The myth of the ‘disgruntled Anglican’

When Pope Benedict XVI announced Anglicanorum Coetibus in 2009, news stories called this a provision for “disgruntled Anglicans” to come into the Catholic Church.

Everywhere you looked, it seemed, there was something about these “disgruntled Anglicans” who were so unhappy about same-sex blessings or women priests or whatever progressive novelty some in the Anglican Communion they wanted to escape into the Catholic Church.  “Disgruntled Anglicans” was such a negative, disparaging descriptor.

Frankly, it was annoying.

And then, some Catholics patronizingly said we must not become Catholic because were were disgruntled, or because we were running away from something  but we must become Catholic for positive reasons.


This was said so many times and it struck me as patronizing. Often it was said by people who nothing about us, really.  Or by people who should have known better.

Of course, we did have some disgruntled people in our midst.  I think every community has a disgruntled person or two or three or more.  No one, however,  who was a disgruntled person ended up coming with us into the Catholic Church.   The process of coming in was so hard, so uncertain, with such a high bar expected in terms of commitment and faith that those who survived this culling process were a pretty docile [to the Holy Spirit], positive flock of believers who had discerned entering the Catholic Church was God’s will no matter what the cost, and who in good conscience signed on the dotted line that they believed everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true.

When we were finally received into the Catholic Church five years ago on Divine Mercy Sunday there was such joy and thanksgiving even though our clergy faced another two years of uncertainty regarding whether they would ever be ordained as Catholic priests.  The day we were received about 600-700 Catholics from the diocese and beyond joined us at St. Patrick’s Basilica and welcomed us with a standing ovation.  Three standing ovations if I recall correctly.

It has been worth it.  There was a time of travail and suffering before we came in, but that’s all forgotten now we are finally home.  Since we came into the Catholic Church, it has only gotten better and better.

We are extremely well-integrated into the Ottawa archdiocese.  Our people have attended Bible studies and courses in other churches.  We partner with a neighboring Roman Catholic parish in sponsoring a Syrian refugee family and in an annual joint-Corpus Christi Mass and procession through our neighborhood that Bishop Lopes is going to lead this year.   One of our priests is a hospital chaplain for the diocese and fills in sometimes at parishes when a priest is needed to celebrate Mass.

All of us attend Roman Catholic Masses when we are traveling or unable to make it on Sunday morning to our own parish.  We are so grateful to be at home in the Catholic Church wherever we are in the world.  I’m sure similar stories could be told across North America about good relations, and positive integration.

But we are also grateful Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight to issue an Apostolic Constitution that set up a structure to preserve our beautiful Anglican/English Catholic patrimony and liturgy as gifts to be shared with the wider Church.

That we want to preserve this Anglican/English patrimony and pass it on has nothing to do with our being disgruntled Anglicans who think we are better than anyone else, nor is it an indication that, according to some, we have not fully become Catholic.   Thankfully, it is only in some obscure corners of the web this kind of stuff is going on in any regularity.  As far as the mainstream media goes, we are now ignored in any talk about ecumenism or Anglican/ Catholic relations.

Frankly, the people who continue to lob these criticisms at us in the Ordinariate and who scour the internet for signs some of our communities may be fragile or experiencing difficulties so they can snort that we are really no different than Continuing Anglicans and it’s high time we gave up our project and became regular Catholics are the disgruntled ones, seeing everything through a negative lens, listening to other disgruntled people who pass on bits of detraction and even calumny.

Disgruntled people cannot be trusted.  It is sinful to be disgruntled.  Disgruntled people are like the fox in Aesop’s Fable of the fox and the grapes.  When he can’t reach the grapes, he then disparages them as sour.  Most detractors of the Ordinariate and its communities seem to me like that fox.




11 thoughts on “The myth of the ‘disgruntled Anglican’

  1. While I agree with much of your argument, I do think you are a bit unfair to the disgruntled. Disgruntlement (a nice neologism) can be of two sorts. One can be disgruntled due to one’s own bad attitudes or habits, or one can be disgruntled due to bad situations in one’s job or other situations outside one’s control. In my case, being disgruntled forced me to more seriously consider my growing belief that the Catholic Church is where I belonged, because they had the fullness of the truth. So, being disgruntled was for me, and I do not believe I am alone in this, a condition causing me to look around for stronger spiritual and doctrinal environs. I came to the Catholic Church because I came to believe that this is where it could be most fully found. And I had the wonderful good fortune to do this shortly before Anglicanorum Coetibus. I am a member of a supportive and deeply orthodox Ordinariate community, I love the liturgy of the Ordinariate Form of the Latin Mass, and my disgruntlement has been cured. Deo gratias.


  2. This is so true. The suggestion that our motivation was a negative one was constantly thrown our way! It was a really nasty, insipid slander against the movement of Anglicans towards Catholic unity and it only threatened to undermine the Anglican ordinariate at its birth. Thankfully the fact that it wasn’t at all the case is apparent to anyone who gets to know our community.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Statements by detractors and advocates of the Borg Option (“You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”) seem to me like strong evidence of an inferiority complex. Nothing new there, of course; happened with the uniate Eastern Churches, whose hierarchs were often more anxious to ape Latin practices than the Latins themselves. It’s taken them quite a bit of time and effort to reverse the damage and restore what they lost, and thankfully they have been assisted in this by the support of the Holy See.

    It’d be a shame to make the same mistake out of an obsessive need to conform. There also seems to be a sense pervading such statements/attitudes that the “mainstream” majority is so committed and intentional about all its practices (all of which are apparently of “magisterial” force) that surely we will incur its judgment by doing anything out of the ordinary. I think that anxiety is deeply unfounded, as most of our fellow Catholics couldn’t care less.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, in the case of the sui juris ritual churches of non-Roman rites, it took the Second Vatican Council to put an end to much of the nonsense. Here, the council’s decree Orientalium ecclesiarium on the eastern churches is very instructive. Note the following.

      2. The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place.

      3. These individual Churches, whether of the East or the West, although they differ somewhat among themselves in rite (to use the current phrase), that is, in liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage, are, nevertheless, each as much as the others, entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman Pontiff, the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter in primacy over the universal Church. They are consequently of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite and they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations, also in respect of preaching the Gospel to the whole world (cf. Mark 16, 15) under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff.

      4. Means should be taken therefore in every part of the world for the protection and advancement of all the individual Churches and, to this end, there should be established parishes and a special hierarchy where the spiritual good of the faithful demands it. The hierarchs of the different individual Churches with jurisdiction in one and the same territory should, by taking common counsel in regular meetings, strive to promote unity of action and with common endeavor to sustain common tasks, so as better to further the good of religion and to safeguard more effectively the ordered way of life of the clergy.

      All clerics and those aspiring to sacred Orders should be instructed in the rites and especially in the practical norms that must be applied in interritual questions. The laity, too, should be taught as part of its catechetical education about rites and their rules.

      Finally, each and every Catholic, as also the baptized of every non-Catholic church or denomination who enters into the fullness of the Catholic communion, must retain his own rite wherever he is, must cherish it and observe it to the best of his ability, without prejudice to the right in special cases of persons, communities or areas, to have recourse to the Apostolic See, which, as the supreme judge of interchurch relations, will, acting itself or through other authorities, meet the needs of the occasion in an ecumenical spirit, by the issuance of opportune directives, decrees or rescripts.

      I see no reason whatsoever to exclude the present ordinariates of the Anglican tradition from these norms.

      And for those who are concerned about the ordinariates having enough “critical mass” to survive, note that two of the three ordinariates are already substantially larger than the smallest of the sui juris ritual churches, which have endured for several centuries.


      Liked by 4 people

  4. The fact that the Ordinariates “are now ignored in any talk about ecumenism or Anglican/Catholic relations” is not good news, surely. Weren’t they supposed to be “ecumenism in the front row” and a template for outreach to Protestant denominations? And while the emphasis on “disgruntlement” could be interpreted as an implication that those who took up the invitation of Anglicanorum Coetibus were unhappy complainers by nature, one could also argue that it simply meant that they were no longer satisfied with their previous denomination and were motivated to change. People who think everything is fine are clearly not the target market, after all.


    • I’m not persuaded that the ordinariates are as “ignored” as you think. All of the parties to ecumenical dialog are well aware of them, and they shine as an example of how Anglican (and also Lutheran and so-called “reformed”) patrimony can thrive within the Catholic Church. This gives concrete witness to the hope of many separated bodies of preserving their current organizational structure and customs when reconciliation eventually does occur. There’s little doubt that the ordinariates have been the subject of informal conversation among the participants in ecumenical dialog.

      That said, the most difficult obstacle to reconciliation remains theological differences that need to be resolved. There is a significant body of doctrine discerned by the magisterium of the Catholic Church that many separated bodies simply do not yet recognize or, worse yet, reject (thankfully, typically out of misunderstanding rather than real divergence). Thus, it should be no surprise that theological dialog, and the documents that come from theological dialog, focus primarily on these theological differences. Such focus does not in any way diminish the significance of the ordinariates in the ecumenical equation.



  5. Pingback: Ottawa Archbishop responds to blog | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  6. THE real disgruntled people in this whole process, as shown many, many times are those “Cradle Catholics”, who for various reasons, have NOT been allowed to follow their obvious call of the Holy Spirit, into Holy Ordination within the Ordinariate. The sorrow for these very capable and well respected and well qualified, sincere men with deep, deep spiritual background and learning, in this day and age of Priest shortages, is a complete and utter hurt to the Holy Spirit and the man called to Sacred Ordination by the Holy Spirit. I note that such men have seen the Ordination of men in other countries, who were cradle Catholics thus adding to their hurt. This in my opinion has lead to dismay, as in:– “THEM WHY NOT ME”, and so are extremely disgruntled because of the double standards in place. Please, Please pray for such very hurt and, in some ways Disgruntled would be Holy Priests.


    • In the Catholic Church, we believe that the magisterium is the ultimate discerner of the call and the movement of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the supposition that somebody might be called by the Holy Spirit to something that the magisterium forbids is extremely dubious (to be charitable) at best.

      But here are a couple additional points to consider.

      >> 1. The ordinariates are not experiencing a shortage of clergy. At least two of the three ordinariates have more clergy than communities.

      >> 2. The ordination of those who are not raised in the Anglican patrimony for the service of the ordinariates likely would seriously dilute the preservation of Anglican patrimony within the ordinariates, as such clergy inevitably would modify practices and introduce other practices within their ministry. This would defeat the very purpose and mission of the ordinariates.

      If “cradle Catholics” are truly called to ordination, the Holy Spirit undoubtedly is calling them to service in the places where they are most needed. There are many Catholic dioceses that need more clergy and religious orders that need new members. For those who are Traditionalists, the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP) and the Personal Prelature Opus Dei are options.

      And I truly pray that all of our clergy would be men of holiness who seek first the kingdom of God and lead, first and foremost, by the examples of their lives — and not just our clergy, but our laity as well. The call to holiness is universal!



  7. Yes, as I browsed through this lengthy newsletter full of optimism about the proposed “intercommunion” between Anglicans and the Catholic church, I noted on page 16 that Prior Lamarre greeted his former rector at a joint service held with local Catholics in the ACA parish in Portland, ME. Thise were heady days, seven years ago. But as is often the case, no one really had a very accurate picture. I think it is risky to assert that one knows better than the Church whom the Holy Spirit is calling to ordination.


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