Thursday, October 29, 2009

Proposal: The Value of Opus Dei for An Anglican Ordinariate Within the Catholic Church

Although England can boast of a millenary tradition of natural law and jurisprudential respect for the human person (Magna Charta), the country has witnessed a lessening in the consciousness of said natural law since the break from the papacy. The Church in England became the Church of England. The Catholic Church in England ceased to be the Church Universal. As a consequence of the break from Rome, the church of England became reduced to the cultural phenomenon of a churched elite. It ceased to be the organic culture of a living faith. This is so because a living faith involves becoming Christ to the extent that one can say with Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). This cannot take place without the Sacrifice of the Mass, the fullness of the Word and the complement of the sacraments, especially Penance.

The personalism of salvation is a key concept in the mind of Benedict XVI. He is at pains to explain that the entrance into the one Church of Jesus Christ via the sacrament of Baptism is not merely the acquisition and rearrangement of a few ideas. It is “a death event.” Using St. Paul as his example, then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “Paul says, ‘I live, no longer I, but Christ lives within me’ (Gal. 2, 20)…. “Then in a single sentence, as clear as a lightning bolt, the inner event that took place during all of this, … the ground of it all, is made clear. This inner event is at once personal and objective. It is the most personal of experiences and at the same time indicates what the objective essence of Christianity is for each on of us… Conversion according to Paul is something much more radical than a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. It is a death event. In other words it is the replacement of the subject – of the ‘I.’ The ‘I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The ‘I’ does not perish, but must let itself diminish completely, in effect, in order to be received within a larger ‘I’ and, together with that larger ‘I,’ to be conceived anew.”[1]

This is an astounding announcement. As St. Josemaria Escriva heard that grounding locution for the founding of Opus Dei on August 7, 1931: “I say that … you are to raise me up in all human activities,… that all over the world there be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.”[2] The reality of it involves a radical identity with the Person of Christ, and the Person of Christ as the identity of the Church. In the same public lecture, Ratzinger quoted Paul again: “Just as the body and the various members interact, the same is true of Christ” (1 Cor. 12, 12). He explains: “(Paul) uses the common comparison of the body and its members, which was used in ancient social philosophy. In the transfer of this metaphor to the Church, however, there is a surprising change which is often overlooked. To miss this change inevitably leads to an incorrect grasp of Paul’s entire understanding of the Church. He does not hesitate to use comparisons with the sociology prevalent at the time, but he does so in a way which shows that his conception of the Church is entirely different from his view of society. In fact Paul does not say: ‘Just as in an organism there are many members interacting with one another, the same thing holds true for the Chruch.’” Rather, what he does say, as indicated above, “Just as the body and the various members interact, the same is true of Christ.”

Consider, now, that if there is a split from the Church of Christ, there is an absence of the Person of Christ. Consider also that Vatican II has taught that the Church of Christ “subsists” uniquely in the Catholic Church. Hence, if the Anglican Church is apart from the Catholic Church, and if the Church of Jesus Christ “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, then this radical identity with the Person of Christ cannot take place in the Anglican Church as Anglican and hence cannot be the locus of salvation as Church. It will have “elements of salvation,”[3] as Lumen Gentium mentions, but it will not have the saving subsistence [4]of Christ Himself and for that reason will deviate in critical areas. Critical areas, of course, are the effect on civil society as well as fidelity to Christian Tradition.

With regard to civil society, if a faith does not become culture in that society it is not a living faith. All of this adds up to an op-ed in the New York Times October 25 that observed, Britain has gone through a truly prodigious change in the last 30 years. It has moved from being a largely white culture with Christianity as its background religion to be a completely secular, multicultural society…. A genial secularized liberalism is the new norm. It might be difficult to define it, but you feel when its codes are infringed, as with the controversies over ‘faith schools’ that teach creationism, or with the misgivings felt by many secular politicians about such issues as the wearing of the burqa.”[5] The article goes on to suggest that “Maybe it’s just as British to wear a black bag over your head as to wear one of the bizarre outfits you still see in the enclosure at Royal Ascot.”

That said, it goes on to say that “In such a climate, the Church of England had no chance at all of surviving. It was bound to go, and it was just waiting, historically, for some catalyst to bring it to an end. That catalyst has been provided by the somewhat unlikely controversy over female bishops,” or as he suggested earlier: “female bishops, gay bishops, gay female bishops – take your pick.”

Vatican Note on Establishing Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans

Published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


“With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.

“In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

“The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.

“Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has prepared this provision, said: "We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter"…

“According to Levada: "It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (4:5). Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith."

Let it be noted that according to Canon 368 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983 “particular Churches, in which and from which, the one and only catholic Church exists, are principally dioceses.” However, there are two notable exceptions: personal prelatures and military Ordinariates, which, although having their differences, have an equivalency that would be favorable to exploring how Opus Dei as the first Prelature established after the Council could assimilate Anglicans to full communion in the Catholic Church.

A Proposal

Could it be that Opus Dei as the first instance of a Personal Prelature in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 may have an impact on the dynamic of the Personal Ordinariate for the Anglican Church? My interest stems from the fact that Opus Dei instantiates the ascetical goal of living out the “aboriginal relationship” between clergy and laity that obtained in the Church from the beginning with the first Christians. This notion, which is the heart of the “re-evangelization,” permeated the Second Vatican Council under the rubric of The People of God that, in turn, was further refined as Communio in the extraordinary Synod of 1985. Pedro Rodriguez formulated said it in the following way: "Opus Dei as a social reality in the Church is organic and undivided. Its lay faithful (men and women) and the priests who act as its clergy complement each other in exemplary adherence to the basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles - called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism - and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the 'ministerial' consequences of the sacrament of Order... So, what we find in Opus Dei, different yet complementing one another, are two ecclesial forms of participating in Christ's priesthood. We find both the 'substantial' priority of Opus Dei's lay faithful, at whose service is the priestly ministry, and the 'functional' priority of the sacred ministry, in whose head the prelate) resides the sacra potestas that governs the prelature."[6]

The fact is that Opus Dei anticipated and catalyzed Vatican II particularly in chapter IV of Lumen Gentium and "The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity." Since the Church has been de-clericalizing itself by going “back” to its pristine experience of radical equality of laity and ministerial priests in the baptismal vocation to be “other Christs” immersed in the environment of the secular world, and since Opus Dei is the in situ catalyst of that radical equality, it would seem reasonable and important that the Anglicans returning to the Church entered in the spirit that permeates the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei as a kindred structure of the Ordinariate.

* * * * * * * * *


Historically, the Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests of the Second Vatican Council (December 7, 1965), considering the various pastoral needs of a fast evolving world, suggested that for “special pastoral projects for the benefit of different social groups in any region or among any race in any part of the world…there can … be set up…personal prelatures.”[7] This was followed by a “Motu Proprio” of Paul VI for the implementation of the “prelacies.” In a footnote to the Code of Canon Law of 1983, Book II, Title IV On Personal Prelatures,” it read: “Personal prelatures are jurisdictional entities established by the Holy See within the hierarchical pastoral activity of the Church as an instrument for the performance of particular pastoral or missionary endeavours. They are under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for Bishops. A personal prelature must consist of a prelate who is the proper Ordinary, and of secular clerics who are trained and incardinated in the prelature. Laypeople who are incorporated to or form part of a personal prelature cooperate organically in its activities and in achieving its ends, by means of contracts or agreements in which mutual rights and obligations are determined according to the statues of the prelature.”

Expatiating on the above, it read: “In order to accomplish special pastoral or missionary tasks for various regions or social groups requiring special assistance, prelatures may usefully be established by the Apostolic See. These would consist of the secular clergy specially trained and under the rule of a prelate of their own and governed by statues of their own.” The prelate would be empowered to establish a seminary for laity in preparation for priesthood “incardinating such students under the title of service to the prelature and to promote them to Orders.” The document goes on to say that “There is no reason why laymen, whether celibate or married, should not dedicate their professional service, through contracts with the prelature, to its works and enterprises.”

Opus Dei as “Aboriginal Relation” of Ecclesial Communio

The social arrangement of the relation of lay faithful and ministerial priests in Opus Dei could serve as model for Anglican faithful and re-ordained ministerial priests. Opus Dei, in the words of Escriva, is “a little bit of the Church.” Not being a particular Church because it is personal and not territorial and its members belong to it and to the diocese in which they reside, nevertheless Opus Dei is analogical to the particular Church because it shares a common “theological substance.” Rodriguez writes: “We can say that the ground for the analogy between Opus Dei and the particular Church is the common ‘theological substance’ of ecclesial bodies structurally organized according to the basic ‘common priesthood/ministerial priesthood’ relationship – the fact that both have the substantial elements of the internal dimension of the Church’s structure.”

Let’s examine that. Rodriguez goes on: “Opus Dei’s social arrangement as a ‘Christian community’ stems from what we have called the ‘internal dimension of the Church’s structure.’ That is, it is born of mutual relations of christifideles and ‘sacred minister,’ or if you prefer, it derives from the two forms of participating in Christ’s priesthood. That is also why Opus Dei as a social reality in the Church is organic and undivided. Its lay faithful (men and women) and the priests who act as its clergy complement each other in exemplary adherence to the basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles – called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism – and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the ‘ministerial’ consequences of the sacrament of Order…. ‘The ministerial priesthood of the clergy and the common priesthood of the lay people are so intimately linked that both, in unity of vocation and government, require and complement each other (ad invicem) in striving for the end proper to the prelature.” [8]

Opus Dei lives out in living reality the communio personarum of lay faithful and ministerial priests, each exercising his irreducible identity as Bridegroom (minister priest) and Bride (layfaithful) resulting from the respective sacraments of Baptism and Order [both conferring the ontological reality of “character” on the respective persons], and each being so much in service to the other that they form the “Unum” that is “Ipse Christus” of the “Whole Christ” that we saw above.[9] And so radical and important is this “aboriginal relationship” that obtained among the first Christians that yielded the living eschatological “already” of Jesus Christ in the world, that it would be a deviation from the reality of the Church not to present it to the Anglicans. In fact, precisely so that this radical equality and functional diversity of lay faithful and ministerial priest spread throughout the Church, Opus Dei is not a particular Church but a personal (non-territorial) institution of the universal Church, and whose mission is to disseminate this aboriginal “spirit” of the universal call to holiness to the whole Church, and in our case here, to the Anglican Church.

The Prelate

The figure of the Prelate is also key here since it is the love of Father that engenders the identity in both layman and ministerial priest and empowers both to make the gift of self that is the dynamic of the communio. Rodriguez goes on to make this critical point that is so necessary in the understanding of the episcopal office: “We ought to say that in Opus Dei’s institutional life and in its members’ relations with their prelate, what is decisive is neither his ‘jurisdiction’ nor their obedience. Rather, what truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his ‘fatherhood,’ his role as pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called ‘Father.’ The prelate’s role in the life of Opus Dei deeply configures the prelature. Therefore it is important to consider it when determining the ecclesial profile of the social arrangement lived therein.”[10]

Without the experience of the Person of Christ, it is impossible to have an authentic experience of personhood in that Jesus Christ as God-man is the prototype of man imaging God. If the meaning of the human person is Christ, then we are no longer talking about “natural law” but about the law of the person which is quite different. “Natural law” would be a dynamic of acts tending toward ends which we know by observation. The “law of the person” would be a dynamic taken from the revelation of Jesus Christ and would take the formulation of Gaudium et spes #24 of finding self by gift of self. It would be a complex anthropology grounded on the ontological architecture of the one Person, two natures in Christ. The dynamic would involve the “I” of the Logos subduing His human will and making the gift of Himself as man to the Father for us. In a word, He is Priest of His own existence, mediating between Himself and the Father. That said, it would logical, then, that the decay of the Anglican Church as Christian by severance from the vine would promote a culture that would be incoherent with the humanness of Christian personhood.

It is important that we recall that there is no salvation outside the Person of Jesus Christ Who is the God-man, and that He founded a Church that is His very Self. When He calls out – “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?”(Acts 9, 4), it is evident that those whom Saul is persecuting – the Church – is Christ Himself. To make this point, the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium #8 reads that “This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” It goes on to say that “Nevertheless many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”

Vatican II’s use of “subsist” means here that there is only one Church that is the unique Subject that is Christ (the Catholic Church), although there are “elements” of salvation outside that visible Church. Cardinal Ratzinger clarified the issue in the following way: “It becomes necessary to investigate the word subsistit somewhat more carefully. This expression, the Council differs from the formula of Pius XII, who said in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi: ‘The Catholic Church ‘is’ (est) the one mystical body of Christ.’ The difference between subsistit and est conceals within itself the whole ecumenical problem. The word subsistit derives from the ancient philosophy as later developed in Scholastic philosophy. The Greek word hypostasis that has a central role in Christology to describe the union of the divine and the human nature in the Person of Christ comes from that vision. Subsistere is a special case of esse. It is being in the form of subject who has an autonomous existence. Here it is a question precisely of this. The Council wants to tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete subject in this world can be found in the Catholic Church. This can take place only once, and the idea that the subsistit could be multiplied fails to grasp precisely the notion that is being intended. With the word subsistit, the Council wished to explain the unicity of the Catholic Church and the fact of her inability to be multiplied: the Church exists as a subject in historical reality.”[11]

Having lost access to the full experience of Christ in the Catholic Church, England as a Subject has lost the full experience of the truth of the human person and hence the consciousness of its Christian identity as a Subject. With this loss, England lost the coherence of the Church and the human foundation of its secular society.

It has lost the autonomy of a secular – not secularized (because this would involve the atheism of being radically alone and self sufficient) – culture in which all religious traditions could flourish. To wit: Christian anthropology involves the priestly dynamic of Jesus Christ whereby He masters Himself and makes the gift of Self. This is the profound meaning of the human freedom won for us by Christ crucified.[12] It is precisely because of this self mastery of a single subject (and therefore true autonomy) that Christianity provides the ground of the institutional separation of church and state, and hence the legitimization of religious pluralism. The point rests on the epistemological distinction between subject and object whereby there is one subject that is holy and many objects that promote sanctification. There is only one saving Church of Jesus of Christ, but there are many diverse elements of salvation (e.g. Scripture and Sacraments) outside that Church that derive from her. Hence there is a legitimate plurality of religions in accordance with a true freedom of consciences while there is only one true Church. That plurality must be respected because it responds to the respect for the religious freedom of the person to master self with regard to the things of God. The topic is the burden of the document “Dignitatis Humanae” which is so central to the mainspring of the Council: the meaning of person as self-determining freedom. In a word, there is no true freedom in separation from the living experience of Christ, and that can only take place in the Church of Jesus Christ that “subsists” in the Catholic Church.

That lacking in England, and being held together by the flimsy externalism of a doctrinally and sacramentally detached Anglican “Church,” it is no wonder that “Britain has gone through a truly prodigious change in the last 30 years. It has moved form being a largely white culture with Christianity as its background religion to being a completely secular, multicultural society.”[13] Although Wilson fears “the complete secularization of Britain, and an acceptance of its new multicultural identity” (with an exodus of perhaps 1,000 Anglican priests, 10-15 Anglican bishops and plausibly large congregations) that will destroy its identity, nevertheless, the breath of life may well be pumped into a slumping culture with the uptake of a renewed experience of Christ within the One Universal Church of Christ.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology Ignatius (1995) 50-51. I am taking the text from a public lecture at “St. Michael’s Papers I – The Church as an Essential Dimension of Theology, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, 13 April 1986, pp. 3-4.

[2] “‘At the moment of elevating the Sacred Host, without losing proper recollection, without being distracted… there came to my mind, with extraordinary force and clarity, the phrase of Scripture ‘et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad me ipsum’… Reflecting years later on this experience, Escriva said that he understood our Lord to be saying those words to him ‘not in the sense in which the Scripture says them. I say it to you in the sense that you are to raise me up in all human activities in the sense that all over the world there be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs;” J. Coverdale, Uncommon Faith, Scepter (2002) 90.

[3] Lumen Gentium #8: “Many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its [Catholic] visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”

[4] The word “subsistence” is used in contradistinction to “is” to indicate that the Church is talking about two distinct realities: subject and object. Christ (Subject) “subsists” in the Catholic Church while “elements of sanctification” (object) are to be found outside the confines of the Catholic Church.

[5] A.N. Wilson, “Rock of Ages. Cleft by the Pope,” New York Times op-ed WK 9, October 25, 2009.

[6] Pedro Rodriguez, "The Place of Opus Dei in the Church" in Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1993) 38.

[7] Vatican II, “Presbyterorum Ordinis” #10.

[8] Ibid 38

[9] So powerful is the exercise and grasp of this spousal relation between laity and ministerial priest yielding the “Ipse Christus” of the Church, that John Paul II used the von Balthasar image of the Church of Mary (laity) holding precedence over the Church of Peter (hierarchical cleric) whereby one cannot effectively exist without the other. Cf. ftn. 55 of John Paul II’s “Dignity and Vocation of Women.”

[10] P. Rodriguez, op. cit. 56.

[11] J. Ratzinger, “Ecclesiology of the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium,” June 28, 1992, published in English edition of L’Osservatore Romano 19 September 2001, page 5.

[12] See John Paul II’s remark: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom;” Veritatis Splendor “85.

[13] A.N. Wilson, “Rock of Ages, Cleft by the Pope,” NYT, op-ed, October 25, 2009 WK 9.

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