It is worth adding some further reflections to the Vatican’s recent announcement of Anglican Personal Ordinariates. You may wish to read my post the end of the Anglican Communion first.

Firstly I want to highlight that, in my opinion, denominational boundaries are far far less significant than previously. Increasingly, it appears to me, denominational boundaries are no longer the primary “partitioning”. If one visualises denominational boundaries, for example, as vertical lines, then it seems to me that the horizontal lines are far more significant – where people receive support and encouragement from “evangelical”, or justice-focused, or environmentally-conscious, or contemplative, or liturgical – etc. And one finds those perspectives, with which one resonates, across denominations. The internet, of course, fits in with this “cafeteria style” spirituality.

Let us also not forget that, to most people on this planet, discussions about different denominations are as esoteric as debates about different perforation gauges on postage stamps. And we need to remember that these are people to whom we are called to bring the good news, and the way we live and model our unity and disunity will affect our ability to bring that good news.

Many have highlighted that some people genuinely will benefit from moving denominations. They will flourish, they will grow in holiness and be better suited in their new context to further God’s reign of love. We need to wish them Godspeed and encourage them. But there will be others who will essentially be as little suited in their new denomination as they were in their old – because of temperament or an inability to live within any constraints, be they Anglican on the one hand, or Roman Catholic on the other. [To be fair, those who encourage people to move denominations, with the understanding that some people suit one rather than another, tend to be of an Anglican perspective. To Roman Catholics, Anglicanism formally cannot even be categorised as a “church” but rather is referred to as an Ecclesial community]

Also let us not forget that the Anglican tradition has always been open to receiving members of the Roman Catholic denomination. In our own New Zealand Anglican binding liturgical formularies there is the allowance for communities to celebrate the whole Roman Catholic English (ICEL) Novus Ordo Mass as it is without alteration. The only concrete personal experience I have had since the Vatican announcement last week has been of a Roman Catholic priest seeking information on how to become a priest serving within Anglicanism (Note: Anglicans accept the validity of Roman Catholic orders and all other sacraments).


Anglican ecclesiology is essentially identical to Eastern Orthodox and Old Catholic ecclesiology in seeing the local Church centered on the bishop as “the catholic Church”, the full manifestation of the Body of Christ. This Episcopal or “Eucharistic Ecclesiology” (as it is often now termed) stands in contrast to Roman Catholic ecclesiology in which the local Church is a “particular Church” manifesting the universal, worldwide Church. In this Roman Catholic ecclesiology, such a local Church can only be considered “catholic” if it is a member, part, or portion of the universal Church, ie. in communion with Rome. Whereas the former approach sees each bishop as successor of Peter (where the bishop is there the catholic church is – Ignatius of Antioch et. al.), the latter has a universal bishop for the universal Church. It will be very interesting to see the document “The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium” when it is finally produced. (Please let me know when it does come out where one can find it online). One co-president of the commission, Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum, is well known for his exposition of “Eucharistic Ecclesiology.” The other, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was notable by his absence in the multiple press-conferences last week.

Many Roman Catholics are totally unaware that the Catholic Church has a great number of different rites (see here and here). In many of these rites priests are married. Since the 1980s there has been an “Anglican Use” within the Roman Rite. The pope granted some former Anglican and Episcopal clergy and their parishes the faculty of celebrating the sacramental rites according to slightly-altered Anglican forms. The new Apostolic Constitution, as I said, extends Anglican Use in an analogous way similar to what the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” did for the Latin Mass.

Within the Catholic Church anyone may attend any Catholic Church of any rite and receive the sacraments. It is no different than attending a different parish church in the same town. If you commit to a rite you can be married and ordained in that rite as a Catholic priest (if they have married priests). You would be “incardinated” in that rite. Eg. a Latin Catholic can join an Eastern rite, marry and be ordained. (Thanks for confirmation of this paragraph from Dr. William Ditewig).

The Vatican announcement came at the time the Church of England General Synod was working through issues about women bishops. It also came during the month-long meeting of Roman Catholic African bishops in Rome. Some Africans are seeking a relaxation of the Vatican’s celibacy rules. This is a no-go area for the current pope. While Anglican Use, with its non-celibate priests, is well-known in some countries, the African bishops were unaware of it. Its extension by the Apostolic Constitution caught them by surprise. Some suggest there was much muttering in the Vatican’s grand corridors. Others say that muttering is not only happening there.

It is my intention to continue this reflection in the future.

More on marriage and ordination

part 3 of this reflection is here

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