Tuesday, 18 January 2011

What is a 'Personal Ordinariate'?

The Pectoral Cross used by Fr Keith Newton

Understandably there is considerable confusion about what an 'ordinary' is. As far as most people are concerned he is a someone who can't be a a bishop because he's married. Well that is not really what an ordinary is. Some people know that there are other ordinariates called Military Ordinariates which serve the armed forces chaplains. Whta then is 'Personal' about a 'Personal Ordinariate'? We are grateful for the advice in the following description which has been given by someone who has recently comleted a thesis on this subject. Many of the terms as will be seen come from canon law and therefore have to be interpeted in this light.

The Ordinary is related to ordination, into which sacred order a man is ordained. In the Catholic Church ordination qualifies someone for the power of governance and brings that person into an order where he is able to be given an office in which to exercise the power of governance. Such a person is called an Ordinary. Ordination, to reiterate, does not confer the power of governance, it qualifies someone to be given it.

In the Church the most common form of Ordinary is a Diocesan Bishop, but there are others. There is of couse the Pope - the supreme ordinary in the Church. There are too Abbots and Religious Superiors and Prelates and others who may be delegated the power of governance. Diocesan Bishops are known as local ordinaries because they relate to a particular or local part of the Universal Church. Others who relate to groups of the faithful and not territiories are known as personal ordinaries. The power of a diocesan bishop is also known as proper power, because it is joined to the office by law and is not delegated.

A Personal Ordinary of an Ordinariate therefore is described as personal because his power of governance does not relate to a diocese or territory but members of the ordinariate. The personal ordinary is described as having vicarious, not proper, power. This means that the law requires that the personal ordinary must, on occasion, exercise his power with the permission of the Holy See and in some circumstances he must exercise his power jointly with a local ordinary. In canon law the Holy or Apostolic See refers both to the Roman Pontiff and the “institutes of the Roman Curia” (Canon 361) and a personal ordinariate is described as “subject” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “and other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia in accordance with their competences”( Apostolic Constitution of Benedict XVI and Complementary Norms Anglicanorum Coetibus). Examples of where a personal ordinary must seek permission of the Holy See in the exercise of his power includes the erection of new institutes and societies, the erection of personal parishes, the confirmation of statutes for a governing council and to seek approval for the criteria to admit married men to the presbyterate.


  1. There is, for example, a military ordinariate in the Philippines, and loads of photos of its own seminarians etc in the flickr album from which this photo comes:


    (If you search for "ordinariate" on flickr, you get these and a batch of photos by the ubiquitous James Bradley. Something tells me there will be more ...)

  2. Hello!!

    How many are in the Reading Ordinariate group at the moment?

    More importantly, are there any clergy?

  3. The Reading Ordinariate Group is in the process of formation. Like most groups numbers will not finally be known until the beginning of Lent. Each group will have at least one priest. Most groups will begin small but hopefully grow and in many cases priests will be able to help local RC congregations too.