Saturday, 22 January 2011

Anglicanorum Coetibus

I have to admit that I have not yet read the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which established the Anglican Ordinariate in England as elsewhere, nor have I read any details of how it is to be implemented in England.  However, I have to say that I heartily welcome this decision by Pope Benedict to welcome AngloCatholics into the Catholic Church - this move may very well help to revitalise our Church in this country.
Amongst those who are considering making the enormous move into the Catholic Church is, I hear, an Anglican parish, St James the Great, in my nearby town of Darlington.  The parish is to meet and discuss the matter on the 13th of February, and it will be addressed by Father Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop, now a Catholic priest and the designated head of the Ordinariate. Father Ian Grieves, the Vicar of St James the Great, has long been a very orthodox minister and is keen on the change. Their web-site can be seen here You can read there the letter of Father Grieves to his parishioners.
One thing which makes me wonder about the move into the Ordinariate and which must make Anglicans extremely anxious is whether they will have to leave their beloved church buildings behind - they must love their churches as much as we Catholics love ours.
An eminent Queen's Counsel, a friend of mine, while researching something else, came across the English law about the status of Anglican church property. I repeat here what he concludes about this matter.

"Under English Ecclesiastical Law, the legal owner of the Parish Church and Parsonage is the incumbent, as “freeholder of the Benefice”.  The legal owners of the movable contents of the Parish Church are the Churchwardens.   And the Parishioners are all the residents of the Parish regardless of their religious beliefs.

So if Father Grieve and the Parishioners who attend his Church, including the Churchwardens, all begin to profess and observe the true Faith while remaining in occupation of St James the Great, the authorities of the Church of England will have no sanction apart from disciplinary action against Father Grieve.

That would entail the laying of a Complaint against Father Grieve before the Durham Diocesan Registrar by an “authorised complainant” (ie a person authorised by the Bishop of Durham to make the Complaint) or by 6 or more Parishioners, who for this purpose are defined as persons of full age who are on the Register of Electors as residents of the Parish.

The Complaint would then be investigated by a Committee of Convocation.  If they decided to proceed they would nominate a Promoter who would pursue the Complaint in the Consistory Court.  If the Complaint was upheld, then (subject to any Appeal) the Court could impose a range of penalties of which the most lenient would be a Rebuke and the most severe would be Deprivation of the Benefice and/or Excommunication.

At that stage the Bishop could appoint a new incumbent and he (or she) could apply to Darlington County Court for Possession of the Parish Church and Parsonage.

The whole procedure would be extremely protracted and controversial and would no doubt attract continuous publicity: and if other Parishes followed suit the volume of business for the Ecclesiastical Courts could become unmanageable, particularly if Doctrinal issue were raised by way of Defence.”

Perhaps readers might like to bring this Opinion to the attention of their AngloCatholic friends.


  1. Many C of E and C in W Bishops seeing this coming perhaps no longer give the benefice but licence the vicar to administer the parish, thus not making them "owners"

  2. Wow Father, talk about cats & pigeons! I have 2 Anglican clergy in mind with regard to this. Both are members of 'Forward with Faith' & I gather they were sitting on hot bricks waiting to see how things 'panned out'

  3. I suspect the last thing the bishops of England and Wales want is for those crossing the Tiber to have their own buildings. I am sure they would be much happier to have congregations absorbed into existing Catholic parishes where they can be kept an eye on.