Douai Abbey and the Ordinariate

This morning after Lauds we farewelled the former Anglican bishops and now new Catholics Keith Newton, John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham after they spent a few days of retreat here at Douai Abbey to prepare for their ordination as deacons today, and priests on Saturday. I was given the happy duty of giving them some input.

As it turned out our meetings became more like workshops as we discussed elements of Catholic life and teaching that are of relevance or interest to them. In particular they were keen to be up to speed on confession and the identity and character of the priest. It ensured that I was up to speed as well!

Keith Newton

Several things became clear during their stay at Douai. All three men have a wealth of pastoral experience and insight that will be a great blessing to such a new body as the Ordinariate. They bring with them a particularly Anglo-Catholic approach to pastoral care that can only enrich the wider Church. That approach combines a very gentle touch with a full consideration of the Church’s teaching on relevant issues. While always striving never to crush the bruised reed  their pastoral approach neither ignores, downplays or over-emphasizes orthodox teaching but at the same time accepts that some people will take more time and accompaniment to integrate it into their lives fully and honestly. It seems eminently sensible. Moreover, for married men, they seem to have been able to devote a great deal of time to their flocks in the past, which were marginalised within the Anglican communion and so in need of special care. I would not be surprised if some non-Ordinariate Catholics find their way to Ordinariate churches to hear some wise, orthodox and gentle words of advice and encouragement.

John Broadhurst

It also became clear that these men, and those that will be following them, are no mere refugees from the chaotic theology and morality of the Anglican communion. They have been for a long time ad-liminal Catholics, we might say – standing at the threshold of the Church waiting for the definitive call of the Lord to enter, for the acceptable time. They have a thorough knowledge of Catholic teaching and liturgy, and have been living by both for years. Their reception into the Church is but the logical fruition of the progress of their faith and experience. Indeed they, and the Ordinariate at large, represent the blooming of authentic ecumenism, which is never about dialogue for its own sake, but dialogue aimed at bringing home the sheep outside the fold. They are a sign that ecumenism is maturing, and indeed that it has come of age.

These men also fall far short of the caricatures that some who are unhappy with the Ordinariate provision might peddle. They are happily married men, and no misogynists. They are anything but gin-and-lace types. They all have an open, frank and approachable style of interaction with people and do not stand on ceremony or their own dignity. They will make wonderful pastors within the Catholic Church.

Andrew Burnham

Lastly, it became clear, more by reading between the lines than anything they explicitly said, that their move into full communion with the Church will involve great sacrifice, as it has already. Indeed all the Anglican clergy who come to Rome will be making a great sacrifice, for some especially a great sacrifice to be sure. They will move from the familiar to what is unfamiliar in many of its details. Those with families have had financial security within the Anglican communion, and similar security is by no means obvious with the Church. There is also the upset, confusion and sometimes even bitterness of their former brethren who cannot make the move across to Rome with them. And by no means least important is the happy, rewarding and fruitful ministry they have been accustomed to and gave a strong sense of purpose to their  lives, which now they leave behind.

So it behooves the wider Church to ensure that they and their families, and the Ordinariate, in general find a joyful welcome in the Church, and the support they need, be it material, personal or spiritual. They bring with them a true and valuable patrimony, not least liturgical sensitivity and pastoral wisdom. It should be our prayer that the Ordinariate enables as many Anglicans as possible to enter the fold of the Church, and that their presence within the wider Church will enrich us and encourage us in our own Catholic lives.

Shortly Keith, John and Andrew will ordained deacons, and on Saturday, priests. May they bear much fruit to God’s glory. Ad multos annos!

May Blessed John Henry Newman pray for them, and may they be able to make his words their own:

From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.

Apologia pro Vita Sua, Chapter 5

18 thoughts on “Douai Abbey and the Ordinariate

  1. Wonderful news! Thank you all for your faithfulness, bravery, sacrifice. I’m reminded of the words of St. Ignatius to his fellow clergyman, St. Polycarp:

    “I entreat you, by the grace with which you are clothed, press forward on your course,
    and exhort all that they may be saved. Do justice to your office, both in the flesh
    and spirit. Be concerned about unity, the greatest blessing. Bear with all, just as
    the Lord does with you. Have patience with all in love, as indeed you do. To prayer,
    give yourself unceasingly; beg for an increase in understanding. Be watchful,
    possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately in imitation of God’s
    way. Bear with the infirmities of all, like a master athlete. The greater the toil, the
    greater the reward.”


  2. It is very welcome news that the Catholic Church is expanding in that way.

    In total, how many Anglican clergy are becoming Catholic? You might not know the answer to that question, so don’t worry if you don’t.

    Also, do clergy from the Eastern Orthodox Churches, or other Christian denominations apart from Anglican, become Catholic Clergy?


    1. At the moment there are 50 or so clergy actively seeking to enter the Ordinariate, but I suspect more will take courage once the Ordinariate has begun operating. It will be less of a jump into the great unknown for them.

      Yes, clergy from other denominations can become Catholic clergy but it is not common. The late editor of the journal First Things, Fr Richard Neuhaus, had been a Lutheran minister. Orthodox clergy could also convert but I do not know of any examples off the top of my head. But that may be because they might end up in an Eastern Catholic Church, where they would find something similar to their Orthodox liturgical tradition.


  3. As I’ve said elsewhere, I am concerned at the ‘indecent (?) haste’ with which these men have been ordained. I feel the same about Mgr Leonard the former Anglican Bishop of London.

    It seems that we are prepared to say to these men ‘come on in, we’ll throw the usual rules & requirements out of the window’. Surely, if we ensure our own seminarians (many of whom are cradle Catholics) have to go through full training then incomers should be under the same rules. If we use the excuse that they were already ‘Anglo Catholic priests’ then we are, virtually, saying the Anglican orders are valid, a situation denied by the Church.


    1. Your concern is more than understandable but there are some reassuring facts to note. Accepting these men’s previous training does not require any recognition of the validity of Anglican orders. Rather it acknowledges that they have all studied theology (and invariably Catholic theology with these men) to an acceptable level, and have had experience in a pastoral setting that fits them well for service in the Ordinariate and the wider Church. There can be no fair claim that these men are not fully trained.

      Moreover the Church is ensuring that they all receive instruction on various crucial Catholic elements, including canon law. Each clergyman applying is vetted by the CDF in Rome, who take into account each clergyman’s experience, education and reputation.

      One factor informing the “haste” is that these men have to be in place as quickly as possible to minister in the Ordinariate from its outset. Part of the rationale of the Ordinariate is that Anglican’s converting can enter into a familiar ethos and character. The Ordinariate is thus a portal into the universal Church for these groups. The Pope knows what he is doing, I feel sure.


  4. Fr Hugh, Your words following the ordination to the Diaconate of “the Three” are most telling and deserve as wide a readership as can be arranged – I’m doing my bit! It is so good to see the Church – expressed through your words and, particularly, through the words and actions of Pope Benedict – acting so wisely. There are far too many people posting on this and other blogs who cannot see beyond “sticking to the rules” – in secular life we would call them “jobsworths” – and who cannot, it seems, credit the Holy Spirit, working through the Church, with the ability to transcend such mean-spiritedness. That the young men of Allen Hall, heading the same way but by a longer and more arduous route, could welcome these three so warmly should be enough to make the jobsworths think again. But I doubt it will – thinking doesn’t seem to enter into it. We do live in exciting times for the church.


    1. Thank you for your supportive words, David. To be fair, I have some sympathy with those who suspect fast-tracks and quick fixes in general. We have all seen before something presented as cutting a corner that is more like cutting a whole city block! So the raising of the question does not bother me. In this case, I think the answer to the question is more than adequate. Part of its adequacy is, as you say, that it is the fruit of the Spirit’s work. We can know that because it has the full sanction of the Holy Father, and indeed it has been promoted by him.

      One little thing you said made me think. I am not sure that the route the Ordinariate clergy have taken to ordination in the Catholic Church is any less arduous than our own seminarians. Many of them have ministered in the Anglican communion for decades, becoming increasingly marginalized as the years progressed. Rather than giving up when the going got tough, they laboured to preserve the truth in the Church of England. Things have reached the point now where they can see that the Anglican communion is not one with the Catholic Church. Sincerely convinced of that, they are doing the honest and honourable thing: they are moving into full communion with the Catholic Church. In doing so they are giving up financial security, status, friends, and more. They are starting afresh with great humility. Their sacrifice strikes me as being very arduous, and all the richer and more fruitful for it. I think the men of Allen Hall recognize that.

      We do, indeed, live in exciting times for the Church. Keep spreading the word!


      1. Thank you for that – I agree totally! I should perhaps have made my position clearer – I am a layman and was received into the Catholic Church in 1994 (issue of authority rather than women priests only).. I have never for a moment regretted my decision. Having worked for over 40 years, currently as General Secretary, within an organisation called The Catholic League (the English one,NOT the American one!) for the reunion of all Christians with the See of Rome I am sorry that full corporate reunion, which once seemed so nearly possible, is now impossible in any realistic timespan, but I rejoice greatly in the provision of the Ordinariate. So I know very well what these three have gone through in terms of marginalisation, having experienced it myself. The “less arduous” applied only to the immediate process of reception and ordination, NOT to their previous lives and ministry. I spoke with all three of them yesterday, in the afternoon before their ordination, and their evident joy and enthusiasm I shall remember for a long time. They skipped up the stairs in St Pauls Bookshop like three kids at the end of term! (And spoke very highly of their pre-ordination retreat.)



      2. All is much clearer now! The spooky thing is I joined the Catholic League a month or two back, precisely to be another welcoming Catholic presence for those Anglicans waiting on the threshold, so ti is wonderful to hear you are its GS. While I knew that your description of their journey to Catholic ordination as “less arduous” was not in any way a put down, I now see exactly how you meant it, as a chronological reference synonymous with expedited. On that I certainly agree, as on its necessity too I have no doubt.

        I am glad the three ordinandi got something positive from their stay here. There presence did me a world of good!


  5. The three bishops being ordained as Catholic Priests, the haste of which ordinations you decry, are more firmly trained and grounded in Catholic theology than are most Roman Catholic clergy. They have been in conversation for ten years with the Pope, and he is fully aware of the extent of their theological knowledge and Catholic faith. For decades they have been standing on the threshold, fully convinced of the Truth of the Catholic Faith, awaiting the Call. It came in the form of the offer from Benedict xviii. There is no “haste” at work here; it is just high time for it to happen.


    1. Thankfully, William, it is now clear that no one is really decrying it, merely noting it. We all agree that these men are well-trained and well-formed, and that there is a new movement in ecumenism afoot, at the vanguard of which stand the Ordinariate Catholics. They will benefit indeed from hearing words of support such as yours.



  6. Do you think Douai Abbey will have a close working relationship with the Ordinariate? It would be an honorable undertaking to provide them with a close connection such as retreats and other activities perhaps even an Anglican Use Mass (whatever that will be in England & Wales).
    Thank you for this wonderful observation.


  7. Hi Matthew. It is all rather unknown but I hope we will have some sort of real relationship with the Ordinariate. We are centrally situated so that might be a plus for them. We can also hold quite a few in our church, and put up a decent number in our guesthouse, and we have ample parking. Of course, it may turn out that our involvement will be on a more personal level. Time will tell.



  8. William Wheatley said:
    “The three bishops being ordained as Catholic Priests… are more firmly trained and grounded in Catholic theology than are most Roman Catholic clergy.”

    Certainly, as a cradle Catholic, I have come to realise just how far many in the Catholic Church are going further and further away from true Catholic beliefs. May God Bless all who seek The Truth!


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