Benedict XVI gave a tremendous gift to the English-speaking world in 2009, when he finally realized a dream centuries in the making, and established a permanent canonical home for groups from the Anglican tradition seeking to enter the Catholic Church with the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
Today, the Catholic Church has three Personal Ordinariates — informally known as the “Anglican Ordinariates” — that preserve the Anglican patrimony in their Catholic parishes, communities, and religious orders. These Personal Ordinariates have the only English form of the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope Francis, called Divine Worship — an actual English form, not an English translation of the Latin Mass — written in traditional, poetic “Prayer Book” English. Each Personal Ordinariate covers a region of the globe (Oceania, the United Kingdom, and North America) and is headed by a bishop or ordinary who falls directly under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
But how did the Vatican determine the solution for corporate unification with the Catholic Church had to be this structure called a “Personal Ordinariate?”
The story behind that answer can be found in an illuminating theological address on the CDF by Bishop Steven Lopes, who was tapped by Pope Francis to lead the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (covering the U.S. and Canada) in 2016.
Bishop Lopes delivered his March 28 address “Unity of Faith in a Diversity of Expression: The Work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” to a gathering of students and professors of the Institut für Historische Theologie, Liturgiewissenschaft und Sakramententheologie at the University of Vienna. The bishop is not a convert from Anglicanism, but is a lifelong Catholic whose work with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over 10 years immersed him in the Anglican patrimony and the project of corporate reunification between groups of Anglicans and the Catholic Church.
Earlier attempts at this kind of structure within the Church had failed because responsibility for them was placed with the local dioceses. The structures were soon submerged in the local dioceses for several reasons. With the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith coordinating Ordinariate efforts, overseeing the implementation of the Divine Worship, and guaranteeing Ordinariate faithfulness to the fullness of Catholic teaching, the Ordinariates started off at least with a stable foundation.
The text of Bishop Steven Lopes's presentation is here. Note that he was once an official at the CDF. Just another reason to be grateful to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!