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Is it time for a Lutheran Ordinariate?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 19, 2017

Five earthquakes in Italy today, but no earthquakes from Francis. I will take advantage of the (undoubtedly brief) respite to write on another subject appearing frequently on these pages: the utter folly of "ecumenism," an endless pursuit of "Christian unity" without unity in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5) in the Holy Catholic Church founded by God Incarnate.

Now, I don’t mean to pick on Father Dwight Longenecker, who has been the subject of several columns here.  It is just that his writings often provide model examples of how “conservative” liberals in the Church aid and abet the reigning confusion in faith and morals while seemingly proposing a sober “middle ground” between what the Church has always taught and what the post-Vatican II revolution in the Church has foisted upon her by way of unprecedented novelties — including the novelty of “ecumenism,” which was completely unknown in the life of the Church for the first 1,962 years of her existence.

In a column entitled “Is it time for a Lutheran Ordinariate?,” Father Longenecker, a convert from Anglicanism, endorses the creation of a “Lutheran Ordinariate” along the lines of the Ordinariates established by Rome under Benedict XVI, which provide a vehicle “for former Anglican communities and clergy seeking to become Catholic. Members of the Ordinariate are fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of Anglican heritage in their celebration of Mass and in the hospitality and ministries of their Catholic parishes.” 

Note well: there is no “Anglican Ordinariate.” There are Ordinariates for “former Anglicans” — the most conservative among them, who abandoned the sinking ship of the “Anglican Communion.” There is no Anglican branch of the Catholic Church.  And the retained Anglican elements do not involve doctrines or practices at odds with Catholic teaching but rather “High Anglican” customs that would seem very traditional to the average Catholic today.

Moreover, lay members of the Ordinariates, in order to become “fully Catholic,” must be confirmed as Catholics and must affirm the articles of the Catholic Faith after study of the Catechism. Members who were Anglican clergy and wish to become Catholic priests must be ordained as Catholic priests following background checks, a formation program, an examination and various ecclesiastical approvals.  I know one such priest, the thoroughly traditional, imposingly erudite and brilliantly witty Father John Hunwicke, whose excellent blog is must reading for those who wish to get the right perspective on the ecclesial crisis under this pontificate.  I am honored that he considers me a friend.

In short, the Ordinariate is simply a vehicle for the mass conversion of Anglicans to Catholicism. It is thus a kind of end-run around the useless “ecumenical dialogue” that has produced nothing and gone nowhere while the mainstream Anglican “Church” continues to degenerate into a diabolical mockery of Christianity.

Father Longenecker’s article begins well enough by noting the common-sense objection raised against the complaint of Lutherans who supposedly long to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church (perhaps because their spouses are Catholic): “If you don’t want to be Catholic, why do you want to receive communion in the Catholic Church? If you don’t believe what we believe why do you want to be a public hypocrite and use our Mass to pretend you do?”

But Father Longenecker quickly loses sight of common sense, opining that while “a bit more of this common sense would add astringency to the ecumenical dialogue, it is probably not the best way to move forward.” Really? Why not?  Answer: Because “ecumenical dialogue” defies common sense, seeking, as it does, “unity” with the members of various Protestant bodies without their conversion to the one true religion, their abandonment of innumerable errors, and their membership in the one true Church.  In other words, it seeks unity without unity.

Instead of common sense, Father Longenecker proposes that Lutherans be given their own Ordinariate: “If Christians on both sides of the [Catholic-Lutheran] dialogue really want church unity, then in this 500th anniversary of the [sic] Luther’s sad separation from the Catholic Church, why not replicate the ordinariate model for the Lutherans?”

The answer should be obvious: the Lutherans with whom the Vatican dialogues incessantly — primarily those of the loopy Lutheran World Federation — have no interest in a mass conversion to Catholicism in the manner of the “former Anglicans” who belong to one of the Ordinariates created for them by Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution. They want to remain Lutherans in name and belief.  

Nor is Francis the least interested in any such mass return to the one true Church. As recounted by the Anglican “Archbishop” of Argentina, when Francis was still Cardinal Bergoglio, “He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as Anglicans.” And, as Francis, speaking to the “charismatic evangelical” Anglican “bishop” Tony Palmer not long before Palmer’s death in a motorcycle accident, he gave this answer to Palmer’s question about “coming home” to Rome: “No one is coming home. You are journeying towards us and we are journeying towards you and we will meet in the middle.”   Really? In the middle of what?  Answer: in the middle of nowhere.  Which is exactly where ecumenism is going.

Moreover, the Vatican’s Lutheran “dialogue partners” would never consent to retain a few elements of Lutheran customs while becoming “fully Catholic” as the “former Anglicans” in the Ordinariate have done. No, they demand simply that the Catholic Church declare unity with Luther’s man-made church (or churches), accepting them just as they are, and that the Catholic Church retract her condemnation of Luther’s capital errors: “justification by faith alone” and “total depravity” (denying the true inward regeneration of fallen man by the grace of justification), both anathematized by the Council of Trent, along with all of Luther’s other heresies.

Indeed, the most conservative Lutherans, such as those of the Missouri Synod, want nothing to do with “ecumenism” or the loons of the Lutheran World Federation, including silly women dressed up in bishops’ costumes. Nor would they be interested in an Ordinariate because the leadership of the Catholic Church has become too liberal for them. And who can blame them? Even Luther, who condemned contraception as a form of sodomy, would be appalled at the degree to which today’s Catholic churchmen have compromised with the spirit of the world.

As Pope Pius XI declared in 1928, in the encyclical that condemned the nascent “ecumenical movement” among the Protestant sects: “So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.

The former Anglicans in their Ordinariates have followed Pius XI’s teaching, which is the teaching of the Church for nearly 2,000 years.  The Lutherans with whom Francis celebrates the Reformation would never dream of it. Nor would he!

So, no, it is not time for a “Lutheran Ordinariate.”  There can be no Lutheran assemblies in the Catholic Church. It is time, rather, to end the utterly fruitless “ecumenical dialogue” with people who have no intention ever to accept the teaching and authority of the Catholic Church. It is time to tell these people what Pius XI told the Protestants of his day: leave behind your man-made religion and become members of the Holy Catholic Church for the salvation of your souls.