Fr. Aidan Nichols on Anglicanorum coetibus

Deborah Gyapong from English Catholic made an interview with Fr. Aidan Nichols on Ordinariate:

Here is my email interview with Fr. Aidan Nichols that I did in order to produce an advance story for Catholic papers before this week’s Anglicanorum coetibus Conference in  Canada.

Fr. Nichols is giving three talks at this historic event which will gather Anglicans from across the country who are interested in being part of a Personal Ordinariate.  Only a very shortened version of the story I filed has run so far. Some of my questions concerned the Traditional Anglican Communion, so I will share all my questions and his answers here.   My questions are in italics.  I have a couple of things [in brackets] which indicate I made a little change or omitted the name of the prelate, who was not speaking to me on the record.  First, Father Nichols wrote this in response to my questions.

“Dear Deborah, Your questions are extremely well-formulated, but some of them are beyond my ability to answer other than to speculate. I am in libraries, not in the council chambers where the Great and the Good confer together!”

How significant a document is Anglicanorum coetibus? Some are calling it revolutionary, others are saying it is only an incremental step beyond  the Pastoral Provision in the United States, as an expansion of the Anglican Use provision into other countries with the addition of an Ordinary, who may be a married priest. How do you see it? Was that what you had hoped for?

“1. I would say Anglicanorum coetibus goes beyond the Pastoral [Provision] principally in two respects: (a) it creates new ‘particular churches’, albeit of a (partially) non-territorial nature; ideally, indeed normatively, these are under bishops, it is only faute de mieux that they can be governed by priests; (b) it provides for the recruitment of new ministerial personnel who are to be trained in a manner suited to the new churches, and thus enables the indefinite perpetuation of the parishes concerned. However, it is true that the document could have gone further, creating the Western equivalent of a Catholic Eastern church. That would have been my preferred option, chiefly because it would be better able to resist assimilation to the parishes of the Latin dioceses. But if the ecclesial arrangement offered enables the ‘patrimony’ to be transmitted, that is the main thing.”

What do you hope will happen in Canada and other countries as Personal Ordinariates are set up?

“2.Naturally, I hope the Canadian and other Ordinariates will flourish! In every case the main emphases should be mission and unity: i. e. the Ordinariates are meant to grow by
evangelising, using their distinctive resources as means, and they are meant to witness to the unity which is possible between Rome and the best of the Canterbury tradition.”

In Canada, the Traditional Anglican Communion is the largest body seeking entry. Can you say anything about what role, if any, the TAC’s  2007 Portsmouth petition for unity play in the development of the Apostolic Constitution?

“3.The petition from the TAC must have contributed significantly to the eventual outcome. With all these signatories and specifying the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the
working rule of faith it could hardly be ignored! The idea of treating the Catechism as the benchmark seems to derive from precisely the TAC. But I think the appeal of the Church of England ‘flying bishops’ was in the end crucial in overcoming hesitations. I would speculate that the reason is twofold: the Roman Curia has had nearly fifty years of dealing with mainstream Anglicans, above all English ones (I’m taking Archbishop Fisher’s visit to John XXIII as the startng date), and considered it understood better ‘where they were coming from’; the fact that the Anglican bishops who sought the new arrangement were officials of an Established Church, appointed by a process involving both Church and State, inspired particular confidence in them as what one might call ‘public individuals’.
(This is purely my personal opinion as an outsider to the process.)”

The Church of England Anglo-Catholics, from what I understand, do the ordinary form of the Roman liturgy.  In the TAC elsewhere in the world, there is a love for distinctly Anglican liturgies with Book of Common Prayer language, though corrected where necessary.  What liturgical dimensions do you see as “gifts to be shared” with the wider Church as the AC suggested?

“English Anglo-Catholics (I gather) tend to retain some elements of the Prayer Book tradition, notably for weddings and funerals. Their parishes may also have Evensong and Benediction. But they will be asked to consider using the distinctive liturgical book which has been prepared for the English Ordinariate once it has received recognition from the Holy See (hopefully by Pentecost) – otherwise they cannot claim to have much distinctive patrimony, liturgically speaking. One reason why there is to be a distinct English book for those with an Anglican Communion background is because the TAC congregations who predominate elsewhere have a different liturgical history which will need to be taken into account. Relevant gifts could include: a high sacral register of liturgical language; the
Catholicism-compatible elements in the historic Prayer Books; the Use of Sarum; the better aspects of modern Anglican revision.”

Last year, [a highly ranked Canadian prelate] told me that the Ordinariate for England and Wales was the template for the formation of Ordinariates elsewhere.   But the needs of those wishing to join an Ordinariate in other countries are very different from those of Church of England, especially people in the TAC, who have dioceses set up as corporations, whose bishops accept the Catechism of the Catholic Church as our official teaching since 2007, and who hope to come over in as intact a position as possible, of course granting the CDF needs to do due diligence.

4. Anglicanorum coetibus provides in detail for how an Ordinariate is governed once it is
established, but doesn’t have much to say about how to establish it! I assume the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will want to take into account the situation pertaining in different regions when deciding what procedure is best followed.

Some have interpreted coetibus extremely narrowly as a priest and a  group of lay people and that’s it. How correct is that interpretation?

5. The unit of adherence could surely be entire dioceses, or even provinces, if there were the desire on the part of the Anglicans concerned. But there would always need to be the element of personal adhesion as well.

The TAC is biggest in the black and brown parts of the world and in some places many of its people would have trouble signing a document because they live in non-literate cultures. What ways might the Church address this—are there any plans to bring these other TAC churches into Ordinariates? Why were there no episcopal delegates created for these countries?

5. I’m sure the latter could be signalled simply in the case of non-literate people, as with important transactions in the civil sphere. I can’t thrown any light on why the sequence of creating Ordinariates is as it is (other than on the decision to begin with England).

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