Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Family Law, a useful analogy?

What are the options for those considering the Ordinariate with regards to buildings, pensions,stipends and welfare? I know these should not be the main issue as to whether one considers the Ordinariate or not but they will inevitably be a factor. Damage limitation to both sides of this current divide is paramount. The pastoral care of everyone should really be of the first priority. Would it be a good analogy I wonder to treat this whole realignment on the same basis as a marriage breakdown leading to annulment or divorce? In that case when mediation and reconciliation fails within the context of either unfaithfulness, unreasonable behaviour, non-consummation, lack of intention to keep within the marriage vows at the outset or irretrievable breakdown, a recognition and resolution of the failed relationship necessarily takes place with ongoing responsibilities. We can all recall broken promises that have been made in the ecclesial mess in which many find themselves. All Christians of goodwill should feel sadness when things don't work out both in marriages and within the family of churches. Let us not ignore the fact that there are Ordinands living through this very difficult ecclesial situation now right at the beginning of their calling. Who will be their Bishop, where is episcopal oversight? Where is their honoured place? Who can ordain them? Where is the sacramental collegiality and care? Leaving this and the other causes of breakdown on one side let us be charitable and agree to say that the terms of this divorce are (whatever the rights or wrongs) 'due to irretrievable breakdown' there are grave issues to be decided on BOTH sides which ought to be addressed and responsibilities to be faced up to. One of the priorities under British Family Law is that the interests of the children (parishoners and faithful) is paramount and both spouses(departing clergy with their families on one side and previous Ordinary/ Bishop on the other) should make adequate provision both for each other and them. The weaker spouse should be supported by the stronger one for a period of time certainly until the children and the financially weaker spouse are able to become self supporting or supported by others. One of the things one could hope for of the new alignment is that within the previous family and through mediation and joint structures between Ordinariate and previous Ordinary there could be proper provision made to aid transition and ensure pastoral care and welfare of all clergy, their families and congregations. This would be in a spirit of recognition of shared relationships, friendships and in the ecumenical imperative of retaining as much unity as possible. There could be a new ecumenical pastoral provision which could be made to allow an orderly, charitable and Christian response to the fast changing events sharing care, resources and even buildings. It could operate two ways and act also for those Roman priests moving away from Rome. After pain and suffering on both sides could we not all look beyond this passiontide of breakdown and divorce to the new joy of an Easter resurrection, new life and growth for all with no fault finding and blame? A generous and working relationship for the future to bring Christ to an unbelieving world. Is this too much to hope for?


  1. Denying economic justice to prospective ordinariate clergy families is akin to Docetism, a Gnostic heresy ably fought by St John the Evangelist. Docetists were 'spiritually minded' to a fault, denying the flesh of Christ (and hence his bodily needs) and affirming only the 'spiritual' aspects of the Incarnation.

    Clergy and their families need to eat and have adequate housing. That's just common sense of course, but lest some claim it's conditional (needs must and all that) it's also doctrine, i.e., Catholic Social Teaching. Here is the Ordinary Magisterium:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091981_laborem-exercens_en.html (Ctrl-F "family wage")

    I cannot imagine many Anglican priests with families to support coming over on mere principles and promises. They'll also need evidence of fungible exchange: pecuniary provision in exchange for pastoral.

  2. How modernist of you!