Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canonical reflection on the Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans

There is already a reflection by Ed Peters at Fr Z's blog. Here are a few thoughts of my own.

An Apostolic Constitution is an instrument which the Holy Father has used for the erection of new dioceses. See some examples here. Apostolic Constitutions have also been used for the restructuring of the Roman Curia, the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law, etc. In other words, they are a very significant means of establishing something new.

The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution enables the establishment of Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.

A Personal Ordinariate is not a Personal Prelature, which is already foreseen in the Code of Canon Law (Cann. 294 - 297) Personal Prelatures consist of presbyters and deacons to promote a suitable distribution of presbyters or to accomplish particular pastoral or missionary works. Lay people are not, properly speaking, members of personal prelatures [UPDATE: see clarification in the combox] but they can dedicate themselves to the apostolic works of the prelature by agreements entered into with the prelature in accordance with the prelature's statutes.

An Ordinariate of this nature I think has a temporary nature, which could develop in either direction. It could either become redundant, in which case the clergy and laity would become subject to the bishop of the diocese in which they have domicile, or it could develop into a personal diocese.

A Personal Ordinariate is akin to a diocese and people belong to it on account of the particular pastoral reasons for the establishment of the Ordinariate.

As with apostolic prefectures or vicariates apostolic or territorial abbacies, the Ordinary need not necessarily be a bishop, although he could be. Whether or not he is a bishop, the term 'diocesan bishop' in the Code would include him. It is interesting that the CDF's note states that the seminarians of the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, which would imply that the Ordinariate would not have its own seminary. We shall have to see, therefore, whether the Ordinary may incardinate priests to the Ordinariate, or what the title of incardination will be upon ordination of a candidate. We shall have to wait for publication of the Apostolic Constitution.

If the Ordinariate can incardinate its own clergy, I would think that such an Ordinariate would enjoy the status of a particular Church as envisioned by Can. 368. (Personal Prelatures are not particular churches.) In accordance with Can. 372/2, particular churches distinguished by the rite of the faithful or some other similar reason can be erected. The similar reason in the current case is the liturgical and spiritual patrimony of those who are currently Anglicans.

It could be, however, that the clergy are incardinated into a currently existing diocese but are dedicated to the Ordinariate, rather like the priests in the military ordinariate in this country. They are diocesan priests who are destined (temporarily or for an indeterminate period of time) to the mission of the military ordinariate.

Importantly, these Personal Ordinariates will be formed in consultation with local Conferences of Bishops. It is the Holy Father who will establish the Ordinariates. The Conference of Bishops will be consulted, but the decision rests with the Holy Father.

The subjects of the Personal Ordinary will, of course, be Catholic. I would assume, therefore, that priests who are not members of the Ordinariate will be permitted to celebrate the liturgy according to the distinctive Anglican liturgical patrimony, e.g. if they are asked to supply in the case of a shortage of priests. Certainly I would imagine that there would be nothing illicit in concelebrating at such a liturgical celebration since the Code permits us to concelebrate at any Catholic celebration of the Eucharist. Likewise, the lay faithful may attend Mass in any Catholic rite. Perhaps there may even be a 'mutual enriching' of the Roman liturgy and the Anglican liturgical patrimony. The note says:
Insofaras as these (Anglican) traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church.

This is clearly a very significan moment ecumenically for it is a recognition that the Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony belongs to the Catholic Church.

The joint statement of Archbishop Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Williams of Canterbury is quite amazing. I feel it must have taken a great deal of humility on the part of Williams to join in this statement. We should, I feel, keep him very much in our prayers.

UPDATE: Have just heard the headlines on the midnight news on Radio 4: The Pope has been accused of poaching clergy in allowing anglicans to enter the Catholic Church. Laughable!

UPDATE: Great posts on this issue by Father Finigan and Father Finnegan.


  1. Forget poaching clergy -- I want to know if you are going to get some of those nice buildings back. [You may be giving Communion to the Queen before you know it.]

  2. Thanks for this, Excellent,. I would like to link to it from my blog if I may? Will not the 'discipline' re saying Mass across the two existing 'groups' be the same as with Eastern Rite priests? If I understand it correctly, a priest has to be granted 'bi-ritual' status to celebrate both, or may concelebrate at either as long as he wears the appropriate eucharistic vestments of his own tradition ... Do you have any thoughts on that?

  3. Thank you for the clarifications, Father.

    Unrelated to this, but in light of something you said, a question. You noted regarding the military ordinariate: “Priests…are diocesan priests who are destined (temporarily or for an indeterminate period of time) to the mission of the military ordinariate.”

    If the military chaplain is from a Religious Order (I’m thinking of one such here in the US from years ago…), does he remain a religious “on loan” to the military ordinariate or would he become part of the secular clergy?

  4. Dear Father Terry

    Thank you for linking to this. Your question raises an interesting point. The Anglicans admitted to full communion by means of these Ordinariates will be Latin Rite Catholics. So the Anglican usage will be another form of the liturgy within the Latin Church. So one would not need to be 'bi-ritual' to celebrate according to the Anglican usage, although it will be interesting to see how the Holy See decides to regulate celebration of the usage. I should have thought it will be limited to those communities for which the Ordinariate has been erected.

  5. GOR: yes, that's right. He remains a religious "on loan". However, in the US it might be different. If the Military Ordinariate in the US can incardinate clergy, then there is a possibility of the religious priest being exclaustrated and excardinated from the order and incardinated into the Ordinariate.

  6. I have received the following comment from Fr Conor posted on the parish blog. He wrote:

    Lay people are not, properly speaking, members of personal prelatures but they can dedicate themselves to the apostolic works of the prelature by agreements entered into with the prelature in accordance with the prelature's statutes.

    wonderful blog, congrats, but I am afraid this statement is not canonically correct.Fr Conor Nairobi, priest of Opus Dei, see code or any of comments of the Holy See esp JPII

    I replied as follows:

    Could you provide the references? I have simply quoted from the Code.

    The Code (c. 294) specifically refers to Personal Prelatures as consisting of presbyters and deacons to promote a more suitable distribution of same or to accomplish particular pastoral or missionary works...

    The Code (c. 296) speaks of lay people who 'can dedicate themselves to the apostolic works of a personal prelature by agreements entered into with the prelature.' It seems to me that the authority of the Prelate over the laity arises by virture of those 'agreements' and he has jurisdiction over those laity only in respect of those matters that are the subject of those 'agreements'.

    In all other respects, the lay 'members' are subject to the diocesan bishop of the place in which they have domicile or quasi domicile.

    I know there are various opinions about this. But I think, strictly, the figure of Personal Prelature relates primarily to clergy. The juridical itinerary of Opus Dei from secular institute to Personal Prelature is a fascinating one.

    Any comments?

  7. I don't know personal prelatures from zip, but as a lay person in the diocese of San Diego, I may chose St. Anne's (a parish dedicated to the EF form of the Mass) as a "personal parish."

    As regards the US military, they are incardinated under a central authority, and when they leave the military, they can be incardinated elsewhere, a place of their choosing.

    From my understanding (told to me by a priest who was in the military, whose 20 years was "almost up") it's considered "bad form" for the bishop of the diocese where the priest happens to be stationed to "poach" the military assigned their on station. i.e. the priest can approach the bishop about joining X diocese after his time is up, but it's bad form for a bishop to lean on the priest "hey, come here after you're done."

    The priest in question eventally decamped to Alabama, which I think was a wise move on his part!

  8. From the apostolic constitution Ut sit by which Opus Dei was erected a personal prelature:

    Art 2. The Prelature is governed by the norms of general law, by those of this Constitution, and by its own Statues, which receive the name "Code of particular law of Opus Dei."

    Art 3. The jurisdiciton of the personal Prelature extends to the clergy incardinated in it, and also only in what refers to the fulfillment of the specific obligations undertaken through the juridical bond, by means of a contract with the Prelature to the laity who dedicate themselves to the apostolic activities of the Prelature: both clergy and laity are under the authority of the Prelate in carrying out the pastoral task of the Prelature, as established in the preceding article.

    As Javier Hervada comments in The Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, the bond between the prelature and the lay faithful is not simply juridical bond that establishes rights and duties. It involves the lay person in a participation in the munus pastorale (pastoral office/function) of the prelature. "The bonds of the faithful associated with the prelature are of the same nature (although different in scope) as those inherent in other pastoral structures rooted in the constitution of the Church, and they constitute a particular form of communio".

    It is possible to have a personal prelature which consists purely of clergy. But the personal prelature of Opus Dei clearly consists of both clergy and laity who are joined in a real communion with the prelature and its prelate, they collaborate with and are co-responsible for the particular pastoral work of the prelature, and are therefore truly members of the prelature.

  9. They (the laity) may hold office in the Opus Dei prelature and the priest member man be subject to that layman.

  10. Thanks to Fr Conor for the following comment (he's leaving comments on my parish blog rather than this one):

    Address of John Paul II on Opus Dei

    A speech on Opus Dei given at a workshop on the Apostolic Letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte”, March 17, 2001.

    You are here representing the components by which the Prelature is organically structured, that is, priests and lay faithful, men and women, headed by their own Prelate.

    First of all, I wish to emphasize that the membership of the lay faithful in their own particular Churches and in the Prelature, into which they are incorporated, enables the special mission of the Prelature to converge with the evangelizing efforts of each particular Church, as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council in desiring the figure of personal prelatures.

    The organic way that priests and laity work together is one of those privileged areas where pastoral activity will take life and be strengthened, activity marked by that "new energy" (cf. Apost. Let. Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 15) which has encouraged us all since the Great Jubilee. In this connection, we should recall the importance of that "spirituality of communion" stressed by the Apostolic Letter (cf. ibid., nn. 42-43).

    2. The laity, inasmuch as they are Christians, are involved in carrying out a missionary apostolate. Their specific skills in various human activities are, first of all, an instrument entrusted to them by God to enable "the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture" (ibid., n. 29). They should be encouraged, then, to put their knowledge actively at the service of the "new frontiers" that are emerging as so many challenges for the Church's saving presence in the world.


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