Lifeboats on the Tiber

December 2009

Remarkable! Astonishing! Extraordinary! Stunning! Unprecedented! Historic! The superlatives kept rolling in. Yes, Pope Benedict had done it again.

At a surprise press conference on October 20, William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), announced that the Holy Father has prepared an apostolic constitution that will create a new canonical structure that will pave the way for large groups of Anglicans — parishes and possibly entire dioceses — to return to the Catholic Church while retaining their unique customs and traditions. The apostolic constitution will provide for the establishment of "personal ordinariates," which will allow Anglicans to enter into "full visible communion" with the Holy See, while "preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony" that are "consistent with the Catholic faith," according to a Note released by the CDF. The personal or­dinariates will be based on "a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations."

They will be modeled after military ordinariates, pastoral units created for the spiritual care of military servicemen and their families in various countries, and similar to the "personal prelatures" held by Opus Dei in that they will not be limited by geographical boundaries, as are current sees and dioceses. These distinct, non-territorial ordinariates for Anglican groups seeking to enter the Church will be created in consultation with national bishops' conferences on an "as-needed" basis. Each will be led by a bishop appointed from among former Anglican clergymen, and will have its own priests, seminarians, and congregations.

Married Anglican clergymen will be able to receive ordination as Catholic priests, though bishops in charge of personal ordinariates must be unmarried, as they are in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Set for approval also is a liturgy based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, similar to that approved for celebration in Anglican Use parishes under Pope John Paul II's 1980 "pastoral provision."


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New Oxford Notes: December 2009

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