What’s in a name?

We have two Ordinariates named after Our Lady:  The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales; and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

In the United States, we have the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

I remember thinking when I heard the name of our North American Ordinariate that, wow, that name is going to make us a bit more of a hard sell from an ecumenical point of view.   And the Marian names of the other two, might also be a bit of a barrier. Let me explain.

When our parish was preparing to be received into the Catholic Church, there were two areas where we needed to focus our catechesis.

We were solid on the Sacraments, on the Creed and on the Church’s moral teaching.  Not much more than a refresher needed on that.

No, our weak areas had to do with ecclesiology and the role of the papacy, especially the sticky issue of papal infallibility and on the later Marian dogmas that had previously been treated as pious opinion to some extent.  We had some very Marian priests and bishops, and prayed the Angelus and so on, but we were not taught this was something we had to assent to, until we were getting ready to sign on the dotted line to join the Catholic Church.

Coming from an evangelical church to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary I had an evangelical’s ignorance of Mary and her role in salvation.  Though I believed in the Virgin birth as a fundamental, non-negotiable part of the Christian faith, I didn’t give much thought to Our Lady.  We heard about Mary in Scripture readings around Christmas time and that’s about it.

So, I came to assent to the Marian dogmas as required and in good conscience but upon entering the Catholic Church five years ago, I would have described myself then as a Marian minimalist.

It was reading historian Roberto de Mattei’s fascinating The Second Vatican Council : an unwritten story that I caught a glimpse of the big debate about Mary at Vatican II, a debate between Marian maximalists who wanted the Council to declare Mary co-Redemptrix and the Marian minimalists who wanted to downplay Our Lady’s importance so as to not put off ecumencial observers.  The minimalists were more successful, in that instead of a separate document on Mary, Our Lady got a chapter in Lumen Gentium.

One of my friends, the late Mary Wells, developed a big devotion to Our Lady in the run-up to our becoming Catholic.  A member of Annunciation, she was prepared to leave to join the Roman Catholic Church, if the process of our community coming into the Catholic Church took too long.  She passed away a couple of years ago.   While I was reading de Mattei’s book about the Marian debates, I had an impression that could have been totally imaginary, that the Mary was speaking to me from wherever she was saying:  “Debby, I’m a maximalist!”

I smiled to myself and thought, gee, I’m becoming a maximalist myself.   I would have no trouble with a declaration of Mary as co-redemptrix.  I have made several Marian consecrations—as it is a yearly requirement of the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests, an apostolate I belong to.  I have found in entrusting myself to her, my crosses become sweeter, my spiritual life becomes easier, my growth in grace more effortless.  And no, she doesn’t eclipse Jesus, but helps me to love her Son more.

But it has taken deeper and deeper conversion to fully appreciate Our Lady, Our Blessed Mother.

As for papal infallibility.  I had no trouble, once I learned about the definition from the First Vatican Council, that limited papal infallibility nor did I have any trouble with the notion of the Successor of Peter as a sign of unity, a servant of the servants of God and the defender of the deposit of the faith.

Anyway—the names of our Ordinariates may be signs of our really, truly, finally being fully Catholic and proclaiming it far and wide.  But in a sense they speak of something I raised earlier—that we represent a “Finder’s religion,” the end point for people who have been searching for a long time.  How do we then take something that required lots of conversion and maturity to appreciate and make it seeker friendly?

24 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. On names, the ordinariate deanery in Canada bears the name of St John the Baptist, whose feast day is of importance to both English and French Canadian history, being the day on which John Cabot and the English arrived in Canada back in 1497 and the principle celebration to this day of French Canada. Hopefully, when our Deanery of St John the Baptist is one day established as an independent Canadian ordinariate we would retain this name.


    • Could not agree more with your statement…..”hopefully, when our Deanery of St John the Baptist is one day established as an independent Canadian ordinariate we would retain this name.” Canada is not the United States and its history reflects a much more acceptance of Catholicism. After all one of the “Intolerable” or “Coercive Acts” that served as precursors to America’s silly little Revolution was , “The Quebec Act of 1774 (French: Acte de Québec), formally known as the British North America (Quebec) Act 1774” which guaranteed that Catholics in Canada would be able to freely practice their faith !


    • Indeed, I see no reason for that not to happen! In fact, the name — first proposed by now-Msgr. Peter Wilkinson — appears to have that exact development in mind.

      There’s also no reason why the future ordinariate cannot retain the title of St. John the Baptist when — and note that I dare to say “when” rather than “if” — it eventually becomes a full-fledged diocese.

      Of course, these developments may or may not happen in our lifetimes.



  2. Co redemption fans are trying to get women priests by te back door. If Mary was a co redeemer she would share the priesthood of Christ.


    • I doubt any Marian Maximalists at the Second Vatican Council would have seen Mary as sharing in the Priesthood of Christ or as paving the way for women priests. These were the more traditionalist among the Church Fathers. There is stuff in the catechism that deals Mary’s role in the Salvation story—and while Jesus is the Redeemer, she cooperated in a profound, deep way —she is the new Eve—Her Yes! and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • By the way we all including our Lady share in the priesthood of Christ. We are all part of the priesthood of all believers. It is only the ministerial sacrificial priesthood that is reserved for men who are called.


  3. Some years ago, there was a petition delivered to the Vatican seeking an ex cathedra document proclaiming three Marian titles, including “Co-Redemptorix” and “Mediatrix of All Graces” (I don’t recall the third). While noting that Catholic theologians had used these terms in the past, the Vatican gave three reasons for turning down the request: first, that such terms were frequently misunderstood within and out/side the church; second, that such titles historically had given rise to what the Vatican charitably called “exaggerated” Marian devotion; and, third, that such a decree would create additional obstacles for ecumenism.

    I really do not expect this answer to change any time soon.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently, Yves Cdl Congar has some choice descriptions of the Marian debates and their participants from Vatican II in his “My journal of the Council.” On my reading shortlist… Can’t wait!

      But the main issue is — why define a new dogma unless there is a clear, compelling, dire need? I perceive absolutely no need for additional Marian dogmas at this time. How about we invest more time in helping the heterodox catch up with and embrace what’s already “on the books?”


      • Well, why did Pope Francis add the mention of St. Joseph to the all of the anaphoras in the Roman Missal that did not already mention him?

        Popes sometimes decide to do things that reflect their personal spirituality or the spiritual focus of the culture from which they come, even when there is no obvious need.

        And sometimes, a change that seems needless can have ramifications that are not at all obvious to the casual observer or the typical parishioner. Here, the decision of Pope John XXIII to add the mention of St. Joseph to what was then called the “canon of the mass” back in 1962 comes to mind. One Wednesday at midday, when the pope stepped out onto the balcony of the Vatican for the angelus, he announced to the world that he thought that there should be some mention of St. Joseph in the “canon of the mass” and thus that he was adding a mention of St. Joseph thereto, leaving nearly the whole Catholic world to think that the pope had a lovely devotion to St. Joseph. But here, the back story of what was going on behind the scenes, in the chambers of the Second Vatican Council, is now a matter of public record. On Monday, during the debate in the council’s session, a bishop from a missionary diocese remarked that people in mission lands did not relate to the Roman “canon” and had the temerity to suggest that it might be worth looking through other anaphoras from earlier times to see if some of them might be suitable for use in mission lands. Cardinal Ottovani, the arch-conservative Prefect of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, would have none of this, so he responded on Tuesday with a blistering address stating that the word “canon” meant fixed, and that the “canon of the mass” had been fixed for all time and thus could never, never, possibly ever be changed. Against this backdrop a rumor began to swirl around the council chambers on Wednesday morning to the effect that the pope was going to make an announcement from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace during the midday angelus. Thus, many of the council fathers drifted into St. Peter’s Square toward the end of the morning session to hear what the pope was going to say. And the pope did not enter the debate. Rather, he simply announced to the world that he was doing precisely that which the cardinal prefect had declared impossible, thus putting an end to all debate as to the possibility of changing the “canon of the mass.”

        Incidentally, this change is precisely why the documents authorizing the celebration of the Tridentine form of the mass refer to the missal of 1962.



      • I’m not sure I understand the relevance of John XXIII’s insertion of St Joseph into the Roman Canon to my point, which had to do with the promulgation of new de fide dogma. (Note: not saying this in a hostile manner; I genuinely missed the intended connection.)

        But while we’re on the subject, Fr Louis Bouyer’s memoirs also have some juicy details about the slipshod way Bugnini’s Consilium put the new anaphorae together (including, of course, the [in]famous night at the trattoria in the Trastevere where Fr Bouyer and Dom Bernard Botte, over a carafe of wine, scribbled EP2 “Dewfall” on a napkin to make the next morning’s deadline).

        I’m very glad we in the Ordinariate have stuck to the Roman Canon. (I know “dewfall” is an “alternative” for weekdays only, but I’ve personally never heard it in a Divine Worship Mass.)


      • The point was simply that popes sometimes do things for which there is no apparent purpose.

        Also, there is nothing in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal or other rubrics for the ordinary form of the Roman Rite that precludes the use of Eucharistic Prayer II at Sunday masses. There’s a suggestion that it might be a more suitable choice for weekday masses, but nothing that’s binding. And, for what it’s worth, Eucharistic Prayer II is actually the most ancient anaphora in the Roman Rite, being derived from an anaphora contained in a third century text by St. Hippolytus titled The Apostolic Tradition.



      • Norm, I was referring to Divine Worship, not to the general Roman usage. “The Missal contains two Eucharistic Prayers. The Roman Canon is the normative Eucharistic Prayer of the Divine Worship celebration of Mass.” (Divine Worship: The Missal FAQ)

        I’m sorry, but EP2’s claim to be the most ancient is outdated scholarship at best (much like the now-discredited claim that the ancient Church preferred [or even cared about/was cognizant of] versus populum worship). Yes, Bouyer and Botte who wrote EP2 (which fact alone belies its alleged pedigree!), consulted and lifted from certain ancient sources, including Pseudo-Hippolytus (not as ancient as originally attributed).

        And, if Bouyer’s account is to be believed, the mission of their whole crafting job was to salvage this EP from even more destruction (apparently, there were some radicals who wanted to excise even the Sanctus!). But to say that as it is written, it’s more ancient than the Roman Canon, is a verifiably false claim.

        Fr Hunwicke among others has written about this frequently and more eloquently than I ever could; I’d recommend perusal of his material for more.


  4. I came from a Anglican Hebrew Christian family that was Evangelical and then I became orthodox Jewish before I entered the Catholic Church. I was thus a Marian minimalist when I first became Catholic but now I am a Marian maximalist and really get the saying “Never enough of Mary” now. I pray regularly for the Marian dogmas of Mary as co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate to be proclaimed. I also love that St Hildegarde who is a female Doctor of the Church refers to Mary as co-creatrix in the sense that Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation was in the mind of God the template, blueprint or model from which he fashioned the Universe and all things. This is very scriptural when one realises that the created Lady Wisdom of Proverbs 8 and Wisdom 7 is Our Lady united to the Holy Spirit in Eternity. St Lawrence of Brindisi another Doctor of the Church also understood the role of both Our Lady and St Joseph in Eternity before creation in what is called an incarnational circle. And i could also mention St Maximilian Kolbe.


    • But why are these dogmas in need of promulgation at this time? The Church doesn’t just take theologoumena (no matter how laudable or acceptable) and proclaim them to be eternally binding and unchangeable dogmas unless there is a very serious need.

      What is the need here?

      Why can Marian “minimalism” and “maximalism” (and anything in between) not coexist, as they do now, as acceptable theological opinions within the framework of the Orthodox Catholic Faith? There are lots of other things that coexist thus (e.g. Thomism v. Molinism on grace/free will).

      What is the compelling reason to anathematize those who are not Marian maximalists? Because that is of course what the promulgation of a dogma means — assent to it becomes mandatory and essential to holding the Catholic Faith. Its goal is to cut off from the Body those who hold contrary beliefs; to delineate what is acceptable within the Church. I see absolutely no reason to anathematize Marian minimalists so long as they (as the name implies) hold at least the “minimum” required by the Faith.


      • The same could be said about the Marian Dogmas of the Assumption and Immaculate Conception. It is a question of truth. if the Church declares a dogma, no matter what was one’s opinion before it is promulgated then one must change their viewpoint knowing that when Peter’s successor make a teaching a dogma it is infallibly true. Once those dogmas were proclaimed it allowed a deeper theological penetration of the mysteries and that ultimately enriches our spiritual life. Until the Church on earth gives Our Lady her full titles on earth then she is more limited in her actions due to our free will., In order to fulfill her peace plan Heaven waits on the permission of the Church. When Mary is crowned with her full glories on earth as she already is in Heaven then the fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer can come when God’s Will can be done on earth as it is in Heaven. When i first decided to become a Catholic I could not understand the Immaculate Conception but decided I would accept it on faith because the Church taught it. It was only after I became a Catholic that I started to understand it and why it was such as important dogma of the faith. Now I see how the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Incarnation are intricately linked to the one decree in Eternity. With these Marian insights I could now understand the Jewish mystical tradition with new eyes and read the Scriptures in a deeper and mystical manner which then allowed my to understand the Catholic mystics too.


      • I have many theological opinions, too, and since I believe them to be true (otherwise I wouldn’t hold them), I could say that dogmatizing them is a “matter of truth,” but that’s not how things work in the Church. Declaring something to be part of the eternal, essential Truths of the Faith, without which one is outside the fold, is a huge deal. It often took decades or centuries, and contentious councils, to clarify something to that extreme. And in many cases, the Church has wisely refused to do so, and told her quarreling children to take a chill pill and stop amateur-anathematizing each other (like my earlier Thomist/Molinist example).

        And, with respect, Brother, there is obviously nothing preventing you currently from gleaning as much mystical insight from Mary’s role in salvation history as you want (case in point: you have already done so!). I sympathize with you — I have found a lot of treasures in the (unreformed) Little Office of the BVM, which I absolutely love, for instance. But there is no reason why your or my spiritual insights should depend on a particular theological faction making its views the solemnly proclaimed bare minimum for what qualifies as Catholic.


      • Tbako future developments are up to the Pope and Bishops to discern not you or I. No point people becoming Catholics if they aren’t willing to accept all the Church’s infallible teachings on faith and morals anyway. If people can’t accept the Church’s four infallible Marian dogmas then no point in becoming a Catholic, they should stay where they are. On other matters there is great diversity of opinions that one is free to debate including any possible future dogmas. The Catholic Church is not a place for people to play at pretty rituals while neglecting the truth of its teaching like I remember it was among many Anglican circles. Look where that has led.


    • This may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s the definitive proclamation of a truth as infallible that makes it a dogma. Thus, the titles of co-redemptrix, mediatrix of all graces, and advocate are NOT dogmas as yet.

      The other reality is that the dogmas of the immaculate conception and the assumption of Mary are major obstacles to Catholic communion for many Protestant Christians and the manner of their proclamation is an obstacle to communion for many Orthodox Christians. The unity of all Christians (ut unam sint) is our Lord’s last express wish (see John 17). We cannot claim to be doing our Lord’s will by creating more obstacles to the fulfillment of that desire.



  5. For the reasons tbako well expresses, I doubt that any further formal infallible pronouncements will ever be made, unless they deal with a situation entirely new to us—the arrival of extraterrestial beings, for example. No doubt those who came into the Church with a group under AC had former parishioners who couldn’t accept the Church’s current teachings on Mary. Everyone’s loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was sad, in some ways, we were not received as parish families, but there was a stress on every single person individually reaching an extremely high bar of conversion. We had old people and others who were no different from those in Roman Catholic parishes who are all over the map doctrinally. It was a painful part of the process of coming into the Catholic Church, the break ups that ensued. One good effect is that those who survived that are all pretty much on the same page and docile to Catholic teaching and authority. But it was a heavy price to pay. BTW, EPMS are you one of the regular correspondents of a certain blog that has a fascination with things Ordinariate?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Never really thought about that and maybe there is a need for a different pastoral approach to people entering the Church when they come as a community. It could be based on Pope Francis’ idea of accompaniment where a community comes in with their community and they walked alongside them and they gradually grow to deepen their understanding of the Church’s teaching. Let the Holy Spirit work on them. Something to think about anyway.


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