Sunday, 4 December 2011


In an article on the Catholic Herald Blog, by Father Alexander Lucie-Smith, he accuses some Anglican priests of practising deception when he writes: “Moreover the persons attempting to celebrate Mass are not recognised as priests by the Roman Catholic Church. In short, the visitor from France or Italy may see what looks like the Mass, but what is in fact not the Mass. Now, a question: they would clearly be deceived in thinking that what is going on before them is a Roman Catholic Mass. But is this because they have deceived themselves, or is it because the vicar has deceived them? Does the vicar tell them that they are in an Anglican church? Or does he leave them to assume that the church is, somehow or another, “Catholic”?

Over the years many “Roman” Catholics have worshipped where I have been the Vicar. I have never deceived them and have tried to make it very clear that we are part of the Church of England, practising the Catholic faith. We are not “Roman” Catholics but “Anglo” Catholics pointing out that whilst we are not under the jurisdiction of the Holy Father we pray for him as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury etc. We had one family, from Italy, who whilst temporally living in the UK, regularly came to Mass. Their Italian priest, in charge of one of the leading churches in Rome, was well aware of the fact that we were an Anglican Church. He asked me to prepare one of the children for their First Confession and First Communion, which was to be made at their home church, which I willing did. In another instance an RC came to Mass, fully aware we were Anglicans, eventually deciding to go back to a local RC Church. She stayed just a few weeks before returning as she felt so unwelcome with little or no fellowship in the RC Church.

Fr. Lucie-Smith also comments: “the persons attempting to celebrate Mass are not recognised as priests by the Roman Catholic Church.” To which my answer is: am I that bothered? As far I am concerned my ordination is perfectly valid and the fact that Rome doesn’t recognise it is sad. It is one of the reasons that I am still debating the Ordinariate. As I have said many times on the Blog, it is a very generous offer from the Holy Father and one which I fully support and would like eventually to be able to take up but the question I have to resolve is, am I willing to deny that everything I have done previously is invalid and consequently of little or no value……..something I can’t believe……that the Sacraments I have celebrated, including the Blessed Sacrament, Penance, Ministry to the Sick and Dying etc. are totally valueless. If I accept the arguments advocated by Fr. Lucie-Smith that must be the case.


  1. I suspect Father Lucie-Smith has yet to learn the distinction between calling a spade a spade and calling it a bloody shovel. As it happens, I do not believe your orders are valid either, but I do recogise that you believe they are and, perhaps more importantly, so do your parishioners. The Church does not require you to deny that belief. Since the sacrament of holy orders can only be administered once, only one of the administrations to a person ordained in both the CofE and the Catholic Church will in fact be valid.

    The rite of ordination used at all ordinations of priests destined for the Ordinate contains words giving thanks for the previous ministry of the candidate and the inclusion of those words is sanctioned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has a teaching authority rather superior to that of Father-Lucie-Smith.

    Since one does not give thanks for something which is without value, that language is a recognition and the value has already crystallised in that not insignificant numbers of the faithful have chosen of their own free will to come into communion with the Church thanks in large measure to the teaching imparted by their ministers.

  2. As Mourad said. At the end of the day, your desire to enter the Ordinariate must stem from a belief that union with Peter is of overreaching importance in your ecclesial and spiritual life. If you do believe that, then you should be willing to do whatever it takes to make it possible, even if you end up entering the Catholic Church as a layman (and there's nothing 'mere' about being a member of the laos). If you don't believe that, then the Ordinariate isn't for you. I can't even begin to imagine how incredibly painful the process must be for you and others in your situation, and I am certain that you will have all the prayers that you are pleased to request. In the end, though, the actual decision is a very simple one.

    For what it's worth, I speak as someone who has left the Roman Catholic Church in which I have spent all my adult life, and in which, until earlier this year, I was discerning service as a permanent deacon. So while I can't comprehend the precise nature of your pain, I do know something of the agony with which you wrestle.

    Furthermore, I have personal experience of a CofE priest in the South-East who took great pleasure in telling me that he had completely misled a visiting French family when they came to his church on two consecutive Sundays. He seemed to think it was a great wheeze. I'm sure you're not in that category of cleric, but it does exist, and there are people in it.

  3. >>Am I willing to deny that everything I have done previously is invalid and consequently of little or no value<<
    My thoughts exactly Father. Pope Benedict has recognised this in the 'fast track' approach offered by an Ordinariate despite the obvious displeasure of some Roman Catholics. Whatever critics may think, at the end of the day we have to answer to God in conscience in accordance with our understanding, not theirs. I have linked your post to mine here:

  4. Priests and lay-people entering the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham do not have to deny anything of what has gone before indeed the whole thrust of Anglicanorum Coetibus is to affirm whatsover things are good and true in the Anglican Tradition. It is not what Roman Catholics say about your orders that is the problem. It's what the Church of England now says about your orders - they are identical to Jenny's in the next-door parish.

    Arguing about semantics and who says what is reason to delay indefinately. Quite frankly Fr Mervyn you need to make a choice and either join the Ordinariate or commit to staying in the Church of England "come what may" . This flirting with the Ordinariate is getting to be quite destructive!

  5. What ever else I might be doing I am most certainly not "FLIRTING" with the Ordinariate. Unless I have totally misunderstood what has been said by the Ordinary and others, the Ordinariate is open for whenever people, priests and laity, feel able to make the change. For many different reasons this will depend on individual's circumstances and to support something is not to "flirt" with it. I and members of the Redbridge & Havering Ordinariate Exploratory Group will make our decisions when it is discerned, by thought. prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the time is now right to do so,

  6. Certainly, one does not take a decision of the kind many are contemplating without reflection, consideration and, above all, prayer. After all, every person seeking reception into the Catholic Church as an adult has to assert his belief in the teaching of the Catholic Church and that is not something to be done lightly.

    Further a member of the clergy of the CofE has to consider not only himself and his family but also his congregation.

    I recently read this from Bishop John Packer of Ripon & Leeds Bishops's Advent Address...What is a Diocese?.

    "The Church of England is a parochial church. Whatever some ecclesiologists may say the heart of the Church of England, both legally and I believe effectively, lies in its parishes. The law is based far more on Churchwardens and PCCs than on diocesan boards or indeed bishops. Incumbents have very specific legal rights meant to ensure their independence of bishops, patrons and PCCs. This rightly preserves the duty of the incumbent to follow his or her conscience within the parameters of Canon Law and the Measures which spring from that. .

    In fact that description of the way things are organised in the CoE may be part of the explanation why things are going wrong.

    The Address seemed to me more like a brief to a planning authority than a explanation of the significance of the diocese. A diocese of course has territorial boundaries, but a diocese is not primarily about its boundaries and buildings. I found nothing much in the statement about the community of the people of God within those boundaries, nor about the role of the bishop as their chief pastor who has the fullness of holy orders, the ability to ordain clergy to meet the needs of the faithful and who is invested with the "magisterium", the teaching and disciplinary authority over both clergy and laity. There was even confusion in the address over the significance of the bishop's "cathedra" housed in his cathedral.

    The Bishop suggested that the bishop's seat is his see. "See" is synonymous with "diocese", but the bishops's seat or "cathedra" is within his cathedral and is the chair from which he presides over the rites of the church and from which he teaches.

    I was equally surprised that the Address had little if to say about the collegial role of the bishop and his clergy in the care of the faithful. Then the penny dropped.

    The history of the Anglo-Catholic movement within the CofE very much includes a kind of 100+ years of guerrilla war between Anglo-Catholic clergy and the bishops ostensibly over matters of ritual but in reality over matters of belief.

    How can there be a church with catholic beliefs (Anglican or 'Roman') which is not in the fullest of communions with its bishops, the successors of the apostles? Absent bishops who can ordain? Who will bless the chrism oils? Bishops are the key to the continuance of the Church.

    Thus, perhaps, the greatest risk for the faithful Anglo-Catholics within the CofE is the prospect of losing sacramental assurance.

    Nobody said that this was going to be an easy decision. However the ultimate question may be whether it is a decision one can afford not to take.

  7. I really do detest bloggers who make insulting remarks when hidden behind the cloak of anonymity.