Many fear the Ordinariate is good news for clergy but not the laity Mary Gough gives an eloquent expression of this secret fear and offers an implicit challenge to enthusiasts for the Ordinariate

I am as far as I know the only Forward in Faith member in my town (population approx 50,000).

The only remaining Anglo-Catholic parish church, where I used to worship, became Evangelical when an incumbent with an ‘ordained’ wife took over in 1995. My nearest Forward in Faith or Resolution C church is about fifteen miles away, so for my week-in, week-out worship I have for the past decade and a half been attending the local Roman Catholic church.

Christian welcome

The RC community has been very understanding of my position and extremely welcoming. They have never tried to persuade me to ‘convert’. The liturgy there is not all I could wish: it’s a bit Low Church; incense is never used at the services I attend, and the servers are allowed to wear trainers with their cassocks. The homilies are often pedestrian and uninspiring. You get the picture: not what I was used to at my Anglo-Catholic church.

There are compensations. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Monday all day; daily Mass; welcoming friendliness from congregation and clergy alike. And above all, the certainty that the Blessed Sacrament is what Jesus said it is.

For many years, I have been making an annual Individually Guided Retreat with the Jesuits at Loyola Hall and St Beuno’s. There, too, I and many others who are not RCs, receive expert spiritual guidance and unfailing courtesy, respect and love. I have much reason to be grateful to the Roman Catholic community. But join them?

A different world

Join an organisation that is run by old men in Rome, men who have no personal knowledge of the circumstances in which the ordinary members of their congregations, especially married people, live?

Join a church which excommunicates people who have been through the trauma of divorce and who have now managed to find happiness ‘the second time round’? Even murderers and paedophiles can repent and be forgiven, but not, apparently, those whose marriages have failed, perhaps through no fault of their own.

Join a church which, through its ban on artificial birth control, condemns poor women in the Third World to bear more children than they can adequately feed, and/or to be exposed to infection with HIV?

Join a church which insists on clerical celibacy, regardless of whether a priest is called to that special vocation? A church which is fast losing members as a result of people’s feelings of shame and disgust as one clerical sexual scandal follows another?

And then what?

Like many Anglicans, I have had enough of the endless wrangling about women priests and bishops. But join a church where it is forbidden even to discuss the matter?

Join a church which refuses to welcome Christians of other denominations to share the Body and Blood of Christ (‘shed for you and for all’, as the priest, with unconscious irony, repeats every time he consecrates)?

I am extremely grateful that my local RC parish has welcomed me to be part of its worshipping community. I am on the readers’ rota at Mass, fill a slot in the Adoration schedule, and – sure sign that I belong there – make my financial contributions via the weekly envelope scheme. But join the RC church? I don’t think so.

If, as seems likely, General Synod makes no provision for the likes of me, what am I then to do? Well, by keeping a careful eye on the ordination pedigree of the priests in any Anglican church where I receive the Sacraments, it seems possible that I shall be able, as it were, to pick my way through the mud, and receive valid sacraments until I die or am too old to care. Unsatisfactory, of course, but what other possibility is there?

However, I do hold out some hope that Forward in Faith, of which I have been a member since its earliest days, may be able to do something for me. ND