THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: A reader of 'The Catholic Knight' blog recently raised this question. While it is generally understood that all Catholics may receive the sacraments and meet their Sunday obligation within an Anglican ordinariate parish, the question is can a cradle Catholic from the general Roman Rite actually become a full fledged member of an Anglican ordinariate parish? The short answer is "yes," but let me explain how and why.
The confusion comes about because of some particular wording in Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution created by Pope Benedict XVI for the purpose of forming the Anglican ordinariates. The document specifically states that Catholics may not "ordinarily" become members of Anglican ordinariate parishes unless they either receive the sacraments of initiation through an Anglican ordinariate parish, or else come from one of the Anglican communities reconciling with the Catholic Church. On the surface, this sounds very restrictive, and there are plenty out there (both Catholics and Anglicans) who would like to interpret this in the most legalistic way possible. I'm not sure why some Anglicans interpret it this way, but I'm pretty sure I know why some Catholics, especially in England, might go for this kind of strict legalism. They're seeking to prevent an exodus of tradition loving Catholics to the ordinariates. Regardless of their reasons, their hermeneutic is flawed. The word "ordinarily" opens up a whole assortment of possibilities, and as Father Christopher Phillips pointed out in his blog entry on this topic, there is no such thing as a "wasted word" in an apostolic constitution.
After all is said and done, as of the date I'm writing this (4-4-2010) not a single ordinariate has yet been established. What does that mean? Well for starters it means that not a single soul is a member of an Anglican ordinariate. Even the ordinariate bishops, once they're consecrated, will have to effectively enter the ordinariate through a way that is not "ordinary." From then on, all the initial Anglican Catholic parishes will enter the ordinariate through ways that are outside of "ordinary." Right from the get-go it looks like the Anglican ordinariates will be admitting large scores of people through ways that don't "ordinarily" fit into the norms of their apostolic constitution. This is important to understand, because the word "ordinarily" automatically assumes there will be people entering the ordinariate through ways outside the proscribed norms.
So what's the deal? Why is this all so confusing? Basically, what I've been told is it all comes down to character, and the pope envisions the Anglican ordinariates having their own unique apostolic character. For example, the Byzantine Rite has it's unique apostolic and cultural character. Likewise the Roman Rite has it's own unique apostolic and cultural character. It would appear by the nature of structure being created by Pope Benedict, he recognizes and wishes to foster the unique character of the Anglican patrimony within the Catholic Church. He does not want to absorb it into the Roman Rite, nor does he wish to alter the character of either. He wishes to allow them to grow and evolve somewhat independently. In this respect, the Anglican ordinariates will effectively function as their own rite within the Catholic Church even though they do not officially constitute their own rite yet. The Anglican Use, as it's called, is technically part of the Roman Rite, but it's own subdivision.
So what this means is that when a Roman Catholic becomes a full fledged member of an Anglican ordinariate parish, his character changes, albeit modestly, into something other than Roman. So the question more properly asked would be: can a Roman Catholic become an Anglican Catholic? To which again, the short answer is "yes," and to understand this we must ask another question. Can a Roman Catholic become a Byzantine Catholic? Again the answer is "yes" and the same is true vice versa.
Any Catholic is permitted to change his rite simply by requesting written permission from his old rite bishop and forwarding that with a request to his new rite bishop. However, there is a catch. When it comes to changing rites, canon law only permits this to be done once in a person's lifetime. So once you switch, you can't go back. The Church puts this restriction on the laity to prevent them from hopping around from rite to rite, which would not be beneficial to anyone, especially the person doing the hopping. It also helps to protect the unique character of each rite, and prevents them from being infiltrated and diluted by customs from other rites. It would appear by the nature of the pope's apostolic constitution for Anglicans that he is trying to set up similar protections for the Anglican ordinariates. That being said it is possible a similar "one time only" restriction could be placed on Roman Catholics seeking to formalize their membership in the ordinariate. I cannot say this for sure, but it stands to reason that would be the case.
So the long and short of it is this. If you're a Roman Catholic you should feel free to receive the sacraments and fulfill your Sunday obligation at an Anglican ordinatiate parish whenever you are so inclined. You are also welcome to become an affiliate member of an Anglican ordinariate parish and fully participate in parish life. However, should you decide you want to make the change permanent, and become an official full member of the ordinariate as well, once again you are more than welcome to. However, you should make sure this is what you really want, because there is a chance that once the change has been made, like those who switch rites, there will be no turning back. You will have officially gone from being a Roman Catholic to an Anglican Catholic. What does this mean? Not a whole lot really as far as day to day life goes, and it does have some very distinct advantages, especially in today's world where liturgical abuse is commonplace in the general Roman Rite. Nonetheless, it could be permanent decision. So make sure it's what you really want before you do it.
One of the main concerns people have about cradle Catholics jumping over to the Anglican Use is it being used as a "backdoor" into the married priesthood. Everyone should know that this will not work. While married men are allowed to become priests in the Anglican Use, each one will be reviewed on a case by case basis. A panel of priests will investigate every married man applying for holy orders, and they will determine if it is appropriate. If the Anglican ordinariate was simply used as a "backdoor" into the married priesthood, that is going to become painfully obvious in the review, and potentially embarrassing for the candidate. The ordinariate must not be abused this way.
After all is said and done we should ask ourselves "what is membership anyway?" Is it simply having your name listed on a piece of paper? Or is is something more than that? Cradle Catholics who attend Anglican Use masses regularly, receive the sacraments there, help out in the Church and have made Anglican Use parishes their homes, are effectively members of that parish anyway. There is nothing stopping an Anglican ordinariate parish from making two lists of membership. The first one could be a general list for parish records and made public. It would include all the names of everyone in the parish. The second would be a private list of names of people who are actually under the authority of the ordinariate bishop. The parish priest, and his immediate assistants, would be the custodians of this list. In other words, you really don't need to be under the ordinariate bishop to be a member and participate in an Anglican Use parish.
It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired. I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue. I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe. I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great.....