This coming Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Pope Saint John Paul II’s authorization of the Pastoral Provision for Anglicans, which for the first time ever created an Anglican form of Catholic liturgy as well as parochial jurisdiction for Anglican Use Catholics.
Numerous ordinariate priests will be marking the occasion this Saturday by offering their daily masses with the intention of thanksgiving for what St John Paul II did for Catholics of the Anglican tradition 40 years ago to the day.
Just a few months ago, ordinariate members spread across multiple countries celebrated the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s legislation establishing diocesan jurisdictions for us characterized by our Anglican patrimonial liturgical forms.
But this coming week, on June 20th, Anglican Catholics will celebrate an even older anniversary of a key papal act that explicitly paved the way for the Anglican ordinariates.
For generations leading up to the pontificate of John Paul II, Anglicans had engaged in prayer, hope, and discussion focussed on the eventual healing of our schism and our return to full communion with Rome and the rest of the Catholic Church. The formal manifestation of this took expression in the ARCIC dialogue with the Holy See which began in 1967.
In the mid-late 1970s, Anglican approaches to Rome by groups such as the Diocese of the Holy Trinity and the Pro-Diocese of St Augustine of Canterbury (PDSAC) culminated in the Holy See crafting a pastoral response that would provide a way for Anglicans to become fully Catholic while retaining their corporate integrity, their common identity, and their liturgical tradition’s distinctiveness.
An extensive and detailed account of much of this backstory can be found in Father Jack Barker’s Early History of the Anglican Use. Fr Barker, a priest of the ordinariate, was also a speaker at our recent Anglican Tradition Conference in Toronto this past November. His talk, entitled Behind the Petition: A Brief Account of How Anglicans Received Ordinariate Status, is another exceptional source for the history of this development.
What resulted was a concrete demonstration of how seriously the Holy See took these Anglican approaches, and its respect for the Anglican tradition.
On June 18th, 1980, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith finalized a decree for papal approval that responded to the Anglican approaches and their desire to retain their distinctive identity in becoming Catholic. The decree comprised various decisions that would form the framework for a ‘Pastoral Provision’ that, pending certain practical workings out by the NCCB (now the USCCB), would enable Anglicans in the United States entering full communion to form Catholic parishes belonging to them and characterized by their Anglican liturgical distinctiveness. It would also enable married Anglican priests to continue leading those congregations as Catholic priests, the precedent for which had been set back in the early 1950s under Pope Pius XII.
Two days later these decisions were presented to the Holy Father, and on June 20th, 1980, Pope John Paul II gave his formal authorization to the provisions and signed the decree into law. This groundbreaking event, however, did not make headlines in the way Anglicanorum Coetibus did a generation later. In fact, the interested Anglicans weren’t even to learn of the pope’s act for months! Over a month after St John Paul II’s historic act, on July 22nd, Cardinal Seper, the Prefect of the SCDF, sent a letter enclosing the substantive provisions of the decree to Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, who was at the time the President of the NCCB.
It wasn’t until August 20 that Archbishop Quinn made the public announcement in a press release. As Fr Jack Barker, one of the pioneers of the Anglican Use, writes, “At a private meeting, hosted by Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco at his residence in San Francisco on August 19, 1980, the leadership of the PDSAC was informed that he intended to make a public announcement the following day. This announcement would state that Rome would make pastoral provision for former Anglicans thereby ensuring their identity and the preservation of elements of their worship and would consider for Roman Catholic priesthood even those Anglican priests who were married. The Archbishop read portions of the cover letter addressed to him together with the text of the Decree sent to him by the Holy See. The leadership and people celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in Los Angeles the next evening.”
Discussions took place in multiple meetings and conferences through 1981 about proposed provisional liturgies and what precise form the Anglican liturgical use was to take. In due course authorization was given and an Anglican Use Catholic mass became a reality, based on the American Book of Common Prayer and incorporating material from the Sarum and Roman liturgies. The first parish dedicated to the Anglican Use was Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, established in 1983, and more followed, including Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, now the Cathedral of the North American ordinariate. While the Anglican Use took shape in the 1980s, its actual publication in the Book of Divine Worship didn’t occur until 2003, and as is now well known, it has developed even further and exists in a more fulsome form in Divine Worship: The Missal.
But all of this began with Pope John Paul II’s authorization of the creation of a Pastoral Provision in the first place on June 20th, 1980. His historic decision even noted that, while the Anglican Use parishes were to be placed in the local Roman dioceses, “the possibility of some other type of structure as provided for by canonical dispositions, and as suited to the needs of the group, is not excluded.” Prayers for just such another type of structure were to be answered in the ordinariate. So in many respects St John Paul II’s act was prophetic. Many things can be said about what it accomplished for the first time in history, but it is indisputable how very far-sighted it was, laying the groundwork for what is even now only beginning to be glimpsed.
Much more research ought to be done in time into the origins of both Anglican provisions of 1980 and 2009, but here are some items of interest touching on that of 1980:
Ordinariate priests in different countries will be celebrating mass this Saturday with the intention of thanksgiving, but all ordinariate faithful have cause to give thanks for what St John Paul II did for us 40 years ago. It is easy for us to thank God for Pope Benedict XVI and his Anglicanorum Coetibus, but on this occasion let us recall to mind the necessity to always give thanks for what St John Paul II gave to us a generation earlier. For it was indeed the framework on which Cardinal Ratzinger would later build.
Thanks be to God and may his holy name be praised!