The role of the ordinariates

Elsewhere, the Anglican Ordinariates are criticized: “If you want to belong to the Catholic Church then be a Catholic; if you want to be an Anglcan, be an Anglican. If you want a bit of both then you need to find a church with a bit of both. A foot in 2 camps doesn’t work.” This criticism, while common, misses the mark.

I once saw a neat formulation from someone who had gone the opposite way from me; let’s call her “Lisa.” Lisa was “Episcopalian by confession, Catholic by disposition.” Disposition maybe too narrow a word (“sensibility,” “culture,” “attitude,” “praxis,” “taste,” and so on all go into it), but I understood what she was driving at: Lisa believed (i.e. confessed) what the Episcopal Church teaches, but she is disposed to (i.e. prefers, needs, is nourished and sustained in faith by) the external forms and incidents of Catholicism. What’s the problem? There’s no inherent contradiction in that. Certainly there can be; if Eucharistic adoration was Lisa’s bag, that isn’t going to work. That’s a Catholic sensibility at war with an Anglican confession insofar as it’s a pious action that conflicts with substantive Anglican doctrine—articles of religion 25, 28 and 31. But while Anglicans don’t generally pray the Angelus and the Rosary, they could. Anglicans don’t generally pray the hours (and if they do, they use the BCP not the Breviary) but they could. One would not be a bad Anglican if one did so. If Lisa finds her faith nourished by those things, what’s the problem?

So, likewise, the other way (and setting aside the ordinariates for a moment). I would invert Lisa’s phrase and adopt it as my own: In many ways, I am “Catholic by confession and Anglican by disposition.” I confess the distinctive truth-claims of the Catholic church, ergo I must be in communion with that church. But if I choose to pray before Mass “Almighty God unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no Secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name through Christ our Lord,” 1 why is that any more objectionable or problematic than the traditionally-inclined Catholic who chooses to pray before Mass (mutatis mutandis) the prayers at the foot of the altar from the usus antiquior, as some do? If I am as happy to use the BCP minor hours as those supplied in the breviary, what’s wrong with that? If I choose to use (mutatis mutandis) the BCP act of contrition rather than the (to my Anglican-formed sensibility) maudlin and difficult one often posted in confessionals, what of it? What’s the problem?

And so also likewise, it seems to me, the Ordinariates. If Rome sees no difficulty in dressing the Roman Mass in an Anglican garb by adding to the words and music of the Anglican patrimony a valid priest and such words as are needed, what’s the problem?

Much of the current puzzlement is simply because it is as yet unclear how the Ordinariates are going to work. In time, that fog will clear. It would help—because I understand the Ordinariates not simply as a lifeboat to bring Anglicans across the Tiber but rather a permanent part of the Church—if Catholics could join the Ordinariates. It would also help if there were greater clarity about exactly what the Ordinariates are, where they are, how they operate, what their liturgy is, etc., and about the correct vocabulary. Much could be solved if Rome said straightforwardly what is in fact true: that there is now an Anglican Rite celebrated by what amounts to personal parishes within the Latin Church.


  1.;;,; cf. The Anglican Use, 3 MPA __ (2013).