Time for a Lutheran Ordinariate?

In response to a posting at The Catholic Thing “Time for a Lutheran Ordinariate?”, a friend wrote the following on an email list::

I do not know what to think of this. While there are aspects of what might be termed the Lutheran “patrimony,” particularly, perhaps, in the area of music, which could be incorporated into Catholic practice, it seems to me that the fundamental “patrimony” of Lutheranism is doctrinal, based on the belief that Catholic teaching on a particular doctrine of (in their view) transcendent importance (Sola Fide; articulum stantis aut cadentis Eccleiae) is erroneous and that therefore they constitute a doctrinally sound reformed remnant of the Catholic Church. If some Lutherans should cease to believe, either that what the Catholic Church teaches on this locus is mistaken, or that it is the articulum stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae, then (1) what is to prevent their becoming ordinary Western/Latin Catholics and (2) if there were to be an Ordinariate for former Lutherans, would music alone be a sufficient thing to justify its existence? No particular Lutheran “Mass Rite” or worship formulary has ever occupied anything like symbolic place of the Book of Common Prayer for Anglicans, and just as the BCP rites have had to be supplemented and corrected to suit them for Catholic use, so one imagines that the same sort of thing would have to be done for a Lutheran Ordinariate (e.g., no Eucharistic consecration by use of the Verba alone, outside the context of an anaphora/eucharistic prayer).

I have naturally thought about this matter a great deal – especially while sitting with my family in a service at St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Box Hill where they worship (my “Church-in-law) as I like to call it. How it saddens me each time to think that this and many other faithful Lutheran congregations remain separated from the joyful unity with the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Churches in communion with him. 

Naturally it has occured to me that the Anglican Ordinariate might provide a model for reunion between Cathoic and Lutheran churches. However, I do not think we can simply take the model of the Anglican Ordinariate and apply it to Lutherans. And I think the article in The Catholic Thing reads Pope Francis correctly. He is not, as far as we can tell, even a fan of the model as it exists. 

There are similarities in the situation. Just as a future reunion between the Catholic Church and the Church of England, Episcopal Church, and other liberal communities of the Anglican tradition is now tragically out of the question, so there can be no hopes of future unity with liberal Lutheran synods and national churches. On the other hand, I do think something needs to be done to facilitate the dialogue with traditional/conservative Lutherans. The International Lutheran Council should not be alienated, for it is with them and their friends that the Catholic Church has most in common doctrinally. However, they are also less likely to be ecumenically minded toward Rome (or anyone else for that matter). 
The Catholic Church must approach Lutherans committed to their tradition with a “white flag” approach: a truce, a readiness to address divergent doctrinal issues rigorously but eirenically, recognising that there is a fundamental brotherhood between us and that future unity is possible. If it happens that “groups of Lutherans” (eg. parishes with their pastor, or, could it be imagined, whole synods?) desire to seek communion with the Catholic Church, then some way of enabling them to maintain their identity as a distinct community must be sought. Should it, for instance, be a Church divisive matter whether or not a community prays the Rosary or seeks the intercession of the saints in their liturgy (as long as to do so is not opposed)? Should Lutherans in communion with the bishop of Rome be required to adopt celibacy for the clergy? Would communion under both kinds be regarded as standard in such congregations? Could less divisive ways of talking about Purgatory be found – a little less St Margaret Mary and a little more Spe Salvi, for instance? Could Synodical government and lay parish councils be maintained? 
There are things that belong to the Lutheran patrimony beyond just music. Perhaps the greatest patrimony, which the Catholic Church would certainly benefit to receive in a spirit of receptive ecumenism, is the centrality of the proclamation of the Good News. In addition, modern conservative Lutheranism has developed a quite startlingly strong spirituality of baptism (almost equivalent in emphasis to the spirituality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church), and have a proven track record in catechetical formation of their young people. Not to mention their deep tradition of scriptural spiritualiity and preaching. 
So, you see, a different approach for a different circumstance is required. That doesn’t mean that we do nothing, however.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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5 Responses to Time for a Lutheran Ordinariate?

  1. Joshua says:

    Dear David,

    This is a very important goal to reflect upon and work towards. If the Papacy can open the doors to “groups of Anglicans”, declaring that it is they who, moved by the Holy Spirit, have been seeking unity in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, then certainly the same must apply, mutatis mutandis, to all other groups of separated brethren. After all, this is the fulfilment of ecumenism: visible unity.

    Perhaps to start with we should stop scaring Lutherans away! I recall one Pastor, a friend of both of us, who confessed how irksome it is that, at ecumenical and other events, Catholics, whether lay folk or official clerical representatives, fall over themselves to declare their opposition to the Magisterium – and though that was during the happy reign of good Pope Benedict, I somehow doubt that the naive way in which too many have received Francis as a sort of Papa Angelicus in a Joachimite manner (including, one suspects, such proud dissenters) would endear our friend to such persons nowadays!

    I immediately think of the goods of the Lutheran patrimony instantiated both in those of whom I know, and those (ex-)Lutherans whom I know (this includes you): a joyful celebration of the sung liturgy with all reverence and delight in the Lord; a strong and successive insistence on right doctrine, expressed in powerful preaching and a method of catechesis that works; and of course a devout spirituality.

    Please enlighten us as to the evidently admirable “quite startlingly strong spirituality of baptism” that is part of this in modern conservative Lutheran circles.

    I recall you telling me, and I have read similar statements, that Lutherans themselves say that they are far closer to Roman Catholicism than to the Reformed (those horrid Calvinists and Sacramentarians), and go so far as to say, not just rhetorically, that if they could see no reason to oppose Rome then they would have to reunite with her tomorrow. Well, if such is the case, ought not every Catholic from the Pope to the charwoman bend over backwards to accommodate their every legitimate concern?

    You ask:

    (1) “Should it, for instance, be a Church divisive matter whether or not a community prays the Rosary or seeks the intercession of the saints in their liturgy (as long as to do so is not opposed)?”

    The Roman Eucharistic Prayers include commemoration of the Mother of God and the saints, including (in EP’s I – the Roman Canon – and III) asking for the help of their intercession; typically, on the feast day of a saint, the collect will do the same; and prayers such as the “Hail Mary” are commonplace (in my parish, before the priest concludes the general intercessions with a collect, all recite the “Hail Mary” – a practice first introduced into the Ordinary Form by an English bishop shortly after its introduction).

    We must distinguish: the Rosary (though extremely commendable – I have tried to resume saying it daily, but at the moment it is competing with the Day Hours of the Breviary, since human frailty being what it is, one can easily neglect to spend sufficient time in prayer) is a private devotion, which may be encouraged, but is in no way mandatory.

    However, the public liturgy of the Church requires that the saints be commemorated at the least, and even invoked (as in the Litany of the Saints). The modern Roman Rite is far more reticent in this than the classical Roman Rite, let along the effusive Eastern Rites.

    Look to the Anglican Ordinariates: in their special form of the Mass liturgy, a proper form of the Penitential Act, drawn from the BCP, may be used; but in the Eucharistic Prayers appointed (I on Sundays and, optionally, II on ferias), Our Lady and the Saints are commemorated and, in the Roman Canon, God is asked to grant us constant help and protection by their merits and prayers “through Christ our Lord” – since they are the glorified members of the Body of Christ, they can and do intercede for us, just as we sinful members of his Body can and do intercede for each other on earth.

    (2) “Should Lutherans in communion with the bishop of Rome be required to adopt celibacy for the clergy?”

    Well, Anglican ministers and Lutheran ministers – in fact, the latter since the time of Pius XII – have been admitted to full communion and ordained Catholic priests even if they are married; and a recent, highly desirable and long overdue move of Francis has been to allow Catholics of the Eastern Rites to ordain married men (which has always been their tradition) anywhere they are throughout the world (the old argument, that this would scandalise Western Rite Catholics, has now been at last rejected).

    (3) “Would communion under both kinds be regarded as standard in such congregations?”

    Even at the time of the Reformation, the administration of the chalice to the laity was conceded in divers parts of Germany, in the hope that it would stem the tide of revolt. And these days, in the Ordinary Form, communion under both species is de facto universal, even if the norms still technically limit it, so I suspect the clear answer, both from tradition and nowadays, is “Yes”.

    (4) “Could less divisive ways of talking about Purgatory be found – a little less St Margaret Mary and a little more Spe Salvi, for instance?”

    All that the Church has defined is that there is a Purgatory, and that souls detained there can be assisted by the suffrages of the faithful (hey – wasn’t it this, and the doctrine of indulgences, that started Dr Martin off on the wrong track?). I believe the West teaches that there is purgatorial fire, whereas the East doesn’t, but to be frank I doubt too much animus is caused by this nowadays. Once we realise that nothing pure can enter heaven, and that few depart this life entirely purified of all stain of sin, then the acceptance of a post-mortem process of purification seems eminently sensible. I recall a Pastor telling me that, given Luther’s own words, to the effect that one could pray for the dead a bit, without obsessing about it, that a Lutheran could in private intercede for departed loved ones, though he the Book of Concord would restrain any public liturgical expression of this. I expect that any returning to Catholic unity would have to accept the public liturgical expression of intercession for the living and the dead at the Eucharist, for it is part of the Roman Eucharistic Prayers. You will attest, David, that the Church hardly exaggerates the practice of prayer for the faithful departed any more!

    (5) “Could Synodical government and lay parish councils be maintained?”

    I believe that the Ordinariates for ex-Anglicans have provision for this; and I can see no reason why such cannot coexist with the threefold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon.

    • Joshua says:

      P.S. With regard to (3) above, Josef Jungmann, in his magisterial Missarum Sollemnia (translated as The Mass of the Roman Rite) provides the following facts:

      “…the lay chalice [i.e. reception of the Precious Blood by the laity] was granted in 1433 for Bohemia. After the Council of Trent [i.e. after 1563], the use of the chalice was granted for Germany, under certain specified conditions, but after some unhappy experiences the concession was withdrawn, for Bavaria in 1571, for Austria in 1584, and for Bohemia and in general, in 1621.”

      Nowadays, of course, Communion is commonly distributed under both species at Mass in the Ordinary Form; and, somewhat to my surprise, I have even been given Communion from the chalice in the Extraordinary Form.

  2. Matthias says:

    I found this article of yours David and your responses Joshua uplifting. If a great number of Lutherans- i was thinking of the ELCA(USA) and the State churches of the Nordic lands – fed up with the liberal theology of their respective churches made a call to Rome for an Ordinariate, would it come about,more than Lutherans swimming the Tiber through the west door ( to quote Rev Prof Fr Lawrence Cross) as individuals.
    From what i see and hear the Anglican Ordinariate seems to be slowly growing. A Catholic Anglican said to me when i talked about the Ordinariate “oh those fools!” ,but really are they? They have Liturgy that an Anglo Catholic ( liberals call themselves Catholic Anglicans i found out) from a hundred years ago would be very familiar with .

  3. Lionel Andrades says:

    Time for an SSPX Ordinariate?

    Vatican Council II (premise-free) agrees with the SSPX position on an ecumenism of return and non Christians needing to convert for salvation

    Fr.Robert Barron in Catholicism uses an irrational proposition to reach an irrational conclusion

  4. Fariba says:

    Hello David. I just stumbled onto your blog and I’ll definitely be keeping up with your posts. I have a very strong interest in ecumenism, particularly Lutheran-Catholic relations. It’s wonderful to find Christian bloggers who seek reconciliation and speak with a positive “voice”. There is so much vitriol in the Christian blogosphere. I will definitely email you the information you ask for from new visitors. Btw, I approve of your love for Ratzinger’s writings. He helped me understand and reconcile myself with some of the contentious teachings of the Catholic faith. God bless!

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