LONDON — Six months ago, Jonathan Goodall left his ministry as Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, England, to join the Catholic Church.
Last Saturday, the current Father Goodall was ordained a Catholic priest in Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Vincent Nichols – the culmination of a journey from Protestantism to the Catholic Church undertaken recently by a number of former Anglican bishops.
“It’s quite a journey,” Cardinal Nichols said in his homily on Father Goodall’s journey to the priesthood. “Yet I know that she is driven by one quest, the desire for this one thing necessary: to live according to the will of God.”
The next part of Father Goodall’s journey will be as parish priest of St. William of York parish in London, part of the Archdiocese of Westminster. Cardinal Nichols made clear the Church’s position in his homily that Father Goodall’s service as an Anglican bishop has truly engendered the grace of God in others and is “now integrated into the fullness of the priesthood as ‘it is understood and lived in the Catholic Church’.
In just over a year, four former Church of England bishops have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, either through the Ordinary Roman Catholic Diocese or the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a Catholic diocese with Anglican traditions for the United Kingdom. established under the 2009 apostolic constitution of Pope Benedict XVI Anglicanorum Coetibus.
In addition to Bishop Goodall, three retired Church of England bishops entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2021: Fr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester; Peter Foster, former Bishop of Chester; and John Goddard, former Bishop of Burnley. Father Nazir-Ali, who was nearly chosen as Archbishop of Canterbury, was ordained a Catholic priest on October 30 by Cardinal Nichols in London for the ordinariate. Goddard is expected to be ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Liverpool on April 2, while Foster has not indicated whether he wishes to remain lay or pursue the priesthood.
While Anglican bishops will have various reasons for becoming Catholic, Father Nazir-Ali explained that the central question behind these decisions is “how to remain a faithful disciple.”
“I need – and I think most Christians would need – some clarity on how to be a disciple in today’s fast-paced world,” Fr. Nazir-Ali said. to the Register about his decision to join the Catholic Church.
Father Nazir-Ali said he was part of the ARCIC (Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) dialogues between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. The dialogues were originally intended to fulfill an “explicit mandate” from Pope Saint Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey to seek a way forward for the restoration of full sacramental communion between the churches – a perspective that Fr. Nazir-Ali said “now”. seems, well, humanly speaking, impossible.
“That’s, of course, one of the reasons people are now letting go of this idea of step-by-step unity,” he said.
Father Nazir-Ali said the Anglican Communion seemed to have lost “some kind of momentum towards reclaiming Catholicity”, and instead seemed “now on the way to just being another liberal Protestant denomination”.
“So many of us who believe we got the faith from the Fathers and the Councils by being Anglicans are now finding that is no longer the case,” he said.
Father Nazir-Ali concluded that Anglicanism has no way of making “gospel-based decisions about how the faithful should live and witness” apply to all parts of the Anglican Communion. Moreover, he said, Anglicans have “no agreed teaching body to call upon”, and they lack a “competent teaching authority who can declare, clarify and confirm the faith of the Church regarding the questions that arise in life”. devotees. »
“So that means there is contradiction and disagreement on fundamental issues,” he said.
Father Nazir-Ali said the unilateral actions of the Anglican Communion have validated the objections of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches that “Anglicans cannot claim to share apostolic ministry with them and then change it in such a way significant without crushing ecumenical consensus on this subject.
Father Nazir-Ali said he joined the ordinariate by becoming a Catholic because he did not want to leave behind what was true, good and beautiful in the Anglican tradition.
“I was very encouraged to see how much Anglican heritage could be used in good faith by the Catholic Church,” he said. “I think this is a very important ecumenical development.”
Other clergy on the way
More and more Anglican clergy are concluding that the way forward lies with the Catholic Church. Father Paul Martin, who heads the St. Barnabas Society, a British charity that supports Anglican clergy on their journey to full communion, told The Register of the canonization of St. John Henry Newman in 2019, followed by the pandemic of COVID-19, “focused the minds of even more people who had considered converting.
“At St. Barnabas Society, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people contacting us for help,” he said in an email. “Many of them were unhappy with the way the Church of England had handled the pandemic and spoke about what they perceived to be the marginalization of Catholic-minded Anglican clergy.”
Father Nazir-Ali said he had already been “approached by other groups of Anglicans who want to use me as a bridge to speak with the Catholic Church”.
“And I will, of course, when that happens, facilitate that conversation,” he added.
The breakup of the Anglican Communion over the division of doctrine saw Anglicans attempt to forge new Anglican jurisdictions instead of simply entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. But Gavin Ashenden, a former Church of England priest turned missionary bishop for “continuous Anglican” jurisdiction, told the Register he became a Catholic in December 2019 after realizing the “continuous Anglican” movement could not. not “reconfigure a renewed Catholic Anglicanism”. .”
“My great discovery as a ‘continuing’ bishop was that without the magisterium it was completely and utterly impossible,” he said, explaining that it was impossible to achieve pragmatic unity, not to mention of doctrinal consensus, among Continuing Anglicans.
“Every generation needs a sharp mind from the Church to weigh the merits and demerits of whatever society throws away,” he said.
Ashenden entered the Catholic Church through his local Latin Rite diocese, but later transferred to the ordinariate after recognizing the importance of the Anglican prayer book tradition to his spirituality. He is awaiting a decision from Rome on his candidacy to become a Catholic priest.
Ashenden said that Anglicanism from the beginning had been a “collaboration of a number of different theological traditions”. But while they could agree on baptism and the role of the laity, this ongoing collaboration could not define what they believed about “the most important elements of Christianity, the nature of the Church, the nature of the Eucharist”.
“None of this had been done theologically in Anglicanism,” he said. “And that’s another reason why he so quickly fell prey to the very clearly focused and very forceful pseudo-ethical energy of progressive politics.”
Ashenden added: “What changed the game was third wave feminism”, which “made subjectivity absolute” in the Anglican world. He said general synods within Anglicanism, rather than first exploring and defining theologically the nature of the priesthood, ended up voting to approve the ordination of women to the priesthood, which akin to a political process.
Unity for which Christ prayed
Msgr. Keith Newton, the Ordinary of Our Lady of Walsingham Ordinariate, told the Register that he left his ministry as Anglican Bishop of Richborough and entered the Catholic Church in 2010 with the establishment of the ordinariate. As a young Anglican priest, a pilgrimage to Rome had convinced him of the urgency of realizing the prayer of Jesus Christ to the Father for the unity of the Church.
“I was so overwhelmed by this experience that I really felt the Church of England needed to reconnect with the Church from which it came,” he said.
However, Msgr. Newton watched with dismay as the churches drifted further apart even as the ARCIC agreements came to fruition. When Benedict XVI created the ordinariates with Anglicanorum Coetibushe said, “the apostolic constitution was an answer to my prayer for unity”.
Today, he said, ecumenism seems to be going through a “difficult period”.
While the Catholic Church aimed to achieve ecumenical unity at the Second Vatican Council more than 50 years ago, today the goals of ecumenism are reduced to corporate communion. Instead of discussing how the Catholic Church can successfully integrate into its life a Reformation tradition with the stability of Catholic doctrine, a possibility demonstrated by the Ordinariates, Msgr. Newton explained that the official dialogue saw a reluctance to discuss difficult issues resulting in a kind of “kindness ecumenism”.
“It’s better to be nice to each other as Christians than to be mean to each other,” he said. “But it strikes me that I’m not what Jesus prayed for…he prayed for us to be one.”
Ashenden said he hoped the recent entry of Anglican bishops into the Catholic Church – along with 10% of Catholic priests in the UK being former Anglican clergy – would lead to bolder invitations for the Anglicans enter into full communion.
“I think the Catholic Church should develop a sense of trust in England and say, ‘If you want Christianity to continue, we are, and besides, we are all you have,'” he said. he declared, “So come and come quickly.”