LONDON – The bishop who leads the largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England said he plans to resign by the end of the year and join a personal ordinariate when it is established in England and Wales.
“I am not retiring, I am resigning,” Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham told an Oct. 15 meeting of Forward in Faith, the traditionalist group of which he is chairman. He added to applause that he expects to “enter the ordinariate.”
Bishop Broadhurst told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 18 telephone interview that he was “absolutely, absolutely” certain that a personal ordinariate would soon come into existence in England but did not know exactly when.
Pope Benedict XVI established the mechanisms to create personal ordinariates last November through his apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” (“Groups of Anglicans”) in response to repeated requests for a means of group reception from disaffected Anglican bishops around the world.
The structures will resemble military dioceses and allow former Anglican communities to retain their distinctive patrimony and practices, including married priests.
“If the pope makes you an offer, you can’t ignore it,” Bishop Broadhurst told CNS.
He decided to enter the Catholic faith after the General Synod of the Church of England voted in July to ordain women as bishops by 2014 without provisions to satisfy Anglicans who objected.
“The Church of England has been saying to conservative Anglicans like me that ‘we can’t give you jurisdiction and living space because it wouldn’t be catholic,’ but Rome has said ‘we can give you that.’ It is very interesting,” he said.
The bishop’s announcement came two weeks after St. Peter’s Parish in Folkestone, within the Anglican Archdiocese of Canterbury, became the first to vote to join a future ordinariate. Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury is the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Several Anglican organizations have reacted to mounting speculation of many more conversions by announcing in an Oct. 19 statement that they can amend the church’s legislation on women bishops to protect the rights of objectors.
They believe they can force the Church of England to recognize the newly established Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda as an Anglican equivalent of the Catholic ordinariate that would offset the many possible defections to the Catholic Church.
The society will be nearly identical in structure to a Catholic ordinariate, having no women priests or bishops, and its members will be served by their own bishop rather than the local diocesan bishop.
Anglican Father Simon Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod, told CNS in an Oct. 19 telephone interview that new elections to the synod meant there was enough support to stop women bishops unless the new society is formally adopted.
“There are a number of people who, whatever the General Synod does, will join the ordinariate, and the bishop of Fulham is one of them,” he said.
“But I think the majority of Anglo-Catholics are looking to remain within the Church of England and (for) appropriate changes to be made for them to do so,” he said. “This (society) has the potential to make it possible to remain.
“There would be strong similarities (to the ordinariate), but we would be in communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion,” he added.
Recent elections to the synod’s House of Laity and the House of Clergy mean that they no longer have the two-thirds majorities needed to push through women bishops without approving the new structure, too, he explained.
The synod’s House of Bishops “is clearly going to have to amend the legislation” on women bishops “or it won’t go through,” he said.
A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales told CNS Oct. 19 that no timetable had been agreed on for the establishment of an ordinariate.
He said the bishops were awaiting confirmation from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that there was sufficient interest in the ordinariate before it could be set up.
“Until the CDF has informed the bishops there is no timetable that anybody can give on this,” said the spokesman.
“I am assuming that there will be enough people interesting to make it happen,” he added. “ But that is only an assumption because we don’t know the numbers yet.”