23 January 2011

The ordinariate: a step forward or a step back?

Joe Duffy’s ‘Spirit Level’ … on RTÉ television on Sunday evenings at 5 p.m.

Patrick Comerford

I was one of three panellists on Joe Duffy’s Spirit Level this evening. The two other panellists were Kieron Woods of the Sunday Business Post and Brenda Power of the Sunday Tribune.

Normally, the show opens with the panellists commenting on the religious and spiritual news in the weekend newspapers, and I was prepared to discuss last week’s Papal reprimand of the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the new iApp from the Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey.

Both stories are relevant – the Italian story raises questions about ethics and morals in politics, an important topic in Ireland today; the monks of Glenstal are a positive example of how all of us in the Church need to be aware of contemporary methods of communicating in an incarnational way in the world today.

It seemed inevitable, though, that we would begin by discussing the latest saga in Irish politics. While waiting to go into the studio, the Greens announced that they were pulling out of the coalition government with Fianna Fáil, but despite constant questioning they refused to answer which way they would vote when motions of No Confidence in the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and the Government are tabled by the other opposition parties later this week.

But there is a major crisis of confidence in the Irish political system at the moment, and this crisis has been fuelled by politicians, bankers and developers who deny that they have behaved in an unethical, immoral or questionable manner in recent years. Instead, they constantly protest that they have done nothing illegal, or that all they have done is to behave as they are entitled to. Entitlements and legality do not make behaviour moral or ethical.

We then moved on to discuss the recent ordination of three former Anglican bishops as Roman Catholic priests in Westminster Cathedral.

I had to point out that there is a constant exchange between both traditions, that we must welcome the provision of appropriate pastoral care for those who transfer their membership, but I questioned whether they new ordinariate was an appropriate mechanism for providing this pastoral care.

I wondered what these former bishops now think they were doing in the past when they presided at the Eucharist and ordained priests. Do they now think what they were doi ng in the past was a sham?

And why were they re-ordained when good, capable and conscientious Roman Catholic priests have been forced to deny their genuine love for someone, or forced out of their parishes when they decided to marry?

I genuinely hope and pray for Church union, but this is not the way to force the hands of Anglicans. And I was not prepared to accept Kieron Wood’s assertion – an insensitive, and almost rude assertion – that my ordination, priesthood are celebrations of the Eucharist are not valid within the Catholic tradition of the Church.

After a robust debate, we never managed, despite Joe Duffy’s efforts, to discuss this week’s meeting of the Anglican Primates, at which I have been asked to be chaplain.

The full programme is available at this link:


Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

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