Well, there’s a great deal of conversation (and a certain amount of consternation) about the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. If it hasn’t come to your attention, you can find some good commentary at Thinking Anglicans.
This Apostolic Constitution has been prepared after years of requests and discussions with the Traditional Anglican Communion, a community whose founders left churches in the Anglican Communion beginning a generation ago over the ordination of women. At the same time, it arrives in an interesting context. First, there are other groups of former Anglicans, who have left churches in the Anglican Communion over issues of sexuality. Second, the Church of England, long the center of the Vatican’s (arguably myopic) perspective of things Anglican, has committed to the ordination of women to the episcopate and has begun to figure out just how to locally adapt that for their circumstances. As a result, while the folks of TAC are ready, waiting, and basically committed, there are also others both in and outside churches of the Anglican Communion who might be interested. Certainly, folks in Forward in Faith have certainly expressed some interest; while others, with a more evangelical perspective, have said, “No thanks.”
I have read both the document itself and the Complementary Norms. Others have noted what this means for the orders and structures of the Personal Ordinariates for the former Anglicans. However, what struck me about these documents had to do with relations with priests of the Ordinariates and the Roman dioceses.
The importance of such a relationship is established in the Apostolic Constitution in Article VI, paragraph 4: “Priests incardinated into an Ordinariate, who constitute the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, are also to cultivate bonds of unity with the presbyterate of the Diocese in which they exercise their ministry. They should promote common pastoral and charitable initiatives and activities, which can be the object of agreements between the Ordinary and the local Diocesan Bishop.” This would be important, of course, because the Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans will not be territorial in the same sense as Roman dioceses, and so will overlap one or more dioceses.
What this might mean (and why this might be more interesting to Roman bishops) is clarified in Article 8, paragraph 1, of the Complementary Norms, “The presbyters, while constituting the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, are eligible for membership in the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese in which they exercise pastoral care of the faithful of the Ordinariate.” That is, while they are priests of the (non-territorial) Anglican Ordinariate, they can also be members of the (territorial) Roman diocese within which they live and/or work. This only makes sense, because in Article 9, paragraph 1, “The clerics incardinated in the Ordinariate should be available to assist the Diocese in which they have a domicile or quasi-domicile, where it is deemed suitable for the pastoral care of the faithful. In such cases they are subject to the Diocesan Bishop in respect to that which pertains to the pastoral charge or office they receive.” This does require a written agreement between the Roman Bishop and the Ordinary of the Ordinariate; but with that agreement (and how is the Ordinary to refuse the Bishop) the Bishop can call on priests of the Ordinariate to assist in Roman parishes.
Now, that arrangement can work the other way. However, it’s notable that “clerics incardinated in the Ordinariate should be available to assist the Diocese;” while “clergy incardinated in a Diocese… can collaborate in the pastoral care of the Ordinariate,” but only “[w]here and when it is deemed suitable.” (Emphases mine)
That suggests to me that the real value of this to Roman bishops is as a new source of assisting clergy. There is a clear priority of Ordinariate clergy serving Diocesan needs. In the face of the clergy shortage any new source of personnel has to be interesting. Moreover, they’re inexpensive personnel; for Article 7 of the Complementary Norms makes clear that the Bishops have no financial responsibility for these new clergy: “The Ordinary must ensure that adequate remuneration be provided to the clergy incardinated in the Ordinariate, and must provide for their needs in the event of sickness, disability, and old age.” There is, of course, provision for Ordinariate clergy to have secular employment if necessary; but in neither case is the Roman bishop on the hook for these expenses.
Now, let me say again that I know this came about the accommodate TAC, and perhaps a few other former Anglicans and Episcopalians (after all, even if they’re not “former” now, they’ll become “former” once they enter the Vatican’s jurisdiction). At the same time, it can’t have been missed that this will provide Roman bishops with a new resource for clergy, and with clear primacy of Roman bishops over Personal Ordinaries. I can’t help but wonder if this is the sort of recognition and acceptance that the former Anglicans have in mind. And I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t what will make this new arrangement acceptable to the Diocesan bishops who will find these folks on their doorsteps.