There are several important points we can glean from this very positive public statement.
As in England, the Australian Ordinariate and all the others yet to be instituted will have to work with the local Episcopal Conference, which may be more difficult in some countries than in others. I would not presume to judge. The conditions of belonging to an ordinariate have been known for some time. One becomes a Roman Catholic through instruction in the Church’s doctrinal teachings and receiving those Sacraments that depend on a priesthood recognised by Rome, but each person making the move does so as part of his or her ecclesial community. This corporate aspect is emphasised. Whether the ‘group’ is defined as a parish unit or group of parishes (a former diocese or deanery) is not explicit – but that would depend on local and other practical circumstances.
There is now an inkling of the timescale, which does not depend on Bishop Elliott but certainly on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. It will be next year, so in not less than six months. Everything is wisely supervised by a commission of Australian prelates. The TAC has an important place in the implementation committee, and our practical issues are being carefully addressed.
The lay faithful will receive the same doctrinal instruction as in England using the Evangelium course, which I hear is very good. It is important to have the means of becoming rooted in the Catholic Church by means of human contact and support, and thus, each person has a ‘sponsor’. Those in ‘second marriages’ are asked to go through a Catholic marriage tribunal for a declaration of their nullity. I am impressed by the fact that Bishop Elliott recognises that the TAC deals with these matters seriously, and that ordinarily, the TAC has rightly judged a given case. Thus, the Catholic tribunal will have little further work to do other than reading over the file of documents and verifying that the canonical procedure was correct.
I have not come across any TAC clergy or laity belonging to Masonic lodges. It is interesting to see this point having been made.
We should certainly not listen to those people who seek to bring us to a sectarian ‘Anglican’ position and have us refuse the ordinariate for doctrinal reasons. The good Bishop puts this very nicely, and he really does need to say no more to make his point.
The Torres Strait may get its own Ordinariate, but that will depend on Rome. We can but wait for the appropriate announcement.
There will be a proper liturgy in ‘Cranmerese’ English, but the details are not revealed. The point is made that the Roman rite comes in two forms. Bishop Elliott has always been very open to Catholics preferring the old rite, and often celebrates according to the 1962 missal. He has written a valuable book to help priests celebrate the modern rite properly, The Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, obviously inspired by Fortescue and O’Connell. We can be confident the TAC and other Anglicans in Australia will not suffer discrimination on account of a preference for older liturgical forms, which are both permitted and encouraged by the present Pope.
The liturgy should embody those transcendentals that inform what is best in Christian civilization, that is, whatever is good, true and beautiful. I am sure that the liturgies of the Ordinariates will always represent these transcendentals.
Vatican II is an important point. I have been writing about ressourcement theology over these past few days. The Council, which began nearly fifty years ago, was the theatre of a conflict between the old Roman neo-Thomism, the secularising offshoot from baroque scholasticism and the virile aspiration of returning to the Fathers and the wider Tradition. With Pope Benedict XVI, we Anglicans can only rejoice in this affirmation of communio and rediscovery of a theological vision that unites the entire history and tradition of the Church in one. We have much to offer, and I hope and pray the Church will not refuse our humble contribution to this immense treasury.
We may yet have to wait another six months to a year, but with such encouragement, it will be worth it. We need to be quiet and prayerful, offering the gifts we have in learning, music, pastoral contact, whatever. We wait at the door, not yet in communion with the See of Rome, but in communion of desire, joined to the Church through our prayers and liturgies. The message brings me joy and hope.