, Anglicinorum coetibus and Ecclesial Unity” 

The history of the world demonstrates again and again that human beings often go about trying to construct unity by enforcing uniformity. When we think of how this has played out in governments and societies, particularly in the totalitarian regimes of the last century, we see that there is an inherent danger in this conception. Uniformity tends toward the elimination of those who do not conform or comply. Conversely, another way the world tries to achieve oneness is by simply overlooking or ignoring the differences that do exist, even to the point of allowing contradictory claims to truth. But this kind of liberal expansiveness, which is rather a hallmark of “latitudinarian” Anglicanism, brings about a unity that is naïve and ephemeral and is, in fact, unity in name only. It is relativism in the absolute and erodes the very foundation of truth upon which true ecclesial communion is built. 

True communion is rooted in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a communion in which the diversity of the Persons is constituted and sustained by their essential relations. The Father is not the Son and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, and yet each divine Person is who he is in relation to and in perfect communion with the other. This communion in difference is the key insight as we consider our participation as Church in the Trinitarian mystery. We are all called to discipleship and grafted onto the ecclesial Body of Christ through Baptism. Our unity with one another as members of the one Body does not destroy our distinctiveness. Clergy and lay, religious and secular, married and single, male and female, we all share an equal dignity and are formed into one Church through the profession of “one Lord, one faith and one Baptism.” Our distinctiveness and interdependence is a blessing for the Church and a source of its vitality.  

The unity of the one and the many is a key insight of Anglicanorum coetibus. The unity of the Church is an image of the eternal unity of God, and according to that heavenly pattern, unity is not achieved by an elimination of distinctiveness. The unity of faith, therefore, permits a diversity of expression of that one faith. This is what is meant in the Apostolic Constitution when it says that groups of Anglicans can enter into communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. The diversity in liturgical expressions, in some governance structures and in parochial culture does not threaten ecclesial communion. The overarching structure which holds together these expressions is the faith of the Church, ever ancient and ever new, and expressed eloquently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Monsignor Steven Lopes, “The Ordinariate’s Mission: Liturgy”

Turning now to Anglican liturgical patrimony, I would observe that “patrimony” and “primacy” are certainly two of the key words  that emerge from even a cursory reading of Anglicanorum coetibus. I would argue that the link between these two theological concepts in that context is not merely a matter of happenstance. Another principle for our reflection today, therefore, concerns the interrelationship of patrimony and primacy. 

The very affirmation that there is such a thing as an Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony which enriches the whole Church as “a treasure to be shared” enters Catholic parlance in 1970. On October 25 of that year, Pope Paul VI canonized forty English and Welsh martyrs. During his homily, the Holy Father praised “the legitimate prestige and worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican” Communion, words that were viewed both as a crucial validation of the special relationship between Catholics and Anglicans and as a confirmation of the existence of an Anglican patrimony worthy of preservation. By his authority, Pope Paul cut through the myriad questions of the “how and what” of patrimony’s expression in favor of articulating a key principle: for whatever other ecclesial deficits which result from the lack of full communion between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, the Catholic church acknowledges the work of the Holy Spirit in this body of separated brothers and sisters so as to be able to say that the manner in which the faith was nourished, proclaimed, and celebrated in the Anglican Communion these past 500 years adds to the vitality of the Church and enriches the body Catholic.  

Jumping from 1970 to the Apostolic Constitution  Anglicanorum coetibus, we see Pope Paul’s insight framed in Pope Benedict XVI’s concern “to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared” (Ap. Const. Anglicanorum coetibus, Art. III). This mandate, articulated and confirmed by papal “primacy,” becomes the task of the  Anglicanae traditiones  interdicasterial commission. The purpose of the commission, therefore, is not to compose a new liturgical text or to devise new liturgical forms, but rather to identify the patrimony from “the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition” (Ap. Const. Anglicanorum coetibus, Art. III).

Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, “Response of the Ordinary”

I very much welcome Archbishop Müller’s call that the Ordinariates must foster a “culture of communion.”  The Prefect’s words resonate powerfully: “Your decision to ‘put out into the deep’ in favor of the unity of Christ’s Church must be developed and extended in the promotion of a culture of communion of which you are the architects.“ 

We are very much aware of these challenges. Amongst ourselves in the Ordinariates we must forge fraternal relationships that we did not always have as Anglicans. We must win the trust of our fellow Catholics and not be drawn into divisive situations. And we must not forget our brothers and sisters who remain Anglicans. Because our consciences have compelled us “to short-circuit the slow path toward organic unity,” we have a special obligation to attend to these relationships with our former colleagues. This is as it should be: our destination is Love itself, and we must strive for all that builds up the Body of Christ. What a great privilege it is to share in our Holy Father’s vision for the building up of the Body of Christ!

“Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he  gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 14)

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