The Implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus in Canada

Part I: Anglicanorum Coetibus | Part II: A Few Practical Points

          For many years, groups of Anglicans repeatedly asked the Pope if it would be possible for them to become Catholics, while at the same time being allowed to keep their liturgical, musical, spiritual, and pastoral traditions, which had developed over the 500 year history of Anglicanism, and which they greatly valued. In November of 2009, in response to these requests, the Holy See, through the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (“Groups of Anglicans”) and its accompanying norms, established a new structure within the Catholic Church to allow Anglicans who become Catholics to do just that.  Working through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in consultation with the local Conference of Bishops, the Holy See would create a kind of specialized type of diocese called an ordinariate, for persons who had come to the Catholic Church from the Anglican tradition. It is important to note that Anglicanorum Coetibus is not an initiative of the Holy See; it is a response by the Holy See to initiatives by groups of Anglicans over the course of many years.

          As we are all aware, especially as we have recently celebrated the beatification of John Henry Newman, many Anglicans over the years have individually entered the Catholic Church, and have become individual members of a regular Catholic parish and diocese; they have had to leave behind the Anglican patrimony which they loved. They have not had the ability to continue to experience that Anglican patrimony in a corporate way, in a community within the Catholic Church.

          A distinctive new feature of the arrangement outlined in Anglicanorum Coetibus is its corporate dimension. Through Anglicanorum Coetibus, building upon the foundations established by the Anglican Use parishes in the United States which foreshadowed it, Anglicans who become Catholics will be able to find a Catholic home in a parish within a diocesan community – a personal ordinariate - in which many aspects of the Anglican patrimony have been retained, for their benefit and for the enrichment of the universal Church. “Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.” (Anglicanorum Coetibus III)

          The way an ordinariate is established is this: when groups of Anglicans (or individual Anglicans who wish to be part of an ordinariate) have expressed to the Holy See their desire to become Catholics within an ordinariate, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith names a local bishop as its Delegate in a country to see what can be done to form an ordinariate, and he works with a small committee of bishops of the Bishops’ Conference of the country. In Canada, I have been appointed as the Delegate, and the committee also includes Archbishop Miller of Vancouver and Bishop Harris of Saint John. Parish groups or individuals who wish to join in an ordinariate contact the Delegate, who keeps the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informed of the situation in his country, and of the groups who wish to be part of an ordinariate, so that the Holy See may be in a position to establish what is needed.

          Personal ordinariates, originally created for the pastoral care of members of the armed forces, are specific ecclesiastical jurisdictions similar to dioceses created to deal with specific circumstances. A personal ordinariate is entrusted to the pastoral care of an Ordinary appointed by the Pope, as are the diocesan Bishops within the Catholic Church. The term Ordinary means, apart from the Pope, diocesan bishops and others who, even if only temporarily, are placed over some particular church or a community equivalent to a diocese. Though the Ordinary of a diocese is almost always a Bishop, in Canada we are familiar with a priest being an Ordinary: for many years the priest who was Abbot-Ordinary of the Abbey of Muenster in Saskatchewan was in charge of a small diocese attached to the monastery, and as such was a member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

          Most dioceses are defined by the territory they occupy; but an ordinariate is personal, not territorial. The Military Ordinariate of Canada is a personal structure, i.e. one becomes a member of it not because one lives within a certain territory (as is the case with regular territorial dioceses), but rather by simply being a member of the Canadian military, anywhere in the world. Since all members of the military ordinariate also live within some territorial diocese, they may well also participate in the life of the territorial diocese, and Anglicanorum Coetibus and its norms deal with that kind of “dual citizenship”, especially when it comes to the co-operation between the clergy of the ordinariate and the clergy of the various territorial dioceses in which ordinariate parishes are located.

          Necessarily, an ordinariate is very closely related to the territorial dioceses within which it functions. In Great Britain, the United States, Australia, and Canada, the Holy See has consulted the national Conference of Bishops, as it prepares to establish these structures. The new ordinariates will be an integral part of the Catholic Church in each country, and work in harmony with the other Catholic dioceses. This close co-operation with the territorial dioceses is essential, as the parishes of the ordinariate will be scattered all across the country, and will need to function not only within the ordinariate, but also in collaboration with the local diocese. In fact Anglicanorum Coetibus and its norms describe how the two types of diocese can work together. For example, a priest of an ordinariate can be a member of the Council of Priests of the local diocese.

          In the United States there exists already a kind of early foreshadowing of the parishes of an ordinariate: several decades ago the Holy See allowed groups of Anglicans to come into the Catholic Church there, where they formed what is known as “Anglican Use” parishes; this allowed them as Catholics to retain their Anglican traditions of worship. The parishioners are Catholics who are former Anglicans, and their pastor is usually their former Anglican pastor, now ordained as a Catholic priest. They follow a liturgical tradition, approved by the Holy See, based upon the Anglican liturgy.  But their Ordinary is the local territorial Catholic Bishop. An Anglican Use parish is simply one of the many parishes of the local territorial diocese, though of a specialized type. Most territorial dioceses have specialized parishes, such as ones for different language groups, or for those who prefer the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. In an ordinariate, however, parishes like the Anglican Use parishes are gathered into their own diocese, with their own Ordinary.

          Because of the special liturgical and spiritual traditions, one might be tempted to think that a special Rite is constituted with these personal ordinariates. However they cannot be considered as particular ritual Churches since the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church and indeed an offspring of the Roman rite itself. While ordinariates for former Anglicans are more than a parish, they are less than a Church, or a rite: they are dioceses within the Western or Latin Church, but of a specialized kind, with their distinctive liturgical tradition. In this sense, an ordinariate will be in some ways similar to the Archdiocese of Milan, a diocese of the Western Church, but which uses its own ancient Ambrosian form of the Western Liturgy.