The Ordinariate and ‘realized ecumenism’

This is from a remarkable speech by the Catholic chaplain to Cambridge University Mgr. Mark Langham to the Ordinariate Plenary Feb. 12  posted on Mark Lambert’s blog, with my emphases:

Catholics need certainty. Our whole sacramental system is predicated on an assurance given to us that the sacrament is doing what it claims to be; that the sign is authentic, that grace is truly conferred. I am not prepared to be dragged into an argument about whose Anglican orders might or might not be valid; because in the end that is not the question I want answered. I want to know that my priest is truly ordained; that I am really receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, that my sins are forgiven. Ultimately, there is only one guarantee of that: communion. Communion with the Church, and, when all is said and done, Communion with Peter. Anglicans can speak, and did speak last week, of an ‘impaired communion’ with which they are willing to live. Impaired communion may or may not be communion. Again, for me, that is not good enough; it cannot guarantee the life of grace I need. The Ordinariate bears testimony to that demand for certainty, which is a reasonable demand since our Lord went to such lengths to ensure that his grace, his teaching and his salvation might endure and be available at every moment in history. For the Ordinariate, this championing ofcertainty is a sign of what our unity needs to include; a rigorous thinking through communion means, and what it takes to guarantee the sacraments. [Can I hear an Amen!]

I’d like to move to a second element of the Ordinariate’s contribution to contemporary ecumenism: its embodiment of a goal. The Ordinariate is a model of ‘realised ecumenism’ which is ever more important both as a prophetic sign and a commitment to faithfulness.


Peaceful co-existence has been hard won. Moreover, it allays our fears about ecumenism; protecting beliefs, ceremonies and practices that are dear to us. Co-existence, in charity, allows full expression of our own doctrines, and avoids any danger of compromise or watering down difficult issues.
An even more compelling version of this stance notes that just because we cease to do theology, we are not necessarily condemned to ecumenical inertia. There is a Practical Ecumenism, which means Christians doing together what we can do together.


But there is also a danger, alluded to by Pope Benedict, that in a seemingly intractable theological situation, we shrink ecumenism to ‘what we can do together’ – into purely practical ecumenism. Speaking to the CDF in 2012, he warned against reducing ecumenism “to a kind of ‘social contract’ to be joined for a common interest, a “praxeology” for creating a better world.”[13] It is easier to open a food bank than to discuss homosexual unions; it is clearer how to campaign for a local school than to discuss the ordination of women. So we turn from the difficult work of theology, to take refuge in local projects and practical initiatives. Pope Benedict’s point is that practical initiatives must not become a substitute for the difficult, but ultimately necessary, theological dialogue.

So, we have to do the theology. There is one reason above all why; why we must attempt repeatedly the seemingly impossible task of untangling the knots of our different Christian positions. It is simpy the will, the prayer, of Christ: “May they all be one, as you and I are one.”[14] Christ did not pray that we simply live peaceable side by side, even that we collaborate, co-operate. He prayed that we may be one, in a unity that reflects the unity of the inner life of the Trinity – “as you and I are one”. That Trinitarian unity is an inner bond, a unity of being, although diverse in its relationships. Pope John Paul II was blunt: “To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father’s plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ’s prayer: Ut unum sint.”[15] This prayer, and the imperative for unity it brings, has been echoed by modern Popes and other Christian leaders.
It is here that the presence of the Ordinariate within the Church is prophetic and exhortative; a reminder both to Catholics and to other Christians that co-existence, even with a communion in which historically the Catholic Church could see a great deal of itself, is not enough. Living in impaired communion is not the will of Christ. For sure, we can collaborate in a great number of things – but collaboration is not journeying. Faithfulness to the prayer of our Lord is to commit ourselves to his agenda, his journey, his prayer; however unlikely or difficult that may seem to us. True ecumenism is not only about sustaining the present bonds of charity; it must direct itself forward, towards its goal, a goal that will be visible in sharing Eucharistic fellowship. The Ordinariate not only represents a realisation of that goal, but an insistence to the Church that where we are is not good enough; not merely untidy – it does not accomplish the will of Christ, and thereby weakens our witness to him in the world. For ecumenism, there is a journey to be made. Your own personal journeys which brought you to the Ordinariate, the sacrifices you made to move forward, re-emphasise the urgency and the cost of the ecumenical imperative – the obligation to make the journey; the need once more to see ecumenism not as an abstract notion, but a reality that makes demands upon us. The Ordinariate, in the end, underlines that in staying where we are, divided as we are, we are lacking in witness to him who name we claim to bear.

If the Ordinariate restores the sense of movement towards unity, it also models what that unity can look like. Here the Ordinariate’s contribution to ecumenism has a potential yet to be unlocked.

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1 Response to The Ordinariate and ‘realized ecumenism’

  1. EPMS says:

    Reading the account of infighting in the previous post, and the dark hints regarding schism, one becomes aware that attaining a “Trinitarian bond” must remain a aspiration rather than a realised goal in this fallen world. That does not remove our obligation to strive toward it, but it should remove any complacency about fulfilling Jesus’ will by any single act.

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