Some of you might recently have seen this article, in which Cardinal Koch was asked about the possibility of a Lutheran Ordinariate along the same lines as the Anglican Ordinariate now being established around the world.
Some have asked for my thoughts on the matter.
For a start you can hear Cardinal Koch’s hesitancy over the idea. As he says, it has to be something that comes as a request from Lutherans, not something Rome or the Holy Father sets up without cause.
Three specific thoughts on how this might relate here in Australia at least:
1) The Anglican Ordinariate was an answer to divisions within the Anglican Church, especially where a small but sizable number of both priests and lay people desired communion with the Bishop of Rome. In Australia, there is no formal division among Lutherans over the issues that have divided Anglicans, in particular issues of sexuality and issues of women’s ordination. Nor is there present any real desire (as far as I can see) among Australian Lutherans for communion with the Catholic Church, except in a vague “hoped for future” kind of way.
2) The Anglican Ordinariate idea worked because the Anglicans who formed the Ordinariates were already (more or less) Catholic in their doctrines. Distinctively Anglican doctrine was not a part of their “spiritual patrimony” as Anglicans in the same sense that some of their polity and liturgical forms were. With Lutherans, apart from hymns and Bach, it is precisely the doctrine that identifies them AS Lutheran. If they were to adopt the Catholic Faith (as in the Catechism) there would be precious little “Lutheran” about them any more – except perhaps in the sense of Lutheran spirituality (which is the case for me!).
3) One of the reasons the Anglican Ordinariate was necessary was because the dialogue process between Catholics and Anglicans internationally was frustrating the hopes of some Anglicans hoping for future communion with the Bishop of Rome. That isn’t the case with the Lutheran Catholic dialogue, at least not here in Australia. One might hold out hopes for full communion yet in the future between the LCA and the Catholic Church if the dialogue and relationship continues in the positive way in which is currently is.
(An example of this was the excellent fellowship dinner and conversation held here in Melbourne between Lutheran and Catholic pastors, priests and theologians on the 31st of October this year – the 495th anniversary of the publication of the 95 Theses).
Of course, the situation is quite different in other parts of the world. So, who knows? There may be some Lutherans in the world who could find that the idea of being in communion with the Bishop of Rome via a “Lutheran Ordinariate” is seen as something desirable.