Interview by Tempi magazine of Italy
Today I was interviewed by an Italian journalist and I thought you might like to read both his questions and my answers (in bold):
1. I was particularly struck by learning that, joining the Ordinariate, any former Anglican priest gives up a yearly salary of around 20,000 £. Of course this choice economically damages his family - and it can be said to be an extreme choice in your case, considering your nine children. Did the perspective of the loss of such salary somewhat affect or delay your choice to move towards Catholicism? Of course, as a brave man of faith, you will be confident in God's help; but, more humanly, were not you worried about money when you took this decision?
The overall context in which I made my decision to become Catholic was to discern God's call. It has been a journey of placing myself more fully into the hands of our loving Father. The words of our Lord in the gospel come alive in these circumstances, for example, in Luke 11 Jesus says, "What father among you, if your son asks for fish will instead give a serpent..." So when one puts oneself into the Father's hands one has to trust that He will indeed care for you. But you are right that from a human perspective one does worry, especially when one has lots of dependent children. We were given assurances that the Catholic church would look after us and we would not be left destitute. So after praying and testing one's sense of calling, I just had to say, "Right, over to you God." In the event lots of people have been generous to us. The biggest difficulty for a Catholic bishop is housing such a large family. Many modern presbyteries are not designed for families and especially not families of eleven! But that is beginning to be sorted out thanks to the kindness of our local Bishop. I would also say that I am blessed with a wife of great faith. She is a cradle Catholic and she has said quite simply, if it is God's will, then He will provide.
2. Was there any particular reason - an episode, a person you met, some reading, a critical thought - which proved crucial in driving you towards Catholicism?
I wouldn't use the word "driven", generally I don't think the Holy Spirit drives us, it seems to me more to do with attraction. I have been attracted to the Catholic faith increasingly over the last decade. As I have been wrestling with some of the big issues of our day I have gradually come to see the truth in what the Catholic Church teaches. A big influence has been Pope Benedict, both his example and especially his writing. I feel very at home under this great teacher and pastor. But I also think we have come to the time when as Christians we must unite and work together for the evangelisation of the world. I really do not think we can do it as seperated Christians. So when the holy father published the Apostolic Constitution creating a way for us Anglicans to become full members of the Catholic Church, yet retain some of our good traditions, I felt I needed to be part of that. And Blessed John Paul's vision for the new evangelisation of the western world is also very exciting to me.
3. The great innovation of the Anglicanorum Coetibus is to allow entire groups to join Catholicism simultaneously. In my view, the choice of becoming a priest of the Ordinariate becomes thus not only an individual act of courage but, even more, the attempt to work hard to create around oneself a community of faithfuls. I was therefore curious about whether your daily "job" has changed from when you were an Anglican, to what extent and in which actual features.
Of course it is early days, but so far it has been a great time of renewal in our faith both for me and all the members of the faithful who followed me into the Ordinariate. It is a great privilege that people trust you enough to follow you even when they do not fully understand all the implications or theology of what they are doing. Really we are still finding out what it is to be in the Ordinariate, and for all of us it has been very much like a sabbatical so far. We have done a lot more studying together, and exploring the Faith much more deeply than before. We have been helped in this by our local Benedictine Abbey community, especially the Abbot, who has tried to address all our questions and problems, and most importantly he has made us feel very welcome. So day to day it is presently very different as I don't have the same responsibilities. I feel much more focused on the mission of the church to share the faith, and we are making plans to help others enter the Ordinariate. At the moment I have a small group of faithful to care for so that is not so hard. Although I will soon be helping the Catholic diocese too, so my workload will increase.
4. I appreciated that Mgr Burnham insisted that joining the Ordinariate is not a conversion in the strict sense of such word, as both Anglicans and Catholics are indeed Christians. I have been living in Britain for more than two years and I noticed that the greatest religious divide in this country lies between people who live on the basis of the existence of God and a vast majority of people who behave as if the thought of God did never even cross their mind. Would you think that the small but remarkable amount of Anglicans moving towards Catholicism are somewhat trying to find a more authentic faith to oppose to the total lack of faith of such majority? And would you believe that the conversion of Britain - from a vastly unbelieving country to a majority of people who have a full sense of God - could be better achieved through Catholicism than through the Church of England?
Yes I believe that is right. In order to dialogue with the modern culture of England we have to be sure what the Faith is we are promoting. The problem with many of the protestant churches is that answers to questions can vary from church to church depending on the vicar or pastor you ask. This prevents Christians from giving a clear witness to the world. So it has been a great relief to enter the Catholic Church and know we all sign up to a corporate faith - we can say, "This is what the Church teaches." It is only then that we can develop good apologetics, ways of explaining our faith, to the world in which we live. And I think Blessed John Henry Newman had the vision that all the laity of the church needed to have a good grasp of the Catholic Faith, not just the clergy. So in the Ordinariate we are committed to especially developing a very informed laity who are ready "to always have a reason for the hope that is in us", as St Peter put it in his letter.